Do you know in which ways, and to what extent, changes in lifestyle, routine, and consumption habits would affect you both psychologically and physically? Do you know how substituting (or being without) everyday products, appliances, foods, services, and utilities, can impact your health, mood, and performance?
We’ve seen how people freak out over toilet paper, and everyone knows how things get really crazy when food vanishes. However, this is about everyday stuff we and our family are accustomed to. Some (or even most) of which we don’t even think about – until it’s missing from the shelves or lacking somehow.
Maybe you’ve been through this or are already experiencing it now. The water is boiling, and things are accelerating. But I’d argue we’re still consuming resources and enjoying the tail end of recent past opulence. In a year or two from now, we might look back and say, “those were good times.”
A slow-burning SHTF isn’t less deadly, nor does it mean less suffering.
It’s still hardship, misery, and distress for many, in fact, for most. Natural disasters and wars present big risks and kill people, sure. But so does inflation, unemployment, and oppression. People go broke, get sick, starve and freeze, commit suicide, enter drugs and crime, and so on, in much larger numbers during such periods.
I’m not really surprised by any of that. I’m not preparing for a meteor hitting the earth, nor a nuclear winter. I didn’t see the pandemic coming. But I’ve been preparing for (and warning about) Thirdworldization for years. Now I see it materializing everywhere.
A recent article by historian Victor Davis Hansen describes this perfectly:
“In modern times, as in ancient Rome, several nations have suffered a “systems collapse.” The term describes the sudden inability of once-prosperous populations to continue with what had ensured the good life as they knew it.”
What exactly is this “system collapse” Hansen refers to? Mind you, it’s not the stereotypical SHTF, yet it impacts our everyday life all the same:
“Abruptly, the population cannot buy or even find once plentiful necessities. They feel their streets are unsafe. Laws go unenforced or are enforced inequitably. Every day things stop working. The government turns from reliable to capricious if not hostile.”
It’s certainly not “sudden” nor “abrupt” for the ones learning from history and paying attention to post signs and developments, but Hansen got Thirdworldization nailed down much better than I ever could.
You need a realistic perspective.
People are not stupid: they see what’s happening. They feel it in their daily lives and in others’ as well – despite all the censoring, disinformation, and gaslighting taking place. With everything that’s going on, more and more are preparing to take a blow.
Yet, too many are still hoping for the 2019 world to come back. I tend not to underestimate others based on history and what I’ve seen for myself. As I said on other occasions, people, in general, have a high capacity to adapt and survive.
But few know what lay in store. And thanks to normalcy bias and other cognitive deficiencies (and social behaviors), even fewer are actively preparing to live in a more fluid and precarious context to improve their condition and their family’s lifestyle.
(Want to learn how to better prepare? Then, check out our free QUICKSTART Guide on building a 3-layer food storage plan.)
What is the difference between learning preparedness and training preparedness?
However we choose to learn survivalism and prepare (e.g. practical courses, books, boot camps), it’s important to keep practicing and testing. Theory and “stuff” are all good, but not even half of it.
When I got into preparedness and survivalism, at the same time, I strove to learn and improve. I also set to develop methods to incorporate constant testing and training into my quotidian. I live by the saying, “We don’t rise to our expectations, but fall to the level of our training.”
One way I came up to do this was using the urban environment to become more resourceful and aware, more knowledgeable, to test gear and strategies, to remain fit and nimble. To complement that, I developed ways to simulate grid-down scenarios at home. Both concepts make the core of my street survival training book, and this article focuses on the latter.
Used mixed strategies for training.
I came with that name for lack of a better option, but it’s really just a series of exercises that can be done practically for free, in our own settings, making use of what’s already at hand (plus a few basic items that should be part of any preppers’ gear kit anyway).
Using our own resources, preps, and surroundings to practice presents some great advantages. It makes it much easier and smoother to integrate training into our routine, and we become more natural and adept to perform in our own element, crisis or not.
It’s not the wheel reinvented by any means: just seek discomfort and perform daily tasks in increasingly challenging conditions. That’s it, in essence. Buschcrafters and outdoor enthusiasts do this by venturing into the wilderness. Anyone can simulate grid-down situations that are common during disasters and crises in the city and at home, too.
A word of caution.
The aim is to build resilience, preparedness, toughness – and to not get injured. By all means, push yourself. But use common sense. If unsure about something, have someone help. Check with your doctor if necessary.
Start slow, be deliberate, and cautious, especially when dealing with dangerous items and procedures (flammables, pointy and sharp devices, tools, firearms, electricity, etc.). Be patient, observant, judicious. That’s how we should proceed when the SHTF anyway.
Below, I provide some ideas to get this started. As always, adapt as needed, be creative: a lot about comfort and convenience is personal and circumstantial, so be encouraged to come up with your own ideas. Here are a few I recommend:
Go without taking a shower.
This may be harder for some, and easier for others. Your ability to do this also depends on your location, the season of the year, weather, etc. Observe how this affects your mood your personal hygiene (your skin, hair, etc.). Learn your limits, but also how to live with discomfort. Furthermore, pay attention to how others around you perceive this. If everyone smells bad, no one will care much: otherwise, it may become an issue. Take the opportunity to test alternative hygiene strategies to try and achieve a minimum of decency.
Take cold showers.
Some say it’s good for the heart, the skin, and the spirit. My grandfather lived to his 100s doing this. Granted, he had so many other healthy habits that I couldn’t really establish a direct relationship. But he was always raving about how this made him feel energized.
Anyway, starting is hard, and even more so during winter (tip: start when it’s warm). It does have a feel-good aspect to it indeed, but the idea is getting comfortable with discomfort for when there’s no option, or it becomes necessary. Start with a few seconds at the end of your shower, adding time as you get more comfortable.
Test alternative products.
We all have our favorite brands and types of products for personal use. We may stockpile some or even a lot of it. But nothing lasts forever.
During crises, we may not be able to find or afford this or that, for whatever reason (supply crunches, companies going out of business, etc.). When things get bad, formulas and ingredients can change without notice. We must have alternatives, and in most cases, it will be fine and not difficult to adapt. But it’s good to know beforehand.
Test different brands of everyday products – cosmetics, personal hygiene, clothes. Some changes will be for the better, others can bring issues. Do some research on the ingredients of these alternative brands and products, and compare them to the ones you’re familiar with.
Experiment with sleep pattern changes.
People have different needs when it comes to sleep. And sleep quantity and quality impact mood, performance, and overall health. But sometimes adaptation is required, and knowing the effects in advance is good.
Try to come up with exercises to find out a few important things about your sleep, like how long can you stay awake, how sleep deprivation impacts your mood, your mind, and your body, or at what point this becomes critical to your performance (for work, when exercising, when shooting, etc.).
Walk, jog, and exercise in the cold and heat.
Also, in the rain, snow, etc. Try this at different times of the day than those you’re used to. Most people avoid doing their routines when the weather is less than perfect. It should be the opposite, and this is especially true for outdoor practitioners.
I acknowledge there are increased risks in going for a bike ride in the snow or dark or swimming in freezing temps. But people do these things all the time, and all it takes is will, common sense, discipline, and progression (and some caution) to push ourselves slightly farther and harder every time. It pays off big time.
Intermittent fasting is – according to studies (and my own experience), a good thing. Either way, it’s the reality for many everywhere for absolute lack of option, and abundance will become rarer and rarer, that’s for sure. As usual, early on, it’s hard and can be really demoralizing.
The first times you do this can be especially difficult, with mood swings and more. But after fasting for a couple of days, our mind gets really sharp clear, and our body becomes energized. With time and practice, the transition gets a lot easier.
Besides the benefits, though, the idea is learning how we handle periods without food physically and psychologically how we miss (or not) snacking and comfort food. Pay attention to those things, and you’ll learn a great deal about yourself, I promise.
Do things in the dark for training preparedness.
This is one of my favorites because it’s really useful knowing how to do daily chores in the dark as proficiently and as safely as possible. Power outages were very common in my youth around here (the hard ’70s and 80s), and with The Grid being unstable everywhere, I suspect this will be an issue going forward.
Switch off the main circuit breaker for a couple of days, and use only candles, flashlights, headlamps, and lanterns to perform tasks at home. Or just do stuff without any light source (we don’t need light to shower, brush our teeth, and many other things). This is what we do when camping or backpacking anyway, but it’s different at home. If you feel insecure, just shut off the lights on the first attempts – this way, you can easily and quickly switch it back on in case you need it. And don’t forget the refrigerator: stuff will spoil if you switch it off, so think about this in advance.
Experiment with forced diet changes.
Urbanites, especially from developed and developing countries, have it way too easy. There’s plenty of everything, everywhere. In most cases, there’s no need to eat food we don’t like, ever (and plenty of pressure to consume highly processed and sugary food and carbohydrates).
Anyone can get affected by being without their favorite foods, but consider that all this variety can disappear even before a real SHTF. Break from habit and force yourself to some food that you’re not used to, or not to your taste, and observe if and how this affects you and others in your home (taking notes on this is a good idea, trust me).
Sleep on the floor.
Try different places to sleep other than your bed. It can be the hard floor, carpet, a hammock, sofa, a camping pad. See how you adapt how it affects your sleep and your body. Outdoor enthusiasts use hammocks, tents, and pads, but we often sleep on the ground, grass, rock beds, fallen trees as well.
The first couple of nights may be a bit painful and uncomfortable. But we get used to this pretty quick, and after a few nights doing it, going back to your bed feels like sleeping on a cloud. Try to become comfortable with discomfort here too, but beware of cold and humidity. When we sleep, our metabolism drops, and we lose body heat fast to drafts and the ground, even if we’re feeling warm when going to sleep.
Use the stairs as a form of physical training.
If you live in an apartment building, try using the stairs frequently. I’m currently living on the 9th floor, and at least once every day, I use the stairs only. Sometimes I sprint up for H.I.T.T., others I go slowly. Eventually, I carry some weight with me (grocery bags, my B.O.B., whatever) because I must anyway, when the power goes out, bring stuff up to my apartment. If you live in a house, this exercise can be done at the office, the mall, the airport, any place with stairs. It’s a great workout.
Try going without heat or cooling.
To know how it feels every day, to become comfortable in cold and heat, and also to develop alternative strategies to add some level of comfort. Test your limits, but be careful. Learn to create “microclimates” inside your house, isolating rooms or using tents, tarps, blankets and other household items to reduce the volume that must be kept cool or warm. Use clothes to adjust, dress in layers. See how you perform everyday tasks in less-than-ideal conditions.
Use alternative gear to perform daily activities.
It’s very interesting and highly educational to learn how to carry out without everyday appliances. So spend a day or two (or more) without consuming stuff from the fridge, not using the microwave or oven for cooking, and so on.
Instead, use camping equipment at home: water filters, cookware, spirit or propane stoves, flashlights, tools. Time those tasks to have an idea of real-life performance and track improvement. Charge your stuff using solar panels, power banks, and other alternatives to see how much you can rely on these if the power goes out.
Training to go without T.V. has a host of benefits.
Keep the T.V. off. No Netflix, no cable, no video game, nothing. Instead, read books, do crosswords, puzzles, cook or fix something, write, do some work, listen to music, whatever. If you feel uneasy, try some meditation to calm your mind.
This does work, and you may enjoy it. If you have company, tell jokes and old stories, play board games, chess, or just talk to each other. Be observant of how this affects the mood of individuals and the dynamics of your family. You may be surprised (hint: it’s for good, usually).
Sport has a variety of uses for training preparedness.
Practicing a sport is good for the mind, the body, and the soul. It builds character, determination, group mentality, reflexes, and lots more. It’s also a big stress killer and clears the mind: sweating out problems and anxiety never fails.
Sports also teach other important lessons that can be applied to survival: how to respect our limits, how to play the long game, how to persevere even when we’re tired, to bear suffering or embrace pain for a greater good, how to better use and conserve energy and effort. Most important, perhaps, it keeps us healthy, flexible, and strong – all assets for when SHTF. A lot can be done at home during these exercises. Be creative.
Getting the family involved in training preparedness is important.
This is important for anyone living with others. The way I’ve found to not look too much like a crazy prepper or tin foil hatter, and at the same time get others not just involved but interested and looking for an award to participating, is by turning this into some sort of a game.
Adults will understand it’s training, but kids will willfully join in if there’s a fun or a challenging component. The harder part may be trying to keep some OPSEC about it – that is, talking everyone into not going out posting on social media and boasting about these exercises. But I don’t have all the answers, and every family is different, so you’ll have to figure this out. If you have pets make sure to include them, too.
Use it or lose it.
Preparations, whether gear, resources, skills, whatever, work much, much better if they get integrated into our quotidian. It doesn’t have to be anything too intensive or time-consuming, just ways to add a bit here and there, but in a frequent and consistent way. Whatever system we have in place – stockpiles, alternative energy generating arrangements, security, etc. – should be constantly used and cycled to keep resources fresh, updated, adjusted, and regularly upgraded. Prepping is, in fact, no different than most other things in life, so don’t underestimate the power of compounding.
What are your thoughts on the matter, though? Do you have more to add to the conversation? Let us know in the comments below!
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
Fabian, boy, and how!
Until covid I owned and ran an expedition service for clients above the Arctic circle in Alaska. Before that I logged 8 seasons as a professional assistant guide in that same state.
There is a phenomenon which will, in nearly 100% of everyone I’ve observed, manifest. I’ve searched through piles of psych materials and have never found anything written to explain it. So I made up my own name. And I call it: Auditory Pacification
The modern mind is so accustomed to constant, incessant input, that when thrust (albeit voluntarily) into the silence that is the bush, (I mean real, deep, hard, endless silence) the modern mind will do anything to occupy (pacify) it’s need for input. Guys would wake me up in the middle of the night, or comment over breakfast about hearing a plane in the distance or a generator (for whatever reason a running generator seems to be a go to for many). Guys would get fighting mad at me when I’d explain that it’s their mind throwing a temper tantrum.
Guys that would either go out with me or meet me after being dropped would follow the same general pattern with slight variances. 1) excitement/elation 2) seriousness/concentration 3) inexplicable giddiness/rambling 4) moodiness/outbursts
Your article is spot on. Train. By training your mind will allow your muscles to function properly when you need them to most.
not just auditory. electronic interaction (internet, twitter, etc), educational input, entertainment, news, dining out, driving, there are many sources of stimulation that many people take for granted. many people will have negative emotional reactions to this loss of input.
Excellent article and great reminders.
Much wisdom n insight
Last summer I decided not to use air conditioning during the day and just a small air conditioner in the bedroom at night. I found that I couldn’t get as much done as I used to during the heat of the day. You might say, “big deal” until you realize that I am in my sixties!
“listen to music”
make your own.
The best training preparedness in my experience is poverty. Learning to make do or do without because of necessity makes it easier to prepare for such situations while you are better off.
Know what is most important for survival and comfort, and prepare for those things when times are good. Then you won’t feel so deprived when the SHTF.
The fight of the masses for toilet rolls should cast some light on what would be their response to a seismic collapse of civilized order. Preparation is key to weathering the initial storm but strength of community is the only way forward for long term survival and to stand any chance after the event of rebuilding our lives into some form of normality. Regards
“strength of community is the only way forward”
historically, “strength of community” has meant a strong man dictator – in the second stage, a bandit lord who has risen to prominence and tells a community, “I’ll loot you regularly but mildly, and in return I’ll defend you from all the other bandits”.
Whoa! Fabian! You recall my article about my week long experiment of reducing water usage? Some commentors nearly lost their minds if they could not take their daily, 20 minute hot shower!
Cold water shower? Lets not get crazy here! 😉
I have gone 48 hrs only drinking water, no food. It wasn’t bad, I lost a little weight. No real hunger pains but it did jack up my digestive system and it took a couple of days to recover. I realized a little food can take you a long ways.
Being on a limited budget creativity helps.
Great article – to the bone – & great comments adding a bit more – thanks for it all-as I’ve done some of the @home training I came across this idea & I’m trying to get my daughter & girrlfriends to get the habit of ‘the pee rag’ — guys can just shake it – lucky- pee is sterile, you know – so having a washcloth/rag damp & @the ready is toilet paper saving ! I’ve used rainwater to rinse it out between uses- dip a cup in water, pour on rag, wring out over a plant if available- feels good & clean to me. for # 2 I’m amazed to find lots of people ball the TP up & hope for the best cleaning job – for me, I’ve found folding it, using it – sometimes you can get a second fold on it for ‘another swipe’ -! making your stockpile go much further – hope this is not TMI – but friends have told me it it was timely info. thanks for reading – light a candle for the world-