Preppers are individuals who understand the importance of being ready for the possibility of going through periods of isolation, whether it’s a personal choice or a situation that forces them to be alone and separated from others.
While I’ve covered the physical essentials in my previous writings, like the need for food, water, and medical supplies to ensure your body’s survival, it’s equally crucial to consider the mental and emotional aspects of preparedness. In fact, being psychologically prepared for isolation is just as essential, if not more so, as being physically equipped.
When we talk about supplies for your mind, we’re referring to the tools, knowledge, and practices that can help you not only survive during isolation but also thrive in such circumstances.
Are you alone or just lonely?
Loneliness is a feeling that can creep in even when you’re in a crowd of people, and on the flip side, you can be physically alone but not experience that sense of loneliness. The key factor here is your mindset. During times of isolation or solitude, it’s crucial to recognize that your thoughts can be your most reliable companions. In fact, your thoughts can be the source of all the companionship you need.
Your thoughts, when cultivated positively, become your closest friends. They are the constant companions you can rely on. Unlike human relationships that may come and go, your thoughts are always there for you. They won’t let you down, and they won’t leave you feeling lonely.
The power of your thoughts is immense. They can be your constant companions during times of isolation, providing solace, inspiration, and emotional support. By cultivating a positive and constructive mindset, you can ensure that you are never truly alone, even when physically isolated. Your thoughts are your unwavering allies, offering companionship that won’t fail you, and ensuring that you never have to feel lonely.
Keeping a positive attitude
The first step in preparing yourself psychologically for periods of isolation is to consider what comes to mind when you think of the word “isolation.”
The associations and beliefs you hold about isolation play a significant role in determining how well or poorly you’ll cope with being alone. Isolation, in its physical form, refers to the state of being removed or separated from others. It is a factual and neutral state, devoid of inherent goodness or badness.
However, isolation is also a psychological state, and in this realm, it becomes very subjective. It’s our thoughts and perceptions about isolation that can either make it a positive or negative experience.
If your associations with isolation are predominantly negative, it’s likely that you’ll have a negative emotional reaction when faced with it. For instance, if you view isolation as akin to solitary confinement, your emotional response will understandably be quite negative.
Solitary confinement is a form of punishment within the prison system, affecting the mind and spirit more than the body. If you perceive your isolation as a punishment, you risk experiencing emotions like depression, anger, resentment, and hopelessness—certainly not the feelings you want to cultivate if you aim to thrive during isolation.
However, what if you shifted your perspective on isolation?
What if you saw your shelter as your personal “fortress of solitude,” akin to Superman’s retreat from the world’s pressures?
After all, if it was suitable for the Man of Steel, could it not be sufficient for you as well?
Embracing this view of isolation is significantly healthier than perceiving it as a prison cell.
The first-century Stoic philosopher Epictetus said that people are not upset by the events themselves but by the interpretations they attach to those events. To prepare psychologically for isolation, it’s crucial to be aware of the interpretations you create. In other words, it’s about the messages you tell yourself.
You might not always have control over the necessity of isolation, but you can exercise control over your reactions to it. Constructive thinking yields positive outcomes. By regulating the messages you convey to yourself about isolation, you can govern how you feel about it.
Telling yourself how awful it is will only worsen your emotional state. Conversely, reminding yourself that it might not be ideal, but it’s not catastrophic, can significantly improve your emotional well-being. A positive attitude will enable you to cope more effectively than a negative one.
So, what can you do to maintain a positive attitude during isolation?
Consider the following self-talk strategies:
Reframe isolation: Remind yourself that isolation is not a negative experience. It’s a proactive, positive choice you’ve made to ensure your survival. Take pride in your decision and recognize that you are in control.
Emotional exercise: Just as physical strength is developed through exercise, emotional strength can be honed through monitoring your thoughts during adversity. Use this time to cultivate a positive attitude toward the everyday challenges you encounter.
Use challenges as opportunities: Rather than lamenting over inconveniences, view them as opportunities to build your ability to handle frustration. For instance, being stuck in traffic can serve as a chance to enhance your patience rather than yelling at other drivers.
Physical fitness: While you may not have access to traditional exercise equipment during isolation, consider learning simple bodyweight exercises that you can perform in a confined space. There are a lot of YouTube videos teaching you how to exercise in a limited space, allowing you to maintain your physical strength.
Feed your mind: In addition to preparing food for your body, ensure you have sustenance for your mind. Boredom can lead to depression, so having books and games on hand can help ward off such feelings. Since you may not have access to television or computers, games that challenge your mind, such as chess or checkers, can keep you mentally engaged and alert.
Psychological preparation for isolation is a matter of perspective. Shaping your mindset and self-talk can significantly impact how you experience isolation. By reframing it as a proactive choice for your survival, using challenges as opportunities, and ensuring that you feed your mind with positive content, you can not only survive but thrive during periods of isolation.
Staying aligned with your body’s inner clock
Our bodies operate in harmony with an internal biological clock, which exerts a profound influence over our daily routines within a 24-hour period. This biological timekeeper, known as the “circadian rhythm,” guides us on when to sleep, eat, and wake up. While our biological needs, like the urge to eat or sleep, play a crucial role in this rhythm, the external environment also wields a significant impact.
For instance, parents of young children are well aware of the challenge of getting a 3-year-old to bed in the summer when the sun still shines at 8:00 p.m. as opposed to the winter, when it darkens by 5:00 p.m. Even adults are not immune to the effects of sunlight on their circadian rhythm. Many people report feeling more fatigued and moodier during the winter months, and some even experience seasonal depression.
The reduction in sunlight during winter leads to a hormonal shift that triggers a hibernation reflex. In a shelter, especially one without windows, the distinction between day and night can blur. This can profoundly affect your circadian rhythm, which in turn influences your overall well-being.
The military has long recognized this issue among personnel stationed in isolated bases, such as the polar regions, where the continuous darkness or “long” nights disrupt the internal clocks of soldiers. To maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, the military introduced enforced adherence to a regulated sleep-wake cycle. This measure ensured that individuals had a structured timetable for their activities, independent of the natural cues that signal when it’s time to rise, eat, work, relax, or sleep.
The lesson here is that it’s crucial to adhere to a consistent schedule, especially when your shelter deprives you of the usual markers of time. Following a daily routine can help keep your body clock on track, promoting both your physical and emotional well-being. By consciously aligning your activities with a fixed schedule, you can ensure that your internal clock stays in harmony with your surroundings, even when you lack the usual cues from the outside world.
Total darkness and the notion of time
In the realm of total darkness, our perception of time undergoes a profound transformation. Jim Quille, an ex-inmate of the infamous Alcatraz Prison, shared in his book the harrowing experience of being confined in solitary isolation within a small cell enveloped in pitch-black darkness. It’s a setting where legends abound of individuals who descended into madness due to the disorienting effects of unending blackness.
In the face of this formidable challenge, the inmate devised a remarkable coping strategy. He detached a button from his shirt and nonchalantly tossed it into the abyss of the cell. Groping through the impenetrable darkness, he tenaciously sought the button’s whereabouts, repeating the process time and time again.
What might seem like a simple act of tossing and retrieving a button in such dire circumstances became a lifeline—a game that not only passed the seemingly interminable hours but, more importantly, safeguarded his mental stability. This inmate was determined not to succumb to the despair that the darkness could evoke.
This chilling account underscores how our perception of time can be deeply altered by a lack of light and external cues. When immersed in a void of complete darkness, the passage of time can become elusive, and hours can stretch into an eternity. Yet, the human spirit’s resilience shines through.
By creating a semblance of structure, even in the absence of natural markers, this inmate maintained his sanity. It’s a testament to the profound power of the human mind to forge its own sense of time and routine in the most challenging conditions.
The same goes for underwater darkness
Consider the experience of deep-sea divers exploring the depths of the ocean, where light dissipates, and total darkness becomes the norm. In the abyssal depths, natural daylight vanishes, leaving divers surrounded by a profound and seemingly endless darkness. This extreme environment poses unique challenges to their perception of time.
Divers may find themselves relying on a combination of equipment, internal chronometers, and periodic check-ins with their team to gauge the passage of time. The darkness is so absolute that without these measures, the minutes can feel like hours, and a sense of disorientation can easily set in. Diving in total darkness requires a keen awareness of time management and a strong mental fortitude to navigate the murky depths successfully.
Just like the former Alcatraz inmate who made a game of finding a button, deep-sea divers adapt to the disorienting darkness by creating structured routines and relying on their equipment and team to maintain a sense of time and direction.
These examples highlight the extraordinary ways in which humans grapple with the challenge of time perception when thrust into environments devoid of natural light.
Empowering Choices – From Confinement to Solitude
Security and a sense of control often go hand in hand. Feeling in control, and having a grip on our circumstances provides a profound sense of security. Yet, life has a way of throwing unexpected challenges our way, some of which we might have foreseen but are unable to prevent.
We cannot control the unpredictable events that unfold, but we do retain the power to choose how we respond. The ultimate decision lies in your hands: Will you confine yourself to a state of solitary confinement, or will you embrace the opportunity to dwell within a fortress of solitude?
This thought-provoking passage emphasizes the significance of personal action in facing life’s uncertainties. While we cannot dictate the course of external events, we do possess the ability to determine our reactions. The contrasting metaphors of “solitary confinement” and a “fortress of solitude” illustrate the divergent paths we can take when confronting adversity.
In the scenario of solitary confinement, we might find ourselves trapped by despair and isolation, feeling helpless in the face of uncontrollable circumstances. This can lead to emotional distress and a sense of powerlessness.
Conversely, the concept of a “fortress of solitude” offers an alternative perspective. It suggests that we can transform moments of adversity into opportunities for self-discovery, reflection, and inner strength. By choosing to view challenges as a chance to fortify our mental and emotional well-being, we can emerge from difficult situations with resilience and a sense of empowerment.
Ultimately, the power to decide whether we reside in solitary confinement or a fortress of solitude rests with us. This choice empowers us to shape our outlook, navigate adversity, and determine our response to the unpredictable events that life presents. It is a reminder that even in the face of external turmoil, we have the capacity to maintain our inner fortress of strength and serenity.
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