How to Get Out of Survival Mode

Some people may think that I’m being less than honest when I remark that I had it easier than my wife did when I had the stroke.  But it’s very obvious to me that she’s had a miserable time trying to keep everything together while I just had to survive.

This is one of those times of life when it’s reasonable to slip into survival mode – when something unexpected and outside your control happens and you can’t ignore it.  But to maintain your sanity, you have to figure out how to eventually get out of survival mode to a life with some semblance of balance and if not calm, at least not constant demands, crises and stress.

First, stop making more commitments!

That old cliche that when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging! applies here too.  It is much better to surprise someone when you do something unexpected than to disappoint them when you fail to do the expected.

Of course, there are always some things that are too important that you can’t stop doing, like feeding your family.  But those are very few, probably fewer than you think.

Once you’ve reset expectations, you can then begin making commitments again, being careful to only make commitments that you are absolutely going to keep.

Craig’s Hierarchy of Everyday Priorities

It can be helpful to think of time like money, a limited resource that you have to budget what you spend it on.  Like your checking account has only so much money for each month, there are only so many hours in each day and you have to decide what is most important to you to spend those precious hours doing.

To manage commitments intelligently, you need a systematic method of deciding which commitments are more important and which will have less impact if dropped.  Without some system, you’ll find yourself unhappy and stressed out because while you’re missing the important things in your life, you’ll be stuck doing things with little meaning for you.

Don’t Count on More Time Later

When you’re in survival mode, there is a huge temptation to put stuff off or only do the absolute minimum of what has to be done at that moment.  The problem is that there’s never more time later.  At least, not enough when you need it.    It’s a better strategy to do things completely, so that you never have to worry about them again.

Get Yourself Out of the Loop

Quite often survival mode is so overwhelming that there doesn’t seem to be time or energy to teach others how to do stuff themselves.  It seems easier to just forge ahead and do stuff yourself instead of teaching someone else how to do it without your help, especially since teaching someone to do something takes just as long, if not longer than doing it yourself.  The important thing, though, is that once someone learns how to do something, they no longer need you to do it for them and you then have less that you have to do yourself.

Another way to get yourself out of the loop is to delegate ruthlessly.  We often don’t delegate as often as we could because we think that only we can do something correctly.  Mothers often underestimate what their kids can do and don’t think it’s fair to make them do stuff to to help keep the house & family functioning.  But kids will surprise you with what they can do and they are proud when they can contribute like they see their parents do.

Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself

Lastly, you need to remember to do the things you need to do to stay healthy and sane.  That includes getting enough sleep and exercise.