12 Signs You Are Living In Survival Mode And How To Come Out Of It.

12 Signs You Are Living In Survival Mode And How To Come Out Of It.

Life can be busy and chaotic, we all go through periods of exhaustion, frustration, disconnection, functioning on autopilot and doing what we need to to get by. But when it is ongoing, when it has become the new norm, there is a good chance you could be living in survival mode. survival mode can easily become the way we live from day-to-day, it can become our default state and our default comfort zone. It is not always easy to recognise when we are in it, especially after prolonged periods of stress. But the more we are able to recognise it, the sooner we can get out of it.

What is survival mode?

Survival mode is when we are just trying to get through the day, just keeping going, putting one foot in front of the other, going through the motions – work, chores, etc. It can feel like you have no control, like you are existing rather than living. Being in survival mode we are sacrificing vital parts ourself.

When we experience stressors our body and mind’s adaptive response is to prepare for fight, flight or freeze, releasing high amounts of adrenalin and cortisol. But these responses were only meant to be short term to help us survive an immediate threat to our survival. When the psychological and physical responses are ongoing and become chronic we are in survival mode.

Those stressors could be work, relationships, family, finances, a combination of life factors, health concerns, trauma, anything that is overwhelming to your system.

The impact of survival mode on health and wellbeing.

Ongoing chronic stress and living in survival mode is exhausting and unsustainable, it can leave us exhausted and can affect our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. It also impacts our behaviour, our relationships, our work, productivity and creativity. Survival mode increases the risk of anxiety and depression, the use of unhealthy coping mechanisms such as food, alcohol, drugs. It can also lead to withdrawing and self-isolating. It is living with ongoing symptoms of stress such as headaches, digestive issues, trouble sleeping, aches and pains, etc.

12 signs of survival mode.

  1. Fatigue.
  2. Difficulty focusing.
  3. Memory problems.
  4. Lack of self-care.
  5. Unable to see past today, plan for the future, all the focus is on getting through today.
  6. Feeling alone and helpless.
  7. Feeing like nobody else can help, like you have to do everything.
  8. Consistent overwhelm and anxiety.
  9. Difficulty making decisions or making decisions on impulse, reacting.
  10. There are no good days.
  11. Lack of motivation.
  12. Compromised immune system.

Coming Out Of survival mode.

After recognising and acknowledging you are in survival mode and the harm it is doing you and how it is affecting your life, let go of the shame and guilt for being there, forgive yourself. You are experiencing an adaptive response, your body and mind doing what it needed to do in the environment and circumstances you were in. You are experiencing a response to stress, it is not a personal failure. It takes time to break the habits of being in survival mode and develop new habits that support you to break free from survival mode.

Ask for help and support, knowing you’re not alone can help you regain your sense of connection to yourself and others and help you move from surviving to thriving. Asking for support can be hard to do, it takes a lot of courage, but it can also be a significant first step in taking back control.

Recognise and let go of any negative self-talk, be kind and compassionate to yourself, it may help to write down your thoughts and feelings as a way of processing them, try and let go of any judgement and just be curious.

Connect to yourself through mind-body practices, mindfulness, journaling, spending time in nature.

Connect with others – friends, family, colleagues, peers.

Priortize self-care, as well as the basics of what you need to do to care for yourself like exercise, eating nourishing food, sleep and rest, also make time for play and fun, hobbies and activities.

Try and create a routine, start with simple small activities that will help you, maybe start with a morning routine of some simple stretches, a nourishing breakfast and planning your day. You can expand on your routine as you feel stronger.

Create small goals, setting and achieving small goals can help boost your confidence. You could start with focusing on one task to complete during the day or week, or a healthful meal you are going to prepare for yourself.

Limit your exposure to stressors, identify current stressors and how you can limit your exposure to any of them, this might involve setting some boundaries, delegating or limiting time on social media.

If you have been in survival mode for a long time, it may feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar to come out of that state, our body and our mind often gravitate to what is familiar rather than what is best for our health and wellbeing. Recognise the discomfort is just because you are experiencing a new way of being and the more you practice it the more comfortable and familiar it will become. this is where having support can be really helpful, to support you move through the uncomfortable newness of moving from surviving to thriving.

Make a new plan, assess what supports you and what brings you joy. What do you want more of in your life and how can you enable that to happen? What do you want less of and are there things you can let go of?

What is your WHY for coming out of survival mode? How is it currently impacting your life and what will be different when you go from surviving to thriving? Keep focusing on your WHY.

Be patient with yourself, it takes time to come out of survival mode, you will have good days and bad days, ups and downs. But you can escape surviving and thrive.

If you would like support in moving out of survival, to heal and to thrive contact me to find our more about working together.


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