Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why I Hate The Term "Survival Mode"

This term seems to get thrown around a lot these days.

We're in Survival Mode.

It's usually used to justify doing something that the person would not otherwise out 5 times a week, let their kids watch unlimited TV, not clean their house, eat boatloads of chocolate, etc, etc, etc.

Jennifer Fulwiler wrote an entire post on it...21 Tips for Survival Mode. 

Actually, some of her tips are pretty great....but I take issue with the words "survival mode". 

Blame it on my mom. She told me something the other day, that I hate to admit, but I think she may actually be right.  Maybe.

She said.

When I was younger, I used to think that life was mostly good times, with occasional periods of stress and hardship.  Now that I'm older I've come to realize that life is mostly trial and hardship with occasional periods where God gives us a break and things are easy and good. 

I think she's right.  And you know what that means? It means that we are basically ALWAYS in survival mode.  There will ALWAYS be something ...or at least almost always. Something difficult, something stressful, something hard, something we need to survive. 

Which is why I think we need to do away with the term survival mode. It implies that life's hardships are temporary and short...and we just need to survive until things get easier.  And most hardships are temporary and short...until the next hardship comes along..and then the next one and the next one. 

 We need to learn how to THRIVE in whatever our life's situation is.

Yes, of course we make allowances and change our "standards" when life is especially rough, like letting our kids watch more TV when we have the flu, however, I think we each need to really examine ourselves and make sure those relaxed standards are really and truly ONLY when we need them.  

Because life will ALWAYS be rough. 

I'm one of those people who doesn't mollycoddle my kids when sick. Yes, occasionally they spend the day on the couch, but those days are rare.  I once read a study that showed how people who lie in bed when sick (with a cold) FEEL sicker than people who get up and get dressed and still do stuff around the house. Likewise I try not to mollycoddle myself when things are hard.

Because acting as though life is hard and difficult and rough tends to make life harder and more difficult and rougher.

However, working hard to THRIVE in times of stress or difficulty makes things less difficult. At least it does for me. 

You know what term I do love!  My new normal. 

My normal now doesn't look like the same as my normal 5 years ago....and I'm sure it looks different than my normal 5 years from now will look. But, the important thing is, that it's all normal. That I'm finding my normal for my life situation as it is NOW. That I'm trying in my own way, to have a normal life, to thrive, to have fun, to enjoy things and to not dwell on the difficulty or the negative or the scary.   Yes, I do fail at this occasionally, frequently. I have my woe-is-me temper tantrums all too often. but I try to keep them fairly short-lived.

The WORST thing we can do is get stuck in the mindset that we will start thriving/living when x happens...when the baby starts sleeping through the night or we have more money or our kids are older or our husband doesn't work so much or we aren't dealing with a sick family member or sickness ourselves or whatever is troubling us. 

No, no, no, I say.  We can THRIVE NOW, in whatever our situation is. We have to....because that is what people do. 

I think that in times past, people understood in a way we don't now, that life IS hard.  It just IS.  We don't really understand that anymore...because for the most part, we are no longer worried about merely surviving.  We have abundant food and medical carem and don't have to worry about freezing to death.

But life is STILL hard and we can't just sit around and wait for it to get easy.

So, let's stop talking about survival mode. We always have to survivie someething. Let's instead think about how we can THRIVE in whatever situation life throws us.

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  1. Love this post! Very well said! I wasn't so sure about the title, but I absolutely agree. I often think of survival mode as having a newborn in the house and I haven't had a baby in a very long time, but I have definitely had trying times, such that I have realized it IS ALWAYS something. Your advice to thrive in the midst of the difficult is spot on!

  2. I agree with you, in theory. But, in practice, I have only heard the term "survival mode" when referring to the first 6-8 weeks post-partum and um, I am totally in survival mode then and have no qualms about it. I am always an emotional and physical mess for the first little bit, and that's okay! I don't cook or clean except for the bare minimum and we watch a lot of tv. I do think as my kids get older that transition will get easier, but the last three times were earth shakers. ;). I also am willing to accept that you just might be tougher than me. Hehe.

    1. Postpartum is a special time. I wasn't really thinking of that so much. And, I think eveyone handles it differently. I am one of those people who like to get right back into doing things and going out...I get stir-crazy staying home too much. But, everyone really has a differnt way they handle it. It definitely is a tough time!

  3. I love this post!

    Survival mode is often used after having a baby, and I think it is the right time to make sure that everyone's basic needs are met and not much more. It is a time of healing and adjustment, but it isn't just surviving! It is a period of thriving!

  4. I totally agree! If we had lived every day of the year that my husband was unemployed in "Survival Mode," we probably would have died from arterial blockage.

    I love the "new normal," by the way. I'm going to start using that.

  5. Such a great, great post, Amelia! These have been my thoughts exactly, but YOU wrote them so perfectly! Nicely done :)

  6. This is really thought provoking! I've always said (at least to myself) I don't want to just survive but thrive. THAT'S what God wants for us. And really, compared to most of civilization and history we are thriving when, like you said, they literally WERE focused on surviving. I know I for one need to get better at understanding that thriving in the midst of difficulty because if we don't we'll end up with a lifetime of frustration and guilt.

  7. I love this post! At first I was worried it'd be too hair-splitting, but it's so not and I totally agree! I've been working to change my mindset to this "thrive where you are" mentality. It started when I realized that my life was always going to be stressful in some way and that if I kept eating chocolate to deal with it, I was never going to get anywhere. I think this post is very thought provoking and I'm excited to write a response on my own blog!

  8. I see what you're saying, I really do! But I think there needs to be an exception in the postpartum period. Truthfully, I should be out of the survival mode period of postpartum life because my baby is 3 months old, but I'm still struggling. I feel like I'm stuck in quicksand and it takes a herculean effort to do anything with the baby and the toddler and afterwards I'm exhausted! I know it will get better though, so I'm trying not to beat myself up too much. Hopefully in a few months I can think more about thriving.

    1. Having a baby and a toddler is definitely hard! And I think everyone handles the postpartum period differently. Postpartum is a different time!

  9. I don't know . . . I do think that sometimes we just ARE in survival mode, especially when something horrific is thrown our way . . .and no, the postpartum period is not something horrific. Maybe being horribly sick with the flu while DH is away and all the littles are also horribly sick and there is no one around to help; maybe when the power goes out in the dead of winter in a howling blizzard and temperatures plunge and you have to live this way for days; maybe when an arsonist burns down your house and you are in a strange country with no friends or family around to help. These situations may sound drastic but either myself or a close family member have experienced them all . . . and more. I wouldn't say that we thought we would "thrive" once it was over but it was definitely as case of putting one foot in front of the other and hanging on in the hope that we would get through it.

    I am older than you and I know that life is hard but sometimes it tests us to the very core of our being and I think it is "Pollyanna-ish" to expect ourselves to thrive in these most difficult times. I think a little compassion goes a long way.

    1. I'm sorry your felt this post was uncompassionate. I NEVER meant it to be that way. NEVER. And, believe me, I was probably the least Pollyannish person around. I am way more Eyeore than Pollyanna.

      I wasn't referring to much to short-term difficulties (like having the flu or a blizzard..things which last a matter of days) but more long-term difficulties....things which drag on for weeks or months or even years. Obviously with short term problems, sometimes you just do the bare minimum.

      We're going through a VERY difficult tme right now. I basically spent the morning crying..pulled it together enough to take my kids to art class in the afternoon and chat with some other moms and then came home and cried some more. Did I want to get out of the house and see other people? Heck no! I wanted to stay home and ball up and cry. But that was totally the wrong thing for me. I NEED to try to give myself and our kids as much of a sense of normalacy as I possibly can. That is really what I was talking about. Even though sometimes I feel like doing nothing more than just dragging myself and doing the bare minimum and drowning my sorrows in chocolate, that is totally the wrong thing *for me*. I NEED to try to keep things as normal as possible, to still get out and do things and see people.

      Again I wasn't really talking about short-term crisises, but more long-term crisises or probelms. And again, I never meant to be uncompassionate.

  10. It's interesting, all the way through school every single semester was "so hard and challenging." Even my semesters that were low in course load. I came to the conclusion that stress is the same regardless of the current situation so you just make it work in whatever you're dealt with at the time. Sometimes that means lowering your standards for a turn other times you really feel like you're soaring. I like the idea that "survival mode" should never be the default.

  11. I agree with this post (even though I find it difficult to implement), and I'd like to add that thriving doesn't necessarily mean "doing all the things" we think we need to be doing to be successful in life. Right now I am going through one of the most difficult periods of my life, with teen troubles and a newborn and a very sick husband, and my "thriving" looks like this: enjoying the little things. Picking flowers in the field with my girls, watching a sunset, painting paper mache pumpkins. I am NOT getting housework done the way I'd normally like to, so my "new normal" is not as desirable as some of my "normals" have been, but I believe I am thriving, just by trying to enjoy life a bit even though everything else is threatening to fall apart. As a Christian, thriving means being able to praise God and thank Him for the small things that are good and beautiful in the midst of our difficult lives.


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