The Top Three Tips for Developing a Survival Mentality

The most important aspect of disaster preparedness is adopting a survival mentality. The reason this is so important is that without the ability to tell yourself that you will survive psychologically, why does anything else matter?

In other words: why would hoarding food and water or learning how to defend your home against raiders and mobs matter if you’ve already told yourself that you will not survive and have just resigned yourself to the fate of death?

Tell yourself that you will survive
Tell yourself that you will survive

While many survival and disaster preparedness articles and books will often focus on the physical aspects of survival, far fewer will actually focus on the psychological and emotional aspects of it.

Fortunately, there are three specific steps that you can follow right now to ensure that you have completely adopted a survival mentality:

Tell Yourself That You Will Survive

Sounds pretty simple, right? You may also think that it sounds pretty obvious. Nonetheless, many people have died in survival situations simply because they never actually told themselves that they would survive. On the contrary, they told themselves that they wouldn’t survive. The same equally goes for a disaster situation as well.

Having the willpower to survive is the most important survival hack of all because it can singlehandedly determine whether your survival efforts are successful or not. It’s therefore only appropriate that it is the first hack that we will discuss.

When you find yourself in any kind of a survival or disaster situation, your initial reaction will be to feel overwhelmed by high levels of stress. Understand that this is completely normal, so don’t feel like your chances of survival are zero once this happens to you.

That being said, it’s incredible how simply repeating to yourself “I will survive” can help to calm your stress and allow you to make clearer-headed decisions. It’s also important that you repeat this phrase out loud rather than only in your mind as it is much more powerful that way.

Telling yourself that you will survive is what will enable you to pull through
Telling yourself that you will survive is what will enable you to pull through

Even if things look bleak right now, you know full well that they will get better eventually. Telling yourself that you will survive is what will enable you to pull through so you can eventually experience things when they do become better.

So, once you find yourself in a survival or disaster situation, just start telling yourself that you will survive. Speak it out loud and with inflection in your voice. “I will survive, I will survive, I will survive…”

You can also speak variations of this phrase as well, such as “I have the willpower to survive,” or “I have the strength to survive,” or “I am armed with the knowledge I need to survive,” and so on. Whatever works best for you is what you should go with. After all, we’re all unique.

Manage Your Stress

Something we just touched on in our first hack is how stress can overwhelm you in a survival situation. Managing this stress effectively is therefore essential to making it out alive or outlasting the disaster.

Here’s a fact that’s going to sound a little harsh but that is also true: completely eliminating your stress in a disaster or survival situation is going to be impossible.

Completely eliminating stress in a disaster or survival situation is going to be impossible
Completely eliminating stress in a disaster or survival situation is going to be impossible

This is because there is always going to be something that you feel stressed about in a disaster – whether it be not having enough food or water, having raiders or mobs descending upon your home, having a family member or person in your survival group who is ill and needs urgent medical attention, or a multitude of other things.

If you believe that you can eliminate your stress and then try to eradicate it, you’re going to get nowhere and will likely only become more stressed in the long run.

This is why it’s important for you to manage or control your stress instead of trying to eliminate it. There are two very specific strategies that you can use to manage your stress in a survival situation (so you’re technically getting two hacks in one here).

Controlling your breathing is a miracle act in itself
Controlling your breathing is a miracle act in itself

The first strategy is very straightforward and is one that is very commonly recommended for handling stress even outside of a disaster situation: focus on your breathing.

Controlling your breathing is a miracle act in itself because it helps you both physically and mentally. It helps you physically in that it can lower your heart rate, and it helps you mentally in that it can allow you to make clearheaded decisions.

Simply take in a deep shallow breath and then exhale it slowly afterward. Repeat this process consistently, and eventually it might even become a habit – enabling you to control your stress on a continuous and subconscious basis.

The second strategy you can use to manage your stress is to tackle one task at a time rather than multiple tasks. Multitasking is actually counterproductive and this will be even more true in a survival situation.

Therefore, once you have controlled your breathing, you need to write down a list of tasks that you need to carry out to ensure your survival. This list of tasks should be very specific rather than generic so that you have a crystal clear idea of what exactly it is you need to do.

Organize this list in terms of your priorities so that your more essential tasks are located near or at the top of the list. Then, work on completing these tasks one at a time. When I say one at a time, that means focusing solely on one task and ignoring all of the others until you have completed it.

Boost Your Morale

Easier said than done, right? Telling yourself that you will survive and managing your stress levels are two of the most essential elements of adopting a survival mentality, but boosting your morale is a third essential element.

An alternative word to use for morale here would be “motivation.” So, in other words: what is motivating you to survive?

Telling yourself that you will survive and managing your stress levels is one thing, but it could all be for nothing if you don’t know what is motivating you to survive. For most people, the motivation they need to survive is either to be with their friends and family members again or to return to living life as it once was.

Have hope
Have hope

In essence, the key to boosting your morale is hope. Hope that you will survive, hope that things will return to normal, and hope that you will see your loved ones again.

This can understandably be very hard, especially if you’ve lost everything that you have. For example, when Hurricane Katrina struck the southeastern coast in 2005, many people lost their homes and all of their possessions. In the blink of an eye, everything they owned was suddenly gone. It would be very difficult for anyone in this situation to keep their chin up.

Boost your moral
Boost your moral

Nonetheless, many people survived Hurricane Katrina because they had hope. They were able to get help from relief organizations and, afterward, were able to have homes and possessions of their own again. It took time, but things did eventually return to normal (or almost to normal) for many of those people. There’s little reason to think that the same won’t happen for you as well.

Another way that you can boost morale in any survival or disaster scenario is to focus on the positives of your situation rather than the negatives. Even the small positives will make a difference for you. Organizing your food into rations may seem like a relatively small event, but it’s actually a significant one because you now definitely know your family has enough food for however long you prepared for.


In short, adopting a survival mentality consists of three primary factors: telling yourself that you will survive, managing your stress levels effectively, and boosting your morale by reminding yourself of the hope there is for the future. If you can do each of those three things, the chances of your survival will shoot up dramatically even if you have otherwise made very limited preparations.


vika-makeenko is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival