The Organic Prepper: Survive the SHTF With Your Sanity Intact

As preparedness minded folks, we talk a lot about skills training and equipment. Not as often do we discuss the mental perils of desperate situations. Here is Fabian Omarr at The Organic Prepper with These Small Yet Vital Things Can Help You Survive the SHTF With Your Sanity Intact

Seeking comfort, convenience, and distraction during SHTF? Some might roll their eyes and think this is nonsense.  After all, all there is when SHTF are strategies, tactics, and challenging survival work, right?


Fortunately, there is more to be learned, experienced, and even shared that is not so challenging or tactical. 

To survive SHTF, you must keep your sanity intact and your spirits high

Preppers are all too aware of the “bad” aspects of SHTF. Admittedly, studying and discussing disasters and their consequences is at the core of prepping. I want to offer a take on another part of this reality, though: the role of good things and memorable moments during hard times.

The importance of keeping spirits high and a sense of sanity under distress is a constant in survival chronicles and for a good reason. Selco, Toby, Jose, Daisy, and many others frequently talk about this. Mentality and psychology are key survival factors.

Daisy wrote on mental resilience, “But to find moments of joy in the darkest of times, you need to tap into your mental resilience. This helps not only you but those around you. And to bounce back after these events and live your life again, mental resilience is, again, the key.”

When the context changes, the trivial become peculiar, unconventional, contrasting – which can turn the mundane into exceptional (and vice-versa). If you’ve never been through SHTF, I’d suggest staying open to the power and importance of these processes.

How I came up with the inspiration for this post

Not long ago, I met an elderly homeless man while practicing my street survival training. I was preparing a snack when the homeless man stopped by. We started to chat. He’s a nice man going thru adversity. After sharing my meal with him, I decided to test a portable espresso maker I purchased recently and took on the task of brewing espresso for us both. 

Suddenly he started crying. I asked what was wrong. He said one of the things he missed most since becoming jobless and homeless years ago was having a hot espresso after lunch. Just the smell made him feel that much better. He was crying tears of joy.

I share conversations and meals with the homeless and drifters in the streets quite often. But his reaction got me reflecting on the power of appreciation for the little things. In some contexts, little things can make our day. In the middle of a personal SHTF, this fellow found genuine happiness in having something as prosaic as a freshly brewed espresso. 

For someone who has nothing, something can be everything. 

The power of simplicity and the advantages of being adaptable

What defines SHTF is precisely the broad change in conditions and lifestyle. It doesn’t matter if it’s abrupt or through slow transformation. What matters is when perspectives change, things take a different value and importance, and adaptability is crucial during these times of transformation.

Selco offers his advice in this article on adaptability and being ready to leave everything behind in order to survive. Selco writes, “Learn to operate in terms of “less is more” or in other words, try whenever you can to substitute dependence on things with owning knowledge of a particular skill. For example, owning a big stash of water is great, owning skills and means to purify near water sources is even better.”

Look at how much has changed in just one year since COVID-19 broke out. Compared to before the pandemic, life has become considerably more challenging, more restrictive, unstable, and limited in so many aspects. Welcome to our “new normal.” Judging by the signals, it’s bound to change even further. There will be a lot more to adapt to moving ahead.

Time passes, things change. We keep surviving. But honestly, when in history has it been any different? Think about it for a moment.

Things take on a new meaning during hard times versus normal times

If you do any longer-lasting or highly-demanding outdoor activity, or if you’ve been through difficulty in your life, you know how big a difference some small things and moments can make. Quite often, something as mundane as a hot meal, some music, or a candy bar can be pure bliss.

Another example: is there anything more ordinary than taking a bath? But it feels like heaven when we’re exhausted, dirty, smelly, and sticky. Likewise, when SHTF and times get hard, finding solace in everyday, trivial things helps us keep going. There’s an uplifting effect that can’t be denied. 

There’s history, and then there are stories of everyday life

Most books tell about great battles and pivotal instants. But common people (that’s us) live in a somewhat different reality level: the every-day and various moments. The telling of the quotidian is rare though life is 99% just that. Life can be turned completely upside-down by SHTF. Still, this dynamic of everyday life remains, even during wars, occupation, or natural disasters.

Even though a significant portion of the day or entire periods may be dedicated to ‘work’ (i.e., affairs like defense and dealing of resources), once a routine is re-established (it always is) and basics are taken care of, there’s need for play.

It’s not too different from life during normal times if we think about it. SHTF simple becomes the norm at one point.

Hardship has different effects on different people

When adversity hits, some enter survival mode almost instantly. Others take longer to understand or accept changes. Then there are those who never really come to full terms with the new reality and drag on. And that’s staying with the types who survive: a significant number of people can not cope. Unfortunately, we see that often.

Most people in developed/developing countries have been living in relative tailwind for most of the last 30 years. Sure, life is hard, but that’s a constant. I’m talking in comparison to most of history and also some places that seem to live in deep, eternal SHTF. We all know which these are.

Those younger than forty may not know or remember the 70s and 80s were such a hard time. The world slogged in stagflation. Low growth, Oil shocks, Cold War, and nuclear conflict threat kept us awake at night. During those times, separatists and radicals ran bloody conflicts all over Europe. Violent coups and dictatorships ravaged South America, and wars ran amok in the middle east. People suffered from inflation, unemployment, crime, shortages, blackouts, strikes, and protests at the everyday level.

It may seem like life was hell in the 70s and 80s, but it wasn’t

Life was hard but had many good sides to it too. Despite a difficult upbringing, I feel fortunate. Many others who lived through that period feel the same. There were lots of struggles, but people kept going and doing the best they could. We had fun in many ways as well. (Awesome bands, great music, classic movies, weird makeup, crazy hair!)

I have hope that, despite the various menaces currently threatening our lifestyle and eating on our liberties and privacy, we’re still going to make it somehow. Because, realistically, we’ve been through some seriously bad SHTF collectively, and we did all right. That’s what we do.

Back to the future, not a trip down memory lane

This is not nostalgia that I write. I believe we’re headed into times of similarly significant decreases in the standard of living for a broad part of the population caused by instability, mounting crises, low growth, joblessness, ruptures, and above all, changes in the world order. 

It’s already underway, and we can see it, sense it. I call it slow-burning SHTF. Nevertheless, we better find joy in the middle of struggle. What other options do we have? 

According to my own experience (and others too), it is possible to prepare for good moments and some measure of comfort during SHTF. Below is a list with a few initiatives and some practical measures to start. As always, adapt as you see fit.

Aim big, miss small.

In other words, think about comfort (big) to improve overall conditions (small). There’s a lot more to it than stashing a few comfort items.


Let’s start by highlighting the importance of environmental comfort. It’s an important factor because it defines well-being and, ultimately, survival itself. If we’re too cold, too hot, too windy, too humid or dry, too noisy, too smelly, too buggy, too dark, etc., we’re either in danger or already in hell. That robs us of energy and capacity to focus and perform. 

We instinctively try to improve our surroundings by actively working to balance conditions. Any measures that increase ambient comfort will automatically increase overall comfort, thus extending our capacities. Of course, contrast and perception influence that. For instance, leaving a super-hot place to a mildly-warm one will alleviate some. But once we get acclimated, comfort suffers again. Keep in mind: even though we tend to develop resistance, there are limits to adaptation. 

Practical Measures

  • Apply the many solutions available to improve ambient comfort. Starting with clothing: dress in layers and opt for versatile items and materials. 
  • Moving on to shelter: a roof means half-covered. Otherwise, finding protection is a priority.
  • The next part is applying ways to adjust the temperature to the best level possible (heating or cooling). Having plans and measures in place, backups if possible, is vital for those living in areas with extreme conditions.
  • Maintaining things clean and tidy helps with keeping bugs away. I find that very important, as insects can be a real pain, even a threat.
  • If out in nature, wear clothes, nets, and use the host of chemicals available to repel and/or fight pests. Those also work indoors if insulation is not possible.

Food and Drink

This is not about everyday food or “eating to kill hunger” but rather ‘comfort eating’: those occasional treats everyone loves and help elevate spirits. It’s entirely possible (and common) to live without these, but it’s something nice to have around when someone needs a morale boost. The good part is that even a little can go a long way in improving moods and making our day. During SHTF, these become even more effective.

Practical Measures

  • If preparations and stockpiles are considered, add some ‘comfort food’ of your preference. It can be something sweet or salty, a carbonated drink, alcoholic beverages, your favorite tea, candies, what have you. 
  • Overall, this is very personal, and once it’s gone, it’s gone, so give it some thought now. Ration to extend supplies. 
  • Don’t forget these items usually increase in value during SHTF. Meaning, you can use them to barter, too.


It’s easy to feel miserable once hygiene decays. This happens faster than most people think when the grid is down (see the situation in Texas). During SHTF, we start to care less and less for personal hygiene with time or cease altogether and become accustomed to the conditions, the smell, etc. If others around us live under the same SHTF, we tend to bother even less. But early on, being unclean doesn’t feel good. 

Depending on SHTF, it’s not even possible to care much for personal appearance. Nor desirable, as it can draw unwanted attention. Still, in most instances, a modicum of hygiene is attainable. Even with health as the main objective, this seemingly small thing can provide occasional relief and significantly improve well-being.

Practical Measures

  • If taking baths has become an impossibility, wet towels and cleansing tissues can be used to keep body parts reasonably clean. 
  • Compressed ‘pill’ towels are a godsend if you’re on the move (bugging out, traveling, whatever). They work and have many different uses. 
  • Stock up on hygiene items. You may be sorry if you don’t. It’s really hard (yet very common) to run out of these when SHTF, and it happens fast. 
  • Avoid colognes and perfumes to avoid standing out. When everything around is smelling bad, even a little can make a difference (believe me, bad smell and insects are two of the most striking characteristic of SHTF).
  • One thing I put great importance on is dental hygiene: because it impacts overall health, I find it worth going the extra distance to ensure the mouth is always in good order. 

Farming & Gardening

“We may need a doctor, a priest, a policeman, and a lawyer a few times during our life. But we need a farmer three times every day.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 25% of Americans were into farming when The Great Depression hit in the 1930s. Today it’s only 2%. This number has been growing (it’s more prominent in Europe overall and some other countries). But we’re still a long, long way from people understanding the importance and implications of becoming even slightly more self-reliable for food. 

Cultivating one’s own food can provide ‘food comfort’ through the consumption of the items. Reduction of food insecurity lowers stress levels and increases community well-being.

Practical Measures

  • Can be done individually or as a shared activity (with the added bonus of strengthening community bonds). 
  • There are thousands of videos. blogs and tutorials on how to grow pretty much anything even with limited space, time, money, etc. 
  • Takes time and dedication to show results, so start now.


Cooking can also be highly rewarding and comforting. When disaster strikes, eating hot meals can become a real luxury. Even something as simple as a grid-down can impair conventional food preparation (lack of fuel, gear, time, etc. – again, look at Texas). When we spend a long time eating only granola bars and similarly bland food, a proper meal can be a real treat.

Practical Measures

  • Being able to cook in different conditions (grid-down, bug-out, full-SHTF, camping, etc.) is a useful skill. Use it to provide good moments and elevate the mood.
  • Stockpile on seasonings and other basic items with long shelf-life and can be used to prepare and spice up meals.
  • A backup cooking set (spirit or compact propane stove, camping cookware and gear, etc.) can provide flexibility and versatility.

Books & Music

No need for practical measures here as reading and listening to music are undeniably two of the most entertaining, abstracting, elevating, educating activities possible, SHTF or not. Read to learn, read to escape, read to have fun, read to ‘travel.’ Ditto for music, another powerful antidote to sadness and bad mood. Both are downright cheap, too, even free. (Here’s an article on building an SHTF music collection.)


How do fixing things improve comfort, you may ask. Besides obviously fixing things that can directly impact our comfort (clothing, plumbing, heating/cooling systems, cookware, etc.), it can be gratifying in itself. It builds confidence and self-reliance and can be applied to generate income (which in turn can be used to increase other comforts and conveniences to you, your family, and others around).

Practical Measures

  • Build a tool chest and learn/grow practical skills. 
  • Start with something basic such as sewing (very useful) or knitting, then move to more complex/demanding activities. 
  • Being a generalist is good, but sharing specific skills with others can amplify capabilities. That’s why having a community is important.
  • Woodworking, blacksmithing, plumbing, soldering: all that and much more can be learned through practical classes, online courses, tutorials, how-tos. 

Distractions & Abstractions

Let’s think in terms of ‘normal times’, certain forms of distraction, and entertainment such as gambling. Partying, smoking, or drinking (and others) can be seen as vices, bad habits, or “less than commendable” activities. But, do things change when the SHTF!

To start with, serious SHTF is unhealthy in so many ways just by itself. If you think differently, ask around or do some research on the subject. But SHTF is not a free pass nor an excuse to go wild or engage in destructive behavior. On the contrary: keeping discipline and good habits is essential for survival. Crime, drugs, and violence are bad in SHTF too. And not from a moral or ethical standpoint, but as to what it does to ourselves. It’s a dead end.

But keeping sanity is crucial too. Life can become hard at times. It’s OK to lead a regulated and healthy lifestyle, for the most part, and from virtue, religion or habit. The point is not being too rigid or too strict on ourselves – and keeping it under control, also, of course. It’s something very personal, so to each their own

Note: If someone is triggered by me talking about these things, know it’s the reality of SHTF. If you’ve been there, you know it; if you haven’t, then be warned and take it as you will. 

Practical Measures

  • Don’t go out and about stockpiling on booze, tobacco, or whatever – if you don’t think those things fit your taste or lifestyle (unless you plan on selling or using for barter). 
  • Meditate on how life would be in extreme adversity and how you’d feel and react in regards to things you currently don’t contemplate. Not as escapism, not as a vice. Just as to what would provide a little relief or boost to keep up with toughness and hardship.
  • It’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to touch something, and it’s equally acceptable if you indulge, too. Just accept it’s a very human thing. 


A large part of being ‘comfortable’ during SHTF is related to accepting, abstract, being creative, and practical. And also the capacity to find joy and pleasure in the out-of-ordinary and trivial. It comes naturally for most people, but we can prepare some for that, too. Actively and voluntarily chasing discomfort and exposing ourselves to hardship in controlled manners is an effective way to learn about our own limits and how to adapt to changes that occur during SHTF. There are several ways to train for SHTF.

Camping, trekking, hiking are excellent to improve resilience, creativity, and adaptation. Away from the grid, we have to focus on the basics of life: shelter, food, water, cooking, insects, heat and cold, sun and rain, impaired sleeping, and lots more. If that’s impractical, you can train in the city and even simulate some scenarios at home to practice and develop useful survival techniques applied in various other situations. 

This exercise can also grow our appreciation for the simple things and the extreme levels of comfort and convenience we have available in The Grid. And that matters a lot.


TACDA: Strategies for Coping with Isolation and Loneliness During the Pandemic

From The American Civil Defense Association, Strategies for Coping with Isolation and Loneliness During the Coronavirus Pandemic:

Contributors: Dr. Russell Fulmer, Dr. Michele Kerulis, Alexandria Widener, Lauren Brdecka, Ali Haji, Colbertson Kreger, Zemzem Amme, Sue Tao

Loneliness is not a phase

– Layne Staley, lead singer of Alice in Chains in the song Angry Chair

People respond to a world crisis in different ways. Some, including first responders, doctors, sanitation workers, and those in food preparation, must continue going to work to maintain essential functions in our communities. Others who are under stay-at-home orders have responded with stress, anxiety, and despair; they likely feel lonely and isolated. However, some people see a silver lining, have faith in humanity, and believe that, together, we can do our part to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has worried many people who already are anxious. We live in the Age of Anxiety. For those who experience the turbulence of anxiety, loneliness, panic, or existential angst in the best of times, a global pandemic may further trigger the underlying sense of existing uncertainty.

If you are lonely and anxious, we–members of the Counseling@Northwestern community–want to share how we are managing isolation and social distancing with the hope you may learn how to address the situation from different perspectives.

Our purpose is to:

  • Identify common types of isolation. Identification may be the first step toward lessening some of the pain. We draw from existential theory and philosophy, notably the work of Irvin Yalom.
  • Provide tips from students who deal with each type of pain, so that you might use their coping strategies. You will see that some students embrace isolation or otherwise identify positives from its onset.

Types of Isolation

There are three types of isolation: interpersonal, intrapersonal, and existential.

INTERPERSONAL ISOLATION is akin to loneliness. The often-repeated phrase that “it’s not the quantity of your relationships that matter, it’s the quality,” is relevant here. Certain personality styles may crave interactions with people more than other styles. Group identity is also relevant, including whether you belong to a group that society has traditionally shunned or oppressed.

INTRAPERSONAL ISOLATION is to disavow of part of the self. Have you ever said, “A part of me has died?” Do you recall a time you felt whole, but after a traumatic event, you felt fragmented? Maybe you have felt fragmented ever since. Or, did parts of you never have a chance to develop, maybe due to dysfunction in the home during your upbringing? If so, you know intrapersonal isolation.

EXISTENTIAL ISOLATION, as described by Yalom, is “a vale of loneliness which has many approaches. A confrontation with death and with freedom will inevitably lead the individual into that vale.” The existential form of isolation refers to the inherent gap that exists between people, no matter how close the bond. For example, your experience about an event—like the coronavirus scare—is unique to you, and your feelings about it, perceptions toward it, and exact encounters you have because of it will live only within you. Other people may have similar attitudes and experiences, but the unbridgeable gap remains.

Eight Tips for Managing and Thriving in Isolation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

1Accept the reality of the situation. Acknowledging an unpleasant reality may help to reduce stress and enable you to think through the best way to move forward.2Embrace your feelings. Acknowledging uncomfortable feelings can give you power over those emotions. Tend to feelings of danger and insecurity.3Don’t think about feelings as positive or negative. Feelings can represent how you connect to your environment and signal what actions you should take to make yourself comfortable.4Be mindful of how loneliness can manifest in physiological sensations like elevated heartbeat. Recognizing alarming sensations in the moment and allowing them to pass may help neutralize them.5Use isolation as an opportunity to better get to know and understand yourself outside of who you are when interacting with other people. Rediscover your uniqueness.6Focus on the opportunities isolation provides, rather than the things you have lost. Take advantage of extra time to make positive changes or pursue goals you may have put off.7Find ways to stay relaxed and connect to your social networks. Maintaining pre-pandemic routines as much as possible can help, but give yourself leeway to make adjustments.8Practice self-care. Receiving constant news updates can create more stress. Plan how you want to receive important information and take mental and physical breaks.

Learning to Accept Your Feelings While Experiencing Existential Isolation

Alexandria Widener

For me, experiencing existential isolation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even though it does add another layer to my depression. Granted, I didn’t always view it in this manner. I used to fear the voice in my head that told me life was meaningless and nothing would change. I resorted to self-destructive measures in a desperate attempt to silence it. Nothing worked; I was always left alone with that voice in my head to keep me company. The only way to conquer it was to embrace it.

My main tip for anyone struggling with existential isolation or depression if it occurs as a result of isolation is to accept your feelings. Once you accept feelings of depression as a part of yourself, you gain autonomy over it.

However, there is a thin line between acceptance and concession. Acceptance places the power in your hands because it indicates you are acknowledging the discomfort and choosing to “sit with it” as opposed to running away. For me, accepting my depression means recognizing I interpret and feel things differently from others. I’m not always happy, and that’s OK. Embracing this knowledge frees me from pretending to be something I am not.Once you accept feelings of depression as a part of yourself, you gain autonomy over it.

Obviously, my experience will not be the same as yours. I can’t list coping skills to help you because what works for me might not work for you. People can accompany you on your journey to offer guidance and support, but ultimately, you arrive at the final destination alone. I’m genuinely enjoying the current social distancing and stay-at-home orders imposed by state leaders due to the coronavirus. Getting to choose when I interact with people has been refreshing. Once I accepted that whatever will be will be, it alleviated a lot of stress and anxiety. I’m not saying that I don’t think I can play a role in helping, nor am I saying that I have surrendered to complacency. I think we should come together and do what we can to flatten the curve. I just recognize that regardless of our efforts, what’s going to happen will happen. All we can do is our best. What that means for me is helping those who are most vulnerable, chilling with my dog, and binge watching The Good Doctor as I do my part to slow the spread by staying inside.

Tending to Yourself in Intrapersonal Isolation

Lauren Brdecka

Many of us, myself included, are familiar with intrapersonal isolation. At one time we felt whole and circumstances, events, and people took away that sense of wholeness. Circumstances such as the COVID-19 outbreak can trigger intrapersonal isolation. In a time like this, life is very limited, life-altering choices are being made for us, we have physical limitations, there is an acute sense of danger and caution, some of us may become hypervigilant, and the looming danger and fear may exist without the words to fully articulate the larger scope of your feelings and circumstances.

Intrapersonal isolation, very simply put, is isolation of parts of yourself. During this time of literal isolation, I have reflected on varying parts of myself and my once full life—my loving and rewarding relationships with my nieces and nephews (7 months old, 3, and 7 years old), my sober community, and serving and supporting my clients’ mental health—have become starkly narrowed. Being ordered to isolate has, if nothing else, ensured my physical safety and given me clarity on important aspects of my life and things I can live without.Intrapersonal isolation, very simply put, is isolation of parts of yourself.

I can live without fast food, but in the long run, I will struggle to live happily without seeing members of my family. Amid these unique times, I make sure to tend to the parts within myself that are longing for security. When I feel threatened or unsafe, I always lean into those parts of myself and hear what they have to say and make certain I am not dodging or shushing them. I “re-parent” the parts of myself that feel lost. Re-parenting allows people to give ourselves what we didn’t receive as children, such as positive reinforcement, someone who will listen to me, unconditional love, etc. I engage in re-parenting to heal the younger parts of myself that show up in adulthood.

For me, taking action to relax and stay grounded really helps. These things include yoga, stretching, cooking, taking a hot shower or bath, and meditation. Also, I ask myself, are there parts within me that believe being able to leave the house will make this easier? In fact, I am seeking more control in my life because the truth of it is, I am safer at home. On a daily basis, I FaceTime people I know, and I have reached out to friends to ask if we can go on walks together while standing far apart. The global pandemic requires me to be flexible in ways we have never had to be, and that is not inherently bad, although it may be uncomfortable.

Above all, I know that most of the literal world is having to face these uncertain and uncomfortable times and, although I am physically alone, I, by no means, am alone, which has actually helped me to feel even more united to people and parts of the world I will never meet or see. Stay well for the time being all, and this, too, shall pass.

Reframing Your Feelings Related to Interpersonal Isolation

Ali Haji

With social distancing becoming the buzz phrase of 2020, and for good reason, understanding the ramifications of interpersonal isolation on our mental health is important. All of us have likely felt the effects of interpersonal isolation and perhaps the one with which we are most familiar. Interpersonal isolation is defined as a person-person isolation. In other words, isolation from other beings. It is important to note that this does not always have to take a physical form. Interpersonal isolation can exist amid group gatherings whereby the way we relate to others is not ideal for what the group setting requires. Given the current state of society, I will focus most on the more literal, physical separation from others with which most of us are currently coping.Interpersonal isolation is defined as a person-person isolation. In other words, isolation from other beings.

As with most things in our life that render us out of control, knowing how to cope with the resulting feelings can make or break us. In my experience, interpersonal isolation and the subsequent loneliness that can result is a challenge. With any difficult feeling, I find it important to understand how the loneliness that I experience is unique to myself. I ask myself questions like “Where do I feel this feeling in my body?” and “What physiological sensations can I associate with it?” This process brings a mindful attention to our present moment, allowing us to observe the arrival and departure of uncomfortable feelings, thereby helping us to objectify them. The process of objectification and being mindful of our visceral sensations can allow us to reframe thought processes like, “I am lonely,” with “that’s loneliness.” In my experience, allowing the feeling to pass rather than holding on to it and using our thinking minds to “figure it out” proves most effective, albeit most difficult as it requires an attention to our present moment and felt experiences. Loneliness, like most other feelings, can often be paired with concrete physiological sensations like our hearts pounding, heavy breathing, or muscle tension. The onset of these feelings can be quite alarming and noticeable but in bringing a mindful attention to our state of being, we notice that the aforementioned sensations are not permanently lodged in our system but rather able to neutralize and dissipate as time passes. For example, maybe after a few minutes, we notice our breathing return to normal and our muscles beginning to relax.

We might also consider why we deem loneliness a negative feeling. Our feelings guide us and perhaps these feelings of loneliness are a gentle reminder that we need to reach out to those around us in the ways that we can. The energy that loneliness brings might be applied to poetry, music, writing, or creating in some capacity. At the end of the day, removing the duality of positive and negative is our best bet at seeing our feelings for what they are—our visceral and honest connection with the environments and surroundings in which we find ourselves. Perhaps they are not things that we need to avoid and push away and more so a highly personalized teacher that we have 24/7 access to, informing us of our limits and boundaries. We have a greater capacity to neutralize and feel our feelings than we give ourselves credit and sometimes reminding ourselves to have mastery of our feelings rather than be slave to them is the push we need. And hey, a Zoom-based social hour can always help.

Using Isolation to Encourage Acceptance of Your Authentic Self

Colbertson Kreger

In a society that promotes conformity while shunning originality, it is hard to find our place within the maelstrom of social self-acceptance. The person I am behind closed doors is my authentic self, whereas when the door opens, I become a performer. I am performing for the masses and myself a certain standard of human interaction, while at the same time wildly fantasizing about the feeling of authenticity. Taking the step toward an authentic experience with others, and most importantly, yourself, is to take a step into the unknown. We have performed since our birth, and now is a time to learn who we really are. Your uniqueness may be overshadowed by anxiety and internal critique, but that shadow can only be cast if you stand behind your angst instead of finally taking that fabled step toward the light of self-authenticity.

I have taken that step. I have shouldered the burden of being unique and all the notions that are attached, and I have felt the warm sun upon my face for the first time. Our purpose here has been constructed into spending our time to benefit a culture and society that does nothing more than break people down. Our time is for growth and taking the steps toward discomfort. Growth will only occur during a period of discomfort, and in a world of lies and fear mongering, we all owe it to ourselves to put down the mask, and to finally act as who we are.

Embracing Growth in the Face of Interpersonal Isolation

Zemzem Amme

With so many limitations now in place due to the ever-changing circumstances of the coronavirus, it is nearly impossible to still have your pre-pandemic routine. Sudden change commonly brings a period of mourning and anxiety that occurs when navigating through your new reality.

During these moments, I find Viktor Frankl’s words fitting: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”Sudden change commonly brings a period of mourning and anxiety that occurs when navigating through your new reality.

This is the time where I challenge myself by finding new ways to still enjoy my time at home. It can be easier to focus on what we have lost, rather than seeing what we now can explore. Just like any growth, we are never truly ready. This is something new and it creates an opportunity—if you choose to seize it—for change. Whether you are reconnecting with individuals, better organizing your house, or doing the daunting task of confronting your internal conflicts, there is a chance of coming out of isolation changed for the better.

Even though we are bombarded with many new ways of communicating, it doesn’t replace what we are used to. As human beings, we are constantly communicating with people, whether verbally, through sign, or something as simple as eye contact. There is no right way to handle communication and connection disruptions during this situation, but there are ways to assuage the loneliness that we feel. For me, this is the time for reflection, when I can truly focus on what matters most. Though I may take this as a time for growth, the reality is that most of my growth happened around a community. Even though we all may experience this uncharted territory differently, one thing that doesn’t change is that we are experiencing this phenomenon together.

Generating Meaning from the Reality of Isolation

Sue Tao

Week two into social distancing, I have mastered a daily coping routine to keep myself active, both mind and body, and to keep from feeling isolated. I’ve taken advantage of this time that I call “a break from the world” to realign my personal agendas that have been pending due to the lack of time I had before the pandemic, such as studying for my national counselor exam. I recently integrated hosting a daily social hour with friends on Zoom, which has been a great hit with new friends dialing in, and group walks every other day for fresh air and live conversations with friends who are not exposed to COVID-19 and have complied with social distancing/isolation the past couple weeks. Lastly, I engage in daily mindfulness techniques, a skill set I am enhancing so I can teach my clients in the counseling arena about the benefits of mindfulness with competence and confidence.

I was determined at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to not let the news and media affect my mental health well-being, because so often, stress and anxiety can be accumulated from consuming excessive news and media (which I have personally witnessed among my family and friends). No pun intended, but anxiety is a strand of virus that feeds the fear in us. All in all, I think that isolation is subjective, and it is my responsibility to generate a meaningful and productive day, one day at a time.

Living in Isolation as an Extrovert

Dr. Michele Kerulis

I am a social butterfly so having a mandated stay-at-home order feels very confining for me as an extrovert. I feel very fortunate that I am used to working from home. This experience allows me to feel 100% confident in my ability to work from home for prolonged periods.

What is difficult for me during this time is having my stress management tools taken away without advance notice. Part of my self-care routine is attending yoga classes, going to the gym, and participating in sporting events, many of which have been canceled. My gyms are closed so the routine of separating myself from work and going into a different environment to wind down from my day is no longer an option.

Each year, I look forward to seeing my colleagues at counseling conferences where we come together as a community and celebrate our amazing mental health field. Like falling dominos, we watched our community conferences canceled, one after another. I was devastated to learn I would not be able to see my fellow professors and counselors, as we frequently share ideas about how to continue providing for our students and clients. I was looking forward to providing a keynote address to my colleagues and helping to decrease the stigma related to seeking counseling services.

Like many helpers, I was shocked at the magnitude of the pandemic and I wanted to know what I could do to help. I know that I must care for myself if I want to be effective at caring for others. What I have done during the stay-at-home order is committed to a daily schedule to help create a sense of normalcy during these chaotic times. I suggest that people continue as if they were going on with their pre-pandemic routines as best they can. For me, this includes completing morning hygiene tasks, making a cup of coffee or tea, attending to work responsibilities online, and exercising. I take breaks throughout the day and connect with people. I call, text, and have Zoom video chats with friends, colleagues, and loved ones. I enjoy simple things like watching animal videos online, participating in home workouts from Pinterest, and looking at beautiful photos. I find that these simple, enjoyable things help decrease stress.I know that I must care for myself if I want to be effective at caring for others.

I have also turned off the TV and have asked specific people in my life to inform me of pandemic updates if/when my community status changes. I believe the oversaturation of media coverage is not healthy for society. Instead of overindulging in repetitive media posts and stories, I think it is more effective for people to come together as a community (while maintaining social distance) and to follow the recommendations of trusted health authorities like the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Until the pandemic subsides, we must have faith in ourselves to keep living our day-to-day lives so we can be effective counselors and teachers.

Citation for this content: Counseling@Northwestern, the Online Master of Arts in Counseling Program from The Family Institute at Northwestern University

Paratus Familia: Charity Gone Wrong

From Enola Gay at Paratus Familia – Charity Gone Wrong:

The Real World Consequences of the Misapplication of “Compassion”

San Francisco.  Seattle.  Denver.  Cities littered with drug needles, human waste, used condoms and the detritus associated with the hopelessness of third-world countries.   And yet this is the United States of America.  Or was…….

Over the years, as our country has been increasingly influenced by progressive elite idealists, we have been forced into a kind of Situational Justice.  Right and wrong, good and bad, has been replaced by a  politically driven narrative that preaches “charity” and “compassion”, but in fact leaves a post-apocalyptic waste land in its wake.

When I was a child, my family lived on Vashon Island, an island in Puget Sound – about a 15 minute Ferry boat ride from Seattle.  My father had been born and raised on Vashon and my mom hailed from West Seattle, moving to Vashon when she was in high school.  Our family had (and still has) deep roots in the area.  When I was 8, we moved to the outback of Idaho, but spent every family vacation in Seattle or on Vashon.  I remember being so excited when we descended Snoqualamie Pass knowing we were almost there!  Back then North Bend seemed way out in the country and Issaquah far removed from Seattle.  By the time we were on Mercer Island, I was mesmerized, and crossing Lake Washington over the Floating Bridge (through the tunnels) was fantastic.  As we’d get closer to downtown, I could smell the salt water and I never failed to breath deep of its heady fragrance.  As we drove, I marveled at one of the things I loved most about the city….it’s amazing beauty.  I loved the ivy-covered walls and the manicured parks.  The thick underbrush and myriad shades of green were truly worthy of the name “The Emerald City”.  It’s beauty was unparalleled.

That was then.  Now, my beautiful city has succumbed to the misapplication of compassion and the consistent use of situational justice.

Progressive Socialists love to tell you that they are all about the “little man”.  They tout “compassion” and “charity” and “equality” as their core values, however, the implementation of their vision produces nothing resembling their “Utopia”.  Unless of course, their utopia includes rampant disease, pervasive drug use and violent, mentally deranged human masses.  Which apparently it does, because that is what we have achieved.

We keep hearing the buzzword “homelessness”.  We also keep hearing about the homeless crisis and about how these poor people have no where to turn – they have been driven to the streets by an oppressive society ruled by White Male Nationalists.  They commit crimes, but they have no choice – society made them do it.  Money must be spent.  Charity must be given.  Compassion must prevail.  And justice must be dispensed based upon individual situations.

It turns out, we don’t have a “homeless” problem.  We have a drug problem.  And we have a drug problem, because we have encouraged it through our misapplied “charity”.  And once we have them hooked on drugs, we must have “compassion” and the only way to show them “compassion” is through “situational” justice.

We have encouraged our country’s drug problem by not holding people responsible for their own actions.  We have chosen to support generation after generation of people unwilling to take care of themselves or their own, destroying their self-worth and killing their souls.  We have given to them without expecting them to contribute to their own lives.  And in the process, we have destroyed a nation.  We have given “charity” to the detriment of generations.

Work is good for the soul.  By not requiring people to work, we have contributed to a population that feels hopeless and useless.  And as a result, our people have increasingly turned to drugs to dull their pain.  And to make ourselves feel better, we give them more….more money, more drugs, more chances.  We call it “compassion” but in reality we are kin to the great destroyer.  We are killing people with “kindness”.  We are not “compassionate” when we give people “safe” places to shoot-up. We are not “compassionate” when we give money to someone sleeping on the street so they can get another hit.  We are not being “charitable” when we allow situational justice to be the law of the land.  We are killing ourselves…..we are killing our families….we are killing our nation.

I read once that “charity is a finely-tuned instrument, and many there are who wound both themselves and others for want of skill in using it”.  I couldn’t agree more!  We have wounded both ourselves and our children with the wrongful use of charity.  We have done by far more harm than good.

Charity, compassion and justice, when used correctly, are the beautiful hallmarks of a Christian nation.  When they have been twisted, however, they become ugly, hateful tools of destruction.  We have a responsibility to use these tools wisely or they will be the very instruments of our demise.  And it would appear that our path is clear……

Black Man with a Gun: That’s Crazy Talk

David Cole at Black Man with a Gun has a short article up on mental health and red flag laws titled That’s Crazy Talk.

I was recently listening to a talk given by my friend Cheryl Todd of Gun Freedom Radio on the topic of “red flag laws,” and she said something that caught my ear. She was explaining the difficulty that trained psychology and psychiatry professionals have in predicting violent behavior, and said “we suck at it.”

Minority Report is fiction, you know.

She’s absolutely right. It does not take much research to discover that it is in fact extremely difficult to predict violent behavior in even those clinically diagnosed…by professionals…as mentally ill. It is also a widely recognized fact that mental illness does not automatically mean someone is dangerous.

So why would we get in such a big hurry to take guns from people suspected of being dangerous, as assessed by the untrained non-professional…when the professionals admit that they “suck at it,” and that the vast majority of legitimately mentally ill people are not dangerous?

And why, if the mental health of the person is in question, do “red flag laws” confiscate the gun(s) but not the person? If the person is suspected of being dangerous, why should they not be immediately confined for assessment by mental health professionals? If their mental health were really that important to us, wouldn’t we want to see that they receive immediate care? And if the safety of those around them were truly the priority, how effective is it to just confiscate the guns we know about, while leaving the supposed dangerous person free to a gun we missed, obtain a replacement gun, or substitute another weapon to commit violence? After all, you could even leave the guns right where they are if you simply take the dangerous person away from them and into treatment.

Seems like there’s an awful lot of holes in that red flag.

You just know what she’s going to do if she gets out…

It is because it actually has nothing to do with mental health or violence prevention, and everything to do with removing as many guns as possible from the hands of free, law-abiding citizens. There are already plenty of laws on the books to prohibit criminals, addicts, and those who have been legally designated as mentally ill from possessing guns. But “red flag laws” are nothing more than an attempt to throw the largest possible net over as many gun owners as possible, without the due process guaranteed by the Constitution.

And that’s crazy talk.