COVID-19 has put our minds and bodies under a tremendous amount of stress due to isolation and the fear of the unknown.
However, there are ways extreme survival techniques taught by military personnel can help us during the lockdown.
The British military's Chief Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Extraction (SERE) Instructor has been speaking of how the techniques he teaches for coping under extreme pressure can be useful during a pandemic.
John Hudson is a former Royal Air Force helicopter pilot whose book ‘How To Survive’ shows how strategies for coping with life or death situations can help us in our everyday lives.
After the Coronavirus outbreak and the government imposed lockdown, a new chapter was added - ‘How to Survive a Pandemic’.
The former RAF pilot describes what he teaches people as being “how to camp without a tent on their worst day ever”. He gives them the most fundamental skills to cope with that. He said:
“We’re not teaching people how to rub sticks together and bushcraft their way around the globe, because there’s just too much to know.
“We’re giving people a really, really simple template which means they can hack any situation that’s mentally demanding and physically stressful.”
Speaking to BFBS Radio’s Richard Hatch and Verity Geere, John explained that he often works with people whose job puts them in danger of being "on the wrong side of fortune”. People who might have to eject out of an aeroplane over water or get separated from their mates when they’re in hostile territory.
Those clients might have to contend with hostility from locals, severe weather or jungle wildlife, so they train their clients for all those eventualities and give people a coping mechanism to deal with extreme scenarios, both physically and psychologically.
We can apply all these principles in our day-to-day lives. As the country eases out of lockdown, it will be particularly applicable because everyone will be having to adjust to new situations. He said:
“Even one that’s partially familiar, puts a big stress on your brain and it’s all about coping with that.”
Hacks For Coping During A Pandemic
Know Your Enemy
“Your enemy at the moment is this virus. Water droplets in the air ... so handwashing is vital and that’s just really basic stuff.”
Use Your Time Well
“After acknowledging who your enemy is, you go to the psychological aspects which is to do with coping in isolation. It’s counter-intuitive initially … but you need to use your time well and not kill it.”
Learn about people who have survived in isolation, like astronauts on the International Space Station, because "they can’t nip out for a coffee" nor can lighthouse keepers.
“What lighthouse keepers used to do at the end of their shift was they would have a half-hour conversation with the guy coming on shift and they would do that, even though they really wanted to go and get their heads down.
"They would have a 30-minute conversation to wake the next person up properly so that they’re alert and on their task.
“We can become a lighthouse keeper for our friends. If you know someone who is isolated, give them a call.
“Do that 30-minute hand-over brief, possibly over a cup of tea that will just wake them.”
Look Out For Changes
When video calling, look out for non-verbal communications.
“One of the first senses anyone loses in isolation, or any survival situation is their sense of humour.
“If they’re starting to be a little bit edgy that’s the canary in the mine to check in with them a bit more often, make sure they’re coping OK.”