When You’re in Survival Mode

When You’re in Survival Mode

Krista Bringley-Cain, MA, MPH, LMHC

Are you in survival mode?  It happens to all of us sometimes. Whether you’re in survival because you’re a new parent getting not much sleep, it’s finals season, it’s crunch time at work, your family has been sick, or some other reason (or combination of!), right now is about getting through.

Here are four ideas to help you survive survival mode!

1. Speak kindly to yourself

I bet you just might be a pro at beating yourself up!  And survival mode offers plenty of opportunities for self-blame!  Whether you’re thinking “I should have started earlier”, “I should have said no to this”, or some other should, that thought is likely to cause more harm than good right now. (Feeling demoralized isn’t exactly great motivation.) Instead, see if you can acknowledge the thought and redirect yourself: “That may be true, and I can’t change it right now. What can I do right now to move myself forward?”

2. Take it one step at a time

In survival mode there’s usually lots to do, or at least lots to do given our available energy. When we look at the big picture it can sometimes feel overwhelming, and then we don’t want to do anything at all. Instead, see if you can identify just the next step and take action. In the process of moving? Regardless of how many boxes there are to pack, the next step might still be to put the next box together or pick an item to put in a box. Refocus yourself there.

3. Remember your motivation

With luck, this survival mode is temporary and is moving you towards something you want. Whether it’s completing a project, a degree, or just keeping your family afloat, picture your “why” and then refocus on a tangible action. 

4. Take a mini break

I know, I know, you don’t have time. That feels true. And it is also true that when you don’t have time for self-care is precisely when you need it most. Survival mode can drain our batteries, so we’re looking for brief moments that help recharge our batteries so we can keep going. Maybe that’s a cup of tea, two minutes hiding from responsibilities and taking some deep breaths, a daydream about running off to the beach, splashing some water on your face, or a quick connection with someone who can encourage you. A moment to think about you (along with doing your best to sleep, eat, and hydrate) can go a long ways.

All this said, if you find that your survival mode is starting to feel permanent, it might be time to reevaluate how you’ve set up your life. Sometimes it is necessary to change priorities, set boundaries, and redistribute our time and effort to make life sustainable. If you could use a partner in surviving or figuring out how to make your life sustainable, give us a call at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando. Our other mental health counselors and I would be honored to walk with you. 

We’re rooting for you!

Krista Cain