Disclaimer: I’m not an expert and I’m speaking from personal experience. Also, it’s difficult to keep talking about the bad moments I’ve experienced, but y’all appreciate the honesty and part of having a lifestyle niche is sharing the bad times too.
“Survival mode is supposed to be a phase.that helps save your life. It is not meant to be how you live.”
Survival mode can be defined as continuing to exist in spite of difficult circumstances. At some point during adulthood especially during your 20’s most people have a season of living in survival mode. This mode can be triggered from a variety of things including childhood trauma, financial issues, mental health, a breakup, etc.
I’ve lived in and out of survival mode since I was 22 and my triggers stem from financial and mental/physical health issues. From the age of 22 to 23 I was struggling to pay on the 10k of credit card debt I had accumulated from getting furniture, shopping, etc. and during this time I was also experiencing the beginning of my stomach issues. On the bright side, my momma helped me out whenever I needed anything financially and therapy was great for my mental well-being. At 24 I was tired of living in survival mode so I hustled to get out of credit card debt, and without that ongoing stressor I was doing well financially, but my mental was pushed to the limit. I turned 25 and initially I had my shit together until I decided to quit my previous career path and grad program which eventually sent me back into barely surviving financially but like always my momma understood and she helped me get through this phase too.
Quick shout out to my momma. She’s the GOAT and more millennials need an understanding parent like her. She’s never judged me or made me feel bad for certain choices and circumstances I’ve been in. I love when she reminds me that my mema helped her when she was a single mom with 2 kids so it’s only right that she helps me too and she knows I’m going to be everything her and my dad prayed for me to be in this lifetime. She also used to tell me how she looked at helping me out as a good investment and one day I can’t wait to repay her and my dad for everything they’ve done for me. I used to feel bad about needing my parents' help but it's a blessing to have them and the “self-made” culture is overhyped. If you have a strong support system please utilize them, and let whoever think whatever.
I've noticed that survival mode tends to come with shame, guilt, and embarrassment regardless of whatever caused you to enter into this phase. If you get divorced a lot of divorcees feel like they failed at marriage and failed their kids. If previous trauma starts to impact you again then you feel like you why I can’t let go of the past and move on. If you're struggling financially you’ll ridicule yourself for needing financial assistance or you’ll start to feel like you don’t deserve to live a nice life. More people need to be more honest with how survival mode has impacted them and their quality of life. Some people overspend because they've always been broke or they refuse to spend anything because of their scarcity mindset. Some people refuse to date again after an intense breakup, then some people start running through new bodies like a tomb raider. There's a reason for everything that we do and some people's current and past choices and mindset may be linked to survival mode.
For me survival mode has made me second guess myself and it’s contributed to most of the negative thoughts that I have about myself. A top priority for the first quarter of 2023 is to address the impact and the negative thoughts with my new therapist.
Here’s some signs that you're living in survival mode.
Nothing brings you joy. Happiness is subjective but if you're constantly dreading waking up every day or you can’t make it through the day without crying then that’s a problem, love.
You feel like you don’t have control over your life or certain aspects of your life.
Indulging in something to alter your mood and mind. Something about partying, facing a blunt for breakfast/lunch/dinner, and eating until you're in a food coma has become the norm, but all of these behaviors are very alarming.
I’m not a therapist, but I did study psychology and I spent enough time in and out of grad school to become a therapist so if any of these signs are you it’s time to seek help. Help may vary depending on your circumstances. If you can afford to see a therapist I highly recommend it, and if it’s out of your budget or you don’t feel comfortable talking to a stranger then find a trusted friend or family member that you can vent to or seek guidance from. If you're religious I’d recommend talking to your pastor. If you don’t like to talk about your feelings and situation then find some coping skills such as journaling, going for a walk, etc. You can't heal and move on until you acknowledge your issues and how it's shaped or hindered who you are.
For me therapy, depending on my momma, writing, and traveling (even when I’m broke lol) has been the most beneficial for me. Everybody coping mechanisms is different, but if you don’t address why and how you got into survival mode than depression, anxiety, and unfortunately for some people suicidal thoughts or actually completing the act may start to consume you. The world needs you and your past or current situation doesn’t define you.
J Cole said it best, “Life can bring much pain, there are many ways to deal with this pain. Choose wisely.”
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