How to Cope with Loneliness

So, civilization is in shambles, anarchy is the order of the day, you’re fleeing whatever catastrophe zone you were in when disaster struck. You’ve survived off the land and have been making steady progress toward a safe place to survive. You haven’t seen a soul for weeks and the loneliness is starting to weigh down on you like a slab of marble on your chest. How do you cope with being alone for an indefinite period of time?

The reaction to loneliness is called a “coping strategy” and fits into one of four categories: active solitude, spending money, social contact, and sad passivity. Active solitude is where you stay active, perform tasks to keep yourself mentally and physically active. Spending money is more about getting out of your normal environment and acquiring new things and less about the actual act of spending money. Social contact is striving to talk to people and have social interactions with others. Sad passivity is when you sit around feeling sorry for yourself, partaking in activities that exacerbate the empty feeling of loneliness you have.

Most experts agree that keeping yourself mentally and physically fit is the best way to cope with loneliness. In a survival situation it’s important to conserve energy, but if food and water are plentiful it can’t hurt to do a few calisthenics first thing in the morning. If you are in a stable situation, you can go for a jog or a walk.

Mental activity is just as important as physical activity. Putting your thoughts to paper is probably the best thing you can do. It allows you to reflect on your day, what happened, what you were thinking, thoughts, hopes, fears, etc. It allows you to process any difficult things from the day. The problem is that you need paper to write on and a pen to write with. Even if you have these things, how long will they last? By no means am I saying you shouldn’t keep a journal, you just need to be aware of your supplies. Whether you brought one with you or you find it in an abandoned gas station on your way, reading a book can keep your mind active. Teach yourself a skill, or practice one you already know. Not only will this keep your mind active, but this skill may come in handy later on when re-establishing society.

You can befriend an animal, a domestic cat or dog is best, if you need that social contact. Wild animals can be dangerous to try this with, where domestic animals were born and raised around humans in a civilized environment. It may sound crazy, but if worse comes to worst, start talking to yourself. Its not a very good strategy, but tricking yourself into thinking you are interacting with others is better than nothing.

Prolonged periods of isolation can be incredibly dangerous. In prisons, it has been proven that solitary confinement has lead to suicide, depression, chronophobia and Ganser syndrome. If you want to survive Armageddon, you have to learn to cope with isolation.

Further Reading:

Get in Shape: The Post-Apocalyptic Work Out

One of the things you need to worry about in the post-apocalyptic world is fitness.  The modern mind set of fitness dictates that you run everyday or go to the gym and lift weights on specific machines.  These workouts are essentially designed to make you look good naked and while there’s nothing wrong with that, you need to be “functionally” fit.  These workouts are not efficient at building your body to throw objects, walk or run a long distance over rough terrain, out run a predator, etc.  You want to train your body to perform everyday tasks as efficiently as possible.

First of all, running is good.  You need to be able to run to evade predators and you will probably need to use running as your primary mode of transportation.  On top of this, it is a great cardiovascular excercise.  The more you run, more endurance you build.  While running 6 miles a day can improve all this, you can’t solely rely on that.  Add some sprint training into your routine, run with a weight belt, run stairs, do something more than just the hum drum run.  Running is an aerobic workout, but you need to work your running muscles anaerobically (in an oxygen deprived state).  Working muscles in an anaerobic state is the best way to improve power in those muscles.  It will also give you a little extra push when you feel exhausted and on the verge of collapse.

You need to build your core.  Your core muscles are your abs, lower back muscles, and glutes.  These muscle provide the core of your strength and stability.  Improving these muscle groups will do more for you than improving any other muscle group, plus it provides a solid base for improving your other muscles.  You don’t really notice how important your core is, but without it you have poor balance, poor posture, etc.  There are any number of excercises that can be done to work these muscles, but in my personal opinion: nothing beats pilates.  Pilates was designed specifically to improve the core and build control.  It looks lame and boring, but it is a killer workout, especially if you’re a beginner.  One of the reasons I like it is that it requires no special equipment and can literally be done anywhere that you can lay flat.  You can buy DVD’s to learn the techniques or you can go to your local gym and learn.

Aside from this you should pick up some specialty knowledge: swimming, rock climbing, self-defense,etc.  It was recently suggested to me that parkour would be a good skill to pick up for the apocalypse.  Parkour is a french sport that is sometimes called “freerunning.”  The practitioner adapts their movements in an environment to overcome any obstacles in their way.  They jump off walls, over rails, climb fences, etc.  This is a good example of expert parkour:

I personally think that the key to building and maintaining a functional fitness program is to come up with a routine that you can work with, that pushes you, and that doesn’t require any equipment (in case the apocalypse does come and you have to haul ass away from where you are right now).  Relying on equipment or any particular environment (a gym, paved running path, etc) could be detrimental in the long run.

The United States Marine Corps uses a calisthenic program that they call the “Daily 7”.  This routine covers a very basic workout that is designed as a warmup as stretching routine, but it will do in a pinch as a simple exercise program.

Daily 7 Calisthenics

  • Side Straddle Hops
  • Wide Grip Push-ups
  • Crunches
  • Hand-to-Knee Squats
  • Standing Calf Raises
  • Standing Toe Raises
  • Back Extensions

Accompanying Stretches

  • Forward Neck Flexion
  • Lateral Neck Flexion
  • Lateral Neck Rotation
  • Rounded Shoulder Forward Reach
  • Chest, Shoulder, Biceps Stretch
  • Triceps Stretch
  • Overhead Side Bends
  • Spinal Twist
  • Groin Stretch
  • Kneeling or Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
  • Supine Hamstring Stretch
  • Prone Quadriceps Stretch
  • Straight- and Bent-Knee Standing Calf Stretch

Further Reading