There are times where prepping feels like the hardest thing in the world to do.
Life doesn’t take a pause while you write up your to-do lists, figure out your game plan, then finally execute your plans to prepare for the future. Bank accounts never seem to be full enough (at least in my experience), and dollars don’t magically stretch while you work out what to add to your ever-growing list of items you’ll be needing to stockpile.
Sure, once you get into a rhythm, once you feel like you’ve got the bulk of the hard parts taken care of, maybe you’ll feel a little breathing room. But until then, and when life is throwing you curveballs from every direction: prepping just isn’t easy.
So how do you deal?
Just don’t stop
Now, if you feel like you’re completely burned out, I can understand why you might think taking a break for a few weeks would help. But in my experience, those weeks turn into months, and once they do, picking up where you left off is agony.
When I’ve completely stopped all preparation for extended periods of time, getting back into gear is excruciating for a few different reasons:
- I’m no longer in the mood: The longer I take a break from prepping, the more I feel like procrastinating on my preps.
- I’m out of practice: It takes a lot less time for me to do preps that I’d been thinking about a lot in advance. Trying to get things done from a full stop can be agonizing.
- I forgot where I left off: Figuring out what I was going to do is one of the worst parts of “trying to get back into things.”
- I feel even more overwhelmed: Usually, when I take a break from prepping altogether, it’s because I’m dreading working on a big project that needs to get done. The longer I put off doing these tasks, however, the harder they feel like they will be to do, at least in my experience.
So what’s the fix for those days or weeks where you feel you just cannot do anything at all? Don’t stop completely, instead do something in that time…
Take things one tiny step at a time
Absolutely can’t plant the seedlings you bought for the garden today? Don’t. Too tired to plan out the entire 6-month stockpile list like you said you would by this week? Make an exception. Have a lot of fruits ready to be canned, but are exhausted from doing the housework today? Don’t finish the canning.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not encouraging you to use procrastination to deal with your problems. In fact, saying that would make no sense considering I recently told you not to stop because starting again will be dreadful. All I’m saying here is that if you’re feeling too exhausted to complete a whole project, instead of forcing yourself to do the entire task, do part of it instead.
Yes, we never know when the apocalypse might happen, and the end of the world as we know it could be tomorrow. So yes, technically, you should be working your ass off to prepare today.
But chances are, you’ll have a little more time than today to prepare, and if you’re combatting prepper burnout, stressing yourself out by trying to finish everything today will likely only push you further into exhaustion and make it harder to get done what you need to do tomorrow. Leave yourself some time to rest, but don’t put absolutely everything down.
Taking small steps that you barely notice may even get you farther with your preps than you thought. You’ll stay in gear mentally for executing your preps, won’t forget where you left off, and won’t feel as overwhelmed as if you had simply put everything off for another day.
Take the little wins
Don’t get discouraged if you haven’t progressed in your preps as quickly as you would have liked to. Take each and every tiny step as a small victory.
So you didn’t manage to save up enough money to buy solar panels this month as you’d planned? That’s okay. At least you went to work today, and managed to not spend a dime you didn’t have to. What you’ve saved isn’t enough to get you those solar panels yet, but it’s still a step in the right direction: and certainly worth being proud of!
Getting prepared takes time, and if you work at it consistently, you’ll get there eventually even if you do only take small steps. Don’t be overly critical of the speed of your progression, it does no good to become discouraged, especially if you are still making some progress.
Take the little wins as they come, celebrating the fact that you’re at least a little bit closer to your goal than you were yesterday.
What do you find helps you deal with prepper burnout? Do you just power through it? Do you take long breaks? What do you think is the worst thing you could do if you’re feeling too tired to prep? Let me know in the comments.
dave NJ says
I need to keep adding new skills/hobbies to avoid boredom or “burnout”. This spring I resumed gardening after a long hiatus. Next year maybe bees and a wood gas powered generator. A pizza oven would go nicely on the back 40. If all else fails I will buy another firearm. How about a pair of goats, I could make cheese and yogurt!
Elise Xavier says
That’s a great suggestion – altering between skills or starting new ones in order to keep yourself interested. It’s true, sometimes it gets incredibly frustrating when you redundantly keep prepping in the same area.
Thanks for stopping by with your input Dave!
I think that I have changed my view on “Prepping” for many of the reasons that you’ve mentioned here. I used to be obsessed with the whole stockpiling thing and creating a sustainable “base” should the SHTF, and now I have moved off of that idea.
Part of the reason was that show “Preppers” and seeing the extremes that folks would go to in order to be ready for whatever kind of apocalypse they thought might strike. It occurred to me that it is a no-win situation to try to have sufficient supplies to wait out something so huge. There are several reason for this: 1) How long will the apocalypse last? (since there’s no way of knowing, one can’t be sure that one will have enough to wait it out),; 2) People know you have stuff, or soon will know, once they start snooping around for who has a garden, storage facilities, etc. and they will come and take your things from you (whether it’s the government seizing it for the “greater good” like they did during WWII, or just a lot of desperate neighbors who band together to overrun your defenses to get at your things. 3) It takes a lot of time, space and money that I don’t want to spend, when I could be enjoying my life doing other things.
So my solution was to take the whole prepper thing from a different angle. I do have and keep enough basic supplies to last out most natural disasters, should one strike my area. This doesn’t take up a whole lot of room or money. I have enough to last for about three or four weeks at any given time. But a couple of years ago (going with Cody Lundin’s motto of “the more you know, the less you need”) I started really brushing up and learning survival skills instead of trying to store a lot of things or grow my own food. Bushcraft/woodcraft etc. and learning how to develop primitive living skills are my primary focus these days. I have a rule of three on each skill, i.e., three ways to make a friction fire (I have only got one of them down so far), find and purify water, make shelters, gather food from the wilderness (plants, insects and animals) and learn medicinal properties of plants and the skills to apply them. In addition, I also focus on semi-primitive skills such as those used by Long Hunters, Trappers, Pioneers, settlers, Cowboys etc. that do use things other than stone age equipment, but not rely on modern conveniences (one can store and carry a lot of ferro rods for very little money, for instance).
Taking this tack, has greatly eased my mind concerning the possibility of some sort of catastrophe hitting (which I DO take seriously) and has also made it a lot more cost effective and fun. They are also skills that can be taught and bartered, if needed, to others. One might not have enough food to share with others (or ammunition to protect it) but one can teach any number of people basic skills they need to survive themselves should the need arise.
This mindset keeps me endlessly motivated to keep “Prepping” and preparing for disaster, while saving me tons of time and money compared to buying, growing and storing things in a place that may be overrun or have to be otherwise abandoned.
At any rate, your article does provide great food for thought. Thanks for writing it, and to the two of you for creating this site.
Elise Xavier says
Thanks so much for your comment, Danjo! It’s really encouraging when knowledgeable readers like you share their perspective on things. I have to admit, I agree with you on all this 100%.
Knowledge is undoubtedly a more valuable asset than any possession, and while knives, food stockpiles, and survival gear make it a hell of a lot easier to survive, you’re right, that food will eventually run out, that gear will eventually break, get lost, or be stolen, and you’ll be left with nothing but your own mind to help you to fend for yourself.
What frustrated me the most about starting with the prepper/survivalist lifestyle was pretty much how steep the learning curve felt. It’s overwhelming! As you’ve mentioned, there are countless techniques, bushcraft skills, and primitive mechanisms you can learn in order to help you with surviving. Your method of trying to master at least 3 techniques in each field is damn smart. After you’ve learned enough skills to feel well-rounded, going back and adding more skills to your “repertoire” so to speak will definitely be possible, but at least that gives you a good, well-rounded background knowledge, and will make you feel assured if you haven’t got the right setting/tools/environment to use, say, the only method of purification you happen to know.
Really great comment, thanks so much for taking the time to write it, and thanks for the compliment on the site :).
Yeah, I agree about the learning curve being steep, which is what led me to break it down the way I did. I primarily focus on semi-modern survival skills and camp craft from around the late 1800’s through the early 20th century. This way, I figure that the equipment and skills I use will:
1) not require modern electrical batteries or resources, but will work better/more reliably than stone-age skills. I would rather use ferro rods than actual flint to make fire with, but I’d rather use flint than friction etc.
2) it provides me and those with me with a way to survive that isn’t too far removed from modern comforts (it’s easier to go from living in a modern home to a cabin with a wood stove, than it would be to go from a modern home to a tent or wigwam etc). It would be easier for people to adjust to living like they did in Little House on the Prairie, than to living like a Plains Indian.
I figure that if all hell breaks loose, having enough of the modern stuff on hand to begin with will allow me to brush up on, and further learn and develop the more primitive skills before the modern equipment wears out or runs out. The learning curve will still be steep, but not nearly as steep as it would be if all I had was my cigarette lighter and knew I had to be able to start a friction fire before the fuel ran out. THAT would definitely cause a panic!
That said, even though developing the skills is my primary focus these days. I do believe in storing and acquiring equipment and food etc. to last long enough until a short-term crisis passes, or long enough to enable me to make sure that my essential skills are up to snuff, and hopefully teach others with me some of the basics as well.
I have many knives and other tools, and would hope that I would never have to rely on flint knapping. Good fixed blade knives should be able to last a lifetime, and having several on hand should cover loss or breakage and provide one with bartering material if it should ever get to that.
Looking at how long a knife or other tool will last, I get into my issue with how people abuse them and then get angry if they break. “A tool is only as good as its user.” If one doesn’t have the knife-craft skills developed, they are going to use the knife incorrectly and it will either not do the job properly, or it will break. A small knife will serve an expert well in heavy camp tasks because they know how to, and not to, use it (such as Mors Kochanski and Cody Lundin). They will be able to process larger logs by battening them because they will know enough to cut a few wedges beforehand to split the wood with once the small knife has started the split and reached its depth. The non-skilled will try to pry or beat the knife out of the log once it’s stuck and risk breaking the knife.
By the same token, a large knife in the hands of an experienced user can perform fine carving tasks if the skill is developed (Lofty Wiseman and many South American and African tribes demonstrate this with machetes or parangs).
I tend to opt for a medium sized “all around” knife (4 ½ to 5” blade) that allows me to split the difference between the two types of tasks.
So, like I said, my ideas of “prepping” have changed over the years in terms of where I am putting my time and effort. By going back and forth between the two types of prepping, I can prevent burnout. Even if I have already acquired a particular skill, I can further develop them by teaching them to my daughter, for instance.
Elise Xavier says
Excellent outlook. There’s a lot here, but I’ll have to second what you’ve said about the tool being only as good as it’s user. Although some knives, though, are honestly not worth the money you would pay for, and can actually be blamed for poor production/design, many times, when a knife breaks or gets ruined while doing things like batoning, it’s the user’s fault. We actually wrote an article about proper batoning technique way back because we found there was a lot of controversy about whether it was okay to do (for the knife). Short story: it is, if you do it the right way. The same is true of many other things.
I agree that there are poorly made knives out there that should definitely be avoided. I mainly hear complaints about people breaking Moras (which are good knives), and it’s usually due to poor knifecraft. The smaller the knife, the more skill/techniques will be required to use it on larger tasks.
Elise Xavier says
Definitely their fault if they broke a Mora! I can’t imagine what they’d have to do to pull that off… Vice versa is also true: the larger the knife the harder it will be to use to do smaller tasks. Right tool for the job is important for sure.