Preppers already knew they might need to undergo periods of isolation—either by choice or necessity—but at some point, circumstances could dictate being alone and separated from others. Last year, many Americans learned that becoming isolated is not just a scenario we are preparing for, and it can affect everyone.
Those that made fun of us suddenly found themselves confined at home by an invisible enemy. Even more astonishing, they were under constant surveillance by the authorities, making their isolation feel worse than it actually was.
If you are a regular reader of Prepper’s Will, you already know some of the physical supplies you will need to survive at home without exterior help. Your body will require food, water, and medical supplies to subsist. But, to do more than just survive—to actually thrive—you need to have supplies for your mind. Indeed, if you are not prepared psychologically for isolation, you are not truly prepared.
Good prepping, good results
The first way to prepare psychologically is to ask yourself what you think of when you hear the word “isolation.” What associations do you have with that word?
The answer might determine how well or how poorly one will deal with being isolated. Isolation is the physical state of being removed or separated from others. It is a real, objective state of being. It is also neutral.
It is not, in and of itself, good or bad. But it is also a psychological state and, as such, very subjective. What we tell ourselves about isolation is what will make it a good or bad thing. The feelings and thoughts we developed regarding our state of isolation are the main things that will affect our wellbeing.
If your associations with isolation are negative, you will have a negative emotional reaction to it.
If your associations are positive, you will have a positive emotional reaction.
For example, if you think of isolation as a form of solitary confinement, your reaction will be very negative. Solitary confinement is considered a severe form of punishment within the prison system. It punishes the mind and spirit more than the body.
Suppose you view your period of isolation as a form of punishment. In that case, you will court depression, anger, resentment, and hopelessness—not the emotions you want to experience if you plan to survive!
But what if you view isolation differently?
What if you remind yourself that Superman had a “fortress of solitude” to which he retreated to isolate himself from the world and its pressures?
It was good enough for the Man of Steel, but can it be good enough for you?
Thinking about your shelter as your personal fortress of solitude is a lot healthier than viewing it as a prison cell. And after all, prisoners don’t have the same comfort level as the one you created for yourself. This alone is a bonus you could take advantage of.
Keeping a Positive Attitude
First-century Stoic philosopher Epictetus taught that men are not upset by things that happen to them but by their views about those things. Human nature has not changed that much, and we are constantly overstressing, overthinking, and overreacting. We do so even for minor things that we shouldn’t think twice about.
To prepare psychologically for dealing with periods of isolation, be aware of the views you take about them; that is, the messages you are giving yourself. You might not be able to control the need to seek isolation, but you can control your reactions to it.
Good thinking yields good results. If you control what you tell yourself about being isolated, you control how you feel about it. Telling yourself how horrible it is will only make you feel worse. Reminding yourself that it might be bad but not catastrophic will help you feel better. Everything comes to an end, but you have to tell yourself that it will be a positive ending and not a gruesome one.
A positive attitude will allow you to cope better than will a negative attitude.
What are some things you can do to keep a positive attitude?
What are the self-talk messages that will improve your emotional state?
Here are some suggestions. First, remind yourself that being isolated is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a very proactive, positive choice you made to ensure your survival. Feel good about your decision. You are in control. As long as you have everything you need to not alter your way of living and you still have the comfort level you’re used to, take time and use these things to your advantage.
Last year, many people started to learn new things; others managed to finish the projects they’ve been putting off for too long, while others simply enjoyed spending more time with their loved ones.
Emotional strength, like physical strength, comes from exercising. Exercise your emotional muscles by monitoring your thoughts when faced with adversity. Now is the time to begin cultivating a positive attitude about the everyday adversities you encounter.
Are you stuck in traffic? Rather than complain about it, view it as an opportunity to strengthen your ability to handle frustration. Speaking of exercise, prepare for prolonged isolation by getting into good physical shape.
While in isolation, you probably won’t have access to exercise equipment like the one you find at your local gym. Don’t despair since you can always improvise and make do with simpler stuff. Now is the time to learn simple bodyweight exercises you can use to stay in shape in a shelter’s confined space.
An effective replacement for free weights and machines is a good set of elastic resistance bands. They take almost no room and can replicate the full range of free-weight exercises.
You like to walk or run? Well, you’re in luck since there are now foldable treadmills that don’t take up much space, and you can set them up anywhere. Open a window, set your treadmill in place, and make the best out of the worst.
It is very important to maintain your strength and not allow your muscles to atrophy. Your shelter will have food to feed your body. Prepare by also having food for your mind. Boredom can lead to depression.
Books and games will stave off boredom. Remember, you might not have access to TV or computers.
Games that challenge your mind are good to have on hand. It is part of your psychological preparation. Chess, checkers—any game of strategy— will help keep your mind alert and active.
Puzzle books are also a good idea and an alternative to competitive board games. Chess puzzles, crossword puzzles, and hidden words can challenge you without requiring another person. They also prevent conflicts that often arise if games become too competitive.
Even if you have access to a TV or a computer, you will be better off if you spend your time trying to stimulate your mind and interacting with those close to you (playing games, discussing pressing matters, etc.).
Make sure you stay on the clock
Our bodies are regulated by an internal biological clock that sets and influences a certain rhythm over a 24-hour period. This “circadian rhythm” tells us when to sleep, eat and wake up. Our bodies are affected by our biological needs (i.e., to eat, to sleep), but the circadian cycle is affected by environmental factors.
Parents of very young children know that it is easier to get a 3-year-old to sleep in the winter, when it is dark at 5:00 p.m., than in the summer when it is still light at 8:00 p.m.
Adults, too, are influenced by the amount of sunlight. Many people report being more tired or down in the winter. Some even develop a seasonal depression. The lack of sunlight causes a hormonal change that triggers a hibernation reflex.
Some of the North European countries have studied this phenomenon for decades. They do everything they can to keep their citizens happy (from bus stops that have lighting simulating natural light to providing therapy lamps for everyone).
There might be no windows in the protected safety of a shelter, and going outside might be problematic. Without the cues of the sunlight, it could be easy to lose track of whether it is day or night. This will affect your circadian rhythm.
The military recognized this problem among those assigned to isolated bases in, for example, the polar region, where the weather or “long” nights created havoc with the soldiers’ internal clocks.
In order to maintain a proper circadian rhythm, the military instituted forced adherence to a sleep-wake cycle. People needed to have a set time for their activities separate from the normal cues that it was time to get up, eat, work, recreate or sleep.
It is important to adhere to a set schedule if your shelter prevents awareness of the time of day. Following a routine can help regulate your body clock and keep you physically and emotionally healthy.
Alone or lonely?
One is the loneliest number … two can be as bad as one … .” So said the lyrics of a popular late-1960s song by Three Dog Night.
You can feel lonely even when surrounded by people. Conversely, you can be alone and not feel lonely. It all depends on your thoughts. Some people love to be surrounded by fellow humans, regardless if they interact or not, and some feel just fine being alone as they see it as taking some time to discover or rediscover themselves. It’s just a matter of perception and personality.
During periods of isolation, remind yourself that your thoughts can be your trusted companions. Your thoughts will provide all the companionship you need.
Good thoughts are good friends. Cultivate them, and become comfortable with them. They will not fail you. They will be there so that you never need to feel lonely
It’s your choice
Security comes from a sense of feeling in control and having things under control. Unfortunately, things happen that we might have predicted but still cannot prevent.
We cannot choose what happens, but we can choose how to respond. The choice is yours to make: Will you be in solitary confinement or a fortress of solitude?
Some gambled and decided to fight the quarantine orders and do whatever they pleased. Even if for some it turned out well, for others, things turned out quite bad, and they even ended up being part of statistics. Personally, I believe that what they did was a gamble, and I feel that you shouldn’t gamble with what you can’t afford to lose.
Useful resources to check out: