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Feeling stuck? We get it. You’re probably in survival mode. Many of us are. The key is finding out how to shift out of survival mode and into thriving mode. Check in with yourself to understand where you are and how to make changes if and when you need to, to get to a more joyful, productive, and peaceful time of life.

What is “Survival Mode”?

If you feel like you’re a hamster running on a wheel and not getting anywhere, you’re probably in survival mode. If you’ve experienced an adjustment in your schedule or lived through an emotionally hard time and you feel like you’re just getting through the day, that’s surviving. Things can appear grim and dull, like you’re stuck. So many events can lead to this at different times in our lives. It takes practice and effort, but with effort we can teach ourselves grace and work to develop strategies for shifting out of survival mode and toward thriving, so we don’t get stuck for longer than we intended.

How can I get out of survival mode?

We probably don’t have to tell you – being in survival mode for an extended period of time wreaks havoc on your health – hormonally, neurologically, emotionally, and physically. You’re not eating right, not getting movement in, not connecting with your family, and just feeling down and “blah”. It could also feel like you’re comfortable where you are, and so you’re not pushing yourself to shift out of it. Are you thinking, “Is it really worth it if I can only get to the gym one day a week right now? Or, “Does it really matter if I skip the grocery store and just head through the drive-thru for the family tonight?” The answer is a resounding “Yes!!” Small changes matter, most especially when you’re in survival mode. Many people use survival mode as a crutch to not move forward with changes. That’s why it’s called being “stuck”! But the sooner you start to shift your mindset into making small but meaningful incremental changes, the sooner you will be out of survival mode and start to thrive. Here are some tips that might help:

  • Identify small goals or changes that are attainable right now. For example, you may not have time or energy to workout during the day right now but can you make a commitment to get 8 hours of sleep? Or drink more water throughout the day. That’s a huge start. Don’t set unrealistic expectations when you’re surviving like “I’m going to get 6-pack abs by the end of this month.” Instead focus on “I’m going to eat one nutritious meal per day” or “I’m going to cook two meals at home this week.” Just find a few changes that will start to re-focus you on your health and you’ll start to feel better about yourself.
  • Journal about it. Invest in some “me time” to evaluate where you are in your slump and why you got there. If you are going through a traumatic time with a family illness or hardship, journal to understand your feelings and what you an do to help cope with the stress. Give yourself time to move through it and understand how you process experiences like these. Writing it down will give you much needed insights and help you grow emotionally. Formulating strategies in your journal is also a great way to document what’s working so you have a reference for the next time you feel yourself moving into survival mode.
  • Take time for self care. It may seem too chaotic to make time for yourself during this time, but take our advice and do it. Where can you make a difference? Think about where you are emotionally, spiritually, and physically and think of ways you can nurture yourself in all three of these areas. Would seeing a counselor help? Or what about reconnecting with friends? Do something for you that contributes to your wellness.

Unfortunately, you can’t shift into “thriving mode” overnight, but you can take steps everyday to get there – even if they look small to you. Take two 10-minute walks if that’s all your day allows now, drink an extra 16 ounces of water, or get an extra hour of sleep. It all matters. Returning to healthy habits can be a lifeline to your health during tough times.

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