Three signs you're living in survival mode

Living in survival mode leaves you feeling unfulfilled, exhausted, and insecure. You’re just trying to make it through each day, leaving little to no room for inspiration and motivation. Survival mode is a defense mechanism our brains develop to try and keep us safe. The problem occurs, though, when survival mode becomes our permanent mode of operation. This most commonly occurs in individuals who have experienced trauma in their lives. When we leave trauma unprocessed, it takes root in our bodies, and this unprocessed trauma affects our daily lives more than we would think. 

Think about the fight, flight, and freeze response. Known as a trauma and fear response, this is where our bodies prepare us for perceived danger. When we’re living in survival mode, our fight, flight, and freeze response is playing on repeat. It can be difficult to determine if you’re living in survival mode, especially if you have been for a long time. Over time, survival mode can take the forefront of our nervous system, leaving us stuck in this mode of operation.

Think you may be living in survival mode? Below are three signs that indicate you might be.
1. Excessive fatigue

Fatigue is when we’re feeling overtired, lacking energy, and lacking motivation. When we experience fatigue, we likely oversleep, hoping this will make us feel better. Unfortunately, sleeping too much causes adverse health effects that can make us feel even more tired. Living in survival mode causes us to feel fatigued because our body is exuding so much energy operating in the fight, flight, and freeze mode. This mode of operation is linked to our nervous system, our sympathetic nervous system to be exact. 

Our sympathetic nervous system is on high alert, always trying to protect us from perceived danger or threats. When we’re living in survival mode, we’re always operating from this “high alert” mode, which leaves us feeling fatigued. If you find yourself feeling fatigued more often than not, that could be a sign that you’re living in survival mode.
2. Lack of focus
Since living in survival mode uses up so much of our bodies’ energy, it’s not surprising that we lack focus. When our bodies are over concerned with keeping us safe, we’re left with little to work with in other areas. Experiencing a lack of focus and concentration is very common for those living in survival mode. It can be difficult to complete mundane tasks and stay on track at work. 

Living in survival mode eats away at our motivation. When we lack motivation, it becomes even more difficult to stay focused and on track. When our sympathetic nervous system is overactive, it hinders our ability to find concentration. If you find lacking focus, you may be living in survival mode.

3. Emotionally reactive or on edge

Similar to our lack of focus, living in survival mode leaves little room for emotional balance. Operating from the fight, flight, and freeze mode leaves us feeling anxious and incredibly on edge. When we’re feeling this way, it becomes increasingly more difficult to regulate our emotions. Maybe you’ve been more irritable than normal, or perhaps you’ve noticed that your emotions have felt extremely intense. This once again directly relates to our sympathetic nervous system, as it increases feelings of anxiety and stress. 

With increased feelings of anxiety, it makes total sense that those living in survival mode struggle with being hypersensitive. If you’ve noticed that your emotions are challenging to regulate, you may be living in survival mode.
How to ease your nervous system
You likely noticed that each sign of living in survival mode is closely tied to our nervous system. As mentioned above, living in survival mode means that we are operating from our sympathetic nervous system. Luckily, there are ways to ease and regulate your nervous system to feel more balanced, secure, and calm. 

Regulating your nervous system is the easiest way to combat the effects of living in survival mode. The next time you’re feeling anxious, fatigued, or lacking focus, take a moment to regulate your nervous system.

Some ways to do this include: listening to your favorite song, practicing breathing exercises, practicing mindfulness, meditating, taking a nature walk, or meditating.