In an emergency situation, group morale is one of those ongoing things that needs to be monitored closely. This psychological and emotional condition of the group is not as important as shelter or water on Day 1 of a crisis. But by Day 10, after your shelter and water have been secured, the priority of morale starts to show its real importance. What is morale exactly? The dictionary definition is “the mental and emotional condition of an individual or group with regard to the function or tasks at hand.” Since the tasks at hand in an emergency situation revolve around keeping everyone alive, you’ll want to commit these five morale boosting steps to memory.

Assessment: The best way to begin with morale maintenance is to have a fair assessment of the level of morale in your group or yourself. You won’t really know what you need to do until you find out what you actually need. Ask your group or imagine your own responses to questions like “How are you feeling right now?” and “What are you thinking about?” Some people may not show their pain or problems, so ask.

Support: Your fellow survivors need to know that you have their back. Show your support through word and deed. Survival situations are stressful and traumatic, and people handle hardships very differently. You might not be able to have an effect on their feelings or thoughts, but show them that you are on their side anyway.

Encouragement: Unless the person has mentally or emotionally “checked out” from the situation, a few positive words can boost morale significantly. Repeat uplifting words to yourself and anyone in your company. Find something that motivates you or your group, and use that idea to bolster morale. Faith in a higher power is encouraging to almost everybody.

Reward: When speaking on morale, I’m always reminded of one of my favorite “rules of survival” from the irreverent 2009 film Zombieland. It’s Rule #32: “Enjoy the little things.” In other words, do whatever you can to maintain a positive morale. Find ways to reward yourself or your group. Find good things to look forward to in the short term. Celebrate even your smallest successes (or even just the absence of failure).

Reassess: If you are in a group survival scenario, you might be the one who is keeping everyone emotionally and mentally supported. And if you’re by yourself, you are your own safety net. Don’t ignore or neglect morale. Reassess the morale level every day. You might have seen the pirate-themed bumper sticker that states, “The beatings will continue until morale improves!” That’s not a great plan. Find a better morale booster than threats. You don’t have to be the class clown, but you need to keep everybody (or yourself) going until you finally make it through your ordeal.

What would you do to maintain morale for yourself or a group?