Fearless adventurer and outdoor expert Megan Hine works on TV survival shows such as Bear Grylls: Mission Survive and The Island with Bear Grylls. She has become one of Grylls’ most trusted behind-the-scenes advisors and her new book Mind of a Survivor delves into some of the coping mechanisms and resilience techniques she uses to survive in stressful scenarios in the wild. Hine has previously been confronted by bears and been shot at by tribes in Kenya, among other perilous encounters. Her psychological tricks, she explains, can aid us in all areas of life – including when you’re abroad and your trip doesn’t go as expected.
“As a child I was fascinated with explorer books – from Shackleton to Lord of the Rings,” explained Hine, “they’d always recount the physicality of these arduous expeditions but rarely talked about the emotions, and how these explorers controlled fear and anxiety.” Resilience is something people can learn, believes Hine, and the exposure you get through travelling can make you a better survivor, she explained: “Exposure to lots of different cultures, environmental issues and political issues broadens people’s minds.”
Read on for 5 of Megan Hine’s invaluable survival tips for adventure travellers:
1. Expect the unexpected
“Exposure to lots of different experiences from a young age makes somebody more resilient,” said Hine. “Resilience is much like the immune system. The first time the immune system is exposed to new bacteria it goes crazy and you feel really sick and it takes a while for your body to fight it. Our resilience is similar. It’s about always expecting the unexpected. Wherever I am I try and keep my mind active, and I’m thinking through scenarios. I could be walking along the edge of a cliff and I might think ‘what would I do now if my client fell off of a cliff? How would I get them out of here?’ It sounds morbid, but I’m playing the hero in my head already so I’m tricking my mind into thinking I’m in control, so as soon as something happens it’s already primed to step up to the challenge.”
“Acceptance of a situation is a key part of resilience,” explained Hine. “Sh*t happens in our lives that is out of our control. If we flight it, place blame or play the victim in that situation it’s not going to help anyone, because you become fixated on the negative. By‘acceptance’ I don’t mean giving up, it’s about accepting the situation and being a realistic planner, which takes off a lot of the pressure off, so you’re free to start looking around. If you’re trying to get through a door and you’re fighting that door, you’re trying to break the lock and it’s not opening, you’re so fixated on that door that you forget to look around. There might be a window next to you that you could climb through instead.”
3. Look for different opportunities and learn new skills
“Expose yourself to different things in life that help build resilience and help prepare you for a survival situation. If you’ve exposed yourself to different things your mind is more flexible to deal with new scenarios and socialise with different people and cultures,” said Hine. “Go to yoga class, go to dance, whatever, all of these experiences are things to draw on in a survival situation and will be in your mental toolbox,” continued Hine, “whether that is learning how to make fire or doing yoga, and learning how to breathe and calm yourself down. All of these different skills we pick up in life can be useful one day.”
Being able to relate to other people’s views can keep us alive in a survival situation. We’ve all watched Lost, and TV shows like that. The survivors end up on an island with all these beautiful people and there’s always little arguments – but if you were to go down in a plane with a group of people, you might think ‘how many of these people would I choose to hang out with on a daily basis?’ I’d guess not very many. If you can relate to people and understand why people might react in a different way and understand a place that is culturally different from you, you become much more understanding of people and are able to use other people’s skills better. You have to be careful that empathy doesn’t become sympathy and you start taking on other people’s emotions. It’s hard not to fall into that sometimes, as it’s herd mentality, we are pack animals, we’re supposed to be part of a community.”
5. Get moving
“The mental side of [a survival situation] is more important than the physical side of it, but the physical side is a big part too,” said Hine. “If you’ve got the right mindset, being physically fit will give you an advantage. Get out and keep yourself moving. Our bodies need to move, going for a run or even going out for a walk with your kids at the weekend, are greats way of getting out and getting active.”
Megan Hine’s new book Mind of a Survivor is available now.