Breaking Free From Survival Mode

sur·viv·al mode (noun): when productivity and structure go out the window and we do whatever means necessary to make it to bedtime

Over the past few weeks, my home has been plagued with illness. First, it was a stomach bug, and then as soon as it seemed we were all better, my two toddlers came down with another illness. Add a 3-month old into the mix, and this made for some very long days (and nights).

We were in survival mode. The TV was on, laundry wasn’t done, dishes piled up, we just survived.

Maybe you’re in survival mode because you just brought home a new baby, your husband has been working a lot of long hours, you are the sick one, or maybe there was a death in the family. As moms, we’ve all been there.

While there are definitely times for this, it shouldn’t be the norm.

I want you to reflect on what a normal day looks like in your house. Are you constantly frantic? Are you living in survival mode on a daily basis?

If you are, you are not alone. But if you are just surviving, you simply cannot thrive.

Our Families Suffer

When we are living in survival mode, our families are the ones most affected by this behavior. Our husbands get the worst of us, our children lack training and discipline, and we fail to take care of our homes. This may seem harsh, but it’s the reality.

Frantic moms are the enemy to a peaceful and unified home.

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” Titus 2:3-5

Our Father gives us very clear instructions in these verses. It honors God when we work hard in our home, and He is glorified through every dish that we wash and piece of clothing we fold.

We Fail to Invest in Others

This is an area where it’s easy to have excuses and become self-focused. “I barely have time to shower and get dinner on the table for my family, how can I possibly make time to invest in others?”

Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”

Getting little kids out the door, buckled into car seats, and to a destination is hard. But if this small sacrifice allows us to build relationships and invest in others, then it’s worth it.

We are called to pour into others. Don’t let the excuse of little ones stop you from doing this important kingdom work.

Galations 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

If we are too focused on our own burdens, how can we possibly bear someone else’s?

We Cannot Serve

If we are living in survival mode on a daily basis, not only will we fail to invest in our families and other women, but we can’t actively serve the body of Christ. The Word is clear that if we love Christ, we must also love His church. As members of the body, we are to be serving. 1 Corinthians 12 is a great reference regarding the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12 says, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.”

Again, it’s easy to make excuses. “I will serve when my children are older and I have more time.” Or, “It would be easier for someone else who doesn’t have young children to do this act of service or serve on this committee.”

I would argue that by serving when your children are young (and especially including them in it), you are teaching them the importance of serving by example. What a gift that could be to them.

How to Break Free

I hope you’re feeling as convicted as I am writing this. If you are, then you may be wondering how to break free from this vicious survival mode cycle. The key to changing our behavior is asking the Lord to change our mindset to an eternal one.

A question that I ask myself often is, what is my kingdom work today? What am I doing today that will have a positive impact on eternity? While it doesn’t feel like it sometimes, doing dishes and changing dirty diapers is very important kingdom work.

By taking care of our homes and our families, we are working toward the ultimate goal of raising children – for them to become adults that love and fear the Lord. We glorify God in our obedience and show thankfulness when we take care of the things He has given us.

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17

Practical Ways to Change

While I’m far from perfect in this, I have made an effort to learn from women that are older and wiser than I am. Here are some practical suggestions to help leave survival mode behind.  

1. Start with one thing

When in the midst of chaos, it may seem overwhelming to think of everything that needs to change. I recently heard this quote:

“The way to do a great deal is to keep on doing a little. The way to do nothing at all is to be continually resolving that you will do everything.” -Charles Spurgeon

Instead of trying to change everything at once, start small. Every little bit helps, don’t discount the little things. Start by reading your bible daily. Spend time in God’s word and in prayer. Then move on to something else. Tackle one thing at a time.

2. Begin your day peacefully

There’s nothing peaceful about waking up to a crying baby or a toddler yelling, “Mama! Mama! Mama!” So, wake up before your children.

I try to give myself at least 45 minutes to be in the Word, drink my coffee, and shower before I get my kids up. Even if this isn’t possible for you, give yourself 15 minutes to brush your teeth and wake up a little. If this means your kids talk quietly in their cribs or beds before it’s time to get them up, then make this happen.

While it takes a little planning, starting my day this way has a huge impact on my attitude and productivity.

3. Limit distractions

When I’m overwhelmed, my temptation is to distract myself from my circumstances. This usually means scrolling Facebook or Instagram, reading pointless articles, or watching TV.

When I catch myself doing this, it’s helpful for me to take a forced “break” from the things that are distracting me. I’ve been known to delete apps off of my phone for a few days so that I’m not even tempted to click on them. I find that it’s easier to be disciplined after extended breaks like this.

I also try not to have the TV on in my house during the day. Not only does it distract me, but it distracts my kids.

4. Include your children

Don’t feel like you have to do household tasks only when your kids are napping or occupied. It’s a good thing for them to see you work. And if they are old enough, include them in it. My 1 and 2-year olds love to follow me around with washcloths and “clean” the walls and couches while I’m tidying up.

While it may take longer to allow your young children to “help,” it teaches them to be hard workers and to find joy in daily tasks. I don’t want to discourage my toddlers from helping now, even though they really aren’t much help, because I want them to continue to desire to help me as they get older (and are actually helpful to me).

5. Commit to good things

Finally, fill your days with things that honor God. It may seem counterintuitive to add things to your calendar when you’re in survival mode, but I’ll tell you why it’s not.

By committing to things like a weekly bible study, serving on a committee at church, or scheduling play dates, you are filling your own tank and the tanks of others. You are getting out of your house, and establishing routines.

This goes back to the reasons why it’s not biblical to live in survival mode. Survival mode is self-focused, and when we ask the Lord to lead us out of this valley, we can begin to see how fruitful it is to be investing and serving others.

So, stop making excuses and join me in leaving survival mode behind. For the sake of God’s kingdom, let’s thrive instead.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Love, Hannah

Hannah Sell

Author Hannah Sell

Arachnophobia is #1 on guest author Hannah Sell's fear list. She would pack up and go elsewhere if she ever found a spider in her bedroom! Fortunately her husband Karter would gladly protect his wife and their two (with one on the way!) children. Hannah finds the beauty in life, whether it be through photography, decorating, or the cute clothes she finds for her kiddos. God is evident in Hannah's tender heart and He has been growing her in many ways, including fighting her fears.

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