How To Defeat Your Fear When SHTF

Fear, when harnessed properly, is an incredible survival tool.

When you’re scared, your senses are heightened and your adrenaline is flowing. You’re more sensitive to sights and sounds. You’re a little bit stronger and a little bit faster than you may otherwise be, and these are excellent tools to have.

The key is to manage your fear in order to use these tools to your advantage.

Just like every other step to survival, managing your fear is a just a matter of being properly prepared for it. Throughout the following paragraphs, we’re going to discuss ways to defeat your fear when SHTF instead of letting your fear defeat you.

The Downside of Fear

Survival depends almost entirely upon your mental state: it doesn’t matter how much food you have or how good your weapons supply is if you let your fear paralyze you. In a true SHTF scenario, you’re going to be scared; it’s almost a guarantee.

Fear is a natural survival response to a threatening situation, so expect it. The key to survival, though, isn’t going to be who isn’t frightened but rather who manages their fear well enough to think around it.

In addition to the advantages of fear that we mentioned above, unmanaged fear can also cause several undesirable side effects that can get you killed. It’s these side effects that make it imperative for you to prepare yourself to defeat your fear and use it to your advantage. Fear can cause:

  • Fight or Flight Response: this is survival 101 for our brain but can be lethal if you let the impulse control you blindly. Running or fighting are going to be your brain’s immediate responses to any extreme threat so be ready to manage this response.
  • Paralysis: this is another ingrained response to extreme threat that your brain uses to make you “invisible” to the threat. Freezing up, both physically and mentally, can be prevented, or at least minimized, by good preparedness.
  • Automatic Response: reacting blindly without thinking is an extension of fight or flight. You want to act, not react. Again, practicing and preparing for different situations will help re-train your brain to think before you act.
  • Tunnel Vision: your brain automatically focuses on the threat to the exclusion of everything else in an attempt to determine the best route to survival. Unfortunately, in a SHTF scenario, there will most likely be numerous threats at once. Training your brain to remain focused on the big picture will save your life.

Now that you know what instinctive responses to expect, let’s talk about some of the tactics that you should use to train your brain to manage your fear.

Have a Plan and Practice It

emergency preparedness checklistOne of the best ways to retrain your brain to react promptly and efficiently in a SHTF situation is to have a plan and to practice it. Muscle memory can help keep you moving in the right direction even when you’re under extreme mental duress.

This is the reason that military units do drills: when you’re already prepared to react in a certain way in a given situation, fear isn’t as likely to paralyze you.

  • Have Specific, Varied Plans of Action. Don’t just plan a general escape route that applies to all situations because every situation is going to be different. Have different escape routes based upon some exits being blocked. Practice defensive drills in case escape is impossible.
  • Practice each Plan. You can’t expect your body or your brain to react seamlessly if you don’t actually physically practice each plan. Also, if you don’t practice, you won’t find any glitches in your plans. Practice every plan until it feels automatic and natural to you.
  • Include Your Family in the Drills. By doing this, your brain will be assured that they are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and you can focus on doing your part to ensure survival for all of you.

Know Your Environment

Being intimately familiar with your environment will help your brain to process information and map out a new plan should your original plans go awry. Also, knowing your environment will help you plan for weak spots and will also give you an advantage over any threat, because they likely won’t have the knowledge that you do.

  • Know every entrance and exit
  • Know weak spots such as creaky floor boards, broken elevators, doors that tend to stick, or windy or sun-blind spots that may affect action in the case of attack.
  • Know where rivers or creeks may swell, where trees may fall, or which roads may be impassible so that you can quickly evaluate which escape route will be best based upon the SHTF situation.

Knowing your environment will help your brain to function instead of allowing panic to set in.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Woman in lotus position on shore at sunsetSimple relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help strengthen your control over your emotions. If you feel panic setting in, a few deep, controlled breaths may mean the difference between life and death. Make this part of your daily lifestyle and when you need them, they’ll be a natural tool that you can use to defeat your fear in a SHTF situation.

Educate Yourself

Knowledge is power. Learn survival techniques including first aid, herbal therapies, outdoor cooking, natural sources of food and water, weapons training, and local procedures so that you know how to survive in your environment. If you’re already confident that you can survive without all of the modern amenities and that you know what to do in case of any emergency, you’ll be less likely to panic and more likely to defeat your fear in a SHTF scenario.

Be Prepared

Being prepared to either bug in or bug out in a SHTF scenario will help you manage your fear. Here are a few tips:

  • Have your bug out bags packed and keep them current.
  • Keep your vehicles in good repair.
  • Keep your weapons clean and at the ready. Teach your family how to safely use them if that’s part of your survival plan.
  • Keep your stockpile up and make sure that you’re rotating so that everything stays fresh.
  • Keep your home and property in good repair so that your property remains safe and secure in case of natural disasters.

Remain Physically Fit

elderly couple riding bikesThis is one of the most important steps that you can take to manage your fear. If you know that you’re in good physical shape and can handle the physical stress that either escape or fighting will demand, you’ll be more confident and less likely to panic. Exercise is also a great way to gain mental discipline, which will also help you to defeat your fear in a SHTF situation.

Don’t Wait – Start Now

Now that you have some tools that you can use to help you prepare your brain to remain calm in an emergency, practice them. Just like with your emergency drills, training your brain requires repetition and practice. Survival really is dependent upon remaining calm and ready to evaluate any situation, so take these tips and start using them now so that you can defeat your fear in a SHTF scenario.


This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

Photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Written by

Theresa Crouse is a full-time writer currently living in central Florida. She was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia, where she learned to farm, hunt, fish, and live off the land from an early age. She prefers to live off the grid as much as possible and does her best to follow the “leave nothing behind but footprints” philosophy. For fun, she enjoys shooting, kayaking, tinkering on her car and motorcycle, and just about anything else that involves water, going fast, or the outdoors.

Latest comments
  • So called, “combat-or-tactical breathing” is an exercise that is taught to frontline combat soldiers, & is not well known to those outside the military. It’s very simple, & helps you to control your heartbeat, & therefore your central nervous system. It’s so easy, it’s stupid! All you have to do, (and this works in ANY stressful situation, & should be practiced, so that it becomes natural) is breathe in for four seconds, hold four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, hold again four seconds, before repeating the whole thing again! In this way , your forcing you body, (and mind) to relax, & clears your head, to do what must be done. It keeps you from hyperventilating, & slows things down, so your not stressing-out! Practice this, especial during running weapons drills/marshal arts practice, or during any time you feal stress, until it becomes 2nd nature! (just like muscle memory, & you don’t have to THINK about it anymore!)

    • This is also the basis of Pranayamic breathing.

  • Your information is excellent as your service. Thank you
    Sincerely Howard Wendel

  • I’m not disagreeing with the aforementioned advice which is good. However the improbable presumptions here are that we will not only have foreknowledge that trouble is coming but also time even if just seconds, to prepare for it. I doubt things will be much different for most people after TSHTF than they were for me as a street cop on the east side of Detroit with the gangs and criminals. Even in an inherently dangerous place and time, eminent danger rarely announces itself. I’ve shot people and been shot and in every case without exception, it came as total surprise leaving me no time to think, analyze or breath correctly. I’m alive because I trained hard and I trained frequently which produced muscle memory instinctual reactions.

    • I am not saying that the advice to ‘train hard / train frequently’ is bad advice, but I am of the opinion that your training was context specific. In other words, specific situation ==> specific response, with larger scenarios broken out as a series of specific situations or as a confluence of them. And, you trained in teams.

      Even then, most of your non-training shots missed and, especially around Detroit, cops have funerals fairly frequently. Why? Because there are situations you simply can’t train for.

      Situation: BG wants to do an armed robbery to get money for some snort and a couple hookers. Problem: there’s a cop in the store. Solution: shoot cop first. Opportunity: because he’s the first victim, the BG has time to set up the shot and fire from concealment. Two shots out the pipe while the cop figures out that he’s in the open and is taking rounds in the back. The most probable result? The cop lays down to bleed out and donates a loaded pistol. Partner calls for backup and an ambulance.

      Train for that.

      And there is the flaw in your reliance on training alone. Training makes the presumption that trouble follows learn-able patterns. Lacking training, the BG is not especially predictable and he’s hard to identify beforehand.

      What sort of training would you have us do to prepare for earthquakes, martial law, tornado’s, home invasions and so on? The complete list of things we need to train for does not have an end and is only in small measure location specific.
      We can train to get to a specific meeting point … but we can’t simulate a disaster in order to make the training realistic.

      For instance, Detroit and Toledo need to contemplate the destruction of the salt domes underlying those cities and Lake Erie. The resulting civil unrest following the collapse of the salt domes as a million or more armed, but otherwise unprepared, people swarmed the streets and swamped any attempts at assistance would be beyond imagining.

      By comparison, the riots of 1967 would look like a dozen teens buzzed up on Boone’s Farm and home-grown toke skinny-dipping at Grosse Isle in hopes of “seeing one” without having any real hope of touching it.

      Since I took my financial drubbing and left Detroit 2 years ago, I don’t have to concern myself with that any more, but now I have to consider hurricanes and their aftermath.

      Even if a hurricane or earthquake don’t flatten my house (it was built before NC adopted building codes and is half-way up a hill, so that is a very real possibility), it will flatten enough of my neighbors homes – and flood the rest – to be a major problem for me. I can’t feed the neighborhood … not even for a single day … and I can’t defend my home with any certainty of success against any except very small and unskilled groups. Since I live in NC, most of my neighbors can shoot better than I can … they grew up with it and then, in large numbers, enlisted as grunts.

      Had Sandy come ashore 24 hours earlier, I’d have found out exactly how prepared I was(n’t).

      Our training needs to be of a general nature, as do our physical preparations. SOME of it, such as medical procedures and marksmanship need to be specific to an anticipated need, but only in as much as they fit into an overall pattern of preparedness. There is, for instance, no need on training at 600 yards if the longest defensive shot available is under 200 or in hand to hand combat if you are 75 years old and confined to a wheelchair. A young skinny cutey is probably ill-equipped with a Joe Biden special. (Nobody counting on a double barrel shotgun of ANY gauge for their survival is planning on living much longer. Reloading after two “Biden blasts” out the door in the general direction of the backyard is an invitation to your assailants to come complete the job. “Boom, boom, silence” means “Hey guys, I’m over here and I’m out of ammunition.”) However, with enough practice and training, she might just find herself on the winning end of things with an AR.

      It is also important that the training, minimal as it must necessarily be, be based on sound advice. I recently spent some hard-earned money (about $100) on some ‘prepper training’. Other than an entertaining story about some Middle Eastern preppers, it was money down the drain. The writing is poorly done and the tables (which might have provided -some- value) don’t display.

      I can spend money blindly without any help … and I have the receipts to prove it.

      Which means that I am back to piecing things together on my own. Other than the publicly available US Army / Marines manuals, there doesn’t seem to be any reliable information available.

      You say to ‘train’. ‘Train’ how? Spend a week and a couple grand learning how to shoot long range? Or take a $400 a day shoot & run class? Taxpayers paid for your training … the ammo, the weapons and tools, the stage, the classroom, the instructors wages and yours. But nobody will pick up the tab for the taxpayer.

      While I will concede that getting your ass shot 15 minutes into a disaster will automatically disqualify you from further play, running out of potable water on day three has the same effect, so does getting lost in hostile territory … or even friendly territory.

      Where are the classes centered around finding / making safe drinking water? They say that sand filters are simple to make and reliable … where can I see a working model? (ahem, YouTube doesn’t cut it … I want to be able to sip the output and discuss potential siting problems and other drawbacks with a real, live, human being)

      Since a GPS will be an iffy proposition (the signal could be turned off or purposely falsified) in a SHTF situation, where can a civilian learn to read a map and plot a course with a compass? There are lots of places to learn the theory, that’s the easy part, but no place that I can find the poses problems and provides feedback on your solutions.

      Where are the cold-weather training classes or the evasion / infiltration classes? How do you make a long forced march and live to tell the story? How can you erase the traces of your passage? SOCOM training is held in such high esteem … where are the civilian equivalents broken out into one and two week segments (to fit into available vacation time)?

      Put mildly, there just isn’t much training available to civilians. In the event of an armed insurrection, we are going to be hamburger. Lots of hamburger.

      • The context of the conversation was threatening circumstances, confronting people and tactical situations. I never implied that any other form of preparation should be ignored over the tactical considerations; that was simply the context which I was addressing. I only wanted to stress the practical aspect of training since most people won’t get the only thing better than training which is experience.
        The natural disasters that afflict us are geographically specific and different for all of us and naturally we should prepare for what is likely where we live. I never implied otherwise. I was addressing the one common issue that will plague us all which is other people. We all have this danger in common. You have obviously never been a LEO. Your scenario has never played out in real life to my knowledge nor would it be likely to for a simple reason that makes my point. You obviously have a tremendous knowledge base of ideas but you shouldn’t presume to know professionals whose shoes you have never walked in.
        Part of being trained up is situational awareness. Every big city street cop I have ever known can pick out a criminal with immediate intent a mile away and would never be taken by surprise as you have suggested. You do a disservice to the law enforcement community with that false assumption because you are speaking about something which you obviously know nothing about. You’re very good but stick to what you are good at. Cops don’t walk into banks alone in uniform leaving their partner outside in the car to call for backup and an ambulance as you have proposed. That scenario has no basis in reality. Hollywood aside, every criminal without exception broadcasts via extreme nervousness, his/her intent to immediately commit a crime. Contrary to your assessment, any good cop, BECAUSE OF HIS/HER TRAINING, will have spotted and identified the criminal and the potential danger well before the onset of hostilities. But you have also misjudged the criminal’s mind as well as the police officer’s. Criminals are not that stupid. If an armed man enters a bank with holding it up on his mind, there are a million reasons for him to turn around and leave if he sees a cop inside and none for him to shoot the cop first which would be totally counterproductive to his purposes.
        You probably have a much larger information base than I do, you are probably smarter than me, you probably have a better education than and you probably know survival issues to a greater degree than I do. I only know one thing but my experiences in the cities of Iraq, on a big city SWAT team and on the streets of a very high crime area have given me a perspective you wouldn’t and couldn’t’ understand. I would never assume I could give as good advice about hurricane preparation as you could because I have never experienced a hurricane. You walk a dangerous path when you give advice to a professional in their profession. You would survive a hurricane where I probably wouldn’t. You would lose a confrontation with me in a dark alley. Both are a result of experience and training.
        I freely admit that I only know this one thing but I know it quite well and take offense to criticism coming from someone who has no experience or training at what they are postulating. Advise us about what you know best but let others share their experiences and advice as well because you don’t know everything and you don’t know what you don’t know. I’m sure I have a lot to learn from you. I only had one point to make and I defer to you on everything else but please give me my due; I’ve been trained at and actually done the things you merely hypothesize about. I’ve served my country in Iraq as a rifleman and again served the American people on the streets of the east side of Detroit. I am now retired and simply trying to help others who will never get the benefit of the formal training or grit experience that I have had. Forgive me for taking offense but it is not personal offense because I know what I know and I’m comfortable with the instincts training and experience has built into me. I do take offense for the sake of the readers who I am trying to help and assist in their thinking in the one area I feel qualified to give advice. I would like to have gone into specifics if there was an interest but instead I found myself defending the importance of military and police training when confronting people. Ultimately God is in control; this and Murphy’s law means there are no guarantees for anybody but this I’m sure of: there will less hamburger among those who train than those who don’t.

      • No available training? Have you ever heard of the Boy Scouts? I realize that the training is only available to adults on a second hand basis. However, I have 3 sons that became Eagle Scouts. As part of that process were merit badges including backpacking, first aid, camping, wilderness survival, emergency preparedness, fishing, hiking, orienteering, and rifle & shotgun shooting. I had no scouting background, but I learned a lot by helping my sons through the 21 plus merit badges required to get their Eagle. In addition, I participated in 3 50 mile hikes with them. You kind of get the idea of how to survive in the wilderness. For example; there are many sources of water in the wilderness that are safe without a filter.

        Now you might ask what that has to do with someone who doesn’t have scout age boys. In almost every community, there are scout troops. They would love to have assistant scoutmasters. You would have to learn the concepts along with the boys. There are always activities that let the boys and you practice what you learn. You could do worse for free survival training.

  • Wow! I was looking for 3/4″ crushed granite for sale in indianapolis and found this conversation between Old Food and Bill in Lexington! I would like to have you both as part of my survival team!