A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

42 Everyday Fixes to Survive Basically Anything

Updated: Sep. 08, 2023

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.

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Red life-ring with splash
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It’s gonna be OK

Sure, life has plenty of things to stress and worry about, but fear not. Behold, our guide to surviving basically anything: from the actually deadly (but super unlikely), like a plane crash, to the so-embarrassing-you-could-“just-die,” like asking a non-pregnant woman her due date. With these tips, you’ll be ready to conquer the world—plus, check out our tips to live long, be happy, and have financial success.

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Asian businessman professional failed or upset in his job and sitting on staircase. Business problem concept.

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.

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Forested mountain slope in low lying cloud with the evergreen conifers shrouded in mist in a scenic landscape view

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.
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Range of coconut milk ice cream with chocolate, matcha powder, chocolate chips and vanilla. On a dark background, top view. Gluten free vegetarian dessert
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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.
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How to survive a plane crash

The smallest bump feels like an earthquake at 35,000 feet. But your chances of dying in a plane crash are in fact quite 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. Find out even more ways to survive a plane crash, according to science.
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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, or these other magic phrases that can save an awkward conversation.
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Shadow of scary ghost woman

How to survive a zombie apocalypse

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 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.
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Ear close up earworm
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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.
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Woman hand casts a ballot as she votes for the local elections at a polling station. Focus on hand.
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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! Or lighten the mood with these political jokes that will give you a good laugh.
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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.
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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.
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How to survive a speeding ticket

America’s boys in blue took to social media site Reddit to share their survival tips for avoiding hefty speeding fines. Here’s how to tip the scales in your favor:

  • Do: Keep your hands on the wheel. According to one cop, “This shows care and concern for the officer’s safety—and trust me, we really appreciate that.” Here’s what your police officers really want you to know.
  • Don’t say: “I’m sorry I was speeding.” If you admit guilt, the officer is supposed to write you a ticket (and in some states, he or she legally has to).
  • Do say: “Is it possible you could just give me a warning?” In many cases, warnings count toward a department’s ticket quota.
  • Definitely don’t say: “Do you know who I am?!”/“My taxes pay your salary!”/ “Don’t you have anything better to do?!” Officers agree: Not being a jerk is the minimum requirement for getting out of a ticket. Instead, try these magic phrases that actually might help get you out of a speeding ticket.
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How to survive the doctor’s needle

If you are among the roughly 10 percent of people who fear a loaded syringe, heed these survival tips:

  • Fess up. Tell your doctor how needles make you feel; she might have you lie down to avert wooziness.
  • Visit your happy place. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and listen to your favorite song on noise-canceling headphones.
  • Chew the fear away. A piece of gum or candy provides a sweet distraction from the doc.
  • Skip the coffee. Caffeine can make you anxious for up to six hours before your procedure.
  • Request a security blanket. According to Mark Burhenne, DDS, wearing a weighted blanket like the ones used during X-rays can make you feel safer in the chair. It pairs nicely with a therapy dog—a cuddly service that more and more practices are offering.
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Roller Coaster Track

How to survive a wild roller coaster

Yes, the true stories of these seriously dangerous theme park attractions can freak you out. And so can, well, roller coasters in general. Rocketing riders straight up a 456-foot tower at 128 mph before plunging them down the other side, Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, is the tallest and second fastest roller coaster in the world. As you can see from the front row, it’s no joke. But neither are you.

  • Ask yourself: Am I healthy enough to be an astronaut? Alternating between moments of weightlessness and gravitational forces reaching about four times those of Earth’s atmosphere, many coasters put your body through a mini space camp. Your organs will temporarily float inside you, and your heart rate may soar above 200 beats per minute. Read the ride’s safety warnings carefully.
  • Sit smart. The front seat of any coaster gets the freakiest view, while the back feels the greatest force. Wimps: Snag a middle seat.
  • Don’t lose your lunch. Never eat a big meal before a big drop, warns John Cooper, a professional ride tester who braves up to 100 theme park thrills a day at the U.K.’s Drayton Manor. Eat light, wait 90 minutes between chow and coaster, and face forward throughout the ride to avoid the spins.
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How to survive a nasty sunburn

Remember this: When you’re as red as a beet, make yourself a salad. Freshly cut cucumber cools and soothes the skin, as does the starch from a grated potato or a spritz of apple cider vinegar. Your skin needs vitamins A and D to heal quickly—augment your produce regimen with lots of milk, and find a cool place to veg out.

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Cheerful woman with engagement ring

How to survive a divorce

“Divorce is always good news,” says comedian Louis C.K., “because no good marriage has ever ended in one.” This hard truth may not make the emotional process any easier to deal with—but these three actions might. And make sure you know about these ways divorce will change in 2020.

  • Write the pain away. Relief can be as simple as freewriting for 20 minutes a day, four days in a row, says James W. Pennebaker, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas. “Across multiple studies, people who engage in expressive writing report feeling happier and less negative than they felt before,” he writes in his book Expressive Writing: Words That Heal. Per one study, “those who kept their traumas secret went to physicians almost 40 percent more often than those who openly talked about them.”
  • Launch a project (or a rocket): Like the jilted New Zealand woman who launched her wedding ring into space on a homemade rocket or the blogger who got a book deal from devising “101 uses for my ex-wife’s wedding dress,” you, too, can channel hard feelings into hard work.
  • See it through your kids’ eyes. In 2014, actress Gwyneth Paltrow popularized conscious uncoupling as a byword for a positive, amicable divorce. As doctors Habib Sadeghi and Sherry Sami subsequently wrote on Paltrow’s website, “Children are imitators by nature … If we are to raise a more civilized generation, we must model those behaviors during the good and bad times in our relationships.”
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How to survive the hiccups

Hiccups strike when the vagus nerve (which runs from your brain to your abdomen) is irritated. Your diaphragm contracts involuntarily, which triggers the sudden closure of your vocal cords—and that telltale sound. These survival tips may help short-circuit the cycle and stop the hiccups:

  • Breathe into a paper bag. This increases carbon dioxide in your system and may help stop the spasms.
  • Eat a teaspoon of sugar, a tablespoon of peanut butter, or a spoonful of honey. The sticky sweetness is supposed to change the rhythm of your breathing.
  • Gargle with ice water. The cold reportedly shocks the hiccups and makes them stop.
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woman with cheek pain or chin pain.Acute pain in a woman Salivary gland . Female holding hand to spot of nape-aches. Concept photo with read spot indicating location of the pain.
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How to survive a toothache

Grab an ice cube. If you rub an ice cube on the spot between your thumb and index finger, it sends cold signals to your brain, which in turn can tamp down the pain signals coming from your tooth. In one study, people who did this reduced their pain levels by 50 percent compared to people who rubbed the spot with no ice.

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How to survive a sugar binge

Uh oh—you only meant to eat a few cookies/M&Ms/office cupcakes (pick your poison). Now you feel sluggish and headache-y and just want to curl up in a ball. To undo a sugar binge, start with a spoonful of PB: the protein and fat help slow down digestion and delay the inevitable blood sugar crash. Then resist the fetal position: get up and walk around. A 15-minute stroll after meals can lower blood sugar, according to research in Diabetes Care.

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How to survive a ring stuck on your finger

“When a ring threatens to cut off circulation to a swelling finger, you have to get that tiny tourniquet off any way you can,” says James Hubbard, MD, MPH, author of The Survival Doctor’s Complete Handbook: What to Do When Help Is Not on the Way. Before you buy a ring cutter or draft an apology letter to your beloved, check your bathroom cabinet for dental floss. That little spool of string just might be your salvation. What to do:

  • Ice the finger for five minutes to decrease swelling.
  • Slather a lubricant such as soap, grease, or lotion all over the finger to help the ring slide.
  • Tear off a foot or two of floss or another strong string.
  • Poke one end of the floss under the ring, toward your palm, and pull it a couple of inches out.
  • Wrap the longer piece firmly around your finger, starting next to the ring and continuing toward the end of the finger until it’s wrapped well past the joint you’re trying to get the ring past. The goal is to compress the swelling and push some of it toward the skinnier part of your finger.
  • Grab the two-inch end of the floss that you’ve poked under your ring and pull on it as you push the ring past the joint until it’s free. Woot! You get to keep the finger—and the ring.
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How to survive a tree falling on your house

Serious weather events are rare, but tree damage to homes does occasionally happen. To prevent it, maintain the trees on your property. The best time of year to have a tree pruned to make it safe is late autumn when the leaves have fallen; prune broad-leaved evergreens in May.

  1. Get out. Use whatever route is safest to leave the property. This may or may not be the same as your fire-escape route.
  2. Call emergency services. The fire department will come and make the house safe.
  3. Contact insurers. Get in touch with your insurance company as soon as possible – they will need to agree to cover expensive removal and emergency repair procedures.
  4. Secure your home. You will need a roofing contractor or repairman to fix the roof and any other structural damage. The first priority will be to make it waterproof so that there is no additional damage to your property and possessions. A tree trimmer will be needed to cut up and remove the tree. If you are unable to live in the house immediately, ensure it is not a looting target. Secure doors and windows and put valuables in temporary storage. Did you also know about these things your home insurance won’t cover?
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Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias
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How to survive a shark attack

Your chances of being attacked by a shark aren’t great—about one in 11.5 million. That said, if you want to avoid being that one:

    • Do: Maintain eye contact. Sharks like to ambush, so turning your back can be a trigger. Try not to let the shark get behind you.
    • Don’t: Create a commotion. Distancing yourself by swimming backward slowly is a safer bet.
    • Do: Stay big … or go small. If the shark looks aggressive, try to maintain a strong presence. But if it appears to be just swimming by, curling up and not causing a scene could encourage the shark to continue on its merry way.
    • Do: Aim for the gills or eyes. If a shark is attacking you, hitting these sensitive areas with anything you might have on you, such as a camera or a snorkel mask, could stun the shark temporarily and buy you some time. Here are some more facts to stay informed about shark attacks.
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Flat rear tire on car

How to survive a blown-out tire

Blowouts are serious business, causing an estimated 75,000 accidents a year and killing more than 400 drivers. If you hear that telltale BOOM!, Firestone suggests taking these actions:

  • Steer straight. Your car might be fishtailing, so get a firm grip on the wheel and do your best to keep the car moving in a straight line. Do not hit the brakes.
  • Gently press the gas. Accelerating slightly can help you regain control and maintain your forward momentum. Ease off the pedal once the car has stabilized.
  • Let the car slow down. A blown tire will act like a parachute and decrease your speed. Put on your emergency lights to alert other drivers.
  • Get off the road. Once your speed falls below 20 mph, you can use the brakes and steering wheel to pull to the side of the road. Then call for help. Find out more survival tips for scary driving situations.
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Judge's Gavel over black background

How to survive a bully in the Jury room

It’s a Friday afternoon after a long week of deliberations, and you might be tempted to just go with the flow of your fellow jurors. There are lots of instances of one or two jurors imposing their will on the entire ­decision-making process, says Philip Anthony, CEO of the jury consulting firm DecisionQuest. But your opinion matters. Too intimidated to voice your views? Write them down on paper. Even if you don’t feel comfortable reading them aloud, you can pass the sheet around to the other jurors to make your thoughts known. Unfortunately, ignoring the jury summons altogether isn’t really a solution; here’s what’ll happen if you ignore a jury summons.

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Pregnant woman with a cup in his hands
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How to survive asking a woman when she’s due and discovering she’s not pregnant

Say you’re sorry, be sincere about it, and, most important, move on. Continuing to apologize or ramble only makes it worse. Now remember this: Never, ever utter the word pregnant unless a woman brings it up first. “Even if you think it, know it—even if she looks like she’s about to give birth today—say nothing unless she mentions it,” says Diane Gottsman, owner of the Protocol School of Texas. Here are some more tips for handling life’s most embarrassing moments.

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Boiling water in pan in kitchen - hot bowl water

How to survive a pot that is boiling over

Lay a wooden spoon across the mouth of the pot, Food52 recommends. The wood’s natural coolness will condense the steam and suppress the bubbles. Learn about how to fix 50 of the most common kitchen mistakes.

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Two senior manager reading a resume during a job interview, Employer interviewing to ask young male job seeker for recruitment talking in office.

How to survive getting turned down for a raise

Stay calm. It’s human nature to be disappointed, but tamp down the urge to argue. Getting heated with your boss isn’t going to help and will just make you look unprofessional.

  • Ask questions. There could be all kinds of reasons your boss said no. It could be purely budgetary rather than about your performance. Learning the true rationale can give you some peace of mind—and maybe a plan for the next time around.
  • Request a follow-up. Show your boss you are eager to do what it takes to earn his or her support.
  • Negotiate for something else. While a raise would be nice, there are other benefits that might work better with the company’s budget, such as a new title or more vacation time.

Start looking for a new situation. If you’ve done your best to respond to performance feedback and your prospects haven’t improved, it may be time to seek a position elsewhere. No matter where you work, learn these secrets your boss won’t tell you—but you need to know.

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Woman feeling pain on her toe

How to survive a stubbed toe

Smashing your toe can make you see stars, but what should you do if the pain doesn’t go away? If you don’t think it’s broken, you probably can treat it at home. Keep your foot immobile and raised, if possible. Ice it every 20 minutes while you’re awake for the first 24 hours. Then apply an ice pack two or three times a day until the pain subsides. When you have to be on the move, stabilize the toe by placing cotton between it and a neighboring toe and taping them together. However, if your toe looks crooked, if the skin is ruptured, or if the injury is to the all-important big toe, seek medical attention as soon as you can.

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woman with closed eyes holds hand near ear
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How to survive clogged ears on a flight

There are actually three ways to correct the problem, each named after the doctor who developed it:

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Business still life with calculator on table in office.

How to survive an IRS audit

Maybe math isn’t your strong suit—or maybe you didn’t report all that cash from your second job. Here’s the 411 on what to do about those errant 1099s when the tax man (or woman) comes calling:

  • Don’t: Put your head in the sand. You typically have 30 days to respond to a tax notice before the IRS takes action.
  • Do: Organize the paperwork the auditor requests. Making the job easier could win you some points. Also, remember that it’s your legal responsibility to prove your deductions.
  • Don’t: Forget that you’re essentially testifying when you talk to an auditor. Answer questions with a yes or no, and don’t comment unless asked.
  • Do: Make sure your file is complete. Missing some records? That’s no excuse. Order duplicates.
  • Don’t: Cop an attitude. Auditors have a job to do, and having a chip on your shoulder won’t help your case.
  • Do: Know your rights. If you don’t agree with the outcome, you can appeal. It also might be wise to talk with a professional tax lawyer.
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Close-up Laptop Keyboard focus Some keyboard characters
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How to survive targeted advertising

Yes, you were looking at those expensive sneakers online. Next thing you know, ads for them are showing up in your browser. On your favorite news sites. Hounding you to buy, buy, buy. Companies collect information about the sites you visit by using “cookies”—digital evidence you’re interested in their ­product—and then share your preferences with marketers. Clicking on the small X in the upper right of an ad will make it go away for the moment, but here are some longer-­lasting fixes, according to the New York Times:

  1. Clear your cookies. Apple, Google, and Microsoft all provide instructions on how to remove cookies from popular browsers such as Safari and Chrome.
  2. Reset your advertising ID. Your Apple or Android phone assigns you an advertising ID to help marketers track you. You can find the reset button on an Android device inside the Google Settings app. On the iPhone, the reset button is located under Settings in the Privacy menu, under Advertising.
  3. Purge your ad history. Go to myactivity.google.com to find out what data Google has stored about you and delete what you want to get rid of.
  4. Install an ad blocker. For browsers, try uBlock Origin. On the iPhone, you can try 1Blocker X. Note that Android users can block ads only by using a private browser, as Google banned ad blockers from its Play store.
  5. Use a private browser on mobile devices. Try Firefox Focus, ­DuckDuckGo, or Ghostery Privacy Browser, all of which have built-in ad and tracker blocking.
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Macro Shot of Conceptual House Keys on Top of Wooden Table

How to survive always losing your keys

  1. Focus. Wandering from room to room in a frenzy doesn’t allow for a thorough search. Finish searching one area before moving to the next.
  2. Seek out clutter. If your keys were in plain view, you probably would have found them already. Research has shown that we waste a lot of time looking in obvious areas.
  3. Retrace your steps. Form a mental picture of where you were the last time you remember having your keys: the time of day, who else was there, what you were doing, etc., recommends Irene Kan, a professor of psychology at Villa­­­nova University. This is called “context reinstatement.”
  4. For the next time: Make a plan. Go low-tech by setting up a designated place for your keys—and use it every day. Or try a Bluetooth-­enabled tracking device such as Tile or TrackR. Attach the fob to your key chain, and then use your phone to make it ring to locate your lost keys. You can also buy one of these best products for people who constantly lose things.
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Headset lying on a laptop computer keyboard conceptual of online communication or a call centre, low angle view

How to survive a persistent telemarketer

  • Don’t: Hang up right away. The telemarketer will just call back until you actually talk to him or her.
  • Don’t: Engage with the telemarketer in any way by asking questions or explaining why you’re not interested in the product.
  • Do: Be polite. If the telemarketer is being rude, ask to speak to a supervisor.
  • Don’t: Say “This isn’t a good time.” That will only encourage the telemarketer to call back at another time.
  • Do: Ask to be put on the company’s do not call list.
  • Do: Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry at donotcall.gov.

Bonus tip: If a telemarketer calls you by name, just say, “Sorry, wrong number.” The company will likely take you off the calling list because they’ll think the information profile is wrong. I’m a telemarketer—here’s how to get rid of me.

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Happy Asian extended family preparing food at home full of laughter and happiness

How to survive an awkward family gathering

Making a game plan before you arrive can help you brave the prickliest of relatives, according to Holly Brown, a family therapist based in Alameda, California. Here’s how:

  1. Think through the impending awkwardness. Where does it come from? Is it boredom, or does the enforced familiarity somehow push your buttons? If you’re prepared for the trigger, you can better defuse it.
  2. Consider the clock. How long do you have to stay? Can you just say a quick hello? Knowing you’ll be miserable for a finite period can help.
  3. Distract yourself. Plan ways to chill out a little, such as taking a breather in a quiet place or keeping yourself busy with putting out food or cleaning up.
  4. Prepare a script. Be ready to handle awkward run-ins with an “Excuse me, I just saw Tom. I have to ask him something quickly” or a nice “It was good to see you!” and move on.
  5. Enlist an ally. Have a trusted backup you can signal when ­Uncle Joe corners you and starts asking for a loan.
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How to survive frostbite

Not bundling up enough in extreme temperatures can lead to trouble, especially if it is windy. The first signs of frostbite are often redness and tingling in the toes, fingers, nose, or ears. As the inner layers of tissue start to freeze, the skin becomes numb and hard. People with poor circulation are especially at risk. If you think you’ve been affected but can’t get to a doctor, follow these directions:

  1. Immerse the skin in warm water. You want the water to be between 100°F and 108°F. The tissue should thaw in 15 to 30 minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the water with an uninjured part of your body to make sure it’s warm but not too hot to stay immersed in.
  2. Be gentle. You will likely experience swelling, blisters, and severe pain—all signs that the skin is warming up. Air-dry the area; don’t towel dry or rub.
  3. Dress the wound. Coat one side of a cotton bandage or a piece of gauze with an antibiotic cream such as Silvadene or Neosporin. Attach it loosely to avoid restricting blood flow.
  4. Take pain medication. Ibuprofen will reduce pain and inflammation. During the winter, make sure you also avoid these dangerous winter driving mistakes.
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Handsome hispanic man wearing casual white sweater at home smelling something stinky and disgusting, intolerable smell, holding breath with fingers on nose. Bad smells concept.
Aaron Amat/Shutterstock

How to survive passing gas in public

If it’s obvious you are the offender, a simple “Pardon me” is all you need to say: “No one is interested in a lengthy explanation of what you had for lunch that afternoon,” says Thomas P. Farley, aka Mister Manners.

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Peaceful tornado in Colorado
Justin Hobson/Shutterstock

How to survive a tornado

According to FEMA, two-thirds of U.S. households have no plan for responding to a natural disaster. Here’s what to do to prepare and stay safe:

  1. Assemble an emergency kit. Include at least one gallon of water per person and nonperishable food for three days; a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio; a flashlight; a first aid kit; cell phone batteries and chargers; and a whistle. Establish a communication plan with your loved ones.
  2. In the event of a tornado, head for the lowest level of your house and stay in the middle of the room, away from the windows. Cover yourself with a mattress, sleeping bag, or blanket to shield yourself from debris.
  3. If you’re in a building with an elevator, don’t use it—take the stairs to the lowest floor.

Bonus tip: FEMA has a free app that provides alerts from the National Weather Service, a list of places to shelter, and disaster plans. You can download it at fema.gov/mobile-app.

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White jet airplane on the runway on a sunny day on blue sky background
Mikhail Starodubov/Shutterstock

How to survive getting bumped from a flight

An overbooked flight can be a hassle, but it can also have its rewards. Here’s what you need to know, says Henrik Zillmer, CEO of passenger assistance at airhelp.com:

  1. Airlines must rebook you—and pay you if you will be significantly delayed. The maximum is $1,350 if you arrive at your destination more than two hours later than planned (four hours for international flights).
  2. You don’t have to accept a flight voucher. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires that airlines provide compensation in cash, although in some cases you may have to file a claim. Keep in mind that compensation is only for involuntary removals. The compensation for voluntarily giving up your seat is negotiable. Here are your rights as a flier on an overbooked flight.
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United States of America flag. Image of the american flag flying in the wind.
Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock

How to survive being cornered by someone with different political views

“When you’re married to someone from the world of politics, you socialize with opinionated people. Luckily, my mother, who was Nancy Reagan’s social secretary, taught me diplomacy. Anytime somebody’s making my blood boil, I wonder what they looked like as an infant. All babies are cute. Then I smile.”—Ali Wentworth, actor, author of Go Ask Ali, and wife of ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, a former adviser to Bill Clinton

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How to survive a bad haircut

New York City–based hairstylist Jeanie Syfu has fixed a lot of bad cuts. The main reason they’re bad? The lines aren’t properly blended. Here’s what you can do until it grows out.

  1. Use some product. Run mousse or styling cream through your hair, then slick it down for a sleek look, Syfu says.
  2. Break out the styling tools. If you’re dexterous enough with a curling iron or wand, a few well-placed waves around your face can soften rough edges.
  3. Add accessories. Using a simple ponytail holder or headband can tame your hair and look chic at the same time.
  4. See another stylist. Ask the person to cut your hair when it’s dry, since it will fall differently than when it’s wet.
  5. Invest in some stylish baseball caps. No better time to show some support for your favorite team.
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How to survive biting the inside of your mouth

  1. Rinse carefully. A swig of water will help get rid of any food that might irritate the cut.
  2. Apply pressure. Use gauze or a washcloth to stanch any bleeding.
  3. Numb the pain by holding something cold against the wound. (Popsicles!)
  4. Keep rinsing with warm, salty water. Do it twice a day to help the wound heal, which will take three to four days.
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Man in tactical outfit holding a knife and kneeling for backpack with camping and tactical gear on night forest background.

How to survive the end of civilization

Preppers, aka survivalists who are passionate about preparing for disaster, have a secret code all their own:

  • GOOD: Get out of Dodge. Similar to “bug out,” which means to evacuate your home.
  • BOV: Bug-out vehicle. The car, bus, van, motor home, or bike you will use to get away from the emergency, or GOOD (see above).
  • Golden horde: The masses of panicked people who are moving in on the area you are bugging out to.
  • GDE: Grid-down event. A large-scale shutdown of the electrical grid. Also called an off-the-grid event (OTGE).
  • INCH bag: I’m-never- coming-home bag.
  • TEOTWAWKI: The end of the world as we know it. A massive disaster, catastrophe, or cataclysm that will alter the way survivors live afterward.
  • YOYO: You’re on your own. Self-explanatory.
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Public toilet

An overflowing toilet

The high-water toilet bowl is an ominous sight. But no need to call a plumber (just yet, anyway). Here’s what Family Handyman recommends:

  1. Stop flushing! Yes, the rising water is cause for concern, but more flushing could cause it to flood. Instead, wait ten minutes for the water level to drop.
  2. If it doesn’t, remove the tank lid and lift the chain on the rubber flapper valve slightly to let a cup or two of water into the bowl to see whether that lowers the water level.
  3. Failing that, bring in the plunger, preferably a model with an extension flange, which fits toilets better than one with a bell-shaped end. “You could pull a woodchuck from a hole with a toilet plunger with an extension flange,” according to Family Handyman.
  4. Pull on a pair of rubber gloves. Make your first plunge a gentle one because the bell is full of air and you don’t want to blow water all over. Once you’ve created a seal, you can plunge harder.
  5. Clog still stubborn? Feed a toilet snake down the pipe to snag the clog and try to break it up.

Bonus tip: No tools handy? Try pouring in half a cup of hot water and some shampoo or dish soap. Let it sit for about 30 minutes and then see whether the clog dissolves. Now that you know how to survive all of this, read up on these perplexing United States safety statistics.

For more essential first aid tips and tricks from a survival-medicine specialist, check out The Survival Doctor’s Complete Handbook.

the survival doctors handbook
Reader's Digest

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest