Maintaining Sanity After SHTF

This is a guest post by Claire aka GA Red and entry for our non-fiction writing contest.

They say that mindset will be what gets you through TEOTWAWKI (or any kind of stressful situation) and different people use different things to help maintain their sanity – some are “hobbies” and some are not. I have seen movies about prisoners of war who weren’t allowed to have a bible or didn’t have a bible, but were able to recite bible verses that reminded them that there is always hope – faith is something that no one can take. I have also seen a movie where music helped a Jewish man survive WWII. Not everyone survives all situations but it seems those who have something they can hold onto like music or faith fare better than those without.

For our family, music is what helps us through stressful times. Music is a really big part of all our lives from family members who play instruments and/or sing, to favorite songs heard on the radio, and even a non-profit for getting instruments to kids who want to learn to play. As such, one of our prepping areas is to make sure we have instruments and music. Honestly, the instruments and music were with us long before the prepping, but making sure to get copies of sheet music of songs we really enjoy is important too, especially newer stuff. Another thing is having extra strings for guitars or violins and reeds for clarinets. Repair parts are necessary too and memorizing songs is excellent as well.

If music is important, but no one plays or sings, being able to play CDs, records or tapes may not be that easy. Kate in GA has that part figured out and has a good article on how to have music without electricity, even when you don’t play.

Another important stress reliever for some in our family is reading. To say we have plenty of books in the house is not exactly accurate as there are never enough books available for true book lovers. However, I have to say we do have quite a variety from children’s books to text books, fiction to non-fiction and just about everything in between. We have books about machining and tooling, cookbooks of all kinds, older World Book Encyclopedias and a set of gardening encyclopedias. Books aren’t just for helping maintain sanity but will be useful for continued learning for the adults and teaching children if there are no schools. Extra copies of some books may even be used for barter.

Crafts are important for some – sewing, crocheting, knitting, quilting, woodworking, etc. I have seen people who can knit really fast and it seems to relax them. It’s also a way to be productive when you aren’t very mobile otherwise. Activities that are considered crafts now may be useful skills later to keep your family fed, clothed and warm.

So, what brings you the most comfort when times are stressful? Will your “hobby” do double-duty in a SHTF scenario? Whatever it is that helps you, are you prepping to keep it in your life?

Prizes for this round in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive – Two (2) Just In Case… Classic Assortment Survival Food Buckets courtesy of LPC Survival, a $150 gift certificate for Remington ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner, aWonder Junior Deluxe grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Neads and a one year subscription to the Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable .
  2. Second place winner will receive – One case of Future Essentials Canned Organic Green Costa Rican Monte Crisol Coffee courtesy of and Solo Stove and Solo Pot Courtesy of
  3. Third place winner will receive – a copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ courtesy and a copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy of

Be sure to read the rules before entering… This contest will end on January 15 2014

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. You can’t lose what you never had. BAHAHAHAHA!!!

    (OK, I’m through messin’ wit’ya’!!! ; )

  2. Having a set routine for everyone so that when they get up they know what needs to be done is also important. It creates a sense of order and stability that is lost when things go bad. Fluff escapism books and a variety of games helps to keep the morale up.

    • Texanadian. I knew a guy who was on the navy from 1927 to 1947. When he got out of the navy he kept his navy routine. He got up at the same times and etc. He did that til he went to a nursing home when he was in his late 90`s

  3. mom of three says:

    Playing game’s, singing, drawing having a bucket if crayons, pens, pencils , paper. If you hsve a recipe for homemade play dough, that can be fun for kids.

  4. sw't 'tater says:

    Well stated, many things will have increased value, especially as initial supplies are used. With the increased costs of everything we buy, having extra supplies is not easy in any “field of enjoyment.
    My top few would be reading/learning, crocheting, and diggin’ in the dirt..Since I married a bookworm, we often pick up new -to -us books , from one of the places which offer them at reasonable prices…and re-read them several times. Some we keep for reference, some we use daily, and some we pass on to others.
    Doing things on less was a way of life for my grandparents, and I find comfort in knowing that I have the capability to do many of these same things.
    The days of buying a couple of barrels of flour when the crop came in, and having enough to last until spring is old. By Spring the larvae had hatched and extra protein had to be sifted out. Having ways to store needed supplies and not be eating bugs by spring is preferable..
    There are times we “fall back on our supplies” to help ourselves or others,and those we count as good opportunities to rotate.So when we store those supplies for our favorite “past-times” we need to be sure to replace those as we can…Some things we keep in some quanity are: board game, and patterns for board games.(checkers, Chinese checkers, card games, painting and drawing supplies, a puzzle-book,word find books(vary degrees of difficulty),or pieced puzzles,(vary levels of difficulty.)regular number two pencils and lined and unlined paper. Pretty note pads, or pads with inspirational sayings.Sticky notes and markers ,extra batteries .
    For pre-teen and teen girls, make-up, skin care beauty supplies, think eye liner pencils, lipstick pens/pencils with sharpeners as these hold up better in the heat.bottles of hair care products. Be sure to include instructions on applying any make-up, a couple of well selected Teen magazines or articles pulled from one would provide hours of enjoyment.You could include tips for cutting hair, styling,and minimizing style flaws. and anything that might be of use to someone with “teen changes” place in small notebook.a sewing kit, with extra buttons ,pins, elastic..a few pieces of cloth,small scissors
    Some things for boys could include..knives or carving tools and carving instructions with a few small pieces of appropriate wood, dowels, or wheels, small screws and small nails and wood glue for building toys with a few patterns with instructions.and a package of bandaids.
    For either or both…a sewing kit,include elastic, pins, sewing needles of all kinds,buttons, nylon thread, and cotton thread, cloth and scissors… pet care items,toys if you have pets
    Remember when you buy gifts for those during the “giving” season, which includes Christmas and other holidays for those of other “faiths and ethnic origins” that these items could be used to fill out a gift and help your loved ones be ready to have quiet time they enjoy during times of stress.

  5. It depends on the situation, my closest experience was surviving a hurricane, there was so much to do, so much cleanup, keeping things dry, getting fresh water, that at first there was no time to think, only react. later the challenges of getting supplies for reconstruction would be a balance of” hurry up and wait”, not a fun game at all.

  6. Hunker-Down says:

    Maintaining sanity after TSHTF requires one to have something on which to focus.

    Play dough would be good. How does one make homemade play dough. I need several pounds. Also, coloring books and puzzle books the kids have finished; lots of them.

    My focus will be stuffing rolled up puzzle books (the ones the kids don’t want any more) up the exhaust pipes of guberment riot vehicles, followed by two handfuls of play dough. HEhehe.

    • Encourager says:

      HD, here is my very old recipe for homemade Playdough:

      1 cup flour
      1/2 cup salt
      2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
      2Tablespoons Cream of Tartar
      1 cup water
      Food coloring of choice (I found the thicker food coloring, the type sold by Wilton, worked best; but the old fashioned kind worked also. It will be paler than using the Wilton type).

      Mix all ingredients. Cook in heavy saucepan over medium heat – stir constantly until consistency of mashed potatoes and it pulls away from side of pan and forms a ball. Store in an airtight container.

      My MIL used to buy margarine in these small tubs. They were perfect sized for each batch. You could also put them in a ziptop plastic bag, squeezing out all the air.

      Note: I added clove oil or peppermint oil to the dough to keep it smelling good. Also, kids tend not to like the strong flavor of the clove oil so they don’t ‘eat’ it…all kids sample some but with the oil, just once as it tastes “yucky”.

      • Encourager-
        How do you keep this from getting moldy , especially without any refrigeration ?

        • MorePooperThanPrepper says:

          I think its that half cup of salt.

        • Encourager says:

          The salt. And the fact that it is used up pretty quick. My kids liked to mash all the colors together until it was so ugly and dried out I tossed it, lol. It does dry out quick. I would divide each batch into smaller chunks and hide it in the frig so I didn’t have to make it up as often. It never lasted long enough to get moldy.

          • Encourager says:

            Maybe if you added a bit more oil, it would not dry out as fast. But with me, it didn’t matter. My kids like to make animals out of it and we would let them dry and set them on the window sill until they fell apart.

    • mom of three says:

      I have one from our family recipe book.

      1 cup flour
      1/2 cup salt
      2 tsp cream of tarter
      2 tsp oil
      1 cup water

      mix all the above ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over low heat until thick. Cool and kneed until smooth.

      • mom of three says:

        We also have bakers clay

        4 cups flour
        1 1/2 cup water
        1 cup salt
        kneed dough make into any shape and bake at 250 degrees for 2-4 hours.

  7. REading, walking, & target shooting are some things I enjoy. We have a small library in our home w/ a variety of books, including some good fiction & novels. Some romance, history, Christian, etc.
    Walking outside may not be safe after SHTF; so we’re thinking of getting a stationary bike or elliptical machine for exercise -so we can exercise inside when hunkering down.

  8. New games variatan of the theme. Pin the tail on the u.n. troop. Hide and go seek from the fema worker.New world order piniata.

  9. Donna in MN says:

    I did the same things you mentioned when staying at our family’s log cabin at the lake when we had no electricity. Music, crafts, and making jam and pancake syrups, reading nature and hunting magazines, reader’s digest. monoply, scrabble and rummy, cranking the old victrola, fishing, drawing, sewing up bark baskets and leather projects,exploring nature, all played a part of entertainment and skills, especially an exciting time for a curious kid growing up in the 50’s and 60’s.

  10. Kin_of_Sgt. Alvin C. York says:

    Good post, MD and comments as well.

    I just read a book on the liberation of the Nazi Death Camps by the Allies in WWII. Needless to say, it was an overwhelming and herculean task needing to be done. Of great concern were the many women who had, quite literally, given up hope because of both their physical AND MENTAL well-being being destroyed. They were quickly loosing the will to survive.

    ENTER: some absolutely brilliant British OSS men. They immediately distributed not food, BUT CASES OF WOMEN’S LIPSTICK! These poor unfortunate gals, who were at the very limits of human endurance, had not even thought about their appearances for ages.

    Suddenly, SOMETHING in the vast majority of the now-liberated women clicked! They were human being again; made in God’s image. They instantly regained their humanity. They not only wanted to be human again, but they wanted to magnify God’s creation and glory in themselves as God’s childfen.

    This little kindness helped same hundreds of lives!

    It all began by figuring out a way to keep and preserve human sanity. As the soldier says: “Put your mind in gear, and the body follows.”

    • Texanadian says:

      I had never heard that story. Thanks

      • Kin_of_Sgt. Alvin C. York says:

        you’re welcome! when I read this story, it brought tears to my eyes.

        …the inhumanity of man to his fellow beings sometimes is unfathomable.

  11. Chuck Findlay says:

    Sanity is unique to ever person.
    My family thinks I’m crazy now, I don’t see them changing their mind.
    Personally I don’t have enough time to read all the books I buy at used book stores and the GoodWill stores. I also have a lot of (I mean a LOT!) prepper projects I never seem to get to, I also have a big list of skills I’m slowly learning. I don’t think there will ever be a time in my life that I will not have something I want and enjoy doing. Boredom never has or never will be a problem for the person with an active, engaged mind

  12. Books are always great. Last weeks date night we went out an bought dominoes, Chinese checkers and cribbage. Its been along time, but we are learning to play them again.
    If that doesn’t work, you can always watch the chickens.

  13. My main hobbies (model building and old movies) probably aren’t going to be very applicable. But my other hobby, reading, is, especially because I’ve always preferred nonfiction to fiction.

    Like Scotty on <em.Star Trek, I’ve always found technical books a lot more interesting than most fiction. (Other than SF, I read very little fiction.) As such, my library is chock full of books on everything from spaceflight (like the complete Von Braun Collier’s Committee set from the 1950s) to things like the history of automobiles.

    The most useful ones, though, would probably be the books on things like ancient technologies (China, Europe, etc.) ranging from James Burke’s Connections and The Day The Universe Changed to The Genius of China by Robert Temple, or Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel by Willy Ley. (The latter contains more data on ancient blackpowder mixtures and 20th century smokeless propellant compositions than anyone will probably ever need.)

    Add in things like a 1950s era set of the Popular Mechanics Do-It-Yourself Encyclopedia, which tells you how to build almost anything from scratch, and I think my “other hobby” would come in very handy in the sort of situation being considered here.

    P.S. Has anyone here ever thought about compiling a list of “Fifty Books To Have In Your Retreat”? I’m thinking less in terms of short-term survival than in terms of “starting over again from scratch”- that is, rebuilding once civilization has gone away and isn’t coming back.

    It’s a very different set of texts than just what will get you over the hump in a short-to-medium-term situation.



    • There would have to be some from classic literature but many that would be more like DIY manuals. I don’t think I could keep it to 50 though.

      • Same here, but I’m basing the figure on what will fit in a GI footlocker. Something you can put in the back of the vehicle when you have to move out. Acid-free paper isn’t a bad idea, either.

        Among other things, I include having at least one book on paper-making. If you’ve ever read Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen by H. Beam Piper, you’ll know why.

        That’s one reason I consider Burke’s books indispensable, especially Connections. If you need to know things like how to build a Gutenberg-style printing press, a mouldboard plow, or a Jacquard-type loom, it’s right there, complete with useful diagrams. And I think Burke “got it”, even back in the Seventies when he first did his BBC TV show and wrote the book; see the first episode of the show or read the first chapter of the book, both titled “The Trigger Effect”. (The movie of that name was a pale imitation of the original.)

        Some of my choices might seem a bit odd- who would need a book on cryptography and cryptanalysis (The Codebreakers by David Kahn)? The answer is, “think about starting from zero”- in a world where not everybody is necessarily all that friendly.

        Certain types of knowledge might be more critical than they appear at first glance.

        /just a few thoughts, take them for what they’re worth



    • Kin_of_Sgt. Alvin C. York says:

      Yes! I still have my collection of Mortimer Adler’s “Great Books” series. all the true classics! what a storehouse of wisdom,

      • I keep Copernicus, Ptolemy, Newton, and Tacitus close to hand. Not to mention books on ancient warfare.

        Einstein once said that no matter what WW3 was fought with, WW4 would be fought with rocks.

        My answer? Only if nobody remembers how to make a pilum, a shield, and the lorica segmentata. Read the Council Wars novels by John Ringo and company.

        In a world where modern technology no longer works, or even exists, older methods will prevail. No matter what field of endeavor you’re talking about.



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