How to Survive the Unknown (What We Can Do in the Wake of a Pandemic)

Whenever a major disruption collectively affects us, the immediate reaction is often either skepticism or panic. Some level of hysteria is also a common side effect when conflicting data and misinformation spreads like wild-fire. Fear of the unknown drives us to act out of desperation, long before the need for taking such measures are necessary.

So in these times of crisis, what is a person to do? Should we ignore the warnings and chalk it all up to fear-mongering? Should we believe the hype and jump immediately to Defcon-1, retreating into the hills to live off the land?

With most things, the truth is usually somewhere in between...

Currently, there is tons of information, thoughts, and ideas, regarding the status of COVID-19 and how we should react to it. Depending on who you listen to, it is considered no more dangerous than the common flu. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we should all fear for the worst and prepare ourselves for the end of the world as we know it.

However, neither of these reactions are particularly useful or realistic. The fact is that this thing is real and that it will affect all of us in some way. It already has. That doesn’t mean that everyone is going to catch it or that the human race will be wiped from the planet. But we can already see and feel some of its effects.

And unfortunately, things are probably going to get worse before they get better. The difficult part is that no one really knows how much worse, or for how long. Which is what is causing such a panic in many.

But if we have learned anything from studying the psychology of survival, panicking has never been helpful or useful for anyone.It is a calm, rational mind that we must try to maintain whenever we are faced with difficult times.

If we look at this current situation from a survival mindset (even if circumstances are not completely dire), we can formulate a strategy for helping ourselves and others get through this as smoothly as possible.

Here are some things to consider and implement over the next upcoming days, weeks, or possibly months:

The Essentials

While most of us don’t and probably shouldn’t consider this situation as life or death survival, it can be helpful to look at things from this perspective. Doing so can help us better prioritize our mental and physical energy...

When it comes to staying alive, we need security, air, shelter, water, food, and companionship, and generally in that order (watch the Rule of 3’s for Survival).

For most of the population, air shouldn’t be an issue unless you are at risk due respiratory health problems in which case you should already be taking extreme precautions to stay away from any potential encounters with the virus.

• Shelter & Water

Next comes shelter and security, which again, shouldn’t be a problem if you have a home or place to live. There isn’t any reason to believe that there will be any major disruptions to utilities, which should alleviate too much concern for freezing to death or running out of water.

And while having extra containers on hand and the ability to process and purify water is never a bad thing, buying 147 cases of bottled water from Costco probably isn’t necessary. (Don’t get me started on the toilet paper thing.)

• Food

Next on the list is food, and despite what your late night stomach rumbles may have you believe, you won’t starve to death just from missing a couple of meals. In fact, it can take up to 3 weeks for this to occur. So food, while important, is most likely not going to be a major issue in the short term.

In a perfect world, everyone would be stocked up with at least a month’s worth of food and supplies to see them through hard times. But in reality, this is not always the case and unless you have been stocking your pantry for some time, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to completely catch up at this point.

For those who may be concerned about food supplies, continue to shop as you normally would and simply add some extra non-perishable items each time you go.

Again, there is no reason to believe that the supply chain will be shut down, though we will and have already seen some disruptions, it is primarily due to people panic buying out of fear. If we can avoid this, there should continue to be enough food for everyone to get by until things return to normal.

That said, we can all stand to benefit from being more mindful and conscientious of how much food and commodities we are consuming. In the event of certain items not being readily available at some time, we should try and cut back on our needless overconsumption. (This is just a good thing to practice regardless of our current situation, to be honest.)

• Companionship

Lastly, the thing that we can go the longest without, but is still absolutely essential, is companionship. Studies have shown that people who manage to survive alone for more than 3 months will generally perish without some other human interaction during that time.

And while “Social Distancing” is extremely important to continue to implement at this time, it does not mean total isolation. Avoid large gatherings, don’t go places that are non-essential, but by no means should we board ourselves up and exclude all human contact.

In fact, it is going to be extremely important to make sure we are checking in on people who may not be able to care for themselves. This can be as simple as picking up a phone, sending a text, or facetiming a loved one or a neighbor.

While we may not all be assembling together in person, we are and always will be, stronger if we band together.

Keeping a Healthy Mental State

Not so obvious, but equally essential, is taking care of our mental state. In most true survival situations, it is actually our minds that fail us before we succumb to external influences.

Knowing this, it is important that while we may not be physically taxed during this ordeal, it will certainly be a great mental strain for some if not all. Even a small disruption to our daily lives can cause a surprising amount of stress.

If we look at the word disease (dis-ease) it literally means to not be at ease. And stress, if left unchecked can lead to much larger problems, whether we recognize them immediately or not.

So with our favorite pastimes and distractions put on hiatus what can we do to help stay at ease?

Create a New Routine

In times of uncertainty, one of the best things we can do is to focus on the things we can actually control. While we may be limited in our activities, we can still organize our days in such a way as to be productive. They say that idle hands and idle minds can be detrimental...

So it may not be in our best interest to resign ourselves to the couch and our Netflix subscriptions for days on end. Especially, if we find ourselves homebound due to closures and quarantines.

Instead, we should try and find more productive ways to utilize our time and energy (especially if we can no longer go to work or school). This can include anything from home projects to learning a new skill, or starting that at home exercise program you’ve been putting off for so long.

In fact, regular exercise is one of the best ways to de-stress and can be a great way to break the monotony of completing our daily tasks. (This is especially true if you can find a way to get the entire family involved). Which leads us to our next strategy...

Alleviation of Our Routine

Just like in everyday life under normal circumstances, even in a crisis we can fall into a rut. And while a set routine is important and useful, almost just as valuable is an occasional deviation of said routine.

We see this effect in our affinity for the various holidays we celebrate throughout the year. While many have profound significance, there are plenty that simply serve to alleviate us from our everyday patterns (I’m looking at you, President’s Day).

This is especially true for kids, who are most likely going to struggle adjusting to such a drastic new structure. If we can find small ways to interject some variety in their day to day, it will do wonders to help with the boredom that will inevitably set in after being out of school for an extended period.

Social Media Distancing

We are now all aware of “social distancing” as an effective way to help curtail the spread of highly contagious diseases. But one thing we could probably all benefit from is a bit of Social Media Distancing as well.

As mentioned previously, staying connected with others is important, as is staying current on new developments. However, the constant barrage of information that we are inundated with online is neither healthy nor useful.

In times of uncertainty, we look for reassurance by gathering information. But too much information and constant exposure can leave us paralyzed and make a problem seem much worse than it is.

If we can allot some time away from our screens, away from the memes, the media, and digital mayhem, we can focus on actually addressing issues as they arise. Sitting and reading and worrying about something does nothing to change it.

For the most part, we are far better off looking at the world through the lens of our own eyes and experience, rather than on the pixels of a screen.

One last parting thought to keep in mind:

The Savage within contains our indomitable will
to survive at all costs.

But it is the Gentleman part of us that strives
to do so as civilly as possible.

Now more than ever, we need to remember our shared humanity and work together to see this through.

1 comment

Very good practical info during these strange times.

John April 20, 2020

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