How to get out of survival mode

You may be feeling a little confused, overwhelmed, and worried about your next step or how you can move forward. You may be experiencing some high levels of anxiety regarding your future that feel outside of your control. 


Maybe it’s in your career? You might feel like you’re not receiving the levels of support you deserve or that your progression is not happening at the pace you’d have liked, so you’re starting to burn out and feel stuck. Or it can be at a personal level, where you feel like your relationships are not being as meaningful as they were to you or you’re feeling misunderstood and alone. 

And then, intrusive thoughts start to take over you, things like “Maybe I’m just not good enough for this job/person/situation”, which makes you feel like you need to overcompensate or somehow prove your worth. 

Perfectionism starts to operate where you think that you need to take more action and that whatever you do, it needs to be perfect so that no one judges you or rejects you. This causes you to feel completely exhausted at the end of the day, you have no energy and you feel like you’ve just survived another difficult day in the sea of difficult days that is your life. 

And what happens next? You want to distract yourself from this draining reality and you find coping mechanisms such as:

  • turning to drinking alcohol, caffeinated drinks
  • smoking
  • mindless scrolling on social media
  • binge-watching shows on TV
  • eating junk food
  • working outside working hours

You do all that you can to either avoid the struggles of the day or improve your reality and self-soothe. You create this cycle of doing more (in the relationship/at work) in order to have more validation and feedback for the ultimate feeling of being happy. You’ve got this order all wrong! 

What exactly is 'survival mode'?

It basically means that you are employing too much of your reptilian brain, the part of your brain that is responsible to keep you alive, literally surviving by sending the message to the rest of the body to breathe and pump blood to all the structures and cells.  It is known to be responsible for the flight-freeze-fight response. 

It works wonders if you are crossing the road and there’s a car coming your way. You have an adrenaline rush where you either run away to the safety of the curb or freeze on the spot (hopefully not this one!). 

You have a stimulus (your brain perceives a real danger) and you get a response to it in a physical form - your heart goes super fast, palms get sweaty and breathing goes through the roof because you’ve just experienced a traumatic event. When you get to safety, your body starts to harmonise and return to its normal relaxed self (this process is called homeostasis). 

Now, when you have situations like your boss is demanding this week’s report until the end of the day but you’re swamped in other work, your brain perceives this as a real danger as well; fears like losing your job and then losing your house because you’re out of work and that escalates to losing everything you treasure because when it’s bad it can only get worse, right?  

And in this imminent danger of getting fired, you trigger the same reaction as if you’re in the way of upcoming traffic and you experience the same physical reactions. But the problem is that the “cooling off” period never arrives because there is always more work to be done. 

This is the same with relationships. If you’re afraid that you’re not good enough for this person, you’ll always be on edge and trying to please them so that they don’t break up with you and you go back to feeling lonely and unloved. 

With this being continuous, you can never reach homeostasis and feel like you can catch a break - causing you to feel out of control.  

What are the signs of survival mode?

1. You worry too much about what others think

People-pleasing can be an indicator that you are living in survival mode as you’re constantly reacting to other people’s opinions and actions and you adapt your own opinions and behaviours to theirs. This can drain your energy and take you nowhere further because you are saying 'yes' to others and 'no' to yourself.

By giving away your power and being receptive to constant criticism, you are losing your essence and feeling disconnected from who you truly are, creating a wave of overwhelm that causes you to feel like there is no way to 'win'. 

2. You want everything to be perfect

“Done is better than perfect” is a quote that you understand logically but cannot bring yourself to practice. 

When you start something, it better turn out perfect or you give it up halfway. If you choose the perfect route you often end up overworking yourself, exhausting your creativity, and losing your sense of focus. 

Perpetuating this sense of self-imposed pressure to perfect everything will only increase your chances of having an extremely anxious reaction to whatever the outcome might be. 

3. You have no hobbies

Your life is work, family life, or studying, and nothing that truly brings you joy where it is just for you.  Having no activities that you enjoy and that help you release some steam will only cause you to feel resentful towards those that have good healthy boundaries and turn off the work computer at the end of their shift. 

This resentful feeling can be coming from the belief that those who are worthy of promotions and success in life have to work hard for it. 

4. You lack sense of purpose 

You don’t know exactly why you are living the way you’re living. There is no other intention to your daily life other than going to work to pay the bills and, occasionally, once in a blue moon, go on some kind of holiday. 

Now, remember when I said earlier that you had the order all wrong? It cannot be 'do, have and be'. It needs to be being that happy, empowered, confident self to support what you are doing in order to have your desires manifested.

How to get out of being in survival mode?

Get to know yourself at a deeper level

Connect to your desires and become aware of what intrusive thoughts cause you to feel anxiety.  Discover your spirituality and how you can embody your most confident self.

Journal your thoughts and emotions 

Journaling is a powerful personal development tool and it's not just for when you’re a teenager ranting about the mean people at school!  By writing down your thoughts you create another perspective that can really help you to feel better and lighter. 


Follow some guided meditations, like this one on my podcast, Mindful Introvert.   Download an app that offers some daily practices to help you relax and recharge from a busy day.  This causes you to boost your resilience and feel more in control of your body. 

Find your "why": Connect to your life’s purpose

You came to this Earth for a reason and you know there is more to it than living like this.  Connect to your intuition and find out what you desire most in life and what are your superpowers that will benefit the whole. 

I have created a podcast episode on this topic of feeling stuck and gave some more valuable tips on how to get “unstuck”. You can stream it here. 

If you’d like a more personalised approach, I am offering a free initial call. We will go over the aspect of your life that is causing you to feel stuck and we will create an action plan to move past this to a better and more aligned life. Contact me via my profile below to get started. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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