Monday, August 27, 2012

Your Mental Survival Kit

When you live in a place at high risk for hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, or other natural disasters, it's often a good idea to have a survival kit handy. It should to have enough food and other emergency supplies, such as a first-aid kit and a battery powered radio. You want to be able to last a week or so in case it takes a while for power to be restored and the store shelves to be restocked. (In a disaster, only the passive voice is used.)

However, survival isn't just about food and potable water. (Yes, I used the word potable. It's a real word. I know it's a real word because I didn't get a squiggly line underneath it when I wrote it. No, the spell-checker isn't acting up. When referring to water as potable it means the water is suitable to drink. Yes, I know you have an altogether different category of things suitable to drink. Can I get back to my original topic?) Survival is also about keeping the mind supplied as well. You need a mental survival kit.

Your brain needs nourishment just as much as the rest of you. Your normal sources of mental stimulation are likely gone. If the power is out, then there goes most of your electronic entertainment options, and the ones remaining will probably eat through your batteries like no-one's business. You need some low-tech entertainment.

Having some books handy will give you something to do. In fact, if you know a storm is imminent, then you might grab some books you've been meaning to read but never had the time for. With the power out and nothing to do but sit around and wait, you'll have time to finally crack that cover. Even better, if there's a book sitting on your shelf that you always promised yourself you'd get to, now's the time.

In fact, just as people have a supply of food and water they don't touch unless there's an emergency, you might even set aside a few books for just that kind of emergency. If you are a reader, the thought of deliberately not reading a book may seem scandalous, which is why your best bet might be to set aside a little guilty pleasure reading. If you never get to it, no big loss, but when you need it, it's there.

Having a few board games and several decks of cards will also go a long way to stave off boredom, especially if there's a lot of you sitting around with nothing to do. The great thing about board games is that they usually don't require an external power supply, and breaking out the super-long games like Monopoly or Risk is no problem because you've got nothing else to do.

However, you might need to go further for your mental survival. Keeping yourself sane could be more than just keeping yourself from becoming bored while you wait for power, essential services, and the active voice to be restored. You may need to actively engage your brain, and that's when you need to break out the big guns: activities.

It might not be enough to just keep yourself occupied. Dealing with a disaster can be stressful and freak you out, especially if you've never dealt with something like that before. Suddenly your world is turned upside-down and you find yourself helpless. A great way to challenge this stress is to give yourself a problem to solve. You can't fix the outside world, but you can certainly tackle that big book of sudoku and crossword puzzles.

I speak from experience. My wife and I were left without power after Hurricane Ike decided to say hello to our fair city. What helped keep me sane those next few days was an old Muppet Show puzzle that we'd bought but never got around to putting together. I spent just about every hour of daylight I could on that thing, and when I popped the last piece into place, I really did feel so much better. I spent so much mental energy on figuring out if that one piece was Rowlf's knee or Fozzie's elbow that I didn't have any left to spend on freaking out.

I know that there are people boarding up and bunkering down as Isaac draws near. I don't know if you're reading this, but if you are, and if you have the chance, make sure you have something to keep your brain occupied as you wait out the storm and then deal with the aftermath. True, you might have plenty to do as you clean up and rebuild, but that doesn't mean there won't be a lot of time sitting around with nothing to think about but all the devastation. Give your mind a break; it will need it.

 More of my Musings

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