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How to Use Disaster to Learn Self-Reliance

Disasters can strike anywhere and at any time. When we think of disasters, we tend to picture hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, or earthquakes. But disasters and crises come in numerous different forms, many of which are impossible to foresee. 

They bring uncertainty and knock us off-balance. It’s unpleasant, but these inconvenient, uncomfortable, and frightening events can also help to teach us self-reliance. We can learn to plan and make smart preparations, as well as to stay nimble and ready to respond.

Don’t wait for another disaster to strike: Be prepared. Here are some tips to help you stay ready.

Keep only the necessities

A natural disaster can rip through your world and make you realize in a hurry what’s important to you. But don’t wait for a disaster to strike to discard what you don’t need. It’s easier to do this intentionally when things are relatively comfortable than in the aftermath when you’re dazed.

So start now: Take a quick inventory of your belongings and identify what really matters to you. Get rid of anything that’s no longer valuable or useful. Renting a dumpster is affordable — less than $300 weekly in many places — and can give you the means to dispose of unnecessary clutter. 

Physical space is not the only area you want to compartmentalize, either. You likely have habits that no longer serve you, like overwork, for example. If you clearly define boundaries around the spaces and times in which you do and don’t work, you’ll have an organized environment and a healthy work-life balance. Both can keep your mind in better shape for responding in a crisis.

Stay in close contact

It’s important to stay in touch with parents, children, neighbors, co-workers, and friends — before, during, and after a crisis. Update contact information for your closest friends and family, and check in with them regularly. Be sure you can all get in touch in an emergency.

But make sure you differentiate between connecting with your people and with the world at large. Too much news consumption can depress your mood, especially when all the news seems to be bad. It can pay to limit your time online and open it up for your family and friends. 

Not only will keeping connected lift your spirits, but also, building a network can help you and your neighbors combine resources and get access to what you need during a crisis. 

Make a will

Thinking about your will may seem grim and morbid, but it’s necessary. If the worst happens, and you’ve done the necessary planning, at least your loved ones will have a way to determine your intentions if you pass. 

A will doesn’t have to be formal and lengthy. It can be made easily with the help of online services. Not only can a will help your family members by giving them direction and clarity, but it can also give you peace of mind, knowing your affairs are in order.

Have a backup plan

It’s like a corollary to Murphy’s Law: When bad things happen, they seem to occur in clusters. Be prepared for the worst. If your HVAC dies, you’re hospitalized, and your car’s in the shop, be prepared with insurance and warranties to cover the aftermath. 

There’s a difference between a home warranty and home insurance, so be sure you know the details first. A warranty covers the cost of repairs if major appliances or home systems break down. If you’ve got both, you’ll be covered for most of life’s unplanned events — at least the ones that occur at home.

Keep important documents together

When disasters strike, they strike fast. So, well before you encounter misfortune, gather all your important documents — Social Security information, ID, birth certificates, wills, deeds, other papers — in one convenient place. Create a legal and financial emergency packet that’s secure and easy to access. If you need to get out of your home in a hurry, you can grab them and go. 

It’s also a good idea to keep physical and digital copies of your information with a trusted loved one in a different location, just in case you don’t have time to grab everything. Having a loved one ready to email you copies of your information can be a lifesaver if your home is destroyed.

Back up your information

It’s easy to click right through the daily prompts on our computers urging us to back up our information. If you’re busy enough, you never even really see them. But regular backups stored on the cloud are an important way to make sure your documents, videos, and photos are protected in an emergency. 

You can even consider adding an extra backup to an external drive to have a secondary copy of vital information close at hand. Digital copies are a smart addition to a hard-copy packet of important documents, as well.

Keep your finances in check

Having healthy finances is important in good times and bad. Not only will a solid financial standing help you pay your bills on time, but building up your savings can get you through the rough patches, too.

Part of having healthy finances is making sure your credit is as good as it can be. Understand how your credit can be affected, for better or worse, and make a plan to grow your credit over time. Not only can a solid credit history keep your finances healthy, but it also can save you money in the long run by giving you access to lower interest rates. 

Eliminate debt

Eliminating debt definitely can help you now — but it can be vital during an emergency. Debt carries over, and costs can add up in the long run. In an emergency, piling more debt on top of existing obligations can spell financial ruin. 

So create a plan to start chipping away at your debt right now. An easy-to-use budgeting tool can help you identify and set aside additional money each month to pay down debt. The less debt you’re carrying, the more monetary space you’ll have to be prepared for a crisis.

Modify your skill set

You may have a fabulous education and formidable skill set, but a disaster still can reveal how much you’ve got to learn — and that can be a great thing! Creativity is a natural response to uncertainty; when you don’t know what’s next, you’re entirely free to absorb and use new ideas. 

Open-mindedness and competence go had-in-hand to serve in a crisis, helping you pivot to learn new skills and respond quickly during a disaster — which, in turn, could enable you to render aid to others in need. Consider taking classes or gaining certifications in relevant, practical, real-life skills. Learn how to perform CPR, put out a fire, or change a tire. 

Nobody wants to think about the possibility of facing a crisis, but unfortunately, disasters do happen. By taking a few small steps now, you can set yourself up for success if one strikes. 

Fighting through 2020 alongside the rest of the world has taught us a lot about self-reliance, and has given us the tools to prepare for the future. Keeping important documents safe, maintaining your finances, and staying in close contact with loved ones can help us survive a disaster and come out better for it on the other side. 

Jessica Larson blogs at SolopreneurJournal.com

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