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Life Kit: Survival 101 with Bear Grylls


We all have those moments in life times where you're not sure how to adapt. That could mean the crushing pressure of credit card debt or job loss, or just another mile of unrelenting rush hour traffic. Survival doesn't always come easy. Adventurer Bear Grylls knows the feeling. He's been in dozens of life-or-death scenarios. What he's learned is that you don't have to be in the heart of the wilderness to benefit from a survival mentality. Life Kit's Andee Tagle has more.

ANDEE TAGLE, BYLINE: It'd be easy to think a man who's done everything from scaling Mount Everest to eating snakes in Borneo to fording crocodile-infested waters in Zambia is entirely fearless, but Bear Grylls says nothing could be further from the truth.

BEAR GRYLLS: Fear has been a huge part of my life, and I definitely feel it all the time. You know, I mean, it's a part of my job.

TAGLE: As arguably the world's most famous adventurer and survival expert, Grylls has spent decades traveling all over the world on one dangerous expedition after the next. His current namesake TV show, "Running Wild With Bear Grylls," follows him partnering with celebrities as they learn to rough it out and face their fears in the wilderness. He knows there's a lot to be afraid of out there. But...

GRYLLS: Fear isn't an enemy. It's something the nature gives you to allow you to stay sharp and perform well. But I think what happens in life when we always avoid fears, and it's how so many people live, is that when you're thrown into a scary situation, you're not used to it. That muscle, that fear muscle, isn't - it's not strong.

TAGLE: Instead, says Grylls, try to befriend your fear. Use it as a tool to guide you. It's easier than you think. The next time you feel the panic start to build, simply stop.


TAGLE: It's a tool from the world of dialectical behavioral therapy created by psychologist Marsha Linehan. S is for just stop.

GRYLLS: Don't just kind of run into blind panic, like, ahh (ph). And then T for take a beat. Just step backwards and look at it.

TAGLE: O - observe.

GRYLLS: You know, look at all the things, not just - don't fixate on one thing, you know. Look around. Just look at your surroundings. You're going to see escape routes. You're going to see alternatives and options. And then the final S of S-T-O-P is P, come up with that plan. So you stopped. You take a beat, you observe, and then you come up with a plan.

TAGLE: We won't all track the Arctic Circle or the Amazon, but we do all face those everyday mini-panics - deadlines, difficult conversations, getting out of our social comfort zones. In those wild moments in life when you're not sure how you're going to make it through, learning to STOP is a good place to start. Now, if you find yourself in a real wilderness-related survival scenario, don't worry, Grylls has another handy mnemonic for your back pocket, though perhaps not quite as catchy as STOP.

GRYLLS: The priorities of survival, they don't change. You know, whatever the disaster situation you're in, I always remember it as please remember what's first - P-R-W-F.

TAGLE: P is for protection.

GRYLLS: It might be rising water levels. It might be, you know, flash floods, whatever that imminent danger you're in. No. 1 is protection. No. 2 is rescue. It's no good protecting yourself from the snowstorm, being in the snow cave if nobody knows where you are when they come searching for you. So you've got to set yourself up for rescue - might be a big SOS in the sand, might be signal fire ready to go.

TAGLE: W is for water, and F is for food - in that order, please.

GRYLLS: You can survive for a month without food, but you can only survive a matter of days without water.

TAGLE: From there, Grylls says, there's nothing more essential to survival than a determined spirit.

GRYLLS: If you only have to have one thing, this would be the one - NGU, never give up. You know, it's not skills, not knowledge, not talent, not, you know, any of that stuff. It's all about never give up.

TAGLE: For NPR's Life Kit, I'm Andee Tagle.

MARTIN: For more helpful tips, check out NPR's Life Kit. Just go to npr.org/lifekit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andee Tagle
Andee Tagle (she/her) is an associate producer and now-and-then host for NPR's Life Kit podcast.