Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fear Factor....

Fear is THE MOST common emotional response to any perceived stressful or emergency situation. Its physiological and psychological effects can range from slight anxiety to overwhelming panic to cardiac arrest. Recognizing fear and having the ability to control it will greatly increase the odds of your surviving an emergency situation.

In a recent polling of our survival students, we asked students to identify their most common fears in an outdoor (wilderness) setting. What we discovered: generally, we all posses similar fears, perhaps genetic throwbacks to primal times. The following list is a compilation, (I am sure it will not surprise many), of the most prevalent fears found in our poll. **Not necessarily in order.

1. Heights
2. The dark
3. The unknown
4. Death
5. Loneliness
6. Suffering/pain
7. Wild animals (spiders & snakes….)

How does fear affects YOU: Our physiological reactions to stress and fear are not necessarily a negative thing, these response are a crucial part of our “fight or flight” mechanism. Allowing us to adapt and respond appropriately to unknown or traumatic circumstance. Understanding how this affects us is key to recognizing and controlling these potentially life threatening reactions.

Impairment of Circulatory and Metabolic System: as learned in the survival “Rule of 3’s” we can survive 3 minutes without oxygen, this illustrates the immense importance of maintaining a healthy circulatory system. Impairment of this function can cause: dilated pupils, dizziness and black-outs, racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, headaches, labored breathing, sweating, tightness in chest and possible cardiac arrest.

Impairment of Rational Thought: clear judgment is essential to handling any type of survival or emergency situation. As stated in previous posts, “Your #1 survival tool is your brain”, lack of the ability to rationalize, improvise and find solutions can be the determining factor to your survival. Lack of judgment manifests in the following: Shock, denial, shame, a sense of helplessness, depression, loss of hope, confusion, anxiety, panic, hallucinations, loss of appetite and inability to relax.

Impairment of Motor Skills: the ability to perform simple tasks from striking a match to operating a signaling device can be severely impaired due to adrenaline release and the effects of the previous two “Impairments” mentioned above. Both fine and complex movements require a steady hand & a calm mind. As the ability to move is impaired, you will experience: uncontrollable shaking of hands and extremities, inability to focus on the task at hand, flight, loss of “hand-eye” co-ordination.

Dealing with and controlling Stress and Fear: Both stress and fear are a necessary part of our human experience, some believe, throw backs to our more primal days when predators hunted US. Mounting an offense and effectively confronting stress and fear is a valuable technique to learn, while these affects will always be present, YOUR ability to control them makes YOU the master of your destiny…..

Methods of controlling fear

• Be Prepared: accept the fact that you could find yourself in a survival situation, prepare mentally, physically and spiritually. Carry a survival kit which can meet environmental and seasonal threats, fits your skill level, obtain survival training and maintain a positive mental attitude.
• Be aware: educate yourself on possible threats, personal weakness, weather patterns, possible animal encounters, environmental (i.e. flash flooding, avalanche etc.) and human hazards.
• S.T.O.P: once lost execute the following survival acronym, S-stop, T-think, O-organize, P-plan.**This will be covered more thoroughly in a future post.
• Focus: once a plan of action has been established, focus on the plan and accomplishing your desired outcome.
• PMA: crucial to getting home alive!! Having the WILL TO LIVE and HOPE will help you maintain that “UNKNOWN” survival factor. Practice Autogenic breathing technique.**This will be covered more thoroughly in a future post.
• Act: once a plan has been established, follow through, focus on goals.

Stay healthy, mind-body-spirit! -Z

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