Are You Stuck In Survival Mode?

“You don’t ask people with knives in their stomachs what would make them happy; happiness is no longer the point. It’s all about survival; it’s all about whether you pull the knife out and bleed to death or keep it in…”

 Nick Hornby

So, lovely, we need to have a talk…

Something interesting happened in my membership group yesterday. Someone posted this:

Does anyone else find it anxiety producing when Nic talks about what’s to come for the week month year ahead? I feel like I’m dealing with so much so frequently for so long, unless Nicole says there’s going to be a rest, I feel myself getting activated and stressed. Is it just me 😂😭😬🙏🏽

Immediately my alarm bells sounded, because this was a clear indicator that the person posting that message was in survival mode.

Survival mode is something that I know a lot about – as a person with chronic ongoing illness and fatigue issues I have spent all of my adult life in various stages of coping or not coping. Survival mode is a place with which I am deeply familiar.

It got me to thinking. Maybe it’s a place you’re at right now, too.

So, how do you know? Answer these next statements honestly:

  • I am struggling to get through the day/through my responsibilities/through my never-ending to-do list
  • I am always exhausted and sleep doesn’t refresh me, or it does but the refreshment doesn’t last
  • I worry that if I have one more unexpected thing to deal with I won’t be able to cope
  • I have no time for myself, and if I do take time I am endlessly guilty or I don’t enjoy myself because I am making life harder for myself by doing this ‘normal thing’ for which I will need to make the time up somewhere else
  • I am always worried about having enough money, having enough time, or having enough energy to maintain basic relationships or living needs
  • There is no pleasure in my life – only duty and obligation and sleep
  • I am letting important things slide to be able to manage what’s on my plate
  • I don’t have good emotional or physical back-up – in the end I am my own safety net (this may also be because you don’t ask for help or let people know how you truly feel)
  • It’s been one thing after another, and I have nothing left in the tank – I’m just running on fumes right now
  • There is a constant nagging anxiety in my life based on my very real worries
  • I know that I have been stretched too thin for far too long
  • I only have enough energy for one thing: e.g. – If I work I can’t keep on top of housework or my health or my personal life. I cannot do what other people do as a part of their ordinary day.
  • I’m using coffee or sugar or energy drinks to get me through the day and numbing myself with alcohol or food or sex or online shopping so I don’t have to face how I feel

If you agreed with just two of these statements I’m worried for you. It tells me you’re living life in an unsustainable way.

Sure, you might be able to keep going in the short-term, but in the long term you’ll burn out.

More than two? Yep, you’re there. Survival mode.

Survival mode is when we hit burn-out and don’t fall over – instead we dig deep and just keep on going – because we have to, or because we don’t realise that we could make a different choice.

Survival mode is no way to live, but when we get stuck there we are so busy surviving that we often don’t realise that we need to stop, reassess and then find a different way forward.

So, my lovely, are you in survival mode?

If the answer is yes, start here:

  1. Get some sleep. Clear your schedule, call in some support, take time out and catch up on sleep and rest. If you’re really stuck, read this post.
  2. Sit with yourself. Ask yourself what needs to change. Maybe you need a different job. Maybe you need to ask for help. Maybe you need a smaller mortgage, or a housemate to split bills with, or to move home, or to leave. Look where you can simplify. Look at what you can let go. Look at what can give you breathing space while you get rested and then create a new plan.
  3. Step back from helping others right now. If there is no juice left in your tank, you need to conserve what little energy you have for yourself!
  4. Make some different decisions or choices. You can’t get a new result by doing things the way you have been doing them. Be prepared to change things up.
  5. Get support. Find someone who can listen, or a good counsellor or therapist who can help you learn new strategies and give you new directions and options.
  6. Build your new life around your existing limitations instead of waiting for some fictitious date in the future where things may go back to the way they were before this mess started, or be suddenly amazing and all rolling in your favour. If you build your new life around your existing limits and then things get better that’s a bonus. But if your limits stay, then at least you’ll have built a life that works for you and that honours your limits rather than trying to defy them.

Know that I’m holding you in my daily prayers and meditations,
Much love, Nicole xx

Hi! I'm Nicole Cody. I am a writer, psychic, metaphysical teacher and organic farmer. I love to read, cook, walk on the beach, dance in the rain and grow things. Sometimes, to entertain my cows, I dance in my gumboots. Gumboot dancing is very under-rated.
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4 thoughts on “Are You Stuck In Survival Mode?

  1. Thank you for this post Nicole. I’m on survival mode now big time, but I’ve been on survival mode all my life, so maybe it’s just that I don’t know how to live differently. The war has started when I was 7 years old. The sexual abuse when I was younger than that. I’ve been homeless many times, lived in shelters, slept hungry, known fear and it lasted for many long years until I got married and surprise found myself into an abusive relationship I couldn’t escape from before it left me with severe physical damage and repetitive brain injuries and complex PTSD. How do I learn now now to live differently? Yes, I’ve been away from abuse for few years, but now I’m a single mum who had to run away from him to hide in a different country and leave everything behind and do two jobs to be able to manage despite the chronic illness and disabilities. I really can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel

  2. This is so true. Don’t wait till you really burn out to sort things out. I remember very clearly my own burn out, weeping uncontrollably over the steering wheel of my car one cold dark evening after months and years of dealing with tough problems alone. Ask for help before it gets that bad. And know that you will get over it, that you will reach the other side.

    1. My boyfriend is totally there and I can’t help him. I’m worried he’s going to give himself a heart attack. With campsites closed he doesn’t have the only way he knows or seems willing to try to unwind.

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