Spend enough time outdoors on end, and eventually the hardship of living outside your comfort zone will wear on you. After a while, you will miss your bed, you will miss the quiet of your house (unless you have kids), and you will miss the feeling of clean. Eventually, you will long for the creature comforts you take for granted on a daily basis. It’s easy to lose the battle of survival when the war against depression and low self-esteem are fought from the inside. How then can the outdoorsman win “little victories” and stay positive in light adversity? Here are some tips to improve positive mental attitude and help fight off the stress of the extended stays outdoors.
BUILD A FIRE
I value the ability to make fire very highly and always carry a minimum of two ways to start a fire on my person on a daily basis. Even though I don’t smoke, I always have a lighter and I always have a metal match/ferro rod. Staring at fire has been proven to change brain waves to the same pattern as those experienced in REM sleep. Fire of course provides warmth which acts like a “blanket” in the cold. It cooks food to provide a hot meal. Fire can be used in creating smoke generators to signal for help. It can also be used to purify water, to cut down trees, to ward off animals…the list goes on and on. Having control over fire through knowledge of primitive, traditional and modern fire making methods provides a sense of security in knowing you can drastically increase your survivability.
DRINK TEAS AND MAKE SOUP
I’ve already mentioned how the battle against depression and low self-esteem is internal. What better way to fight these downers than from the inside out. Hot teas made with pine needles, wintergreen, St. John’s Wort or other edible/medicinal plants can boost morale greatly. Having knowledge of certain edibles can help you make teas that taste pleasant, that have sedative qualities that have great anti-biotic properties and even relieve headaches (willow). Soups are always hearty and are easily made in a basic canteen cup with water, saltine crackers or flour for thickener, edible plants, animal proteins and basic spices. Soups also benefit the survivor in that they do not allow animal fats from dripping off the meat and the oils are part of the broth in the cooking vessel. Having the ability to introduce warm food and drink is especially important in cooler environments where eating cold food is not desirable.
After a few days in the outdoors, you may not notice your body odor. Return to any town and everyone else will. Even if your nose deceives you, your skin won’t. You know when you’re dirty and the thought of a hot shower beckons you. If you have access to a creek or pond, take the opportunity to clean yourself and your clothes if necessary. In saltwater conditions, the constant exposure to salt is irritating on the skin and showering in the rain offers the relief you need. If you have a metal cup, warm up water and give yourself a sponge bath. In a P.O.W. situation, the military suggests shaving and staying clean cut to improve morale. The same applies for the civilian. Remember you are a human and not a savage by staying clean.
These are merely 3 recommendations to boost morale. Other tips include carrying photos of your loved ones, making cordage or anything in down time to show you have control over any aspect of your situation and setting small goals and crushing them. Positive mental attitude is easy to talk about but in the face of adversity, it becomes harder to hold onto. Remember these tips, keep your head up and boost your morale to increase your survivability.
About the Author
Kevin Estela is the Founder and Head Instructor of Estela Wilderness Education. He conducts private and semi-private wilderness and urban/suburban survival courses, tests and evaluates knives and equipment for various companies, is a Mountain Khakis Professional Ambassador, and is a life-long outdoors enthusiast with additional pastimes in canoeing/kayaking, fishing and cooking. Kevin's work has taken him from Los Angeles, CA to the United Kingdom and many points in between. Kevin is ranked in both Sayoc Kali and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is a shooting enthusiast. Kevin is formerly the Lead Instructor for the Wilderness Learning Center. When not teaching outdoor skills, he is a full-time High School History Teacher and Track and Field Coach who lives in Connecticut.