Preparing for the worst can be exhausting.
While generally speaking, preparedness activities and awareness provide peace of mind for me, there are days that I just don’t want to see another mylar bag or read the next scary headline trumpeting our imminent collapse.
Both mentally and physically, the activities that make up the everyday life of a prepper can take a toll. If you aren’t gardening or preserving food, you’re practicing marksmanship or other vital skills. You’re reading alternative news websites and piecing together the information as it applies to you and your family. Some folks are worrying about their locations, their retirement accounts that they are unable to access and their loved ones that remain unconvinced of the need to prepare.
Feelings of overwhelming exhaustion and/or anxiety are signs that you need a little break from prepping. Don’t let that concept cause you even more panic – this doesn’t mean you are returning to life as a sheep. There is a big difference between sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the global situation, and simply taking a little step back now and then. Many people refer to this mental atmosphere of stress as “prepper fatigue.”
My daughters and I just returned from a wonderful week-long vacation visiting some states in the Pacific Northwest. The holiday served multiple purposes: much needed R&R, getting together with good friends, and checking out some farm real estate in our future desired location. I made a rule for myself limiting my time on the computer and just did the bare minimum. I didn’t scour news websites and wrack my brain for topics to write about. I did keep a list to jot down ideas as they occurred to me. My friends are like-minded so we had some great discussions. When I looked at property, obviously the self-sufficiency ramifications were foremost in my mind. But all in all, it was a break from my usual way of life.
It was rejuvenating, and it reminded me how important it is to smell the roses. It isn’t healthy to be grimly focused on the worst things that could happen every second of the day. It isn’t good for your mind and soul to worry so much about tomorrow that you forget about enjoying today.
It’s hard to let go sometimes and just enjoy the moment, but your ability to do so, even (and especially) during difficult times, will allow you to weather the coming storms in good mental health. No matter how difficult the situation, it’s important to spend some time every day smiling. As a parent, a partner, a friend – consider carefully the time you spend with loved ones and be sure that you are creating good memories, whether you’re digging in the garden together, laughing at how silly chickens look when they run, or staring in awe at a breathtaking view.
I’ve recently read some articles (this one in particular was wonderful) about this sense of enjoyment and was disturbed in the comments to see a few preppers chastising the writers and telling them that the situation was too grim to consider things like fun. The people who cannot find a way to smile during difficult times will be the ones that crack. Their children will be the ones that are the unhappiest. While being determined is important, survival is about more than shoveling unseasoned beans and rice into your mouth and standing watch. As times become more difficult, episodes of fun and laughter, no matter how simple, will see you through them.
Keeping up your motivation by taking time for some recreation doesn’t have to break the budget or divert you completely away from your prepping principles. For example, during my vacation, I was on a boat with like-minded friends. We were enjoying the warm weather and scenery while discussing how difficult it would be to breach the security of a home on a nearby hillside and brainstorming the retreat value of such a home.
Following are twenty ways to take a break, prepper style:
- Visit a nearby working farm that doubles as a tourist attraction. Learn about the way the farmer houses and feeds livestock, what he grows and the self-sustainable methods in place there.
- Go camping and rough it to practice your outdoor survival skills. Bring a field guide and look for plants that you can forage and signs of wildlife.
- Unplug from the computer for 24-48 hours.
- Do prepper drills: go a weekend without power, have a paintball ambush, go hiking with just a compass and water filter.
- Learn a new skill like knitting, whittling, making pottery, or marksmanship.
- Take a class: cheesemaking, gunsmithing, first aid, or a useful craft.
- Join a gardening club, an archery club, or another group that provides useful information with a social aspect.
- Take a walk and/or work on your fitness.
- Have an all-day food preservation get-together with a like-minded friend.
- Go to a farmer’s market or a pick-your-own place. Buy a bushel of fruits or veggies for canning while you’re there.
- Take a vacation to an interesting place.
- Attend a seminar, country fair, expo, or trade show.
- Watch a movie or series marathon with the family – opt for something inspiring like Red Dawn, Jericho, or another survival flick.
- Read a book like Lights Out, One Second After, or The Stand.
- Browse the gardening or building section of a bookstore or library.
- Spend the afternoon at a greenhouse or garden store, checking out new plants.
- Curl up with a seed catalog and a notebook.
- Write in a journal – you can focus on prepping, your garden, your faith, or life in general.
- Play with a pet. (I’m working on some obedience training with my dog before a search and rescue course next fall.)
- Go hunting or fishing.
How do you decompress to combat prepper fatigue, while still working towards your preparedness goals? Do you feel a sense of renewed enthusiasm after taking a little break?