Recently I have had a battle with a particularly unkind version of flu. After over a week in bed – literally doing nothing – I had been struggling with my thoughts like never before. There is nothing quite like idleness (and self-pity if I am going to be totally honest) when it comes to fighting with your mind. You see, in being sick, the basic requirement for my existence was immediately whittled down to one thing: getting better. I no longer wondered whether I was enjoying myself or if I truly added meaning and hope to other peoples’ days. No. I was out to simply survive. And I have been miserable for way too long because of it.
Now you might think I’m being drastic. It’s flu – not something life threatening. But I have also lived through seasons where the stakes have been way higher. From being unemployed with a dead-end university qualification to sitting in hospital with encephalitis – among other ‘itises’ – counting the seconds away in an isolation ward. Survival is an instinct we rely on when things don’t go well. It is an incredible trait that helps us get through the hard times without giving in.
But I believe there is a better way to live. There are many people going through terrible circumstances right now who are not simply surviving – although by our standards it is more than justifiable that they just focus on ‘getting by’. As much as I do believe pain is relative and everyone experiences life uniquely, I also believe that we were made to do more than simply survive ANY season. It’s what sets us apart from other species – we don’t simply live on instinct, we can create and regulate how we live as humans.
So are you constantly living with the weight of your situation tearing at your thought? Do you struggle to think beyond the bare minimum requirement? Are you tired and worn out? Here are three things that I have found to be ways to kick yourself out of survival gear.
No, I’m not trying to offend you. Yes – your situation might be tough. But choosing to laugh and introduce joy into your thought-life can do wonders for your soul. When life is dire and there are so many reasons to be serious, the last thing you want to do is find something funny to occupy yourself with. But that’s how exactly why you should do it. In acknowledging and enjoying whatever good is present, you are immediately taking your thoughts out of the black and white world of ‘survival’ and into the colorful realm of real life – where the bright and the somber live side by side and the existence of shadows is inseparable from the presence of light.
I remember when my family gathered around my mom before she went in for a major operation due to cancer. We sat in the ward and although there was nothing really apparent to laugh at, we found ourselves having the greatest time. I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard for so long. And it made our family stronger. And it got us through a really tough season. Laughter brings perspective. Laughter releases endorphins. Laughter relieves tension.
Make difficult decisions
Once again, I understand when you are in survival mode and everything is treated as ‘life or death’ critical, the amount of decisions available are drastically limited. But if you find yourself stressed and in a tailspin trying to just get by, maybe it’s time to take on some hard decisions. Instead of only looking at how to get out of the problems you face TODAY, looking at the greater decisions that have got you to this place can help make sure you are not stuck in the same survival mode in a years’ time.
Why are you stuck in survival mode right now? Is it because of your own decisions? Is it a result of someone else’s? Are you falling victim to something you can control?
The answer is hard to hear, but whatever your circumstance you are the one who will determine whether you become a victim of it or not. If you look up from the current pain and strife and see what happened before, as well as what might happen in the future, you will be able to make good decisions that might not impact your problem today, but will completely revolutionize where you will be in ten years’ time.
Making hard decisions instantly puts an expiry date on your survival mode.
Give your time, your money, your support, your words, your expertise or even your food to someone else. Generosity does not belong in a survival mentality. When you are living simply on instinct in a season, you will find yourself becoming selfish and self-obsessed. It’s about you making sure you’re alright, who cares about anyone else?
I know what that’s like. And if you get to that point, the most powerful and urgent thing you should do is give. You might say you don’t have anything to give – a poverty spirit is part of a survival mentality. But there is always something you have that could bless someone else. In fact, even if it doesn’t bless anyone the act of you giving in itself immediately shifts your mindset from survival to something greater.
Does it make sense to give when you don’t have enough? No. But when you do it, you open your whole life up to others. It encourages interdependence instead of just dependence. It forces you to use your imagination (one of the first things to shut down in times of crisis). Generosity is a major key to escaping the prison of survival.
You might read all of these points and still feel incapable of doing any of them. All of the above decisions require strength and wisdom. I know I have only been able to learn about them through spending time with one who knows and cares more than anyone about my situation – Jesus. If you would like to get out of survival mode and truly thrive in life – despite the circumstances you find yourself in – then click on the link below.