Get Out of Survival Mode with these Three Steps (Episode 234)
Do you catch yourself living in "survival mode," running on fumes, or not creating any time for self-care? I am thrilled to talk with my friend Elyssa today all about these things, and how procrastination can be the curtain we hide behind when we are feeling too overwhelmed to move forward.
We eliminate our ability for higher level processing when we are living in survival mode.
Elyssa Smith is a time strategist who focuses on compassionate time management, boundary setting and stress relief as the key foundations for the women she works with. She helps people overcome overwhelm, narrow down their schedules, and focus on what's important.
I met Elyssa years ago at a 48 Days event she came to as a coach before children. After the incredibly traumatic birth of her son, she had a journey of healing and recovery to go down. She experienced a moment of journaling, recognizing this may be her lot in life moving forward. And she made a decision then, that if she were to come out of her darkness, she would squeeze this for every lesson she could learn from it, and she would map her way out -her own healing journey through trauma - to share her insights with others. She determined to walk away from self-sabotage, low self-esteem, and all the things that were bringing her down and not working in her life.
As she would make a step of progress forward, she'd go back to others who were a step behind and encourage them on. She started stepping more and more into the space of helping women with boundary and trauma work.
Hacking the Formula - The Survival Brain
Most of the time, if you have issues with time management, you also are stressed and struggling with boundaries. These three often go hand in hand.
If you go into hardship and/or trauma, if you had a hard childhood, a stressful job, you can drop into survival brain - which functions from the right side of your brain. When your brain sees a threat, it triggers a survival response.
When we are in survival mode, we are connecting to one of these areas:
Yes, "fawn" is the newest one, meaning people pleasing to the point of losing oneself in the process. With fight, it's the internal rage that just brews up within us and we can fight our way to safety. With fawning, it's become a survival response to please everyone around us as a means of survival.
When you are in survival mode, it revs up the systems you need strictly for survival - your circulatory system (your heart rate speeds up) and your respiratory system (your breathing speeds up). It turns off what you don't need - that high-level processing and labeling that the left side of your brain covers is not needed for basic survival. Your high level functioning shuts down. Your digestive system isn't focused on food. You aren't building things up - your immune system shuts down. Your reproductive system shuts down.
This is the automatic stress response, no matter what the stressor is. If your brain kicks into survival - no matter if it's due to the battle over broccoli at the dinner table or a war zone out your door - your brain will kick to survival mode, and in those seconds of survival, all other functioning stops working unless it's supporting one of these four areas - fight, flight, freeze or fawn.
Who's Fault Is It?
Your survival system is integrated into who you are from childhood. You learn strategies for survival that become so engrained in your subconscious you don't even recognize what you're doing. So as Elyssa breaks it down in our interview, she shared how we need to stop the blame game of it being our "fault" and just look at the science of our brains and bring awareness to it. We can "hack the system" of survival by first bringing awareness to when we do it, what it looks like, and why it happens. Without awareness, no shifts can happen.
your survival techniques you learned in childhood were a result of your environment and what you experienced.
Your survival system will remain in place until you become aware and hack them.
It may not be your fault. It may be your processing since childhood. Yet when we bring awareness to it, it becomes our responsibility - the point of blame is irrelevant.
Know where you're coming from
These is such value in simply understanding the science behind our processing. While it doesn't take away our survival responses, it brings awareness to them and takes the shame out of it; it's a natural biological response. Yes, we can shift the way we do things. If we beat ourselves up over it, we aren't healing and shifting. If we avoid it and wrap it up in shame, we aren't shifting. If we want to shift at all in our lives, and experience anything differently, we have to first and foremost simply bring to awareness what is happening, and seek to understand. The more we learn the science behind our natural responses, the more we can understand what we can do to "hack" it in a way that works for us, and not get trapped in shame or embarrassment on something that is a natural response for humanity.
If you force yourself into this, you can trap yourself into a shame spiral, stressing yourself out even more, and getting deeper into survival mode.
Elyssa's 3 Step Framework
In her Forbes article on Procrastinating? Self-Compassionate Time Management Could Help You Stop, Elyssa shares her 3 step framework to shift out of survival mode:
- Take a break from whatever you are doing. Walk away. Put it down. Ground yourself. I'll walk outside, take off any shoes and socks and literally feel the ground beneath my feet. Get away from what is stressing you and find your safe place. This can often be actual space.
- Second, get something that nurtures the five senses - a warm cup of tea, a cozy blanket, music that puts you in your sweet spot - think of what you can do to nurture your senses, as this jars you out of survival when you're stopping to smell the roses!
- And finally, this is critical. When someone shows support to you, that signals to your brain that you are no longer in survival mode; you aren't being abandoned/rejected/kicked out of the herd/picked off by a predator. That's where our brain goes to with survival, and support from another negates that. Yes, survival brain literally sees rejection as equal to death.
When we can look at the actual science of how we process things, and how our brains view rejection when in survival mode, it can help to take the shame and the "shoulds" out of the equation, simply bring to our awareness a natural human biological function, and how we can better address it in our lives so we can thrive.
This doesn't have to take all day. Find your safety, self-care and support in five simple minutes. Fix yourself a cup of tea, step outside and give a quick call to a friend. And boom. Your survival brain isn't out to get you. It has your best interest in mind! It's asking for attention and awareness so you can understand how it can better work for you. Think about when your child freaks out - do you nurture yourself at all and give yourself some grace to reset?
Your Weekly Challenge:
Time management - this is so much the crux of where overwhelm happens. For Elyssa, she sees time management as the gateway to the life we always dreamed of. If we don't manage our time well, we are reactive to what comes out way...or encroaches on our overloaded schedule.
Pay attention to what is taking up your time. Where are devoting time that may be draining you, or not serving you - or others - well? Are you living in a way that your survival brain isn't being triggered every few minutes?
Time management is an essential step on reprioritizing your life so you are running it, and it isn't running you. What you create space for shows up more and more in your life. If you are creating space for the chaos only, there is not question that you will be inviting more.
Elyssa's challenge to you today, just to get started, is to put reminder on your phone, right now, 3 times a day - set an alert that simply reminds you to take three deep breaths. That's it. Just a simple reset that allows you to bring awareness to the present moment.
Surround yourself with what feeds your senses - these are reminders on that you are loved, supported, worthy, cherished....and they make you feel good. It may be small, but these send a recurring message to your brain that you love you and you're going to take care of yourself. When we take the few minutes to bring awareness to our own well-being, and assure we can step out of survival mode, then we're able to bring our best selves forward...and celebrate how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste
Dig Deeper with Elyssa and the Apps we Recommended!
- Procrastinating? Self-Compassionate Time Management Can Help You Stop
- Elyssa Smith's "Your Best Moment" Website
- Elyssa's "Stress Less Lounge" on FaceBook
- Gratefulness App
- Unique Daily Affirmations App
- "I Am" Daily Affirmations App
- Tasks: Tips to Move Past Overwhelm and Make It Flow
- Tasks: They Are Taking Over My Life!
- Life Isn’t Compartmentalized…but if it were…
- The Burden of Overwhelm – Moving Forward While Always Feeling Behind
- 5 Tips To Focus For Frazzled Families (Episode 160)
- Get your free download of "Success Secrets for Home and Work" here
- Have Life Seasons Got You Stuck In A Funk? (Episode 179)
- Which is More Important - Skillset or Mindset? (Episode 218)
- Self-Love, or Self-Sabotage? (Episode 152)
- Ashley Logsdon, Relationship Coach
- Personality Styles
Questions or comments?
We love Q&A on the podcast, and cover all things that are a part of creating an intentional family.
Personality styles, marriage/intimacy, parenting, education, entrepreneurship, minimalism, travel...
What is pressing on your mind? Reach out and ask or comment - we may cover it on an upcoming podcast as well as respond by email.