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Believe you will survive and you will surive

Alone. Huddled at the base of a tree, wedged between the roots for they alone offer any security. Eyes dart all around searching but not seeing with bated breath for breathing too loud may attract the attention of things unwanted.

A chill hangs heavy in the air though it is midday and the sun is high. An urge to run rises but there is no course plotted, no destination to be seen. The thought causes the blood to quicken pace and a throb to stir behind the brow – it is the beginning of a belief, the realization of impending doom.

These are the familiar sensations of panic to anyone who has experienced being lost or faced disaster, and that may be explaining it lightly.

Panic is the first real beast to face in an emergency. It is the first destroyer, the bringer of rain. Too much stress from panic reduces motor skills, focus on details becomes less acute and the ability to think clearly - well, becomes cloudy.

This is a time when energy needs to be conserved but everything inside is screaming to flee because safety is just over that ridge or just around that hill. This is why so many lost hikers are found naked and frozen – fleeing exerts a lot of energy which causes overheating and sweating. We combat sweating by removing clothing. Removing clothing after sweating causes death by hypothermia in prolonged exposure to cool outdoor temperatures.

So how do we slay this monster that lurks in the corner of the mind waiting for its moment to strike?

Take a couple of minutes… Literally.

Sit down, breathe, close your eyes. Take two minutes to recover focus and think of absolutely nothing. A heavy heart rate will slow, an overwhelming desire to run will ease, stress will diminish and panic will subside. Two minutes will make all the difference for your survival.

The next step is equally crucial. The mind needs to remain occupied to keep that monster at bay. Find a long stick, about two fingers wide and about shoulder height. Use a knife or a flat rock with an edge and scrape the bark off of it. Start a fire, if able, for a fire is an immediate sense of security and comfort. Slowly roast the walking stick to draw out the moisture to make it lighter and easier to carry.

These are the beginning principals for overcoming panic in an emergency. The foundation upon which the ability to survive is built. Preparing for emergencies is important, pack supplies and keep them in the vehicle and practice, practice, practice. Get familiar with being outdoors, building fires and shelters. Knowing how to do these things in controlled and safe environments makes them far easier to do when the comforts of home or office are far away.

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