Regardless of our coping mechanisms, this business of being prepared is hard work and stressful because no matter how much time and money we throw at prepping, it is impossible to anticipate every possible thing that could potentially happen. Sure, we can and should do a risk analysis but as recent years have proven, there is always an element of the unexpected to contend with.
The coping mechanisms we have in place to deal with stress can vary, with some of us doing a better job than others. Regardless, we all attempt do our best as we rumble and bumble our way through the process.
Today I am going to suggest a way to prepare for just about anything by learning some survival skills that can get you through tough situations, even those that you cannot fathom. Alas, I was not clever enough or smart enough to come up with them on my own. They are borrowed from the article “How to Be Prepared for Anything” by Leo Babauta and represent a “Survival Kit of Living”.
The Survival Kit of Living addresses our internal preps and I think they are important.
‘Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.’ ~Marcus Aurelius
The Survival Kit of Living – How to Be Prepared for Anything
1. Mindfulness. This is the foundation — without practicing mindfulness, you won’t be able to do the other skills regularly enough for them to be useful. You can practice mindfulness simply by meditating — focus on your breath for a few minutes every morning, to start with. As you get better at mindfulness, you will get better at noticing what’s going on inside you as external events happen.
For example, if someone is yelling at you, you might be mindful of your body at that moment and notice an increased heartbeat, a panicky feeling in your chest, a hot flush in your face, or something like that. Mindfulness of your body’s responses alert you to what might be going on in your mind.
2. Watch your internal response. As you start to notice your mind’s responses to external events, you can begin to guide your response.
For example, if you are given a large project at the last minute, you might notice your breathing getting shallow and your chest tightening, or your jaw clenching … you can then see that you’re extremely anxious about this, maybe resentful that you’re being asked to do this on a short deadline. You can then examine those responses — anxiety, resentfulness — and decide how to act, rather than being controlled by them.
3. See what you’re holding onto. When you have a difficult feeling, like anxiety, anger, resentfulness, fear (including procrastination) … there’s something you’re attached to that’s causing the feeling. It can be difficult to spot this at first, but with practice you can see it in an instant. If you’re angry or resentful, there’s an ideal situation you would like, and are holding onto, that doesn’t match up with reality.
For example, maybe someone has said something mean to you … you might be angry because (ideally) they shouldn’t treat you that way. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or not — if you want things to be different than reality, you’ll be angry or resentful or frustrated. Noticing what you’re holding onto is an important step.
4. Let it go. It’s impossible not to ever hold onto certain ideals … but if you see that the ideal is causing you pain, you can be compassionate with yourself and let go of the ideal. Sure, people should treat you nicely, but that’s an ideal that’s not always going to be true.
Letting go of the ideal means embracing the reality that there’s a wide range of behaviors that people will have, and that’s a part of life. Humans don’t always act ideally. We need to accept that, and not force an ideal on reality.
5. Respond appropriately. Acceptance of reality doesn’t mean you do nothing. It means you let go of the ideals causing the painful feelings, and then figure out how to respond without the anger, frustration, anxiety, resentment. Responding to a person or situation in anger or resentment (for example) doesn’t usually result in a skillful response. If you can let go of the ideal and let the painful feelings go, you can respond more skillfully.
When my child breaks a dish, for example, I can get angry (“They shouldn’t break dishes!”) and yell (not skillful), or I can let go of that ideal and the resultant anger, and see if the child is OK, and then calmly and compassionately talk about how to avoid that in the future. That’s a more appropriate response.
When we respond in anger or frustration, we only compound the problem. Responding calmly and compassionately means we’re going to be able to deal with anything that is in front of us, whether it’s a crisis or a loss or an angry loved one.
6. Stay in the moment. We make situations worse when we replay the past in our heads (“How can they have done that?”) or think of all the things that might go wrong in the future. In the present moment, things are OK. We can meet the present moment with calmness and compassion, if we can stay in the present. That means being mindful of when our mind is stuck in the past or speculating about the future, and returning to the present as much as we can.
7. Be grateful & accept the moment for what it is. Reality can suck, if we want it to be different … or we can accept reality for what it is, and be grateful for it. This takes practice, because it’s hard to be grateful when you feel you’re being treated badly, or you’ve lost a job, or you’ve lost a loved one, or you’re battling illness. But this is the reality you have, not the ideal you wish you had. And it’s a reality that contains beauty, if we choose to see it. This skill makes us much more at peace with whatever we need to deal with.
It might seem overly simplistic to say that this survival kit of dealing with life will help us be prepared for any situation. And it is. But there’s nothing wrong with simplifying things, if only to help us focus our efforts on what’s most important.
In my experience, these skills matter. They make a huge difference. Practice them, and see how you’re able to deal with life in an entirely new way.
The Final Word
There are various ways to prepare for whatever woes might cross our path in our journey to survive. Quite often, though, we overlook the need to simply prepare for life itself. We forget that there is life after prepping and put aside the real reason for our being. It is not all about money, or things, or even being prepared for the coming apocalypse. It is more about savoring the life experience and achieving a state of happiness and inner peace.
Call me overly touch-feely, but in my view, we all need a bit of soft gentleness in our lives. I also believe that the seven skills in the “survival kit of life” are important if we are going to make it through with our sense of humanity and sanity intact.
These skills matter and could possibly make a huge difference in dealing with the challenging and uncertain times ahead of us.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!