Living Life in Survival Mode

Survival mode is the way our body adapts to the given stimuli. It allows the body to undergo the necessary hormonal and physiological changes in response to the stressors brought about by different situations we face. That is why we get all jumpy and defensive when we hear unusual or sudden noises. Our body automatically releases the adrenaline, cortisol, and other hormones that energize the body for fight, flight, or freeze response to protect ourselves.


But did you know that potential dangers aren’t the only reason for our body to be in its survival mode? In the busyness and uncertainties of life, we find ourselves hacking into life to survive. We work our way to earn a living, develop various coping mechanisms to deal with stress, and protect ourselves from harmful things. We also see the need to juggle all these responsibilities involving our families and loved ones. To get through all these pressures, our survival instincts have helped in find solutions and do what we need to do. At the end of the day, we live to fight another day. Thus, living in survival mode makes up a significant portion of our life.

Then, we begin to wonder, is this living?


The stressors like workloads, relationship issues, family sustenance, financial difficulties, and other concerns we encounter force our body to be in a fight and flight response— imagine how stressful that is! If we live each day of our lives dealing with these stressors, our body will get used to producing these stress-response hormones that will keep our body in its survival mode, making it prone to overreaction to stresses— even in very simple things. In the end, not only do we feel exhausted with life, but we will not be able to find joy and love in it. Instead, we will be disconnected and detached from life.


No wonder many people are at high risk of anxiety and depression. This results from overexposure to stress and the body’s frequent stress response. Being in survival mode can significantly affect our mental and emotional health, as well as our relationships.

Let us not allow stress to take over our life. While it is essential to find ways to survive, we also need to strike a balance for our bodies to experience joy, love, and peace. Here are some ways to minimize the time being in survival mode:


  1. Connect with yourself: Because we want to fulfill our responsibilities and meet the demands of life, we tend to forget about ourselves. We push ourselves to the limit to the point of breaking, and others are numb to the pressure of life. Disconnection and disassociation are not suitable for you and the people around you. Connect with yourself. After a day’s work, find yourself a seat and have a self-checkup. You can ask yourself, “ How am I feeling today? Am I okay? Am I happy, sad, angry?”. Practice affirming yourself, like, “ I did well today. I am grateful for God’s strength in me.”


  1. Connect with others:  A robust support system from your family, friends, and loved ones, and even therapists, co-workers, church, and other safe people can help you stay connected, inspired, and strong as you navigate your daily grind. They will allow us to see perspective, keep us grounded, and learn to live life, not just survive.


  1. Exercise: Cardiovascular exercise is a widely-recognized way to help the body cope with stress, develop endurance, and increase strength.


  1. Be kind to yourself: Do not worry about failing to meet the world’s demands; you are just a human who needs a break from time to time. Take a vacation once in a while, go to a retreat to recalibrate, and have a moment with your Creator who knows you more than you know yourself, and He will give you comfort and rest. However you do it, rest is essential; treating yourself is also something you owe to yourself.


Putting a stop to our body’s cycle of survival mode is not easy because you are trying to make changes to your body’s automated response, and it is also not easy to break routines. Especially for those who have coped with traumatic experiences, being in a survival mode is their way forward. But the point of this conversation is that we need to look after ourselves and others to ensure that we do not make survival our only reason to live, the reason why we wake up and do what we need to do. This is not the sole purpose of our creation. With this, finding ways to rewire and revitalize our nervous system to eliminate the cycle is essential and may take time. The important thing is that we condition ourselves to live life to the fullest, not just to survive the best we can.

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