A wilderness emergency or the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it situation could happen at any time, to anyone, anywhere. When confronted with such an unexpected survival scenario, man has the potential to beat incredible odds, overcome many challenges, and come out alive.

However, the chances of survival in an unfamiliar and disastrous situation heavily depend on the person’s attitude. Do you have a survival attitude?

You may be armed with all the resources you need to survive: food, drinking water, first aid kit and medicines, and even weapons and fire making tools. But without the right attitude, your chances of survival are dim. Here are 12 vital tips that will help you think and act productively and, most importantly, survive when disaster strikes.

#1: Stay Calm and Weigh Your Next-step Options

When facing a disaster, it is only natural for the brain to be overwhelmed, causing it to switch to panic (or ‘flight or fight’) mode. It is critical, however, to stay calm and consider what next steps to take. The best way to go about it is to evaluate ways to get out of the crisis in small increments. Concentrate on one small thing to tackle, then do it before moving on to the next.

#2: Have Faith in Your Capabilities

Having faith that you can do something and that it will make a difference in an unfortunate situation will empower you to take action. If you surrender and believe that everything that happens is out of your control, you will not get anything done, and your situation will not change for the better. Believing that your action will make a difference significantly increases your chances of survival.

Hiking man from behind (closeup)

#3: Develop a Simple Mantra

A mantra is a simple inspirational phrase that you say to yourself to help you get through a tough situation. A mantra such as “I am strong, I will survive”, “Stop, Think, and Plan”, or “Stay Calm, Stay Alive” will help you concentrate on important tasks and clear your mind for better thinking. Repeating your mantra out loud will reinforce your focus and keep you strong by keeping distracting thoughts and fear away while trying to survive a disaster.

#4: Think Positively

Negative thoughts will quickly discourage you mentally and physically, causing you to fall apart and lose out in a disaster situation. See the positive side of everything you do and tackle challenges as they arise, keeping your eyes on the positive outcome of the situation. It is easier to overcome obstacles when you have an active survival attitude.

#5: Have a Plan … and a Backup Plan

Making a plan for your course of action is not enough. You must also have a contingency plan to follow in case things don’t go as you expect. While it may be difficult to think straight in a survival situation, be sure to formulate a plan that is concrete and practical. For instance, if you are lost in the middle of the woods, your plan A could be to walk north to get out and plan B could be to backtrack halfway and head east.

#6: Watch Your Denials

The human mind is wired to think that a disaster could never happen. This is why it’s so difficult to think clearly and realistically when you find yourself in a survival situation. Your mind finds comfort in denying a situation, and this only hinders your chance of acting right and thinking of practical solutions to survive. Keep your denials in check by learning to see the situation the way it is rather than how you wish it would be.

#7: Trust Your Instincts, Especially About People

What your gut tells you could determine whether you live or die. In the face of a disaster, other people often pose the most danger (see also: The Walking Dead). Trust your instincts before getting comfortable with people you don’t know. Your instincts can tell you a lot about a person so don’t ignore the signals. For instance, you should never go hiking in a deserted forest with someone you do not trust.

Silhouette of a lone hiker at sunset

#8: Keep Your Cool, Stay in Control

When things start going wrong, it’s critical that you maintain your cool to stay in control of the situation. Most people easily get upset when things go south, letting their emotions get the best of them. Unless you remain calm even in stressful situations, the stress can take a toll on the mind and body, causing you to make wrong decisions. Practice staying calm in everyday situations to be more prepared when you need to maintain control in a survival disaster.

#9: Learn to Foresee the Greater Effects of Your Decisions

When you make a decision to act, you must first look at the broader picture of the effects your actions will result in. Many people think that a small action does not have a huge impact on the big picture, but it does.

Imagine evening traffic as an example. If one driver slams on the brakes, it can cause a serious traffic pile-up with cascading accidents that result in injuries to or the deaths of other people. Realize that every small decision can have significant consequences, and they must be exhaustively thought-out in a survival situation.

#10: Don’t Let Your guard Down

Stay on guard and alert until you are sure the danger is over, or you are out of the disaster situation. Avoid making assumptions that you are in the clear just because you complete an important objective. In most cases this is when danger lies. To be safe, keep your wits until you are certain the danger or disaster situation is completely over.

#11: Weigh the Risk vs. Reward in Every Survival Situation

In every rewarding situation, there are risks you must be willing to take. For instance, if you are in the middle of the forest hungry and with a single energy bar left, you must weigh whether it is worth eating it to get the energy to find your way out of the forest or saving it for tomorrow and finding somewhere safe for the night. Do not be reckless. Ask yourself: will the price you pay be worth the reward?

#12: Try New Things

Believe it or not, sometimes getting out of the comfort zone and trying new things in your everyday life can prove beneficial in a disaster situation. Trying new activities and learning new skills now will help you think out of the box when you find yourself in a crisis. It is advisable that you learn something hard or try doing the things you know using different techniques. Always exercising your mind expands your mental capabilities to help you deal with disasters and unfamiliar situations better.

Want to develop a bulletproof survival attitude? Get the complete guide: Developing the Survival Attitude: A Guide for the New Officer