Practical Prepping Mindset: The Survival Stoic Toolkit

Last update:
We are reader supported! We participate in affiliate programs and we may be compensated (at no cost to you) when you use our links and make a purchase.

Imagine facing a disaster – a raging wildfire threatening your home or a sudden power outage plunging your city into darkness. Or, like our founder, Jason, perhaps you’re faced with an EF3 tornado right in your backyard.

We’ve all heard about how important it is to be prepared these situations. For instance, FEMA recommends that everyone has at least two weeks’ worth of food and water.

But what if there’s a more valuable tool than a well-stocked bug-out bag or emergency food kit? While a prepared kit provides physical security, cultivating a prepping mindset is equally, if not more, essential for navigating emotional turmoil and making sound decisions in a crisis.

Prepping Mindset
Showing the four virtues that make up our toolkit
These ideas make up our toolkit for developing a prepping mindset

Many people don’t realize that decision-making is not a rational process. It’s subject to personal biases, shortcuts, and educated guesses, which is even more true during a crisis. Preparing your mind beforehand is important if you want to make good decisions during a crisis.

By using our Survival Stoic Toolkit alongside your bug-out bag, you’ll equip yourself to weather any storm, literally and metaphorically.

The Allure of the Bug-Out Bag: A False Sense of Security

Disaster films are extremely popular. We see scenes of crumbling cities and desperate scrambles of society. The media thrives on our amplified fears with constant reports on natural disasters and looming apocalypses.

These fears fuel our “bug out bag” mentality – a checklist approach to preparedness centered on gathering essentials like food, water, and survival gear. While a well-stocked bag is undoubtedly important, it paints an incomplete picture of disaster readiness. Simply put, it isn’t enough.

A Disaster Checklist with emergency preparedness items
A good checklist will only get you so far

The limitations of “checklist survival” become clear when considering the immense emotional and mental toll that disasters inflict.

  • The Media’s Fear Factor: Disaster narratives sell. Almost every news article or segment includes information that is the “worst ever.” This fosters anxiety and a narrow focus on physical survival, overlooking the importance of mental well-being. Everyone mentions all the physical destruction after a tornado, but no one mentions the risk of PTSD for the survivors!
  • The Checklist Trap: If you’ve been around for a while, you’ve probably noticed that we have quite a few checklists. We have a survival gear checklist, a bug-out bag checklist, and even a get home bag checklist. However, we will admit that these aren’t enough. They don’t address our internal battles—fear, uncertainty, and the need for clear thinking in chaotic situations.
  • Only the Physical: Disasters leave emotional scars long after the physical threats subside. Many involved in natural disasters are diagnosed with PTSD and similar mental health problems later. Over 50% of survivors will develop PTSD, and a third of those will suffer for years. A bug-out bag cannot soothe your soul!

Stoicism 101: A Timeless Philosophy for Modern Challenges

Disaster preparedness extends far beyond the material. Yes, you need food and shelter to live. While the Rule of Three states that you can only live three hours without shelter and three days without water, I’d argue that you can’t live longer than three minutes without a sound mind. Wrong decisions will be made without it, and keeping that sound mind is even harder when you’re low on food.

This is where Stoicism steps in. This exceptionally practical philosophy was famously used by the Roman (and modern) military, political exiles, and slaves. Developed in ancient Greece and Rome, Stoicism emphasizes the importance of reason and emotional resilience.

It was even used by US POWs in Vietnam as a way to get them through years of torture and horrendous living conditions. The US Air Force survival handbook actually opens with a section on Stoicism.

Stoicism is not about suppressing emotions but rather about understanding them and developing tools to manage them. It’s about making your emotions work for you, not the other way around.

This philosophy can help us in our everyday lives and during once-in-a-lifetime emergencies. Stoicism teaches us how to fortify our inner strength to approach disasters and trials with clarity.

The Survival Stoic Toolkit – A Prepping Mindset

If you’ve been preparing for emergencies for any length of time, you’ve probably used at least one checklist or two! I’d bet that all of those checklists were focused on the physical – the things you “need” to have to survive.

Training the mind is just as important, though. Of course, many stoic concepts are a bit “vaguer” than purchasing 20 cans of peaches, which is probably why they don’t get as much emphasis. However, I’d argue that training yourself to use these mental concepts is more important than stocking up on a specific amount of food.

All the food and equipment in the world won’t help you if you can’t keep your cool when things get stressful!

Here are some key principles that form the foundation of our Survival Stoic toolkit:

  • Dichotomy of Control: This core principle teaches us to differentiate between what we can control and what we can’t. When facing disaster, we can control our actions—creating a plan, gathering supplies, and staying informed. However, the event itself and the actions of our past selves are beyond our control. By recognizing this distinction, we avoid wasting energy worrying about things we can’t change and spend more time on what we can.
  • Momento Mori: Literally, this phrase translates to “Remember, you must die.” This principle isn’t meant to be a downer. However, it is meant to help us prioritize what really matters. In disaster preparedness, this principle reminds us what really holds value – our relationships, our well-being, and our ability to act with virtue. It’s not about who gathers all the best tools!
  • Virtues: The stoics’ answer to the rules of life was acting virtuously, even when no one around us is. These virtues are courage, justice, wisdom, and temperance. This translates to knowing what to fear, knowing when to help others, making sound decisions, and knowing what to pursue and avoid. By prioritizing these virtues, we can not only survive during disasters but thrive in them.
Chart showing the Dichotomy of Control
The Dichotomy of Control

You can’t go out and buy courage, which is probably why these principles see much less emphasis in the prepping community. However, you can train yourself to be courageous, remember what matters, and stop worrying about things you can’t control. Practice now can make all the difference later.

Of course, integrating these principles requires more than just memorizing them. Here are some practical tips to help build your mental toolkit:

  • Create a “Mental Inventory”: Make a mental list of things you can control in a disaster – having a plan, staying calm, managing your emotions, etc. If you’re worried about a particular disaster, consider what you could control during that specific situation and have a plan to do so.
  • Pratice Your Circle of Control: Throughout your daily life, consider what you can and cannot control. Next time you feel anxious or stressed, ask yourself what you really control and focus on that. You can only control your thoughts and actions, not those of anyone else.
  • Practice Mindfulness Exercises: Stoicism emphasizes living in the present moment. As Seneca said, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” So, aim to spend more time in reality and less time in your head.
  • Develop a Plan for Helping Others: The “lone wolf” survival strategy isn’t practical. We’re social creatures. If you’ve ever seen the show Alone or another survival series, you’ve probably noticed that isolation can often be harder to overcome than physical survival. Include others in your preparedness strategy to avoid this mental obstacle.

Benefits of the Survival Stoic Toolkit

Of course, all of this sounds great in theory. But, there are real benefits to internalizing these principles. When you’re in the middle of a crisis, you revert back to your lowest form of training. If you’ve done any first aid preparedness, you’ve probably heard this. However, it works the same for our minds, as well.

If your first reaction to a disaster is to panic, you aren’t going to be much help when a crisis hits, even if you’ve completed every survival checklist possible. You must train your mind so that your first reaction is focusing on what you can control.

Anxious man with his head covered in a public area
Panic and Anxiety can set in quickly if you do not have the proper mental tools

With these tools, we can identify the problem for what it is, not our biased opinion of it. Then, we can take the next steps to solve the problem and move on to the next step. Focusing on the cause or whose fault it is leads to hesitation and is a waste of time.

By cultivating these principles, you can:

  • Reduce Anxiety and Fear: Disasters naturally trigger our fight-or-flight response. However, by focusing on what you can control, you can better manage these emotions. Practices like mindfulness can help us act out of reason – not fear.
  • Sound Decision-Making: We’ve all done stuff out of our emotions that we regret later. By cultivating our prepping mindset, we can make better decisions under pressure by utilizing our emotions instead of being used by them.
  • Increased Resilience: We’ve talked a lot about resilience. A prepper’s emphasis should be on resilience, not on surviving a particular event or disaster. Stoicism directly fosters resilience by encouraging us to focus on what we control. By fostering a “go-with-the-flow” attitude, we can bounce back from setbacks and adapt to changing circumstances faster.

Beyond the Bug Out Bag: A Holistic Plan to Preparedness

The bug-out bag and Survival Stoic Toolkit are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I’d argue that they’re both absolutely necessary for survival. Focusing exclusively on one won’t get you very far.

Without the mental preparedness to make good decisions, all the bug out bags in the world won’t help you. At the same time, a sound mind won’t be helpful if you don’t have any food to eat!

Your bug out bag takes care of your physical needs, and the Survival Stoic Toolkit takes care of your mental needs. By combining both, you equip yourself to weather any storm, both literally and metaphorically.

Disaster as an Opportunity for Growth

Seneca also said, “Misfortune is virtue’s opportunity.” We cannot become our best selves without adversity. A plant that’s spent its whole life indoors wilts quickly in a frost. Therefore, the real hurdle is to see potential crises as the opportunities they are.

The benefits of Stoicism go far beyond disaster preparedness, though. This is one of the few prepping tools you’ll find handy even if you never find yourself in a disaster. All those freeze-dried meals might sit in your basement for 20 years, but you’ll use your Survival Stoic Toolkit every day of your life.

In a way, it may be one of the most practical survival checklists.

So, I recommend familiarizing yourself with Stoic principles, practicing mindfulness exercises, and developing a plan to not only survive but thrive in the face of adversity. By embracing these principles, you’ll be better prepared for anything life throws your way.

As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Photo of author
Kristin is a fulltime writer with an obsession for being prepared. She spends much of her time working towards making her family self-sufficient, including homeschooling her children. When she isn’t writing, she’s shooting with her husband or homesteading.