Survival Mode 101: From Surviving to Thriving

by Kimberly Garner

When we’re in the throes of survival mode, we still need to show up for life. Yet how do we stop the frenetic spin of survival mode from throwing us off course and out of balance? In order to find our true north, we need to collect our bearings and what better way to establish a steady cadence than with a handy “to do” list! This is our “break in case of emergency” tool for when life is getting the best of us and we need someone to point our shoulders in the right direction. Awareness | Curiosity | Intention Awareness: The first step is noticing the survival cycle of panic playing out within our mind and body. We want to catch the cycle early on so the subconscious doesn’t unnecessarily wreak physical and emotional havoc. Survival mode triggers our fight or flight response, causing a flood of hormones to address the imminent danger, while our subconscious jumps into REACT mode. It’s the same tool that kept us from being eaten by a sabor-toothed tiger. This can be incredibly taxing on our body, especially if we’re dealing with chronic or long term survival issues. Curiosity: Am I being the emotion or noticing the emotion? The difference between the two lives in our body or our mind. If the subconscious is driving our boat, we’re embodying the emotions of survival mode, acting them out in real time and overcome by the intensity of them. If we’re at the helm, we’re awake to the discomfort of the experience with the presence of mind to nurture ourself through the storm. With the latter, we afford ourself some emotional leeway to navigate ourself back to stable ground. Intention: What is my intention in this moment? Allowing ourself some space from the intensity to be our own witness to what’s playing out writ large offers us a twofold benefit. One, we just paused the panic, we gave ourself some elevation to observe what’s at play, what’s truth, where are the options? Now here’s the juicy part…survival mode exposes the toxic recordings living within our subconscious, yet in day to day life those recordings play at a whisper. When we’re in survival mode, those deafening recordings haunt us. “I’m so stupid! Life has it out for me! I’ll never get ahead! I’ll always be alone. I hate myself.” These are the more nefarious core beliefs and they’re heightened in times of extreme stress. When we take the stance of the curious observer, we get direct access to the outdated and false beliefs alive within our subconscious. This is our opportunity to decode the the counterproductive programs with those more aligned with our intentions and inner truth. A Reminder List for Thriving Create physical, mental and emotional space Spend alone time in nature Move my body Be physical Engage and indulge my senses Use my voice Sing Shout “YES!” over and over. Do the same with “NO!” Listen to music and turn up the volume Dance. Allow myself to get lost in the music. Let the music move my body Write. Just purge everything held within my mind Talk to myself aloud to get my thoughts, fears and concerns out of my mental real estate Buy myself flowers or pick flowers Take a bath with candles and essential oils and sugar scrub Write a note on my bathroom mirror “I love you! Everything is going to be way better than okay!” Stay connected with my inner knowing Put a picture of my 5 year old self on the refrigerator Be nice to me. Speak to me with kindness and compassion Trust life has my back. Feel the truth of it What’s essential for me in this moment? What’s essential for me today? What do I need and how can I give it to myself? Find small ways to satisfy the value I feel at risk, threatened or uncertain Test my worst case scenario…what if this did happen, then what? What would I do then? What’s my exit strategy if my worst case scenario happens so I may feel a little better about possible outcomes? Disarm my big fear by poking holes in my beliefs Get curious about the false “truths” and old beliefs from my upbringing and developmental years that may add to my distress…what was I taught that actually isn’t true at all? Am I buying into a storyline or narrative that isn’t even true for me anymore? What do I want to change? What feels most important to me and my life right now? Wonder about the treasure waiting for me on the other side of this experience When I’m on the other side of this, how do I want to live? What do I need to remember about myself? If I were my own best friend, what would I tell me? Write a letter to myself talking me off my proverbial cliff Make my mental well-being a priority Put my needs first Remember right now is not my conclusion, it’s part of my beautiful unfolding Disclaimer: The subconscious gets a bad rap. The subconscious is actually one of our greatest faculties, yet when left to its own devices it often sabotages our good intentions. With awareness and fierce self devotion, we can tap into the brilliant hidden potential of our subconscious mind.