3 Coping Strategies in Survival Situations

As promised in my last blog post on the psychology of survival, I’m bringing you three coping strategies to help you keep your mental health on track and to increase your chance of overcoming any critical situation with success. As you can pick from the different stages of the psychological cycle we go through in survival mode, it’s only normal to experience a great range of emotions and feel lost in the process.

Denial, resistance, fear, stress, sadness, anger. It takes time and effort to remain calm and fully aware. It’s tough! After all, your life might well be on the line! The coping strategies I’m bringing you here are based on The Survival Handbook by Colin Towell and I believe they can be a sort of compass to help us move through and out of disasters or emergencies. I personally think the most important coping strategy is motivation building, followed by hope and acceptance.


Motivation
The first thing that must be present in your mind and heart is a will to survive. I know it’s sounds stupid, but many people give up on living when facing challenging times and situations. They prefer to hijack themselves from reality and from the responsibility of taking care of their own lives. Why? Well, it’s hard to make ends meet when you are dealing with extreme life experiences, emotional turmoil and physical discomfort. You can have all the resources to survive, but if you don’t have a will to survive, you are probably not going to make it. That’s how much a person’s psychology is important. In survival mode, it’s important to establish goals and keep your spirit alive. You can learn more about this with Viktor Frankl and his book Man’s Search for Meaning.


Hope
I see hope as the capacity to nurture the positive belief or idea that your reality can improve, and distress will eventually come to an end. Hope feeds your motivation as well so it’s important that you keep nurturing some optimism, even when reality seems to be against you and your chances to survive. According to Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build Theory, positive emotions have a huge impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. They not only act as buffers and protect us from trauma, but also enhance creative thinking which is paramount when you need to find ways to survive.


Acceptance
Non-acceptance leads to increased frustration and anger. This type of feelings can only work against you in a survival situation, making you more prone to irrational behaviour. Acceptance doesn’t mean you give in to what is happening to you though. You need to look at acceptance as a way to increase your mental flexibility and ability to know when you must act or stay passive moment by moment. If you attach yourself to feelings of frustration and anger, you will more likely do something that might compromise your long-term survival.


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