Prepper’s Anxiety: How NOT to Become Paralyzed When You Feel Overwhelmed and Underprepared

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

Eventually, even some of the most prepared preppers will question themselves and their survival skills. Fortunately, if we shift the energy to skill development and self-improvement, those negative feelings will subside.

Whenever I offer guidance to someone new to prepping and survivalism, one issue seems to affect neophytes the most: anxiety. More specifically, prepper’s anxiety. The feelings of urgency, inadequacy, deficiency, insufficiency, and lagging can overwhelm even long-time preppers. This can be even more true during long-term situations like the one we’re all facing now.

Don’t let the anxiety paralyze you and stop you from prepping

Sometimes, anxiety can motivate us to advance our preparations. Questioning ourselves here and there can be positive. Living in a constant state of anxiety is not.

“Is it too late? Am I doing all I can? Are my stockpiles enough, and for how long? What if this or that is missing? Should I learn X or get another Y thingy or that extra backup giZmo? Have I got everything covered? How prepared am I, really?”

I admit to being assaulted by the barrage of questions, despite living in a slow-burning SHTF. Doubt and insecurity have crept in even though I have been prepping and practicing survivalism for some time. Working on your mindset is one of the most important parts of prepping.

The three sides of prepping and survivalism

As with many things in life, preparation and survivalism have three sides:

  • Material (“stuff”: more associated with prepping)
  • Psychological (mindset: more connected to survivalism)
  • Practical (knowledge/skills, strategies, and fitness: also survival-related)

All three of these sides are interconnected. Each one affects the other. These sides also affect how we feel. For me, personally, there is a spiritual side, but for this article, I will focus on the above mentioned three. 

It is essential to objectively look at (and understand) the mechanisms and motivations behind our thoughts, actions, and reactions. This is especially important when it comes to being prepared for disasters. 

I always express the importance of focusing on what is under our control, which is ourselves. Self-awareness is crucial. Being conscious and attentive to our minds’ potential can help fight anxiety and other negative feelings that may thwart personal advancements. 

Balancing those three sides is paramount to achieving an adequate level of preparation and an optimum survival mindset.

Material (or “stuff”) Anxiety

The material aspect seems to make new preppers quite anxious early on. It is a simple concept, but not easy. This reaction is typical (and expected) because stockpiling is generally the first thing people equate to prepping. 

Often, in the early stages of prepping, too much is purchased, or the items are too complex and sometimes useless. Gear, tools, food, and other essential items are easily acquired, contributing to overshooting the mark. Fear-mongering and commercialism are usually the leading cause of the anxiety induced over-purchasing. Lack of financial resources can also contribute to material anxiety. 

Many people tend to believe peace of mind can be bought. Indeed, buying things works as a quick fix. It is an easy way to suppress anxiety and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). However, people soon discover the “fix” did not last long, and the anxiety returns. Or worse: it makes us falsely confident and over-reliant on “stuff.” With time we learn what is truly important and what is not.

Building a stockpile and having the right gear is good. It’s important to stay alert to the marketplace and the supply chain (the system), the availability of products, etc. Those are part of prepping. But “stuff anxiety” is poisonous to our psychology (mindset) in the sense that it can:

  • Self-feed into a depression
  • Lead to paralysis
  • Trick us into complacency.

It may wreak havoc on our finances too. We must, therefore, pay attention and learn to control it. 

Grass is grass whether its green or not.

The human condition of comparing and feeling less prepared is normal. But our comparisons are rarely based in reality and are very poisonous psychologically. Stay alert to this. If we look around, we will find many people in varying stages of prepping. Comparing ourselves to others does nothing except make us feel inadequate or overly confident. And both are bad for us.

Comparison to others is counterproductive. The only criterion that matters – because it’s the only one that works in our favor – is ourselves today compared to ourselves yesterday.

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Have you been adding to your preparations?
  • Do you feel more prepared today than you did last week or month?

Big or small, in one way or another, doesn’t matter. If you did something to inch closer to your own goals, you advanced. So be pragmatic: focus on yourself and what you can do for yourself and your family. Take into consideration your unique situation, resources, and limitations. Researching what others do, to learn from it, is OK. But resist the temptation to compare.

New preppers tend to go overboard with all aspects of prepping.

I was guilty of going overboard. I’m not talking about just gear, knowledge, skills, fitness, or stockpiles. But also the mentality and ideology of prepping. Depending on your personality and drive, it may become a problem. (“Tenet Nosce” – know thyself). Try to be conscious and careful as this is a common and rather dangerous pitfall. Going overboard can wreak havoc on our finances, relationships, careers, health, and create anxiety. 

When we enter the prepping and survivalism realm, we begin to see the world for what it is: full of beauty and wonder and a complicated, crazy, dangerous, and unforgiving place. Suddenly the possibility of SHTF, and the importance of being prepared, becomes all that matters. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Prepping can then either be given far more attention than necessary or feel like an insurmountable challenge.

Focus on moderation. 

Psychological Anxiety

The idea of being too late or too behind is a common source of anxiety

Heed this: prepping is a plan, not a forecast of SHTF. Many have been preparing for years or even decades and haven’t been through SHTF yet. (Thankfully – let’s hope it stays that way). 

It’s also a marathon, not a sprint. There’s the saying, “the best time to prepare is last year; the second best, today; the third, tomorrow.” If you’ve already started and consistently do something daily or weekly, you’re on the right path. The rest is beyond our control. Just considering SHTF and prepping/survival puts you ahead in the game. 

Could it be that SHTF is just around the corner?

Sure, anything is possible. But then what good can come from freaking out? Not everyone who survives SHTF is a Green Beret or special force agent. I’d argue it can be the opposite. So do what you can with the time at hand and stop worrying too much. 

Don’t procrastinate, but don’t rush trying to cover some lost ground, real or imagined. “He who makes haste makes waste.” Take that burden from your mind and focus on what’s under your control. 

Tip: Stay informed and thinking critically about what’s going on in the world and around you (without going overboard). At the same time, work on your preparations as best as your situation allows. 

Getting others to join in your prepping activities is hard.

Many preppers have a hard time trying to include their significant other, family, friends, and coworkers in prepping. Sometimes, our reaction can be to isolate or exaggerate to alleviate our anxiety. Tension and conflicts can emerge from these behaviors. (Notice this is related to aspects of OPSEC and going overboard). There’s no sense in putting a job, a marriage, even a hobby or whatever, in jeopardy. 

In other words, don’t be the cause of your own SHTF. Don’t push people away. Turning negative or too preachy or too involved (or too certain) can contaminate our entire lives. Prepping should be a way of bringing balance and calm to our lives. Pay constant attention to your level of enthusiasm and dedication. Restraint is essential in this.

Keeping our prepping activities (somewhat) secret can cause anxiety.

OPSEC can be a thing, especially for people in certain places and situations. Discussing preparations or exchanging ideas with others can be made difficult by our current situations. 

We must learn to manage this, so we do not get carried away in one way or another, and avoid overcompensating in other areas. “Stuff” anxiety, for instance, or inadvertently risking our preparations. 

Practical Anxiety

Skill level can be a significant source of anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.

Feeling unsure of your skills is common among many preppers and survivalists. The best way to relieve your doubts and anxiety is by acquiring knowledge. Developing skills demands that you understand the issues at hand. Focus, hard work, and discipline, dealing with this specific side of preparedness and survival has the opposite effect in our psychology. 

Learning something new requires dedication and time. In return, developing a skill builds real and long-lasting confidence. We become calmer and centered – and we are relieved of the anxiety. Taking courses, reading books and blogs, volunteering, and helping others are excellent ways to build your confidence. 

Knowledge and skill are critical when GEAR is involved. Tools are useful – but only if we know how and when to use them. Unlike “stuff,” knowledge and skills can’t be left behind, taken away, stolen, or destroyed (though we can ruin it ourselves in some ways).

Reality check: developing a skill is demanding and time-consuming

Some skills are acquired quickly, and others take more time. Some take years to attain a decent level. We must also remember that even though there’s an average, people learn differently. Some learn fast, and others take longer. And there’s compatibility: some fare better in more cerebral activities (language, communication, finance, etc.) while others excel in more practical, hands-on activities (ex. woodwork, fixing things, shooting guns, etc.). 

Each of us has our own context to consider: family, job, availability, where we live, and so on. None of that is either good or bad, just aspects to consider at the individual level.

I’ve seen many succeed by starting with basic prepping or survival activities, then progressing to more complex ones. Or by taking an easy, quick one along with a more demanding/difficult one going. What counts here is, each new skill acquired will bring a sense of accomplishment and help to keep momentum. 

Accept the fact that prepping can be an investment with a slow return rate

People have a hard time when the results of their hard work are not immediately seen. Most people tend to postpone, drop out, or turn to secondary, more instantly gratifying tasks. It may, at times, look like a hard, meaningless slog. But if we can see the gains and believe in the process, we can persevere.

I have never in my life regretted or found it to be a waste of time taking on a journey to learn something new (it is a journey; there is never an end). Even when that something wasn’t immediately useful or applicable. Take Morse Code, for instance: since I learned it in my youth, I’ve used it only for fun. I’m not sure I’d ever need it to save my life or something (though who knows). Either way, I had a hell of a good time learning the dihs-and-dahs. 

Learning something new is an excellent exercise for the brain

Learning keeps us sharp and young: two essential things for survival but also our everyday lives. Also, staying busy is the best way to attenuate the ills of the soul, especially anxiety

Focus on a new project or task takes away the sapping power of overthinking about things and puts the control back in our hands as a productive force. Less because we are advancing, more because we are moving. Even though at times it seems we’re going sideways if we persist, there are benefits of discipline.

Looking for certainty and assurance isn’t the objective of preparedness. It is OK to have questions, to have doubts. Continually evaluating our efforts and actions is healthy and positive. It is necessary to correct and improve.

It is OK to pause, step back and ponder alternatives

When taking a step back, many of us find it affects our capacity to make decisions and take action or follow the course. Professionals in sports and business call this paralysis by analysis. Consistent practice will help keep this from interfering with our psychology or get in the way of our actions. 

I believe in the saying by the ancient Greek poet Archilochus: “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.” 

To me, preparation is not an end. I don’t try to achieve fitness and health: I aim to stay fit and healthy. It’s the same with prepping. I may attend a class or training camp or even some classes on bodybuilding. Those are important. But hitting the gym every day is what will build the muscles. In life, consistent practice every day is what matters. 

Wisdom “…the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment”  

Wisdom is highly desirable in survival situations because it allows for flexibility and adjustability in different situations and scenarios. That is invaluable. No gadget can provide that. Not one that I am aware of anyway.

Wisdom comes from a vast amount of experience over a period of time. We wise up as we make and correct mistakes, learn the craft one step at a time, and incorporate it along the journey. It is acquired through direct experience, playing the game, and also from training. So learn, but never stop practicing.


We can combat anxiety and negativity while we advance our preparations and improve our quality of life by:

  • Staying alert to our feelings and reactions
  • Being aware of and controlling/managing our impulses
  • Working on being better every day rather than worrying
  • Focusing on ourselves and our actions, our unique context.
  • Constantly assessing and reevaluating our strategies and actions
  • Always learning something new
  • Practicing with consistence

I hope you stay safe and stay prepared! ~ Fabian

What about you?

Have you ever been hit by this feeling of overwhelm? How did you get past it? If you’re there right now, tell us about your struggles. Let’s discuss this in the comments.

About Fabian

Fabian Ommar is a 50-year-old middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.

Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City, is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times. 

You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor

Picture of Fabian Ommar

Fabian Ommar

Leave a Reply

  • Great article Mr. Ommar!

    I believe it was Daisy who recommended to try to do things small, like that once a week grocery trip to the market, buy a few things extra.
    Breaking it up into small parts makes it easier to manage, and not as much as a shock to the pocketbook in terms of building a substantial pantry.
    Same could be said for a multitude of things from gardening, to raising small livestock, to sewing your own clothing or making your own cheese.
    Recently I have seen so many people overwhelmed, they didnt know where to start.
    Start small.
    Even growing herbs in a container in the window sill is a start.
    Confidence will come with each success.
    But do not fear failures. Lessons can be learned from them as well of how to do things better the next time.
    Try and do. Try and do again and again noting what works and does not work.

    • Thanks Mr. 1stMarineJarHead (lol)

      Yeah I believe in consistency and doing small things. Break the big topics into smaller ones so it doesn´t feel overwhelming or insurmountable. And so on.

      You said it right, start smal and tackle the basics first. Those are great ideas, either way I believe anyone can start just by taking care of health, improving fitness, keeping the mind sharp and balanced and staying well informed about the world and local situations. Those things cost nothing or very little, can be done everyday and help greatly.

      It is so important that we should keep at it even when we add other preppings. What good is it to have a ton on stuff and all the skills in the world if we´re not in shape (body and mind) to use it all?

      Stay safe have a nice weekend 😉

  • Another source of inspiration for those people feeling extreme frustration might come from the stories of past generations who have gone through the process and ultimately made and acted on the decision to leave their home country. Brazil figures into some of this history.

    After the failed 1861-1865 American war for Southern Independence (falsely labeled a “Civil War”), Southerners were marginalized in so many ways via voting rights, property rights, justice rights, taxation rights, etc, so badly that many of them looked for some other country where they would not be continually punished for the rest of their lives. Some fled to Cuba. Some fled to Mexico. Some died on shipboard when their ships went down in storms.

    Interesting enough, one of the most successful of those efforts led a group to Brazil where they founded a city that today is still called Americanos. They kept in touch with relatives back in America for several generations until they finally lost the use of the English language. That story is told in the book by Eugene C Harter called “The Lost Colony of the Confederacy.”

    In addition, people who who have not preserved their own family history may well have lost the knowledge of their own ancestors who often fled wars, political oppression or economic chaos in their home countries — and fled under desperate circumstances to come to America. One of my ancestors was a POW on shipboard in the Gulf of Riga (off Latvia) during Sweden’s Great Northern War. He escaped and came to New Jersey in 1704 and later became a farmer in Pennsylvania. All of his grandsons fought in our American Revolution.

    Was he a “prepper?” Likely not … but what he accomplished under the most brutal circumstances is extremely inspiring. Stories like that can help compensate for a lot of uncertainty, lack of experience, and lack of motivation.


    • Lewis-

      An excellent point. I come from a family where having a garden was simply something you did. My grand parents were born at the height of the Great Depression, and it influenced everything they did, and how they raised there children. You grew food, you preserved it, and the lessons on how to do that properly were passed down. I am very grateful to know how to preserve my own food, and that I’ve learned so much here from all of you as well (maybe gman not so much- I’m sure there’s no love lost there 😉 ).

    • That’s a true story Lewis, I live less than 100 miles from Americana (the actual name of the town) and indeed it was founded by southerners, who went to live and work with sugar cane and coffee plantations and brought fried chicken and cornbread to Brazil. Other nearby cities were also founded by americans at the time. At the time the brazilian government was trying to promote immigration and there was a massive wave of japanese and italian immigrants as well.

      Back then people had to do a lot of basic stuff just to survive. It was normal, prepping was just the way of living but not in anticipation to SHTF, just everyday really (there are lots of interesting books on this BTW). I guess we’re searching a bit of that with prepping, just being as independent and resourceful as we can. Today even a paper cut is reason to rush to ER. People freak out and lose it for little.

      Anyway, sorry for the rant lol you brought a pretty interesting story, thanks for sharing.

  • OK, here’s part of what I do to combat feeling overwhelmed. I become more COMBATIVE.. So, having combined my faith with my admiration for the devotion of soldiers, here it is:

    I am a soldier in the Army of GOD

    I believe in the GOD who gave us hearts that love, minds that think and hands that build.

    I believe in a world built from love by free men and women.

    I declare my True Belief, that GOD is at the center of this world and all the worlds beyond.

    Before GOD, I swear this creed: to my last breath and beyond,
    I will defend the True Belief that GOD gave to us.

    I will help any friend, oppose any foe, and use every tool and weapon
    I can to make safe the True Belief.

    I will fight against all enemies who want to destroy it.

    So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen!

  • You nailed it, I think this is one of the best prepping articles I’ve read. I ticked a lot of the boxes . I initially spent way too much . Now my budget is way tighter sometimes non existent. So I do other things work on my skill level and involve my kids and make it fun. They love the outdoors so it’s easy. I don’t preach about prepping, I rarely talk about it, in real life. But at my core I would need someone to be on my same wavelength to be in my life. I couldn’t imagine considering a relationship with someone who wasn’t a prepper / survivalist / frugal living person. Relationships are hard work at the best of times, I don’t fancy putting energy in when the differences would be too great. Prepping for us isn’t a once a week activity it’s all the little things we do now . Our hiking, camping skills, shopping the sales to add to our food, foraging throughout the year. Gardening, not being anti gun etc etc But that’s just me.

    • Thanks Izzy I’m glad you liked it, and yes I totally agree that prepping is a lifestyle not a once a week activity. If we can internalize and balance it we may reap a lot of benefits, from finance to fitness to psychology and a lot more. Stay safe and have a great weekend.

  • I ‘burned out’ on prepping a few years after I got serious about it. There were a lot of negativity and judgement on a lot of the websites I was following (some very well known and respected). So I stepped back and reevaluated. I quit hanging out at most prepping sites (save two, this being one of them) and instead became involved with some homesteading type blogs/sites. I no longer felt pressured that I wasn’t doing enough or I was ‘doing it all wrong”. I didn’t stop prepping, I just had to change my mindset. I still wonder at times if I’ve got enough or am I doing/learning enough. I think we all do no matter where we are in our prepping journey. I am definitely less stressed about even in these trying times.

    Excellent post Fabian!

    • Thanks Grammyprepper glad you enjoyed. As I said in the text I’m talking from experience, I was once a victim of anxiety and made mistakes too (still do), I find it helps both sides to talk about this with new and veteran preppers because it’s very common. We must always be mindful of these things I guess, constantly evaluating our actions and thoughts and adjusting. As the saying goes “the price of virtue is eternal vigilance” or something like that. Have a nice weekend.

  • My parents were both adults in the depression. I grew up with a family that grew a garden, canned, cooked from scratch, sun dried fruits and vegetables also.
    I started learning to sew at 4 and made all my school skirts by age 9. I grew up helping dad on construction jobs so I used to joke i was my fathers son and my mothers daughter. (Only child of older parents.) Mom bought whole grains that were ground at home and all bread baked at home. 7 loaves once a week. Wow. It was an education but daunting to try to keep up with after i married. I even crocheted, knit, embroidered, and painted art to take a break. Eventually i sort of burned out on it all. In the last few years I’ve begun doing much of it again and it feels good. I discovered preppers and homesteadders a few years ago. It was nice being reminded how good a life style it is. It’s also hard work but satisfying.
    Mom loved forraging. She loved the fresh food and flavors of the variety of will foods. Dad didnt enjoy that so much so when he was busy with colIege classes or working she’d take me forraging. She also knew and kept learning about wild meds. I inherited those books. Over the years I’ve added things local to where I’ve lived.
    Today I appreciate all they taught me.
    I’m still working on building a pantry and a collection of off grid tools.
    My parents didn’t raise critters for edibles. I’ve been learning to raise chickens, rabbits and ducks. I’m also learning about off grid solar and how to work with that.
    I think I finally understand their hardworking lifestyle. The more they learned and accomplished toward being self-sufficient the more secure they felt.
    Dad was 15 when his dad left and his mother was dying. He took on providing food for his mother, 2 sisters and a brother while still going to school. 1929 brought the end of his first marriage and a brother and father to help in hard times. Mom supported her mother and her sisters older son during the depression. Then came the rationing of WWII. It made them strong.
    It took awhile to appreciate all the things they taught me. Now that my kids are grown and have discovered prepping they appreciate growing up learning a lot that their friends are trying to learn.
    My favorite pressure canner is just 4 years younger than me. I grew up with it. I have a newer one so I aim at two canners going at once. It’s helping fill the pantry.

  • Great article. Thank you!!

    I think a combination of 2 extremely stressful projects at my work plus the slow burn of the pandemic has produced sleeping stress for me.

    I have crazy dreams that are pretty close to nightmares & often wake up throughout the night. However, the surprising part has been clenching my teeth so much while sleeping that I ended up with a TMJ disorder. It never occurred to me previously that I might need to stockpile mouth guards.

    Everyone I know is frustrated. & trying not to freak out.

    • Thanks JB in TX, and what a coincidence: I have to use mouth guards as well, been using for yrs. I have “crossing-bite” (not sure if that’s the correct name – the upper and lower tooth lines are a bit misaligned and it messes with the contact points or something increasing wear). Anyway I grind my teeth at night too, it’s called bruxism. Also when I’m stressed, or when it’s cold. It wasn’t a problem when I was 20 but at 50 it already caused a few cracks and repairs. I always keep a few extra mouthguards as they have to be customized and usually last a yr or two only.

    • right there with you. I’m trying hard not to freak out too. I just can see the writing on the wall, so to speak! My family is not worried about what could be right around the corner! it is indeed frustrating.

  • Having been on this earth quite a while now ???? I have had the opportunity to live through many overwhelming circumstances. My mantra has been ” just take the next step”. So, your home just burnt down. You weren’t home. Now what?? Find shelter. Gather food, some extra clothing, the basics. Then the list goes on, insurance, permanent housing, ect. But remembering to reassure the children that it will be ok. You’ll get through this and you will take care of them. We are able to get through the “impossible, difficult” by taking the next step. So hard times seem ahead. What’s your first step? Then what’s the next one. Just do them. If necessary, get advice from wise and knowledgeable people.

  • What a fabulous article! Thank you.

    You mentioned a fourth component of prepping: the spiritual. I hope you will write about that for us…or direct us to where we can read about it. I think that this is an under-discussed aspect of prepping.

  • You Need More Than Food to Survive

    In the event of a long-term disaster, there are non-food essentials that can be vital to your survival and well-being. Make certain you have these 50 non-food stockpile essentials. Sign up for your FREE report and get prepared.

    We respect your privacy.
    Malcare WordPress Security