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Mental and Physical Preparation For SHTF & Long Emergencies

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: August 1, 2022
Mental and Physical Preparation For SHTF & Long Emergencies

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While being able to meet basic food, water, medical, and shelter needs provides peace of mind, attention should be paid to other areas too.

No matter how well you prepare, an SHTF or long term emergency is going to be hard if it goes on for very long.

I am writing this article in the hopes that it will help you discover the strengths and weaknesses that could be beneficial or a problem during a crisis. Accepting that you or someone in your group has areas they need to work on during good times means you can take steps to be a better person for yourself and everyone during SHTF.

Do you have members in your family that are reluctant to pitch in around the house? Do your kids know how to do basic things?

That sounded harsh, and I am not here to give a “kids these days speech.” This is a different world than what I grew up in. Kids are not allowed to do a lot of things that are considered dangerous or risky. Fewer kids than ever are exposed to anything farm related. While some of you may find it amazing, there are plenty of kids and young adults that do not know basic household skills, and it is not always because they don’t want to, it is because their parents or hired help did it for them, and they simply were never taught.

Also if you find yourself telling kids to go play when they are curious about what you are doing, reconsider why you are doing that. The women in my family, when I was around them, would not let me participate in cooking because they were afraid I would mess it up, so I had to teach myself how to cook more complicated meals when I was 16. Take the time when kids want to learn. They will be a bigger help to you later on and remember it always.

I am not trying to be judgemental, but I think it is very easy for anyone to get in too big a rush and look over some things that can be pretty important in the long term.

How good are the physical fitness levels of you and your group?

News flash…none of us are going to magically turn into superheroes or the people on TV fighting zombies when a crisis unfolds. Fitness and skills have to be acquired before SHTF, or you are going to have a steep learning curve to deal with.

Can you walk for miles?

Walking and being on your feet is something you will be doing more of during SHTF unless you are very disabled. You may be able to do a lot of strenuous hand work but not be able to walk and stay on your feet for a long period of time.

You need to understand this when it comes to movement and who is assigned what tasks when there is work to be done. Smaller kids are not going to be able to walk for as long as you.

If you eat meat, can you handle seeing an animal killed and butchered? Would you be able to do this yourself? Would this scare your kids or would they be able to handle it with no issues?

Despite all the violent movies and video games, there are a lot of people, especially kids, are disturbed and grossed out by the real blood and death that is part of putting meat on the table.

If you don’t butcher your own animals then perhaps you could take a trip to a farm where someone does. If you have a buddy that hunts deer, then that can be a good opportunity to learn some basics of animal butchering and preservation. I encourage you to expose your kids to this type of thing if they eat meat.

Those that don’t eat meat may find that they need to if they want to survive during a long emergency. It is easy during good times to say “I would never eat that” or “I would starve before doing that.”

When you haven’t eaten in days or your kid is losing weight, there are a lot of things you might be willing to do that you wouldn’t dream of now. Survival is about adapting to the situation as it unfolds.

At least have a book on butchering around just in case it comes to that. You may even want to go see it done even if it is extremely appalling to you.

Metal preparedness

We live in a world where honestly, kids and adults are alike are not taught to deal with upsetting things in a healthy or even rational manner.

People claim PTSD after something as simple as shooting a gun for the first time or someone getting elected. It is an insult to those that have seen true trauma, but it is an example of extreme reactions for things that often do not directly affect an individual.

Letting small things bother you too much is a bad habit that tends to amplify any emotional reaction.

As a writer, I get a lot of feedback, and it is not always positive. Granted I make mistakes, I write a small book per month and then sometimes my stuff has small edits afterward. Typos and differences in dialect really get some people enraged enough to send lengthy emails on a Saturday morning. Rather than get angry, I cannot help but feel a bit sad that they took that much out of their life to complain about a misplaced comma.

I am taking time out of my life to tell you this too, but I tell you this to encourage you to stop letting every small thing enrage you enough that you are taking away from your life. If someone like me or another person makes you mad with an opinion or type-o, we are not worth the time that is taken out of your life.


Some people panic if they get a slight injury. I see parents put a band-aid on kids even if there is no noticeable wound just to make them feel like something has been done and to quiet them.

We are widely insulated from pain by the functioning society we live in. In fact, a lot of people are addicted to pain pills and don’t really know what even normal everyday feelings are like. Getting yourself and those you care about toughened up towards pain is worthwhile. You don’t have to be heartless but maybe don’t coddle one another so much that you get soft.

Tackle fears now

If you have fears that may be problematic during an emergency then now is the time to take steps towards conquering them.

Small steps can yield big results. If you are afraid of heights then maybe start by staring down a 20 ft drop instead of 200 feet. You don’t have to take on fears in huge momentous steps! You may experience a higher rate of success by not taking huge leaps all at once.

A lot of fears are very common, and it can be comforting to know that you are not entirely alone with your struggle. If you or a friend or family member share a common fear then you may be able to support each other and overcome it together.

Other support groups may be available to you. Counseling services may be helpful to those that are struggling with extreme fears and related issues.

Do whatever you can to get PTSD under control and consider how to deal with it during stressful times that can trigger episodes.

PTSD is awful to live with. There are plenty of people that have it but don’t acknowledge it. An example is medical personnel such as nurses. In the past, people did not recognize that it does not just occur in combat soldiers.

Ask yourself what seems to trigger feelings the most and start practicing now. Being in control of your emotions will help you if times get tough. Whatever it is that is your strength; you need to find it and focus on it.

Preventing and Treating PTSD: Advice for Life and SHTF Situations

Practice being isolated

I can go two solid weeks without going to town or anywhere but this property and my Dad’s house which is at the end of our unpaved road. I know I can do this because I was sick with the worst flu-like virus I have suffered from in years, and I did not want to spread it around. I only went down to my Dad’s after a week. This experience made me think about isolation. I could go a lot longer just staying at home if I had to do it but a few fresh items from the store will get me to town.

People often don’t realize that during SHTF you are not going to have as much interaction with others as you might think. Even if there are the beginnings of a barter-based economy and people start figuring out the rules of the new reality, you may still need to stay close to home for safety and limit your interactions with the unknown.

Isolation During Good Times and SHTF: From Living in the Country To Staying Hidden During SHTF

Pandemics alone are a reason to practice being isolated and how you handle that.

How many times have you seen someone out and asked: “why didn’t they just stay at home instead of spreading that around?”. While some people are out to get items because no one is going to get it for them, or they are a sick parent, etc., there are some folks that just will not stay at home when they if they are sick. These people will go to restaurants, theaters, social events, bars, and family gatherings and spread a very unnecessary amount of disease and illness with them. This means you need to consider this when there is a lot of illness around, and you choose to go to some places. If there is a rampant illness or two, you hear about then maybe you should cook at home instead of eating out. During SHTF there will be more sick people and fewer medications to go around.

One only has to look at the diseases popping up among the homeless and poor in this country to see that it doesn’t take much for old diseases that were thought to be eradicated to pop back up again.

Remember that the point of prepping is to be prepared enough where you can stay in place and have the things that you need. I understand that people have jobs they have to go to, but if you get a chance to work from home or have a long weekend, then it might be a good time to practice making do with what you have and the people you have at home. Pulling the plug on the internet or even the power can take it to a different level.

Anger management should start now

Getting angry can lead to rash decisions. While we all get mad and make mistakes, during a major SHTF scenario or long emergency, anger can lead to consequences of a very dire nature. I struggle with my temper, but I have learned how to control it a little bit better over the years.

Different people have success with all kinds of techniques for dealing with anger issues. For you, thinking about your kids or something that you love to do or a great trip you went on, or some other good memory, could help you take it down a notch.

Take time to think and put things in perspective. What will anger achieve? Sometimes a little anger can be beneficial, but it is a slippery slope and can be hard to get it under control after a certain point. When anger leads to violence, the violence can be hard or impossible to stop.

Are you holding grudges with anyone that you plan on being in your group?

Grudges have a way of coming out when times get tough. It is advisable to work your way through these now. If you cannot, and the person is not a family member, then you may consider not having them as part of your group, but this decision could create a real enemy with a worse grudge than the one you are carrying.  If someone’s behavior has been less than stellar towards you or a family member and you cannot let it go, it is far better to talk it out when times are relatively good then have it come out when you are all trying to survive.

How important are your vices and will they be hard or impossible to get in an SHTF scenario?

Not all vices are drugs and alcohol. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages are something a large amount of the population relies on daily. Most of these people have no idea what it would be like to go a few days without any caffeine at all.

While you can put back some vices, in a long term situation, you will probably run out and then have to make the choice of going to find what you want if you can afford it, or doing without. During very hard times the choice may be between eating and your vice. How are you going to deal with that? While times are good is when you want to think about this and come up with a strategy for short and long term emergencies. For example, if you are a coffee drinker, you can start putting back coffee. Green coffee beans keep longer, and you can roast them in a frying pan. At $4-$8 per pound depending on the quality, this is a prep you can buy 5 lbs at a time and repackage.

Remember that people turn to vices more during hard times. Substances can even be easier to find than food or clean water. Drugs and alcohol are very common during hard times. People that would normally never touch the stuff will be more likely to when they are unsure if they will live to see the next day or even if they have to live outside their comfort zone a lot.

Ways to toughen up

Weekend hiking and camping trips

Hiking and camping is a great way to spend time with family and friends, and it builds confidence. All too many people think that they can’t do something that they would like to. A self-defeating attitude is not what you want people to have during SHTF.  That first trip into the woods with nothing but what you can carry can be a huge boost, especially to kids and teens.

James did an article recently on getting outside for some winter camping.

Cold Weather Survival Simulation; Spend A Night In The Cold

Practice firestarting and other bushcraft skills

Skills are very important. You can have a lot of food and water put back but that can be taken from you, and then you have to rely on your skills. You do not have to be financially well off to be much more prepared than the average person.

Many bushcraft skills can be practiced in a backyard. If your area doesn’t allow open fires, then practice in a firepit. Since this is something you can do when you have a few minutes, it works well for those that are working full time and find it hard to get away to practice bushcraft.

Turn the heat down or do without air conditioning

Most of us are used to being able to control the temperatures we are exposed to inside. During a long emergency, this will be hard or impossible.

Matt and I noticed that after we got a few AC units for the house, that we were spending a lot of money when we were outside for a lot of time that AC was being used. We were paying to keep a house cool that we were not even in! The artificial coolness also affected how fast our bodies adapted to seasonal temperature fluctuations. We need to be able to work outside when it is in the 80s so getting used to the heat by not using AC makes it a little easier.

In the spring and summer, I can type on the patio or out in the woods, so I am not using AC for my other work either. We do put an AC unit in the loft where we sleep when we are in the hottest part of the summer because it gets really hot upstairs in a house that is designed like an old fashioned mountain cabin.

In the old days when there were just wood heat and no modern insulation this really helped people out in the winter. We try to avoid using the AC upstairs until it gets so hot that our sleep is being affected.

Eco coolers are cheap and easy to make and could be used during a long emergency. I did a post on how these work and how to make one.

Tips For Staying Cool With No AC &How To Build an Eco Cooler

Learn to eat your preps

Food is a powerful thing, and it is easier to see the power it has over you when you have to change your diet a lot or do without some foods.

Take a few days or a week and live off the foods you put back. This is a good time to get out some of your older prep foods and rotate them out. Take notes on what was the hardest for you during this time and any spices or ingredients that would have made a difference.

I am going to link to an article I did featuring recipes made from common prepper foods. We all need to learn how to cook with what we have put back! You can make a lot of comfort foods and favorites with preps. I even came up with a pizza that you can throw together. What can you come up with? Share with us in the comments!

Best Prepper Recipes Ideas: What to Do with Stockpiled Food

Learn about wild plants and how to forage for edibles

There is probably a lot more edible plants out there than what you realize. Get a good illustrated edible plants guide for your area and practice identifying plants.

If you are sure of what you are seeing, then maybe try to fix some meals or at least a side dish out of what you find. This is a fun group activity and great for homeschooling families that want to get their kids involved more with preparedness.

Adapting to a new world will test everyone’s limits

The inability to adapt to a new reality and power structure can make a difference in who survives and who does not. Some people will not be able to accept the new rules or lack thereof.

The sooner you and your family can accept that things have changed and will possibly never return to what they were before, the better off you are. This acceptance allows you to concentrate on how to get by day to day and the future rather than dwelling in the past and concentrating too much on what you have lost.

Do you have anything to add? What are you doing to prepare yourself mentally and physically? What challenges do you face with getting family and close friends involved?

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected]

You can read more of Samantha’s post right here at Backdoor Survival and at Survival and Knowledge For Uncertain Times.

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5 Responses to “Mental and Physical Preparation For SHTF & Long Emergencies”

  1. Great article, Samantha! I have never participated in butchering, but as a retired ER nurse, I am pretty sure I could handle it (not saying I may not puke the first time, LOL).

    • Puking and moving on with it is admirable. Giving up is not and I know you would never do that Grammyprepper! Thanks for reading and best wishes, Samantha. P.S. It always means a lot to see your comments. I tell my husband when an article gets a “Grammyprepper Label of Approval”. I know I did well when I see it. 🙂

  2. Thanks for another good article, Samantha! Read with pleasure. Sharp as always. Can add a little about choosing plants to eat algorithm, because getting “a good illustrated edible plants guide for your area and practice identifying plants” might not be always possible, or you might find yourself on another side of the planet when disaster strikes. There is step-by step method of identifying plant edibility, as following:
    1. Choose any plant your intuition suggests that is somewhat common in whatever ecosystem you found yourself
    2. Break a stem. If there is a milkish substance secreting (white or yellow juice) discard it, your intuition failed this time, go back to step 1.
    3. Rub a little amount of that plant juice onto your skin. If you get any itching, redness, burning, discard and return to step1
    4. Lick that broken stem. Again, burning, bitterness, excess saliva secretion, or other unpleasant feelings throw you back to step1
    5. Eat a small piece and wait, preferably an hour at least. If nothing unpleasant happens – you found yourself a salad ingredient.
    Youngest plant parts are most nutritious. Indirect evidence of plant/fruit edibility is their inclusion in other mammals/birds diet, so if you see parts of plants with bite marks or in animal poop, it’s probably good for you as well.

  3. Excellent article. I am a volunteer trail maintainer and sawyer instructor (chainsaw & crosscut) with the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club and the Benton MacKaye Trail Association which gives me plenty of time to spend in the woods. We use chainsaws outside of Wilderness Areas and crosscut saws when we are in Wilderness Areas like this past saturday when we were clearing blown down trees in the Big Frog Wilderness Area in East TN. In addition to saws and axes we use picks, fire rakes, shovels, straps and rock bars and a lot of good old fashioned sweat.

    This is a great opportunity to hike for miles carrying a heavy load, use both traditional and modern tools, learn about your surroundings (species of tree, plants, water sources, animal habitats) as well as the therapeutic aspect of being in the great outdoors and getting dirty.

    My wife and I live on 12 acres in a relatively remote area in N. GA so we wake up in the woods every day. But for those that live in the surburbs or city, a trail club may be a way to become familiar with traditional tools, get out a learn the woods and exercise all at the same time.

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