A key, but sometimes overlooked skill in any survival situation is staying calm. By staying calm you improve your brain’s ability to process information and therefore make much better decisions. This can ultimately be the difference between surviving or not. Staying calm and stress free in your everyday life can also have massive positive effects on your health and wellbeing. There are a number of very serious medical conditions that stress can lead to such as heart attacks and strokes. Here are some techniques that can help you keep your cool both in the short term as well as in the future. They will also hopefully allow you to control your mind and stay calm in survival situations.
Simple breathing exercises
There are a number of breathing techniques in stress management books and online. Each one will be more effective for some people than others. A lot of these techniques involve exhaling for longer than you inhale. By making your exhale longer, you activate the vagus nerve which runs from your neck to your diaphragm. This nerve then sends signals to your brain telling it to increase your parasympathetic nervous system (controls your rest and relaxation responses) and to decrease your sympathetic nervous system (controls your fight or flight responses).
Breathing Exercise 1
- Sit or stand still in a comfortable position.
- Take a breath in while counting to three.
- Hold this breath for one second
- Exhale while counting to six
- Pause for one second
The length of your inhaling and exhaling can be adapted to suit your breathing style. By stopping and breathing in this way for a few minutes you will be in a much more relaxed state ready to make those important survival decisions.
Breathing Exercise 2
If you need to wake yourself up or create a very focused mind-set then alternate nostril breathing may work for you. This technique is said to have similar effects to a cup of coffee and can leave you feeling energised ready to complete any challenging task.
How to do it
- Sit or stand in a comfortable position
- Place your right thumb over your right nostril and take a deep breath in through your exposed left nostril
- Place your ring finger over your left nostril, release your thumb and exhale deeply through your now exposed right nostril
- Repeat this for a few minutes
These two simple breathing techniques can help you out in a stressful situation. Their effects can be felt almost immediately when done correctly. However these effects may also be short lived and the techniques may need repeating several times to help keep you calm. Meditation can help keep you in a constant calm state.
This can be challenging to start with but even if you only manage a couple of minutes of concentration meditation, staying calm will start to become easier. Start for a couple of minutes and then build up to an extended period of time.
Concentration meditation is simply focusing your entire mind on one single point. This point could be the flame of a candle, a single word that you repeat over and over again in your mind or a repeating sound. Your only goal is to focus on this one point; any other thoughts that enter your mind are thrown away – effectively nothing else exists apart from your focus point.
This can also be challenging so, as with concentration meditation, start with a couple of minutes of this and build up your time spent in this mind-set.
Mindfulness meditation is the opposite of concentration meditation. Rather than focusing on one single point you allow your mind to wander. You allow any thoughts to enter your mind, however you do not get involved with or judge these thoughts, you simply make yourself aware that they are there and then move on to the next.
By creating a calm and balanced mind you will find that you are able to complete tasks that you think are challenging or scary in a very confident and composed manner. In a survival situation reacting to your environment is a huge part of making it out in one piece.
Staying calm can be the difference between survival and panic.