Psychological Comfort Food: Living, Not Just Surviving
Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, concerns about the collapsing dollar, economic stagnation, chronic unemployment, and global threats over the last several years have brought a lot of attention to preparedness communities, or “preppers.” These networks have become expert in researching and devising ways to prepare their homes to be havens of health and security in the case of local or national collapses. Food storage, water, medicine, first aid, emergency lighting, heating, and other contingencies are the ingredients of a booming “emergency preparedness” industry. “Preppers” support one another with ideas and resources.
The collapse of our economic structure is a real possibility. The potential that enemy attack, domestic or foreign, will interrupt government and commerce on a large scale, is greater that most want to believe. The Americans who have prepared themselves to weather a period of economic challenges will not have to endure traumatic interruptions to their way of life.
Our pantries are not the only consideration for those who prepare for hard times. It’s wise to ask if there is a way to prepare the mind, heart, and spirit for the moments of crisis so that panic may be mitigated, even avoided? The psychological ramifications of a national crisis have not been as well addressed. These are matters that those who take home and family preparedness seriously will want to consider. In a time of shortage and crisis, our own emotional adaptability and resilience, our spirituality and faith in God, and our relationships with family and friends become the most critical survival tools of all.
Prayer: The comforting power of prayer is not limited to a religious appeal to Deity. Prayer and meditation can lower stress hormones, decrease the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and focus the mind to those things which are most important. Prayer can be a source of comfort and hope. Individuals who are religious and employ personal pray in their daily routines are happier, more optimistic, and more able to withstand life’s challenges. Make prayer and meditation habits now so they become a well-honed survival tools when you most need them.
Relationships: We can prepare for adversity, which may come at any time in the form of unemployment, death, or natural disaster, by strengthening our personal relationships. People who are isolated or separated from friends and loved ones during times of catastrophe are extremely vulnerable. Our families and relationships are more than the sum of their parts. A network of invested individuals who provide physical support, and practical and problem solving skills, are indispensable when a disaster may require fortifying a home, self defense, gathering provisions, caring for small children, or travel away from familiar surroundings. Nurture your relationships now, and network with your neighbors and community so that you will not be alone when disaster hits.
Physical Health: Obesity, diabetes, inactivity, and other life-style related illnesses are, more-often-than-not, avoidable. One must be in charge of his or her health and functioning in the event of a crisis. Emergency and medical help may not be available, or affordable, for an extended period of time. Store at lease a one month’s supply of essential medications. Have back-up power sources for your medical equipment, such as c-pap devices. Discuss with your physician how to handle your health matters if there are no doctors or medical personnel available. Have medical books on hand. Individuals with severe addictions to street drugs will be subject to withdrawal symptoms, which can be deadly in the absence of medical supervision. Take charge of your health. In an emergency there may be no one to care for your medical needs other than yourself and your family.
Psychological Health: Some psychological problems due to illness, defects, or syndromes, cannot be avoided. But most mental health problems that affect our society are preventable. Alcoholism, drug abuse, and unhealthy and abusive relationships are more costly and destructive than organic mental illness. If you have a mental health diagnosis and require medications, be sure to have a supply on hand for at lease one month. If substance addiction, conduct disorders, or unhealthy relationships affect your ability to function and relate to others, seek help now. Psychotherapy, 12-step programs, spiritual reconciliation, religious practices, and activities which enhance essential relationships should be emphasized. Stay active, expose yourself to positive people and enjoyable pastimes. Pray, attend church, serve in the community, and spend time with friends. Seek out happy people. Employ habits that augment your mental health just as you would exercise and eat well to support your physical health. Your psychological and physical health at the outset of a crisis period will determine whether you thrive or merely survive.
Comfort Food: As you plan for your long-term storage needs, assess those eating habits that you associate with comfort and pleasure. Many foods bring comfort simply because they are part of a predictable and safe routine. A time of crisis is not a good time to try to give up sweets or any of those things to which we may be mildly addicted. The stress of physical and psychological withdrawal from a favorite food or beverage may compound the trauma of a crisis. Keep a supply of those comfort items on hand. You may, of necessity, eventually have to give up those habit foods, but don’t try to do it overnight. Allow yourselves and your families the luxury of pleasing foods during an emergency. Hot chocolate, candies, cookie mixes, cakes, soda pop, salty snacks, sweetened cereal and many other simple and pleasing foods are appropriate for short-term food storage. The energy needs of people increase during times of stress. Extra calories during a crisis can actually be beneficial.
Objects which bring comfort can be kept as well. Photographs, mementos, favorite pillows or blankets, books and music, and companion pets, can lend a sense of peace and assurance when the rest of the world becomes uncertain and unfamiliar.
Recreation: In the case of a local or national crisis, those things to which we turn for entertainment may be swept away. What would you do in the absence of television, movies, video games, sports, or the Internet? How would you pass your empty time? Would you have the interpersonal skills to spend many hours per day with other people, not having the usual distractions to buffer your connections? Prepare for a dearth of diversions by starting now to read books, play board games, play simple sports, take walks, draw, paint, sculpt,and find ways to meaningfully fill anxious hours should they come.
Learn how to plant a garden. Raise livestock. Preserve your own food. Sew. Learn basic home and mechanical maintenance. Write in a journal. Play a musical instrument. Minds and hands that are busy and productive will less impacted by the fear and anxiety of a crisis than those which are idle and aimless.
If you haven’ already, begin now to nurture your relationships with your friends, family, and God. People have always survived tough times. Psychological preparations are as, or more, essential than food storage and self defense. The fortifications of those intangibles such as spirit, will, and loving relationships should be central to any emergency crisis plan.
By Marjorie Haun 9/13/14