It’s amazing how many emails I get that start with either “I might be paranoid” or “My family thinks I’m paranoid.” The simple fact is, if you think that it’s smart to prepare for likely disasters, some people will call you prudent and others will call you paranoid.
In reality, the passage of time is all that will shed light on whether someone is being paranoid. For example, Joel Rosenberg wrote about terrorists flying planes into a skyscraper before 9/11. (It was after al-Qaida had started preparing, so he didn’t give them the idea.)
Many thought that idea was the creation of a fiction writer with an overactive imagination. And those who thought it was possible were considered merely paranoid — until it actually happened.
That’s the way it is with many threats. Some in New Orleans thought that preparing for a levee break was being paranoid — until it actually happened. For a while after Hurricane Katrina, there was only one operational hospital in the entire city. Ochsner Medical Center had been taking practical steps to prepare for a levee break since the 1950s.
Other threats never pan out… like Y2K. People who were myopic and focused on Y2K ended up looking paranoid after the dust settled. But those who kept their supplies and training up to speed look pretty smart right about now. They may have been paranoid about Y2K, but their understanding of the need to be prepared was practical and timeless.
“Paranoia,” if you want to call it that, isn’t necessarily a bad thing… unless it starts affecting your sleep, your relationships with others and your mood. Fortunately, there are some simple things that you can do to look at the threats we’re facing in a way that will allow you to keep balance in your life.
Here are some truisms about being paranoid/prepared:
- There will always be a “new threat” to worry about. They are kind of like waves in the surf zone. If you focus all of your energy on one, there’s always another one coming. Your best bet is to power through, keep moving and keep your eyes on the big picture.
- General preparedness will help keep you from the emotional roller coaster of going from one probable disaster to the next. EMPs, bio attacks, economic collapse and infrastructure attacks all share common elements. Focusing on these common elements will give you a broad preparedness base.
- TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) may or may not happen during your lifetime, so don’t waste all your time on Earth focusing on it. Someday, you’re going to look back on how you spent your life. Spend your time today in a way that you’ll be happy about tomorrow.
- If things do collapse, life will get really stressful, so don’t forget to stop and smell the roses while things are relatively stable.
- If you’re losing sleep now because of what might happen, you should learn how to get your mind under control for when things actually do happen.
- Spending time making forward progress on your preparations will always beat spending time reading about every possible disaster that could happen.
- Unless your plan is to live in a cave, completely isolated and alone, make sure to spend time on relationships with family and friends. They will make your life richer if disaster never happens, and they will make life livable if disaster does happen.
- Many of the things you worry about will never happen. Some might. But, as Matthew 6:27 says: “Who by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Try to convert worry into action and/or prayer.
The first thing you need to do is take a deep breath. In a survival situation, panic can kill you more quickly than a lack of oxygen. One of the best ways to prepare for the stress of a survival situation is to learn how to handle stressful situations in everyday life as efficiently as possible. This isn’t a switch you can flip… it’s a skill that’s developed over time — and a skill you can start developing today.
Practice calming down while driving, while talking with customer support that doesn’t speak English, and while spending time with friends and relatives. There are some situations where escalating conflict helps, but in most cases it doesn’t.
If you’re frantically preparing, you might also want to calm down a little. I believe preparedness is both urgent and a way of life. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s easy to prepare at such a frantic pace that you quickly burn out or make expensive mistakes. But when you make it a part of your life, it becomes quite fun and enriches every day in addition to preparing you for disasters.
Make A Plan
The next thing you need to do is make a plan. What threats are you most concerned about? What preparations can you do that will help you no matter what kind of disaster you face? What skills and supplies do you currently have? Which skills do you need to develop and what supplies do you need to start getting? What if you have to bug out? What if you can’t bug out and you have to survive in place?
You will continually be modifying your plan based on opportunities and your unique situation, so don’t feel like the plan you make today will be set in stone.
Control Your Time, Control Your Mind
It’s easy to spend hours and hours reading, watching or listening about the next worst thing that’s going to happen. It’s also intoxicating to read about other people’s survival plans and about other people’s survival skills instead of actually doing stuff yourself.
I encourage you to control what you watch, listen and read. There’s no shortage of information out there about all of the threats we face. And it’s not a bad thing to be aware of them. But think about every potential disaster you hear about as encouraging your decision to be prepared rather than as something new to worry about.
One of the best illustrations of this is helicopter pilots. Helicopter pilots are a unique breed. Airplane pilots know that if their engines go out, their plane will naturally glide some distance and they have a good shot at being able to land safely.
Helicopter pilots, on the other hand, are basically flying a rock through the air. If the engine goes out, autorotation will buy some grace, but landing a dead helicopter becomes more like landing a rock than landing an airplane.
As a result, helicopter pilots are very aware of all of the threats they face and everything that could go wrong at any given moment and cause a series of cascading disasters. The ability to accept and deal with all of these potential threats, embrace them and enjoy finding solutions to them is what makes for great helicopter pilots. They learn that at some point you have to stop overthinking what might happen and just start flying.
Similarly, the more aware you are about the political, natural and terrorist threats that we face, the more you’ll want to develop the mind of a helicopter pilot… always aware of what could happen, but never dwelling on any one thing and letting it paralyze you.
Along this same line of thought, we used to watch Glenn Beck’s show every night. It was solid information, but it was overwhelming. I still listen to Glenn’s radio show and really appreciate his waking people up. But at the same time, I have to limit myself to how much I listen to his show. It’s the same with many blogs, forums and books. Every day, I would read about the end results of somebody’s lifetime of prepping. But I wouldn’t have time to do anything about it, and I found myself just as unprepared the next time I watched or read.
Fortunately, there’s a balance.
What I encourage you to do is watch and read just enough to spur you to action. Then, actually spend time doing things to get prepared.
That’s a big reason why I am so focused on not only writing about vulnerabilities that we face and big-picture preparedness, but also simple, fundamental things that people can do on a daily basis to get themselves prepared. I want every article I write to have actionable steps you can take immediately so that you become more prepared every day.
Once you’re aware of the threats we face, both in the U.S. and globally, the best thing you can do to get prepared and stay sane is to take action.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” “Slow and steady wins the race.” These are all good sayings to remind you to pace yourself. If you have to sprint, then look at your preparedness as interval training and plan for time to catch your breath and regroup.
Do something on a daily basis to get more prepared. Don’t just read about skills, practice them. Do things that will earn you the right to sleep soundly because you’ve made forward progress.
Don’t kick yourself for waiting to get prepared. It’ll only waste mental energy. Learn the lesson and get moving.
Don’t think you’re going to go from newbie to expert in every facet of survival overnight. It’s a process — and any progress that you make will give you that much more of an advantage over the general public.
For my wife and me, prayer is the biggest thing that gives us peace and strength. We’re facing some pretty huge threats to our way of life, and talking with God is the biggest thing that helps keep our heads from spinning around in frustration with what’s going on in the world. We’re living in crazy times, and we’re thankful to have a rock that we can hold onto.
What To Do Next?
Still don’t know what to do next? That’s a big reason why I wrote the SurviveInPlace.com Urban Survival Course. It’s a step-by-step guide to get you and your family ready for breakdowns in civil order after disasters. To read more about it and see if it’s right for you, please go to SurviveInPlace.com.
Do you have any stories about how you went from being paralyzed or panicked by what is going on in the world to feeling more at peace? How about how you won over relatives who once thought you were paranoid? Please share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below.