In January 2017 I got another firsthand look at survival mode, whether I wanted to or not. I contracted a severe, life threatening illness called Meningococcal Disease. For me, that experience was just a matter of survival.
It didn’t matter how full or dysfunctional my life already was, who my friends or family were, how many cars I had, or how big my bank balance was. Survival was the goal of each and every day for me – just to stay alive.
Survival for me was taking action in my very limited and debilitated capacity (given that others failed to help me when I needed it most), by way of rest, strictly nutritious food, water and acupuncture – the bare bones basics of my every day during and following that horrendous and life flipping experience as my body battled Meningococcal without antibiotics or hospitalization. Doctors misdiagnosed my illness and I faced it alone.
It’s amazing how an extreme health crisis and adversity can force you into survival mode.
But apart from my extreme personal example of severe illness and post-illness life, you might be surprised to find that you’re more familiar with survival mode than you think.
It makes sense because humans are born to survive. We have these instincts. They extend back to generations gone by. In this instance, I’m talking about survival mode in the figurative sense. You don’t need to experience a horrendous adversity or illness to know what I’m talking about.
If you’re not sure what I mean, read on.
YOU MIGHT BE IN SURVIVAL MODE, IF…
If you found yourself nodding with each sentence, you know what that means, right?
Yep, survival mode.
Don’t get me wrong. Survival mode is at times helpful and even necessary.
For example, when you’re going through a difficult period you might sense the need to scale back and focus on only the necessities of life. There are times when, quite frankly, we simply don’t have the capacity for all the extra niceties.
This was me. I was so sick for so long, that I didn’t even feel like buying a new car even though it was time for one and I could easily do so in other ways. Yet the thought of shopping around and making decisions was beyond me, so I stuck with my car for some time and only when I felt better, I bought a new one.
The key is to make sure that survival mode isn’t the norm because clearly, it holds you back when it’s permanent. It can be gradual... it doesn't have to happen all at once, but you can gradually build up to thriving rather than simply surviving.
When you’re ready to do so, your first question might be ‘how’.
If you’ve been stuck in survival mode for a while, it might feel difficult or near impossible to get moving. But don’t worry, I have some great ideas that will give you the momentum you need to make that first step and then the next.
Choose as many as you like to spark a change. Then keep adding as you go.
7 WAYS TO MOVE FROM SURVIVING TO THRIVING
1. Take Stock – this is the first place I recommend you start. Take some time to step back and evaluate where you are. Are you happy with your life at the moment? If not, what areas would you change? You’ve been through difficulty and problems. Don’t look back to feel bad about them – look back to see how far you’ve come and what more you can do to thrive beyond them.
2. Seek Inner Guidance – the fact that you’re in survival mode is one thing, how you get out of it is another. When you don’t have the answer, let your subconscious and gut instincts start working for you as you take some time out and enjoy peace and quiet. Reconnect with your true self and listen to your intuition. When you’re not focusing and stressing about it, the answer inevitably comes.
3. Get Outside – there’s nothing like some fresh air to clear your mind. And do you know that studies show that being near the water or wooded natural environments, and inhaling fresh air is good for your physical and mental wellbeing? So, you might as well head to the river or beach depending on where you live!
4. Establish a Healthy Routine – a routine is a form of personal discipline and purpose. It means that every day you wake up, you know what you’re doing. By making sure it’s a healthy routine, you’re maximizing your opportunities to feel good about life and want more than to simply survive day to day. Exercising every day, drinking a home-made blended fruit juice every day, and getting sunshine each and every day are all things you can include in a healthy routine. These will make you feel good and you’ll want to feel more of those feelings.
5. Talk About It – sometimes just being able to verbalize what you’re feeling can help. Share your thoughts with a trusted friend, coach, or mentor. They don’t need to have the answers, just a willingness to listen. Be selective of what you share though … don’t give away all your power by giving them everything. Also have a positive purpose in doing so… be constructive and helpful to yourself, but also the person you’re communicating with… you don’t want the communication to become a dumping ground of negativity that only makes you feel worse and makes your friend run for the hills.
6. Practice Gratitude – giving thanks is a sure way to unlock the possibilities in your life. The more you focus your attention on what you do have, the quicker you will build positive things upon those. If you keep focusing on all the bad things in your life, you will give negative energy and momentum to your future path as an extension of those things. When you count and build upon your blessings, your whole life can turn around. Reflect and seek out what you do have, have had, or can have and use these things to feel good and thrive.
7. Participate in Exercise and Sport – being in survival mode often means you feel stuck and an easy way to get unstuck is to get moving. For me, I go running each day and do weights… the physical activity is good for your body and your mind and gives you an endorphin rush, which is more powerful than antidepressants. The physical strength you acquire also provides you with the required energy to thrive.
8. Find a Purpose – find a project you can devote yourself to. Many people rely on their relationships as their main purpose in life. To me, relationships are relationships and if those change, then you’re purposeless which is very disempowering. Relying completely on others as your main purpose can also make you clingy and needy, which can be claustrophobic to others. I know people like this. A personal purpose is something created by you and for you, which also requires you in it in relation to your creativity, hard work, or talent. It makes you more desirable to be around because you’re far more interesting to people in your life!
Survival mode might work for a short period of time, but chances are you’re ready to get moving and thriving again. Give these tips a try. Be consistent and stick with them and you’ll see results.