What is survival mode and why does it matter?
Survival mode is a stage of stress and overwhelm. Where people focus more on getting through the situation than why they’re in it. There are times when it feels like the why matters less than the how we get out of it. And yet understanding the why is how you prevent it from getting worse. Worse yet prevents history from repeating itself.
Survival mode can be a necessity. It’s wrapped in phrases like ‘it is what it is’. ‘What are you gonna do?!’. Labeled as part of the grind.
The reality is that it can grind you down into a shell of your better self. I’ll speak for myself & say I was taught it’s part of the work ethic package. Whether in the day-to-day, sports, or in my professional life. In some periods of my life, it was all, of the above.
The dangers of Survival Mode
We deal with it because we know ‘it’s part of life. Yet so is giving yourself the grace to acknowledge. Damn it’s a lot to deal with & overcome. Without it the floodgates can open in some of the most unexpected of ways.
Control what you can control. It’s a platitude that is meaningful but not always helpful. Not when you’re overwhelmed and so close to situations that perspective is lost.
You can’t see the Forrest for the trees. You can’t see the picture from within the frame. There are so many variations of this same point for a reason.
Recognizing Survival Mode and How to address it
It is important to acknowledge situations, struggles, and times of survival mode. I recently spoke with two friends. When I say friends I don’t mean the people who ask how you’re doing and it’s rhetorical. They’re putting it out there & transition into talking about themselves. I mean genuine friends. The one that will leave that awkward pause hanging out there. Hanging there because they want an honest answer.
The length of the pause & the character of the people. Made me stop and think about the answer. It was in that moment I stepped out of survival mode. It forced me to repeat the question in my head for an honest assessment & response. The answer I came to was man it’s been rough. The follow-up to that was asking myself for how long. I couldn’t put a date to it. That’s survival mode…
In survival mode, you don’t take the time to think about or dwell on it. If you’re like most people struggling with it. Your focus is on the end results. Not what you’re going through. The issue with that is the level of tolerance that can build up. To the point that you desensitize yourself to being stressed or overwhelmed. The bar becomes ever-increasing to new heights. Instead of taking the time to address it and balance it out.
Acknowledging the struggle. The moments. The challenges. It doesn’t have to be a distraction. It’s not meant to throw you off course. It’s the ability to give yourself grace. The grace to say I’m going through some things that aren’t okay but they will be. Take a step back and reset what’s normal & what’s not. Reset your focus and strategy for addressing whatever it is you’re going through.
Having genuine friends that asked the question and paused. Forced me to ask myself & acknowledge what’s been going on. The response doesn’t need every detail but the acknowledgment of the situation. That alone can serve its purpose & set you on a clearer path with more perspective. Renewed vigor to get through it and out of survival mode. Survival mode on its own has no end date. It ends when the issues have been addressed.
Survival Mode Triggers and What to Do When You See Them
Allowing ourselves the grace & acknowledgment of survival mode. Creates the opportunity to see that others have their struggles as well. Which can help in seen & unforeseen ways.
How we interact with people. What we take personally and internalize vs giving the gift of grace. Often the issues people have with other people. Have less to do with the person they have a problem with. It’s all the other things going on around them.
On a great day, someone can say or do something and it barely registers. Flip that over to a bad day and it hits differently. The saying ‘I’ve got time today’ is more based on I don’t need anything else added to my struggles. I’m going to make the time to check this off my list. Right now!!! Congratulations you’re the winner of the, not one more thing sweepstakes!
That goes back to without acknowledgment the floodgates can open. Open in the most unexpected ways. Triggers that set us off where the rant far exceeds the issue at hand. Whereas taking a breath to gain perspective can cut that short.
Don’t get me wrong some people & situations warrant it. What I’m talking about are the moments that you wish you could get back. The things that have your name & character referenced in rooms you’re not in. In the worst kind of ways.
Surviving Survival Mode Summary
Wrapping this up with a bow. Give yourself the grace and added balance to step out of survival mode. The perspective that you regain by acknowledging what you’re going through. Can make a world of difference for you and a difference in the world…