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TRAPPED - Living in survival mode, and moving beyond it.

The trap,

behind living in survival mode,

and how to move beyond it.

It is not unusual to hear people share with one another that they are living in survival mode! I have felt that way a couple of times in my life. You can get to the point where your daily activities feel only related to the simple act of surviving. Life starts to become one long to do list where you are checking off the, to do boxes, barely navigating life’s obstacles thrown your way, and not living the way you want. The reasons why we find ourselves functioning this way can come from a number of sources, but staying in this mode or moving beyond it may be entirely in your control.

Our bodies have a true physical response to stress! This response is hardwired into our brains to help protect us.

Harvard Health Publishing states that our brain interprets the world around us constantly, when it detects significant danger the amygdala instantly sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus. This part of our brain control our involuntary body functions, like breathing, constriction of our blood vessels, heartbeat etc. When a distress signal is received the “Flight or Fight” response is triggered. This body then knows to release adrenaline into the blood stream changing the function of the body. The heart beats faster, pulse rate and blood pressure goes up, other changes in the body occurs that help with mental clarity, and physical

strength and speed increases. This change happens so quickly that most individuals do not realize. This is what enables individuals to jump out of the path of car quickly, or lift heavy debris off themselves etc.

Long term chronic stress can keep this system activated even though an individual isn’t experiencing chronic life threatening situations. This can and does lead to physiological and psychological problems.

This response to danger helps an individual fight or flee from a stressful stimulant. In our current modern daily life we rarely react to situations that cause stress in this manner. For example your boss moves your deadline up two weeks on a project you are already behind on. A socially inappropriate response to this situation would be to fight your boss, or to run out of the building. So, most of us don’t react that way, and the stressor stays present until the project is completed. Our triggered body’s response then isn’t used in it intended manor, and our “Flight or Fight” response stays activated with the remaining stressor. These stressors can start to build up, and we begin to find ourselves living in survival mode.

Prolonged chronic stress, or in my own description, “Living in Survival Mode” can lead to physiological and psychological complications that can alter your quality of life. There are some strategies to help when you are deep in the trenches of your stress, and to help you work to make changes to your current situation.

  • Train yourself to react to situations or stimulus that you cannot control with a calm attitude. If you are able to remove yourself from the situation, do. Specifically, if your presence in the situation will not change or help with the outcome.

  • Routinely practice an outlet for your stress. Studies have shown that physical exercise where your heart rate is elevated has a significant positive ability to change both emotionally, and physically on the impacts of chronic stress.

  • If you feel trapped in your current situation set goals for yourself to navigate out of the significant stressor. Set the goals, and then write and execute action items against those goals.

  • Challenge yourself to think differently about your stressors. Look at them in new ways! When the chores pile up. Remind yourself that you are grateful that your family has clothing, despite the mound of laundry you have piling up. That you were able to eat food on the dishes sitting in the sink. That the looming project deadline means another project is coming soon, and will allow you to continue to be employed.

It can feel incredibly suffocating to live in survival mode.Almost as if every single day is one exhausting challenge after another.Each little obstacle, hardship, challenge feels overwhelming, and you want the day to end and hope tomorrow will be a better day.

If you feel stuck in this place I encourage you to embrace each accomplishment no matter how small.

Cherish those around you, strangers included.Begin to share positive thoughts with others when you notice them.Take a moment to offer pleasantries, smiles, and compliments to others despite your own hard ships.

Make physical exercise important! Even on a busy day you can bounce up a flight of stairs instead of waiting on the elevator.Jog to your car after work, and better yet really make time for a full workout!

Start planning!Explore what you need to make changes to reduce your stress. Set goals with deadlines.Create action items, and execute against those action items.

ASK FOR HELP!If you need help ask for it.You might be surprised who is willing to help out! We are all busy navigating through our own lives, and at times we don’t take note that others need help.It’s often not that someone isn’t willing to help, they just don’t know you need it!

Spend time with individuals with positive outlooks, even though you may not want to initially.When you feel like you are in survival mode you often don’t want to be with others.Either you may not feel worthy, or you should be checking off items on your to do list instead. Either way this is also a healthy coping behavior even if it feels forced initially.


Accept the things you cannot change,

be courageous and intentional in changing the things you can,

and search for the knowledge to know the one from the other.

  • Miss Tammy