Survival mode can become a way of life if we aren’t paying attention. 

We are mammals by nature. We’ve evolved past the days of living in caves, but our nervous system can still be triggered into that state of surviving.

Survival mode is an adaptive response of the human body to help us survive danger and stress.

When we go through things in life, we have different responses that we develop in childhood. Many of these responses can be categorized as fight, flight, freeze or fawn.

I was unaware of how often I was spending time in fight, flight, freeze and fawn. I knew I was a people pleaser by nature, but then I realized it was a defense mechanism I developed from an early age.

I started to build awareness around these different ways of coping when they stopped serving me as an adult. I felt like it was hard for me to access what I actually wanted and needed in life and it was because I spent a lot of time trying to adapt to other people’s wants and needs in order to ensure that I was safe.

Whether you’ve experienced bullying, family issues, physical trauma, or anything else, know that you aren’t alone. 

3 Ways to Spend Less Time in Surival Mode

1. Develop a list of affirmations when you’re feeling overwhelmed or triggered. Some of my go to mantras are: 

  • I am safe in my body.
  • I am safe in this moment.
  • It is safe for me to take time for myself and feel this.

Sometimes when we’re triggered, it’s hard to get a hold of our thoughts. Pick one affirmation that feels soothing and use it as an anchor thought – repeating it while you breathe. Or listen to an affirmations video on YouTube.

2. Find a counselor/friend to open up to

You deserve support. I spent a lot of my life trying to figure things out for myself. This was to judgment from other people and to act like I never needed help. Just know that it’s okay to ask for help. I have to remind myself of that often. If our go to is to try and handle something on our own, that tends to be an obstacle we face every time something like this comes up. Don’t make it mean anything about yourself. It’s human to rely on and be in community.

Find a counselor in your area that’s covered by insurance at Psychology Today.

3. Schedule some time for yourself

Sometimes it feels impossible to find time for your wants and needs. Often I notice that it’s easier for me to be in autopilot if I haven’t given myself any time to just do something fun. I spent a lot of last year powering through. Instead of giving myself breaks while trying to heal some stuff through counseling, I ended up trying to get it all done in a short time frame. The truth is that healing is a life long process – so be patient with yourself and set an intention to have fun and take breaks, too.

You aren’t alone in what you’re experiencing. Just saying the words “I could use some help” to a trusted friend, family member or counselor is a good first step. Don’t try to figure it all out on your own. Support is out there.

Please note that these are all recommendations from my experience and that everyone has a different journey to healing. 

Looking for more recommendations?

Here are some good books about trauma.

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