How to Stay Calm in an Emergency Survival Situation

Emergencies happen, most people panic only leading to more chaos. What would you do in an emergency?

Surviving an emergency situation requires more than just physical strength and endurance – it also requires a clear head. When faced with a potentially life-threatening situation, it is important to stay calm and think clearly in order to make the best decision for your safety.

There are a few simple things you can do to help keep yourself calm in an emergency situation.

How can we remain cool and take charge?

How to stay calm in an emergency survival situation?

When you confront an emergency survival situation oftentimes the mind-body enters into a fight-or-flight mode. As a result cortisol levels shoot way up, which makes you stressed and slows down the operation of the pre-frontal cortex, where your critical thinking happens.

This less-than-optimal state of mind can be your ruin if you’re not careful. Here are some tips on how to stay calm when everything around you is going crazy:

1. Breathe

This is an oldie but goodie for a reason. Breathing seems obvious, but you would be surprised, because when in a survival situation we either will hold our breath or start breathing rapidly.

Bringing awareness to the breath and taking a few deep breaths will help slow your heart and clear your mind.

2. Asses

No matter where you are or what you’re doing, it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings. This doesn’t mean that you should be paranoid or constantly looking over your shoulder, but just noticing what is going on around you.

This is especially important when you’re in unfamiliar territory or in a potentially dangerous situation. By being aware of your surroundings, you can more easily identify threats and take steps to avoid them.

If you find yourself in the middle of a life-threatening situation, assessing the situation isn’t analyzing, but merely observing what is unfolding which will give you time and space to recognize what the appropriate action should be, if at all.

If the house is on fire, the immediate reaction would be to try and save everything of value in your house, but the visceral perception of the collapsing house may allow you to recognize you need to drop everything and get out, fast.

3. Mindset

Mindset is everything. The first thing to remember is that panic will only make the situation worse.

It may sound clichéd but staying positive can go a long way.

It’s pretty easy to say when things are difficult, “this sucks, I’m doomed”, but trying to keep the mind looking for things in its experience that are not all doom and gloom will help.

You don’t have to have a super complicated thought experiment played out to see the truth in this.

Imagine being stranded in some god-forsaken desert. You are more than likely going to have that single thought saying "this sucks" playing on repeat. The question is what are you going to do about it? Will you let that control your experience - or will you act despite that thought?

Pro Tip: Don’t dwell on the worst-case scenario, (easier said than done) instead focus on the task at hand and whatever that is in order to survive.

This can very difficult, in certain circumstances, but it is often this type of attitude that allows people to overcome the odds.

Take for instance, the (now famous) guy who sawed off his own arm in order to rescue himself trapped in a desert for days on end, or the other guy who was stuck at sea for over a year by himself on a boat with almost no supplies. Without having a serious capacity to overcome the mental doom and gloom chatter of the mind – both of these men would have been dead.

While there is life there is hope. I know, another cliche. But no matter how dire the situation may seem, there is always a chance that you will be able to find a way. Experience is the only way we learn, and sometimes it’s just only in those moments that we are able to rise to the occasion.

There are all sorts of stories of regular people who in an emergency scenario transcended the normal limitations of the mind and body. There is even a story of a girl who lifted a car up to free her trapped father.

Sometimes it takes looking into death’s embrace for us to rise to the occasion.

While there are things that you can do when in the middle of an emergency situation, there are also some things you can do to prepare yourself for when/if the time comes.

stocking up in preperation
Best be Prepared

How to Prepare Yourself for a Survival Scenario

1. Knowledge

We talked about the importance of remaining calm and thinking clearly, but that isn’t something that happens by itself.

It takes practice. Preparation is important so that when it does happen your physiological system doesn’t freeze, but takes action – the right action.

The first step is to be prepared with the right information.

Familiarize yourself with basic survival skills, such as building a shelter, finding food and water, making a fire, using a compass, and how to stop bleeding out. These are the basics.

If you know these basics, you will be more likely able to respond appropriately. And what to do in response to a given scenario, will naturally come to you, and you will be less likely to panic because you will have an understanding of the steps you need to take in order to get it done.

2. Plan

It’s also helpful to have a plan in place. A plan can be anything from telling someone where you are going, to having extra medical gear with you in case something goes wrong, or having a bug-out location all mapped out in case SHTF.

If you’re caught in any one of a thousand emergency scenerios, knowing what to do and where to go ahead of time can help you focus on the task at hand, rather than trying to figure out a thousand things at once.

3. Action

Now planning and knowledge are all nice things, but without real-world, real-life situations where you put all your so-called theoretical knowledge to the test, all of it will just remain a bunch of information.

Words and ideas are passed around so often these days, that without getting in the flesh training, without getting these things in the bones, you will be left with just some fleeting sound bytes of information.


Staying calm in an emergency situation requires both forethought and practice. Putting your knowledge into action, you can solidify these skills so that they become second nature.

By being prepared with the right gear, plan, and the right information you can increase your chances that you will meet an emergency scenario with a clear and level head. Stay clear.

Photo by Tobias Tullius/Unsplash

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