Living in Survival Mode and Being Afraid to Leave It Behind

Survival mode is a state of mind that we enter when we feel threatened or unsafe. It’s a natural response to danger, and it can help us to stay alive in the short-term. However, if we stay in survival mode for too long, it can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health.

As a child, I lived in survival mode 24/7, from the moment I learned that life couldn’t be trusted, adults couldn’t be trusted, no one could be trusted. Life was pain and I either adapted or I wouldn’t live for long, and pain was the only trustworthy thing I knew. The effect this had on me was catastrophic. I was highly sensitive born to a family that was all jagged edges and hateful words.

When we’re in survival mode, our bodies release stress hormones that can make us feel anxious, irritable, and exhausted. We may also have trouble sleeping, concentrating, and making decisions. In the long term, chronic stress can lead to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and depression. A person living in survival mode full-time becomes hypersensitive to criticism, keeps relationships at a surface level, avoids confrontation, grows increasingly defensive, and requires more downtime than someone not living with fight-or-flight thinking. Survival mode is our body’s way of trying to protect us from the trauma that surrounds us. Every person experiences it in their own way.

I was geared to help myself. I don’t know if it was the constant trauma, but I launched myself into survival mode early on, before I even had the vocabulary for it, and knew if I didn’t do something to counteract it sooner rather than later, I might never recover. So I entered talk therapy at the age of 11, after suffering what the hospital called a “nervous breakdown.” It was quite likely my first panic attack, which would be my diagnosis again and again, picking up along the way a diagnosis of complex PTSD.

Leaving survival mode can be a challenge, especially if we’re afraid of what might happen if we do. We may worry that we won’t be able to cope with the challenges of life, or that we’ll be in danger if we let our guard down. However, it’s important to remember that survival mode is not a sustainable way to live.

It’s not a sustainable way to live. Your body overdoses on adrenalin, norepinephrine, and cortisol, which triggers a cascade of physiological responses, including increased body temperature, increased heart rate, blood pressure, and energy expenditure. Those of us who live or have lived in this mode know how exhausted it makes us. Constantly on guard, defenses always up. Running, running, always running. Our overworked brains might tell us that we’re running toward something, but we’re not. We’re running away. And we continue to run for as long as survival mode is allowed to control us. My thought about healing this way of life was fear. I was afraid not to be in survival mode because then I wouldn’t have to fight anymore. Or run. And then what? What would take its place?

If you’re struggling to leave survival mode, there are a few things you can do to help yourself:

  • Identify the stressors in your life. The first step to leaving survival mode is to identify the things that are causing you stress. Once you know what’s causing you stress, you can start to develop strategies for coping with it.
  • Make time for self-care. Self-care is essential for reducing stress and improving your overall health. Make sure to take time for activities that you enjoy and that help you to relax. This could include spending time in nature, reading, listening to music, or getting a massage.
  • Seek support from others. Talking to someone you trust about what you’re going through can be helpful. A therapist or counselor can also provide support and guidance.

Leaving survival mode is not easy, but it is possible. With time and effort, you can learn to manage stress and live a more fulfilling life.

Here are some additional tips for leaving survival mode:

  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. When you’re feeling stressed, take a few minutes to focus on your breath or your surroundings. This can help to calm your mind and body.
  • Get enough sleep. When you’re sleep-deprived, your body is more likely to release stress hormones. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating healthy foods can help to improve your mood and energy levels. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive caffeine.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and improve your overall health. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

If you’re struggling to leave survival mode on your own, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can provide support and guidance as you work to overcome the challenges you’re facing.thumb_upthumb_downuploadGoogle itmore_vert

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s