The most important survival essential rests in the space that lies about six inches between your ears, residing in a mass that is less than a kilo and a half. It is your attitude and it is the most crucial element for survival, indeed for life.
A Positive Mental Attitude is the most important essential in wilderness survival and a negative one the most detrimental. Positivity can be developed, indeed needs to be developed. If there is a problem, worrying is not going to help. What will help is the right solution. You can only find a solution if you have the right mental attitude and are willing to find a solution. Basic common sense, often in times of panic, becomes very uncommon. Develop the right mental strength.
The right mental attitude is really in the middle of a continuum. Some people shudder at the very thought of venturing into the outdoors. They are so scared even before the experience that they are better off in their concrete jungles than in the natural world. These people are at one end of the attitude continuum. At the other end of the spectrum are the Know-Alls. Over confident, over zealous, they are prime candidates to find themselves in trouble and lead their compatriots into trouble. Nature allows us to walk on her bosom, we cannot conquer her, we have to collaborate with her. If you try and take on Mother Nature as an adversary, something to be overcome and subjugated, she will quickly and quietly jump up and bite you in the ass! Be aware of these people and do not become one yourself.
The right mental attitude is bang in the middle of this continuum. Self assured, calm, composed, cool, able to take informed decisions, decisions stemming from the knowledge gained through training and experience. You will not only be in a better position to help yourself and your group, but you will also be the person others look to for help, guidance and inspiration. Maybe you do not want it, but you will find yourself thrust into a leadership role.
Without a right mental attitude or frame of mind, you are not going to do too well. You will panic, hyperventilate, dehydrate, might even injure yourself running here and there purposelessly, and none of these things will get you out of the predicament you find yourself in.
Just tell yourself that panic is not going to help. Tell yourself repeatedly that it cannot be the end of the road.
You have to get back to your family, to your children, to your girl friend or boy friend, you need to feed the goldfish swimming in the bowl back home. Find a reason to find a way out of your predicament. Anyone can give up and die. Do not do that.
You need to overcome all the natural emotions when faced with a stressful situation - fear, anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, loneliness, boredom, guilt, etc. All these add to your wanting to give up. The will to survive in a life and death situation often governs who survives and who does not. The stress will not go away, but you need to be able to deal with it a lot more calmly.
Getting beaten by stress will ensure that you make mistakes, mistakes that can be very costly. By worrying you will not be able to function properly, you will burn calories unnecessarily and fruitlessly, might even injure yourself by not following the basic principles of survival.
Read about people who are survivors and what they did to really dig in and push further.
Get into their minds and how they reacted and what they did when faced with a life and death situation. If they could survive, so can you. You have to find a reason to survive and do the best you can, given the situation you find yourself in.
Remember Aron Ralston who spent 127 hours deep in a canyon, his arm trapped under a boulder. He cut off his own hand and lived to tell the tale.
A friend of my family was severely injured when he parachuted behind enemy lines in the 1971 war. He took out his kukri and cut off his own leg to be subsequently evacuated to safety. He went on to become a Lieutenant General and served for many glorious years in the Indian Army.
Lincoln Hall was descending from Everest when he was hit with severe mountain illness. His team gave him up for dead and headed down. Lincoln survived the night at around 28,000 feet, without anything but the clothes he was wearing and was rescued the next day. When asked later why he thought he lived, he said, “I always come back to my family!” That one thought kept him from sinking away into oblivion and death. Even the doctors and psychologists who treated Lincoln could not provide any reason why he should have lived, apart from the fact that Lincoln wanted to live. A lot of people want to live, but still die. But they die a more valiant death, trying till their last breath to do the best they can. It is more glorious death than succumbing to circumstances.
After my motorcycle accident in 2006 I was told that I might never ever walk again, or if I did walk, it would be with the help of crutches ... for the rest of my life. There was talk of gangrene and amputation. I could have been devastated, but refused to spend the rest of my days away from what I loved best ... the outdoors in general and the mountains in particular.
Within twelve months of the surgery, lots of bone cement and screws embedded in my knee, and many weeks recovering in bed, I completed the three things I had promised myself I would do:
(1) ride a motorbike again,
(2) visit my Buddhist teacher in Dharamshala, and
(3) make a road trip to Ladakh.
Develop the right mental attitude and you can survive almost anything. That is something only you can do for yourself, it cannot be taught.
You need not be born with it, you just have to learn it for yourself. You have to realise its importance and consciously relegate fear and panic into the netherworld and develop a positive mental attitude. Depression, frustration, panic, fear, an unknown future, will all try and force you into giving up. Never listen to those demons in the mind, they are your enemies and though they speak in a sweet voice, they are not your friends. Banish them forever into the darkest recesses of your consciousness.