A Parent’s Reflections on being “in survival mode”

A card I found at a shop in Stillwater, MN. By Papyrus.
A card I found at a shop in Stillwater, MN. By Papyrus.

Several months back, a friend said to me, “you’re in survival mode”. At the time, it really helped me. I realized she was correct, and the clarity it brought to my situation also helped me cope with it better, both emotionally and physically. I wish I could describe it clearly, but I don’t remember exactly what we were going through at the time. I think if you’re also in survival mode, you know instinctively what I mean. (For that matter, as I learned in preparation for laboring, one aspect of the fight or flight mechanism is that, once it’s all over, your body’s hormones assist your mind in forgetting the trauma. So It’s natural and good that I don’t remember!)

    ...and...the inside of the same card! Too true/funny to leave on the shelf. Such humor must be shared.
…and…the inside of the same card! Too true/funny to leave on the shelf. Such humor must be shared.

Since that time, another friend has brought it up that I’m in survival mode, and I even wrote a little about it recently, here. But something about being in survival mode is bothering me. For one thing, that’s a long time to be in that mode. I’ve taken some classes on William Glasser’s Choice Theory, and I think about the cave men often. My read on Glasser and on the cave men is that it’s unhealthy to be in survival mode for lengthy periods. We humans seem to be built for survival so that we can get past dangers, trauma, and emergencies, and then move on to live our lives.

Grand Plant Spill #2, partially picked up.
Grand Plant Spill #2, partially picked up.

Of course, the survival instinct is operating to a lesser extent every day in all of us, so that we can stay fed, sheltered, and healthy. But I’m fortunate to not have to work all day to procure those things, so the “survival mode” I’m referring to here is that constant sense of urgency, impending doom, and/or rushing around all the time just to keep everyone operating, albeit unhappily, in this western culture in which we live.

Grand Plant Spill #2, where the mess was messier to clean.
Grand Plant Spill #2, the part that was even messy-er to clean.

Feeling desperate has become a norm for me, and I am not a fan of this. I’m always desperate for something, whether it be coffee, chocolate, a nap, my kids to nap, being less late since we’re never on time, etc. There’s a constant cause – cause – cause – effect scenario playing out in my mind. Everything has to go just so in order for everything else to work out.


…so, when this happens…


…and then this within the same morning, all plans for the day seem to crash down with as much force as these glass objects that are littering my floor and shattering my peace.

What I’ve noticed recently, though, is that when I don’t get what I think I’m desperate for, somehow we all still live. For instance, much as chocolate helps, it turns out that it’s not completely necessary. I love running to my hiding spot in the kitchen after every failure and success with the kids, and grabbing the darkest, purest stuff I can find. There’s always a reason I need chocolate. But I gave it up – no pitty, please – a few days ago to see if it made a difference in nighttime sleep for our baby, and it does! Me not stuffing my face with the delectable delights makes a positive difference in sleep amounts and length, though it almost hurts to say that chocolate consumption has a negative impact on anyone. (I hate to speak poorly of a good friend.;) ) I have all sorts of plans to get back to serious chocolate eating. Erik and I may even make it our mission for date nights for a few months to find the best chocolates in the Twin Cities, once little fella is – finally! – finished nursing. (If we do that I’ll be sure to report my findings here.) But I’m starting to think that the things I cling to for dear life aren’t worth even being held loosly. When I let go and stop thinking about them, I’m more adaptable. When I’m more adaptable, I handle better the many times our kids don’t do what we expect. Plus, the changes I make can be really life – and sleep! – giving.

Grand Dirt Dump #Infinity. Note that all photos containing dirt incidences were taken within days of each other.

That’s all for now. I’m tired.The energy it takes to talk about our lack of chocolate lately trumps the hope generated by feeling that we’re a little less desperate, and perhaps even coming out of survival mode.

Cheerio, good folks.



2 thoughts on “A Parent’s Reflections on being “in survival mode”

  1. Love it dearie! Good job on the chocolate front, that takes courage 🙂 Maybe it would be helpful to think in degrees here instead of on or off. Like, there’s probably not just “survival mode” and “thriving mode”. Maybe you’re progressing from a 4 to a 5 on the survival scale, or something 🙂


Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google+ photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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


Connecting to %s