The Mental Challenge

Will: The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action.

The single most important survival skill is the will to survive. If you find yourself in a survival situation, you must make up your mind that you are going to survive! Attitude and determination are your allies, doubt is your enemy!

According to the US Army Field Manual, the two greatest dangers to survival are the desire for comfort, and a passive outlook.

Desire for comfort: You must change the way you think of comfort. Compare your current situation with a far worst situation, and realize that your current discomfort is only temporary. Knowing how much discomfort you can handle, and understanding your need for comfort can help you through your survival situation. Remember, comfort is not essential to your survival!!!

A Passive Outlook: (Passive: Accepting one's fate without objection or resistance.) We all have the basic will to survive, but the overwhelming stress caused by our situation can lead to a passive outlook. The best way to ovoid a passive outlook is to understand the physical and mental stress that can cause it.

Physical Stress


  • Cold: Cold weather slows down your blood flow, and reduces your ability to think clearly. The cold can also make you sleepy, week, and reduce your will to survive. Hypothermia can set in, even in warm climates if you get cold by being wet. If you are cold, immediately find shelter, and start a fire!!!
  • Heat: Heat can also weaken your will to survive. Hot temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion and even heat stroke. Try not to exert yourself during the hottest part of the day. Protect yourself from direct sunlight. If you are not accustomed to the higher temperatures take extra caution. Your body will start getting accustomed to the higher temperatures after a few days.

Once you start getting thirsty it can weaken your ability to think clearly. Dehydration is one of the most common problems associated with extreme survival situations. Dehydration can weaken, and kill! Lack of water affects your body’s ability to keep warm, and cool. Drink plenty of water when it is available and ovoid eating too much food when water is not available.

Hunger can affect your will to survive, and morale. The hardest thing for most people is overcoming the Yuk Factor. When it comes to survival you may have to eat things that you normally would consider disgusting to even look at.

Physical Pain and Fatigue:

  • Pain: is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. The sensation of pain itself is not harmful, but it can seam unbearable. The best way to deal with pain is:
    Know its source (treat the cause if possible).
    Understand that it must be tolerated.
    Concentrate on surviving (keep mentally & physical busy).
    Think tough, and take pride in your ability to take the pain.
  • Physical Fatigue: can be caused by over exertion, and can often be relived by resting. You should ovoid repetitive activities that can lead to soreness, and strained muscles.

Mental Stress

Mental Fatigue
The best way to overcome mental fatigue is to get rest, change your activities, mild exercise, have a conversation, play a game, and use your imagination (fantasizing).

Boredom & Loneliness

  • Boredom is usually experienced in long term survival situations, were loneliness and repetitive activities are keeping the human mind from being challenged. The best method for dealing with boredom is to keep busy, and remember that even your smallest activity is playing a part in your overall survival goal.
  • Loneliness can often leave you with a feeling of despair; it can make you want to just give up and die. In order to deal with loneliness you must first accept your current situation, and understand that by keeping busy and focusing on your goal you can survive. Rely on your skills, and on your ability to get through your situation and ultimately reach your goal of survival. Talk with God!

Fear is our body’s way of avoiding dangerous situations that can cause use physical and mental harm. As long as the fear is founded on tangible facts, it can be very useful. Fear can keep our actions in check, and it can trigger our natural “fight or flight” response. Fear that is unfounded in facts can impair our ability to make rational decisions, and it can jeopardize our ability to survive. Worry is a type of fear that can be based on facts, but is usually something that has not, and may not ever happen. Don’t be fearful of the unknown; don’t worry about that which you cannot control. Instead keep your mind on the task at hand; Survival!!!

When you find yourself in a survival situation always remember to S.T.O.P.


The US Army uses the acronym S.U.R.V.I.V.A.L. to help soldiers’ remember how to survive.

Size up the situation.
Undue haste makes waste.
Remember were you are.
Vanquish fear and panic.
Value living.
Act like the natives.
Live by your wits.

For more information on the survival acronyms, please click here.

Be Prepared

Being prepared ahead of time will give you confidence and the skills you need to survive. Always assess your situation, and prioritize your current survival needs (water, shelter, fire, food, first aid, and signals [order changes depending on your current survival needs]).