Remember this quote? “Crisis doesn’t create character; it reveals it.” Decades ago I was in an intense personal growth workshop. We were put in challenging situations designed to reveal “how we had previously educated our conscience.” I love that term. We do educate our conscience and it becomes our guardrail through life. We also determine the level we will experience by the way we’ve handled our lives so far.

I read the book Deep Survival, Who Lives, Who Dies and Why by Laurence Gonzales. It’s a brilliant study of the survivors of natural disasters and why some people survive them and some do not, and how we can learn from them to get us through life. I gleaned his survival tips and included them in my Beyond Divorce book because they were so applicable to the experience of divorce. Perhaps they are helpful now as well, so let’s share them again.

Suggestions for Surviving

Gonzales studied the thoughts and behaviors common to wilderness survivors. I have reframed them below as suggestions to help you survive when you are disoriented by life and your sense of stability is most fleeting. Notice the parallels between wilderness survival and your own situation.

  • Remain calm. Do not panic. Maintain control of your emotions.
  • Allow yourself only one thought: What is my next correct action?
  • Use any fear you have as sustenance. Let the energy feed action.
  • Proceed with great caution if the next step requires great risk.
  • Pace yourself. Rest often. Pushing too hard can cause emotional, mental, and physical fatigue that will require weeks or months of recovery.
  • Make a plan for the immediate future. Trying to plan too far ahead may elicit unwanted emotions. Survivors set small, manageable goals and systematically go about achieving them.
  • Do the best you can. Anything less than that will not get you through.
  • Know that you cannot change the world; you can only change yourself. Accept the reality in which you find yourself. Calm yourself and begin taking action.
  • Hold to a vision of what you want, what you have to live for. Use your imagination to create a compelling future that will draw you through.
  • Delight in small achievements and celebrate simple victories as they happen.
  • Look within yourself, not to your circumstances, for balance.
  • Pray. (Gonzales found survivors pray even when they don’t believe in a god.) Faith is an important part of one’s will to survive.
  • Help other survivors. Helping someone else is the best way to ensure your own survival. It takes you out of yourself and helps you rise above your fears.

These tips are obviously for serious survival situations. If you find yourself fearing for your sanity, t may help to decide now which of these suggestions are most useful to you and implement them right away.