Turn the Tables on Discouragement With a Simple, Smart Technique

“ The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart. ”

— Robert Green Ingersoll

Many of us survival and preparedness-minded individuals live each day with a foot in two worlds.  We still go to work, still take care of the kids, still wonder what we’ll make for dinner, but simultaneously we also keep an eye on world events, warning signs of increased economic turmoil, and everyday disasters that might affect our families.  It can get crazy, but more than that, it can be very discouraging.

Recently my husband and I came to the conclusion that in our current location we will never have survival-minded friends.  Our family members are focused on other issues and concerns, and at times we feel like black sheep. That can be discouraging.

Today a reader sent me this:

Since the “Doomsday Preppers” show has come out, I am finding that there is a HUGE disparity between the beliefs of my husband and I and those of the people in this area, which includes family.  Yes, we are bizarre, crazy, and such.  When welfare is the biggest employer in this area (and some people seem to be proud of that fact), there isn’t a whole lot of thought to preparing for the future.  Sigh….I am discouraged on many fronts these days.

image by Andrew Mason

We talk a lot about preparedness and the conclusion we have come to in our household is this: if we really believe that our country, and the world, is on a downward spiral and that a collapse of our economy is inevitable, then we have no choice but to act on those beliefs, even when we get discouraged.


It would be the ultimate example of parental neglect if we didn’t prepare our household for a coming Greatest Depression.  We shake our heads at the numbskulls who ignore hurricane warnings until the day before and then wonder where all the bottled water has gone, but is it any different to see a massive storm of another type on the horizon and refuse to prepare or allow emotions to overcome our common sense and determination?

Emotions come and go.  I get discouraged when I don’t get a blog post written or drink all 8 glasses of water each day.  When it’s 5 p.m. and I’ve forgotten to defrost the chicken intended for dinner, I get discouraged.  Those feelings are fleeting, however.  I don’t give up on my blog or on being healthy just because I’m bummed out.

A long time ago I learned a handy little trick that has helped me re-focus my brain when I’m overwhelmed with emotion.  There is a small almond shaped area in the brain that controls our fight, flight, or freeze responses.  When something triggers a strong emotion, fear, for example, the amygdala begins screaming at us, and we either fight, flee, or freeze.  To counteract that message, you can activate the left side of your brain, which controls logic, rational and analytical thought.  Simply start counting.  That’s right.  Begin with “1, 2, 3, 4…” and continue.  By forcing the left side of your brain to jump into gear, you can begin to take control over those impulses generated by your amygdala.

Several years ago I experienced a rather frightening incident while waiting for a flight at the Baltimore Washington airport.  I had just gone through security when suddenly alarms began clanging and security people appeared from out of nowhere, yelling at everyone to freeze.  A few minutes later we were herded into a large area near the ticket counters and stood there for almost an hour.  Since this happened just a year or so following 9/11, it was more than a little unnerving.

Standing there with my suitcase I was determined to not let my emotions overcome me, and I began counting.  Not only did I count but I also visualized the numbers on a chalkboard.  It didn’t take long until I felt completely calm, and my amygdala realized it wasn’t in control anymore!

Counting doesn’t make the problem disappear, but it will make you calmer and more able to handle whatever the challenge might be.

Frankly, survival and preparedness aren’t exactly sunshine-and-lollipops subjects.  Every one of us, from James Rawles to the newest prepper newbie, experience moments of fear and, yes, discouragement.  It’s okay to take a break from the news.  It’s okay to take a week or two off from your “prepping”.  I mean, before you got into preparedness you had another life, right?

Take a break.  Count to 100, or 1000 if that’s what it takes! Give your amygdala the day off. Your body and emotions will thank you.

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  1. says

    Sometime you need to just stop and refocus your thoughts in stressful situations. The counting game is a good example to help alleviate stress. Thank you for sharing.

  2. says

    I will give this a try. There is enough stress and worry to go around, and not a lot of support of prepping efforts, even from friends and family. Thanks for sharing this technique to get your mind back in control.

  3. Jackie Kimbrell says

    Living in AZ, and being new to truly prepping has given me so many days of anxiety. From the time I truly realized that I am not going to find another job doing what I was doing in 2009. I have changed my lifestyle so much in the past 3 years that it is mind numbing at times. I went from being a working Mom to a Stay At Home Mom in May of 2009. Having 3 kids I had no idea of what I was in for. I had no idea how isolated a person can feel so quickly. My husband owns a small business and we have been beyond blessed that it still has done well. Not with out sacrafice though. He works all the time. We have not vacationed in years. So in order for me to cope and make up for the layoff and adjust to my new life. I began couponing. Next, that led me to stocking things up as best I could. Then, I realized that I was prepping when I caught the show on NatGeo. Wow, did that give me some relief. Yet at the same time a little more anxiety about my state of prepardness.

    I find here in AZ, in the Phoenix area, not to many people around me are on the same page. Sometimes my husband is not there with me. You see for me this has become my new job. A way for me to have a different kind of life insurance if you will. As my need and desire to do this is b/c my husbands income is our soul life support. So, I needed to have plan B, C and D ready. On days when I feel most resistance from him or my other family I get so discouraged. But, it has also made me work harder to prove my point. I will be prepared and will teach my children to do the same. As they will need to know that life is not always going to be exactly as they have grown use to. So Today I will count and I thank you for the article. I just wish too I could find a way to get together with more like minded people to trade off ideas and skill sets on a regular basis. If there are any in my state, I am having a difficult time finding the meetings. I am glad I found your blog and your book is going to be on my “Get Now” list. Thanks Lisa, so much.

    Jackie K.

  4. Janet says

    Great post! We all experience that feeling of overwhelm, or anxiety, discouragement or even isolation from time to time, both in our daily lives and in our preparedness efforts, I think. A very clever woman I once knew told me that if you felt you couldn’t, act “as if” you could, until things came back into a state of comfort and clarity. The trick that makes my brain calm down is doing laundry. Laundry is a very methodical process. It also has a finite beginning and end. That’s very like your counting system. Think I’ll give that a try next time those types of feelings creep in when I’m away from home. Thanks.

  5. Stealth Spaniel says

    Great post! It is nice to have like minded people around to talk to.
    The only people who shares my need to “prepare, prepare” are my late friend’s parents in Missouri. They grow, prepare, and pack all their own food: Margie knits outer clothing, sews clothing, makes quilts, etc: George converted his old pick up to a used oil burner; their 3 concessions to modern life are a computer, a tv, and the phone. These are people in their 70’s! Almost all of my friends in California assume that their money, credit, and physical zip code will somehow protect them-my relatives all live in Denial!!
    I will try the counting thing; it seems a simple way to regain control and positivity.

  6. says

    Thanks Lisa,

    Wish I had known about this in college. I freeze when it comes to writing and it cost me dearly. I will try this next time.

  7. Rhiannon says

    It is very difficult when close friends and family don’t understand why we do what we do, even in an area that sees its own weather and economical issues (DFW Texas). Especially being new to prepping they judge where it came from and if we have lost our minds. I feel overwhelmed by it all on a daily basis. I use that technique to calm myself but I also use afirmations in a way, “We are right in doing this” “We will be better off” “Our child will appreciate these life lessons” Thanks for this article! I am glad to know that even seasoned preppers feel like us newbies do. You do a great job of knowing what we need to hear!

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