Being self-reliant means many things to many people. Usually, a self-reliant lifestyle is associated with some degree of homesteading, living off the land-perhaps even off the grid and providing for yourself and your family with nothing but the skill and strength of your own two hands.
It means being prepared to survive and care for your family in any event, being financially independent and indebted to no one, and taking control of your physical health and wellbeing with natural medicine and the type of physical fitness that comes from long days of hard work.
Indeed self-reliance can be (and often is) all of these things. But there’s one other very important aspect that is rarely talked about, yet it’s the foundation upon which all other important skills are built. It’s our mental health, and it’s perhaps the most powerful weapon we have in our arsenal.
The Importance of Mental Health for Self-Reliance
As a society, we still struggle to talk openly about mental health. For some reason, it’s still a bit of a taboo subject that gets dismissed too often as being little more than new age quackery. But mental health is very real and affects us all just as much as our physical health (sometimes more).
Consider the fact that, according to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people suffer from depression worldwide. And that’s just depression. There are many more people who live with varying types and degrees of stress, anxiety, trauma and even phobias, all of which take their toll on our mental health and our ability to function optimally in our day-to-day lives.
Now, what does this all have to do with self-reliance, you ask? A lot.
For starters, anyone pursuing a self-reliant lifestyle is probably someone who wants to take control and responsibility for their own wellbeing and not have to rely on others to care for them.
When it comes to physical health, we all know it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, eat nutritious foods and stay physically fit so as to remain in good health and avoid reliance on doctors and hospitals as much as possible. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise then that this concept applies to mental health as well: In order to maintain good mental health and avoid doctors, drugs, and therapists, we must train our minds just as we do our bodies and feed our brains positive thoughts just as we feed our bodies nutritious foods.
Another reason why it’s so important for homesteaders and others striving for self-reliance to maintain good mental health, quite frankly, is because we’re too busy not to!
For the average homesteader, the to-do list is never-ending. There are gardens to be tended to, meals to be cooked from scratch, wood to be chopped, fires to be stoked, homeschool lessons to be delivered, projects to be completed and livestock to be fed, watered, birthed, harvested and cared for. We need to make sure we are mentally as well as physically fit to handle all of the pressures and demands of this lifestyle before we find we’ve bitten off more than we can chew.
I have personally battled anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and continue to live with moderate anxiety today. I know first-hand how debilitating these types of mental health challenges can be. There have been many days when I’ve struggled to even get out of bed, let alone tackle my to-do list with enthusiasm. I’ve spent years learning techniques to help me cope with and overcome these challenges. But I know well what it’s like to have anxiety creep up and paralyze you, rendering it seemingly impossible to complete even the simplest of tasks.
Homestead life can also be emotionally taxing when dealing with unpleasant realities like slaughtering livestock, losing animals to predators, having crops wiped out by pests and disease and dealing with the many other challenges and heartbreaking losses that can make even the toughest of us question whether it’s all worth it in the end.
Now, not every homesteader is doing or dealing with all of these things (I’m certainly not), but many are, and many others are striving to do as much as possible on their own. Accomplishing all of this hard work requires focus, dedication, determination, diligence, resourcefulness, confidence, and faith, all of which can suffer when we’re in a state of poor mental health.
Finally, there is at least some degree of emergency preparedness that goes hand-in-hand with living a self-reliant lifestyle. When we talk about homesteading and self-sufficiency, we often touch on the importance of being prepared for anything by raising our own food, having a fully-stocked pantry, having a source of off-grid heat, power and water, knowing first aid and having supplies packed and ready to either bug-in or bug-out in the event of a major emergency. But again, we rarely talk about the importance of being mentally prepared.
Imagine disaster strikes and chaos ensues. Now more than ever you need to think clearly and rationally, stay focused and remain calm. It’s also the time when you’re most likely to panic or break down if you’re not prepared and you’ve never practiced how to stay calm in stressful situations.
Thankfully you can train your brain to better be able to handle stress, anxiety and negative emotions. Much like you can train your body to become stronger, so too can you train your mind.
While there are many physical things you can do to support mental wellness (such as exercise, healthy diet, natural medicines and getting enough sleep), I’d like to touch on the emotional, spiritual and mindful techniques you can use to improve your own mental health and overall wellbeing.
Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor, and I advise you to seek professional medical help if you are experiencing any sort of mental health issues that are affecting your day-to-day life.
These are just a few tools that have helped me to deal with some of the mental health challenges I’ve faced while eliminating my reliance on doctors and prescription drugs. I hope you’ll find them equally useful…
The most effective technique I’ve learned to help deal with stress and anxiety is the practice of mindful breathing. This is a tool I can whip out anywhere, anytime to help me get through some of the most uncomfortable feelings of unease, ranging from mild anxiety to full-blown panic attacks. And you literally don’t need anything but your own body to put this into practice. Simply take a few slow, deep breaths in and out (as many as you need), and focus your attention on each inhale and exhale.
The mind can only consciously focus on one thought at a time, so focusing your attention on your breathing actually helps to replace any other negative thoughts you may be experiencing.
Also, slow, deep breathing can help to oxygenate the body, which eases nerves and calms your mind and body.
This type of mindful breathing is the first step (and one of the most highly recommended relaxation techniques) when it comes to managing stress and anxiety. This is a really great technique to practice to help you remain calm in an emergency or otherwise stressful and chaotic situation.
I also practice mindfulness regularly by taking time to focus my attention on whatever I’m doing at the present moment. Whether I’m pulling weeds, turning compost, cutting pastry or picking strawberries, I find my mind is most at ease when I’m completely focused on the task at hand.
This practice of being present and mindful is another awesome technique that requires nothing more than your own body and can be applied anywhere at any time. By focusing on the present moment, you block out anxiety about the past and worry about the future and allow more space for positive, calming thoughts to flow. You can practice this at any moment, but I’ve found that doing regular yoga and guided meditations have really helped me to hone this skill.
You can find some great free guided meditations on Youtube or you can gain access to a huge library of resources including dozens of guided meditations, calming music and visuals, and relaxing sleep stories through my favorite new app called Calm. You can sign up for a one-week free trial here and gain access to everything that Calm has to offer. Then you can choose whether to subscribe or cancel your trial but keep access to some of the features for free. I’ve been using this app every night before bed since I discovered it a couple weeks ago and I absolutely love it!
“Keep Calm and Carry On,” and Other Affirmations
Another thing I do to help me through uncomfortable or highly emotional situations is to repeat mantras and affirmations to myself. When I find I’m getting caught up in a negative thought pattern, I try to replace the negative thoughts with positive and reaffirming ones.
One of my personal favorite mantras is “this too shall pass.” I repeat this to myself when I’m engaged in a painful or uncomfortable task, caught up in negative emotions or dealing with anxiety or panic attacks. It reminds me that the pain and discomfort I’m feeling won’t last forever, and I just have to ride the wave and keep on pushing forward until it passes.
Don’t Go It Alone!
In addition to repeating affirmations to yourself, talk to someone you love and trust. Remember, just because we are striving to become more self-reliant doesn’t mean we have to do everything alone. We are still social beings that rely on our relationships with others to survive and thrive in this world. If you are dealing with mental or emotional challenges, find someone you feel comfortable confiding in and get it off your chest.
It’s normal to want to shut yourself away or hide under your blankets alone when you’re feeling down, but it’s much healthier to talk to someone or even just be around loved ones and supportive people. Sharing with others can lessen our own burden while positive feedback and advice can help us to feel better about ourselves and get on with our lives.
Be careful about toxic relationships though! Think carefully about who you can open up to without judgment. Sometimes those closest to us can be the most critical, so talk to someone you know will lift you up instead of bringing you down.
Last but most certainly not least, give yourself over to God.
Knowing that we cannot control everything and relinquishing the need to be able to control every outcome is incredibly liberating; Like a huge weight of responsibility being lifted off your shoulders.
I’ve learned to trust that everything happens for a reason, even if it makes no sense at the time. There are forces beyond our comprehension at work and I believe there is a greater plan for all of us. Relinquishing the need to control that which we have no power over and putting our faith in God allows us to align with the divine path we are meant to be on, which makes us feel more joyful and at ease.
I’ve learned that making time for regular spiritual practice has helped my mental wellbeing immensely. If you are of the Christian faith, this might include attending church regularly, doing daily devotionals and/or keeping a Bible journal. If you consider yourself more spiritual than religious, you might choose to set aside time each day for meditation, yoga or simply being in nature. Basically, the same types of activities you engage in to help you become more mindful will also allow you the time and space you need to open up and connect with your own higher power.
Give Thanks, Every Day
Practicing gratitude is another amazing technique for easing anxiety and depression and filling your heart and soul with joy. We are truly so blessed in so many ways, but it’s easy to forget this and only focus on what is lacking in our lives, which inevitably brings us down.
Keeping a gratitude journal or simply making time each day to count your blessings is enough to calm your mind and lift your mood. If you have air in your lungs, food in your belly, a roof over your head and a family to love, remember that you are already more blessed than many people we share this planet with. Anything extra is truly icing on the cake.
How Self-Reliant Living Can Boost Your Mental Wellness
The best part about living a more self-reliant lifestyle is that it has allowed me the time and space to practice all of these techniques on a regular basis. Living closer to the land has allowed me to have a deeper connection to God and all things.
It is humbling to watch the miracles of nature all around us or to look up at a sky of stars on a summer night and remember how tiny and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things. It can really put our perceived problems into perspective.
For me, living more rurally has also helped me to escape a lot of my anxiety that stemmed from living in a big city. The traffic, the faceless crowds of people, the rush and business and hurry of running the rat race every day, going nowhere… I left all of that behind when I moved to the outskirts of a smaller town and started living my homestead dream.
I have more time to be with my family, to do the things I love like cooking and gardening and creating, and to enjoy life’s little miracles, like watching a seed grow into a plant and harvesting the fruits of that plant to feed my family. I’m living a lifestyle I love and living true to myself, my morals and my own higher power. If that isn’t good for the mind, body, and soul then I don’t know what is!
Many people pursue a homesteading lifestyle for the health benefits of eating good, organic food and making healthy, natural products from scratch. But the mental and emotional benefits can be just as rewarding. Take full advantage of them and remember to give thanks every day that you are able to choose this beautiful lifestyle, no matter where you are on your journey.
So remain focused, dedicated, determined, diligent, resourceful and confident. But above all else have faith: Faith in God, faith in yourself, and faith in this incredibly rewarding lifestyle you’ve chosen. The simple life may not always be easy, but I promise it is worth every ounce of energy you put into it. You’ve got this.
As most of you know, we live 100% off-grid with solar power. Our mindset may be a bit more frugal than the average Joe, BUT we feel there are definitely essentials necessary for homesteading and off-grid living.
We live very traditionally by choice and feel that regardless where you live, how you live and how prepared you are it is important to have tools that you can utilize regardless if their is power.
When we embraced our off-grid lifestyle we gifted 98% of our power appliances by choice to friend’s and family and replaced them with their antique counter parts. These antiques line our walls as decorations in their down time, but are utilized often and returned to their place on the wall.
While using these tools we are taken back in time and often wish we knew the stories of these tools and where they have traveled. Some of these tools have been handed down from our ancestors from several generations and it is a true blessing to own them.
Our house warming gift to ourselves was an Arcade cast iron and glass antique coffee grinder. It was one of the first things we installed in the house so we could use percolator coffee maker on the wood stove. There are necessities too… 🙂
So beyond your common tools such as measuring cups, baking dishes , silverware, toilet plunger, hammer and screwdrivers just to name a few, there are specific tools that you need to get the extremely important jobs done in each area of your home or homestead. These are the tools that you could not get by without.
Electric and fuel could very quickly become a luxury item or completely unavailable due to natural disaster, EMP, etc. and we feel thinking out of the box in a preparedness mindset in regard to our tools is just as important as being sure that you have the food, heirloom seeds, etc.
Homesteading today with the modern conveniences can make things a lot more efficient and less laborious, but we encourage you to also be sure to own some of the important non-electric counter parts so they are available if you need them. By using the tools from our past we eliminate the need for a gym and stay very physically fit and can endure a lot more heavy labor than most.
Having such things as extra fuel, a generator, and solar backups (GoalZero and SunJack) can be extremely useful.
We are also asked very often on where we find all our antiques, old tools and even if there is a place to get replicas or reproductions. My favorite places to find these treasures is antique stores, yard sales, thrift stores, eBay, Craigslist, etc. I also shop around because antique stores can be pricey depending where they are located. I create a list of items that I am looking for and price around. It may not hurt to do a little research to see what things are selling for on eBay, but I am frugal and prefer to spend as little as I possibly can on things. It is also very important that you check these items you find very carefully to be sure that they are in 100% working order (most times they are) and be sure to read the descriptions well on eBay and Craigslist because there is a part of the population that uses such items as decorative items in there houses vs using them (I have NEVER been guilty of this sarcasm).
I also have some wonderful friend’s who enjoy treasure troving as much as I do so I may recruit them to do some looking as well.
We are asked ALL the time by our audience on where we find our tools and also what we have so I thought I would take this time to break it down for everyone.
Now there are some stores that carry reproduction items such as Lehman’s Catalog, but they can be very pricey. I honestly prefer the antiques, but I have found a thing or two at Lehman’s.
Let’s start in the kitchen and work our way from the inside out… I feel the kitchen tools are important because eating and preserving is your life line to living.
A lot of thought goes into my kitchen tools. I purchase pottery and cast iron because these two pieces hold the heat, cook and bake efficiently, they both can be used in my Sun Oven and the cast iron can be moved outside over the open flame which is something we do regularly anyway and that may at some point be a necessity.
Hand Mixer / Electric Mixer
Hand Blender / Electric Blender
Hand Crank Flour Mill / Electric Mill (We use the WonderMill Deluxe Jr and the WonderMill Grain Mill)
Hand Crank Coffee Grinder – (I have an Arcade Cast Iron and Glass antique hanging on my wall that I found especially cheap on eBay)
Cast Iron (As many pieces as you can find) 🙂
Cast Iron Dutch Oven(s) **
Large Steel Pots (Steel will hold up longer and it is said that aluminum will seep into your food)
All American Sun Oven
Pressure Canner (We have an All American and a Presto)
Water Bath Canner
Canning Jar (Note: If buying used jars, just check them very carefully for cracks and if you purchase cases of jars with lids and rings, be sure to discard the lids if they have indents on them. We also prefer wide mouth jars because they are easier to fill and easier to clean.)
Tattler Seals (able to be used endless amount of applications)
Rings for your jars
Note: New to canning? My favorite resource is Sharon Peterson of SimplyCanning.com and CanningDiva.com
Containers such as crocks and canning jars
Air locks and weights
Note: My resource for fermenting supplies besides the antique/thrift outlet is FermentTools.com
Tea Kettles(2) ***
** Dutch Ovens are my most favorite piece of cast iron for making just about anything on my woodstove, stove and oven, open fire and Sun Ovens
*** Over time these items will form small pin holes (this could take years) and it is best to have a couple on hand.
Knives and Sharpening Stone
All American Sun Oven / Excalibur Dehydrator
When purchasing used kitchen tools from yard sales, thrift stores etc. cleaning such items can be a concern.
Here are a couple of tricks:
- I always Clorox or bleach – you can also use vinegar
- With anything wooden – I do the above, but I also then let it soak in baking soda to remove the Clorox or bleach residue
- Cast Iron – I was them with soap (yes the ONLY time ever), scrub it with coarse salt and add water and boil. I then re-season and I am good to go.
There may come a time when medical care may not be an option and we will need to lean on our own knowledge and skill. I have been involved with natural medicine since I was 14 and have a great passion for sharing my knowledge. I share my knowledge in monthly webinars, posts, and videos to help others improve the health of themselves and that of their families. Not only will the natural health be beneficial to your family, but it will also be helpful with your homestead animals.
Hot Water Bottle
Herbs, Teas & Spices
100 proof Vodka
The Survival Doctor and Herbal Academy of New England offer amazing online classes that could be very helpful to you also.
Knowing how to make everything you will need could become an important task. Knowing how to utilize the equipment and tools you have as well as making the necessary items you will need will be important skills to have. Teaching our children such skills as simple sewing are a great way to get them involved and continuing to increase their knowledge will never hurt them.
Treadle Sewing Machine / Electric Sewing Machine
Extra Fabric, Leather, Old Coats, Old Sweaters all of which can be repurposed
Awl for Leather Work
Cast Iron Iron
Glass / Metal Lanterns with extra lantern fuel
GoalZero or SunJack Solar Rechargeable products (lanterns, light sticks, battery chargers, power sources)
Candles (candle making supplies)
Personal Hygiene products that fit your needs
Materials to make your own homemade products (see natural health also)
Personal hygiene is extremely important normally, but in the event that certain things are no longer available, making our own products will be important. I currently make our toothpaste, deodorants, soaps, shampoos, etc.
Gardening is one of our main sources of fresh whole foods. We have a 40′ x 40′ fenced garden (7′ 5″ fencing to keep deer, elk and moose out) housing 5 raised beds (4′ wide x 30′ in length) and a 20′ x 20′ greenhouse that we are finishing this spring. Our honey bees reside in our garden for added protection and a there are a lot of medicinal plants for them to feed on. Heirloom seeds are heavily conditioned seeds that can be saved each year and reused so their benefits are endless and extremely useful. We also forage a lot from our surroundings.
Seed Starter Containers
Old Canning Lids for plant markers
Empty Spray Bottles
Rolls of clear and black plastic (we have a very short growing season so we have to keep our raised beds covered)
Hose(s) and nozzle(s) (These often spring leaks or no longer work so it is always good to have a spare)
Seeds For Generations
My Patriot Supply
We have a hand drill hanging on our wall, a wood planer sitting on our windowsill and our two man saw hangs on a rafter. They are all ready to to be used at any minute. Having the essential tools for any project can be a life savor possibly in our future. I did not provide resources below, but I feel that how-to books for those less mechanical minded could be a great aid. The Mountain Man grew up building and repairing and is quite the MacQyver so be sure to be prepared with the essential guides that you would need to get you by with tasks you are less familiar with.
Chisels & Carving Tools (Bowls, Dishes, Wooden Spoons)
Blacksmith Tools including Anvil and Forge (Endless uses, but tool making, nail making, hinges, hooks, etc)
Firewood Cutting & Chopping
Two Man Saw
Knives & Blades
Books or Library
Elk & Venison Recipes
Gluten Free On A Shoe String (any of these)
The Organic Canner
Natural Health References
Herbs & Essential Oils
Be Your Own Doctor
Herbal Academy of New England (online classes)
Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West
A Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs (Peterson Field Guides)
From the Shepherd’s Purse: The Identification, Preparation, and Use of Medicinal Plants
Identifying & Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants (And Not So Wild Places)
The Garden Notebook
The Art of Gardening
The Encyclopedia of Country Living
Bushcraft & Wilderness Survival
Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival
Deerskins into Buckskins: How to Tan with Brains, Soap or Eggs; 2nd Edition
We will be covering your butchering, hunting, trapping and fishing tools and needs in another post upcoming to provide you with all the detailed tools as well as how-to’s so please check back.
I hope you gained some resources and knowledge from this post. As I stated above, we live a much more traditional life than most and enjoy the rewards of such life. You may choose to utilize the modern day conveniences, but we encourage you to start gathering some of your more traditional tools to have on hand for those unexpected times.
The Prepared Bloggers Network is at it again! We’re glad you’ve found us, because the month of April is all about homesteading.
Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by growing your own food, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may even involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale. Most importantly homesteading is not defined by where someone lives, such as the city or the country, but by the lifestyle choices they make.
The Prepared Bloggers are passionate about what they do and they each have their own way of achieving self-sufficiency. Grab your favorite drink and enjoy reading about the 30 Ways of Homesteading!
Crops on the Homestead
Straw Bale Gardening from PreparednessMama
Crop Rotation for the Backyard Homesteader from Imperfectly Happy
Benefits of Growing Fruit from SchneiderPeeps
Succession Planting: More Food in the Same Space from 104 Homestead
Crops to Grow for Food Storage from Grow A Good Life
Winter Gardening Series from Our Stoney Acres
How To Build a Raised Garden Bed For Under $12 from Frugal Mama and The Sprout
How to Save Carrot Seeds from Food Storage and Survival
Animals on the Homestead
Getting Your Bees Started from Game and Garden
Homesteading How-To: Bees from Tennessee Homestead
How to Get Ready for Chicks from The Homesteading Hippy
Selecting a Goat Breed for Your Homestead from Chickens Are a Gateway Animal
Adding New Poultry and Livestock from Timber Creek Farm
Beekeeping 101: 5 Things To Do Before Your Bees Arrive from Home Ready Home
How to Prepare for Baby Goats from Homestead Lady
How to Prevent and Naturally Treat Mastitis in the Family Milk Cow from North Country Farmer
Tips to Raising Livestock from Melissa K. Norris
Raising Baby Chicks – Top 5 Chicken Supplies from Easy Homestead
Making the Homestead Work for You – Infrastructure
Ways to Homestead in a Deed Restricted Community from Blue Jean Mama
Building a Homestead from the Ground Up from Beyond Off Grid
DIY Rainwater Catchment System from Survival Prepper Joe
Finding Our Homestead Land from Simply Living Simply
I Wish I Was A Real Homesteader by Little Blog on the Homestead
Endless Fencing Projects from Pasture Deficit Disorder
Essential Homesteading Tools: From Kitchen To Field from Trayer Wilderness
Homesteading Legal Issues from The 7 P’s Blog
Why We Love Small Space Homesteading In Suburbia from Lil’ Suburban Homestead
Homesteading 101 from Morning Chores
Preserving and Using the Bounty from the Homestead
How to Dehydrate Corn & Frozen Vegetables from Mom With a Prep
How to Make Soap from Blue Yonder Urban Farms
How to Render Pig Fat from Mama Kautz
How to Make Your Own Stew Starter from Homestead Dreamer
Why You Should Grow and Preserve Rhubarb! from Living Life in Rural Iowa
It’s a Matter of Having A Root Cellar…When You Don’t Have One from A Matter of Preparedness
#TrayerWilderness #30WaysToHomesteading #Homestead30