PREPARATION IS POWER OVER PANIC
When getting yourself mentally prepared for disaster, always keep in mind that it doesn't take a major catastrophe or earth-shattering event for you to find yourself in an emergency situation. As the saying goes "Sh*t Happens." Cars breakdown, power goes out, unexpected weather moves in... a simple wrong turn and you can be in dangerous and unfamiliar surroundings. The Central Indiana Wilderness Club (CIWClub.org) advises any would-be adventurers out on any trek to "Win the Mind Game" by "knowing what you know, and admitting what you don't", before venturing out.
They also tell all backpackers to always "STOP" -
S=Stop T=Think O= Observe P= Plan
That also applies to being prepared for any disaster, and not just ones that could occur on the trail.
Think of the hardest mental challenge you have ever had to face and overcome in your life. In any survival situation you will likely be confronted by problems far worse. Your mental attitude will be your greatest strength, but it could also be your downfall. You will have to defeat negative thoughts and emotions, and also conquer your greatest fears. You will never be further away from your "comfort zone." Being prepared to deal emotionally with a disaster before it occurs will help you to shift your mental processes away from despair, and take on a "I can handle this" attitude when a crisis arrives!
Modern society has conditioned your mind to expect instant relief from discomfort. If it's dark you just flip on a light switch, if you are hungry, you just run to the fridge, when you are cold, you turn up the heat.
But your mental conditioning can also be unconditioned. Your mind has a remarkable ability to adapt. You can turn back to your instincts, and retrain your mind to always hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Fear is a very real human emotion. Fear is a natural reaction to a crisis. There is not a combat veteran, a police officer, a first responder, or anyone else that you might consider "brave" that would tell you they are "fearless" in combat or other life and death situations. The definition of courage is not the absence of fear but its acceptance and ability to use it positively when you can, and overcome it when you must.
Of greater concern than fear, is panic. Simply put, in a survival situation panic can be deadly. Panic is your uncontrolled need to forget everything and just try to run from your situation. Panic is triggered by the stress caused by fear of the unknown, a lack of confidence, not knowing what to do next, and letting your imagination get the best of you.
The Army manual describes several "stressors" in survival situations:
But if you look closely at that list and the causes of panic in the paragraph above it - you will find that there is one common way to overcome each and every one of those stressors - PREPAREDNESS!
Ideally, you can acquire preparedness by using this manual. You can face a disaster, or crisis situation, because you will have the knowledge, the equipment, and the skills needed to increase your confidence, manage your fears, and eliminate the need to panic.
What it really all boils down to is this: you may never be able to control the circumstances that have put you in a survival situation - but what you can ALWAYS control is your reactions to them. Being able to manage stress and avoid panic will significantly improve your ability to stay calm, remain focused and keep yourself and those around you alive during any crisis.
Learning relaxation techniques, assertive skills, and keeping a positive attitude will all help. But your greatest power over panic is the confidence that comes from the level of preparedness you will have by following the advice you will find in this manual. Keep it safe;; keep it close - and you may always know what to do.