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Stress in a Survival Situation Can Kill

Apr 19, 2008
Our psychological reaction in the survival setting is related to our stress level. Stress is not a condition or disease that we can cure, or eliminate. Stress is our reaction to the pressures of our surroundings. Any given physical, mental, or emotional event may give rise to stress which can be our friend. Stress is one of the natural defenses we have to living with danger in our society. It is no different in the wilderness.

We need stress because it has many positive benefits. It provides us with challenges and chances to evaluate our values and strengths. Stress can show us how to handle situations under pressure without having a mental breakdown. It tests our flexibility and adaptability for unanticipated changes. Normally, events we consider unimportant can be stressful. This gives us abilities to measure what is out of the ordinary.

We need to be able to identify the signs of stress in our daily lives. Some examples of the signs that point to stress include: low energy level, a propensity to make mistakes, constant worrying, thoughts of death or suicide, withdrawal from the company of others, carelessness, difficulty making decisions, or angry outbursts. When you see these signs in the wilderness, you need to turn them from a destructive force into a constructive one.

Survival Keys

Any wilderness survival outing can lead to stress. The psychologist would call survival events "stressors". The successful wilderness explorer will learn to identify these "stressors" and deal with them as if they were normal events in an everyday wilderness excursion. Wilderness survival "stressors" must not send out a mental SOS, but rather tell the body to avoid the "flight or flight" instinct.

Loss of Control

In the wilderness, certain events immediately bring stress upon the wilderness party. Facing a severe injury, unknown illness, or death of a member of the party will immediately bring stress to the others. Most members will find this mutual stress environment difficult to handle. Someone needs to take leadership. Since illness or injury will limit your ability to maneuver in the wild, you need immediately to conserve food and drink, find long-term shelter, and otherwise defend yourself from degradations to the member's conditions.

Lack of control of the situation or uncertainty about the future are clear-cut reasons for stress. When there is no further guarantee of the group's survival in the wilderness, psychological factors have to be considered in any new plan. Make no mistake, there must be a plan to deal with the group's changing conditions and goals for the future. Survival may have become the prime goal.

Wilderness Environment

Ideally, groups traveling in the wilderness should be able to cope with the conditions they face in the mountains and other wilderness areas. However, weather conditions such as rain, cold, winds, and heat are often unknowns. The rigors of the mountains, the existence of swamps, deserts, or the unexpected arrival of dangerous insects, reptiles, or other animals may likewise initiate stress. The explorer who does not plan carefully will find that shortages of food or water may cause extreme discomfort, illness, or injury. The wilderness visitor needs to be able to cope with all of these psychological stress factors.
About the Author
Cory Doggett owns and operates several websites specializing in survival and wilderness skills. Visit the Untolerable.com survival forums.
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