42 Everyday Fixes to Survive Basically Anything
Stay calm. Gather your wits. We’re going to get through this together. Here, our experts’ guide for navigating life’s scariest perils and everyday frustrations.
How to survive a layoff
One of the best survival tips for post-layoff is to look for a new job and to play ball! According to a happiness study from the University of Alberta, participating in physical activity increases life satisfaction three times as much as being unemployed reduces it. Also, try these other tips to bounce back after losing your job.
How to survive being stranded in the wilderness
As the longtime editor of many of the Reader’s Digest survival stories, Beth Dreher learned a lot about how to stay alive in dire circumstances. Here, she gives us her most important survival tips:
- Find water: As the subjects of my stories know too well, you can last only about four days without water. To ward off dehydration, search for animals, birds (especially songbirds), insects (especially honeybees), and green vegetation, all of which can indicate that water is nearby. Rock crevices may also hold small caches of rainwater.
- Find food: You can survive up to three weeks without food, but a growling stomach will set in much sooner. These four items are always edible: grass, cattails, acorns, and pine needles. A simple rhyme can help you identify safe-to-eat berries: “White and yellow, kill a fellow. Purple and blue, good for you.”
- Brave an animal ambush: We’ve all read about bear and shark attacks. But what about an aggressive wolf or deer? Regardless of species, stand your ground. Running will trigger the animal’s chase mentality, and unless you’re trying to avoid a snake, you won’t be able to run fast enough.
How to survive an ice cream headache
A “brain freeze” occurs when nerves in the roof of your mouth tell your brain that it’s too cold; the brain, drama queen that it is, overcompensates by rushing warm blood into your head. How can you tell your big mouth to shut up?
- Thaw the freeze. Replace the cold stimulus with a warm one by filling your mouth with room-temperature water or pressing your tongue against the afflicted area.
- The key to prevention? Eat slower. As one McMaster University physician found in a study of 145 students from his daughter’s middle school, kids who scarfed a bowl of ice cream in five seconds or fewer were twice as likely to feel brain freeze as those who took their time.
How to survive a plane crash
The smallest bump feels like an earthquake at 35,000 feet. But plane crash fatalities are at an all-time low—and with a few simple precautions and survival tips, you can make them a little lower. Don’t miss these secrets airlines won’t tell you.
- Forget first class. A Popular Mechanics study of 20 commercial jet crashes with both fatalities and survivors found that passengers seated in the rear cabin (behind the wings) had a 69 percent chance of survival, compared with just 49 percent for those in first class. If you truly fear flying, it’s worth giving up the legroom for some peace of mind in the rear.
- Brace yourself. In a 2015 crash simulation, Boeing found that passengers who both wore their seat belts and assumed a brace position (feet flat, head cradled against their knees or the seat in front of them if possible) were likeliest to survive. Seat-belted fliers who did not brace suffered serious head injuries, and those with no seat belts or bracing died on impact.
- Don’t dally with the mask. During a loss of cabin pressure, the drop in oxygen can knock you unconscious in as little as 20 seconds. Listen to your flight attendants: Always secure your oxygen mask before helping others. You can’t help if you can’t breathe.
How to survive an awkward conversation
Somehow you’re sitting next to the only person at the party you’ve never met, and the mood is definitely uneasy. How do you draw him out?
- Open with a compliment. The other person will feel a wave of positive feelings, and you will be more likely to remember him or her later as the person with the “nice hat.” Win-win.
- Listen like a hostage negotiator. The motto of NYPD’s Hostage Negotiation Team is “Talk to Me”—that’s because team members are taught to spend 80 percent of their time listening and only 20 percent speaking. Draw your subject out by talking about what he or she wants to talk about, nodding, and asking follow-up questions along the way. The more you make your subject feel understood, the more he or she will enjoy the conversation.
- Have an escape plan. The phrases “I won’t keep you” and “Give my regards to [mutual acquaintance]” are your allies. When the conversation reaches a dead end, employ them.
How to survive a national epidemic (zombie apocalypse included)
Aping the popularity of TV’s zombie drama The Walking Dead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an educational comic book about zombie preparedness. Doubling as a legitimate guide to surviving a pandemic, the comic offers these to-die-for survival tips:
- Hunker down. Seriously, lock your doors and stay home unless absolutely necessary or instructed otherwise.
- Watch your squad. When the virus hits, be ready to use your braaaaaiiiiins. If someone you’re with is showing signs of infection, quarantine the person.
- Tune in. Should you stay where you are or bug out for a government-set safe zone? Keep a battery- or crank-powered radio nearby for safety updates in the event of a power outage.
- Don’t be a hero. Lower the crossbow TV zombie fighters favor; the infected are still your neighbors. Take every precaution not to kill one another while the government works on distributing a vaccine and treating patients.
How to survive an earworm
It takes only one passing toddler to get “It’s a Small World (After All)” stuck in your head and a whole teeth-gnashing day to get it out. There is a better way to cure what scientists call involuntary musical imagery (aka, the common earworm). In fact, there are two ways:
- Option one: Embrace it. Listen to the song all the way through, at full volume, ideally singing along. The idea is that by confronting your brain with the full version, your earworm will end when the song does.
- Option two: Replace it. Play a different song all the way through, at full volume, in an attempt to chase away your earworm with something more forgettable. In one U.K. study, the most popular “cure” song was the national anthem, “God Save the Queen.” On this side of the pond, try humming “The Star-Spangled Banner” to clear your head before twilight’s last gleaming. Here are the everyday mistakes you always make, and how to fix them.
How to survive election season
As November grows ever closer, it has never seemed farther away. Here are three survival tips for preventing campaign exasperation.
- Flee the TV: Psychologists have found that people who don’t watch TV are more accurate judges of everyday risks and rewards than those who follow fearmongering news programs and that even thinking about politics can slash your overall happiness. Their advice: Try a news fast for one week and see how little you miss.
- Flee your feed: There’s no shame in hiding a friend’s or a family member’s annoying Facebook posts; neither will ever find out about it, and it’s easier than starting a digital shouting match.
- Flee your blathering buddies: And walk the dog instead. It can’t talk politics and is proved to release happiness-inducing oxytocin. Bow wow!
How to survive crowd crush
When a huge crowd hits a tight choke point, a scary thing happens: The crowd starts moving like a fluid, each person forced forward by the people behind, regardless of whether there’s anywhere to move. This occurred last September when a group of more than a million pilgrims reached a narrow street intersection in Mecca. Trapped between the force of people behind them and the wall of people in front of them, some 2,200 died from compressive asphyxiation, the air literally crushed from their lungs. It’s a terrible fate but one you can avoid with these survival tips.
- Don’t fight the tide. Shock waves from the back of the crowd will push you forward—do not fight them. Stopping is the quickest way to fall, and falling is the quickest way to die. Instead, “wait for the surge to come, go with it, and move sideways. Keep moving with it and sideways, with it and sideways,” says Edwin Galea, a crowd behavior specialist at the University of Greenwich.
- If you do fall, make an air pocket ASAP. Try to fall in a rigid fetal position (arms over your face and chest) to attempt to make room for your lungs to breathe. One man survived the 2003 Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island by doing this and securing a small supply of fresh air through the blaze.
How to survive the world’s slowest line
Anytime you have more than two lines to choose from, odds are you will not pick the fastest line. What to do? Plan ahead.
- At the grocery store: Favor stores that use a “serpentine line”—that is, a single long line that flows into multiple cash registers (e.g., the line at your local bank). Many Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods stores use this system, and they have proved to be at least three times faster.
- At airport security: Wait times tend to double every Friday afternoon from four to eight, but if you are a frequent traveler who cannot avoid rush hour, consider investing $100 in Global Entry. This U.S. Customs and Border Protection service makes you eligible for the TSA PreCheck line and allows you to skip the customs desk during international travel. Visit cbp.gov to apply.
- On hold: Sick of hearing “For English, stay on the line”? Visit gethuman.com, a crowdsourced database that tells you the quickest way to beat the phone tree for more than 10,000 companies.
- At the DMV: Start online, where most states allow you to take care of basic services remotely or at least schedule an appointment. Avoid visits at the end of the month, when most driver’s licenses expire, and go before noon in the middle of the week.
- At Disneyland: Arrive at least 30 minutes before the park opens, and start with the most popular rides; every minute you show up after the doors open becomes two extra minutes in line.