Surviving in Survival Mode (until you can thrive again)

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There’s LOADS of articles about how to get out of survival mode, but what if we could learn to accept survival mode as a phase of life with a purpose? The five truths in this episode will help you feel better through it, and see the overall purpose it might be serving in your life. 

Overwhelmed mom with head in laundry, with text overlay how to sruvive in "survival mode"

I had every intention of this episode of the podcast being a chance for me to share all of the ways I planned and prepared for the first trimester making for an easy glide into the 2nd trimester (after all preparation is the key to success, right?)

But I just couldn’t do it. 

I honestly went into this pregnancy feeling very (over) confident. 

It’s my 5th pregnancy and I knew what was coming, knew what to expect, and I thought I could “beat” it so to say. 

I thought this time would be different.  I was in better shape when I got pregnant.  It had been well over 2 years since my last pregnancy and my body had had time to recover.  I’d been to therapy and read all of the personal development books so I was sure I could just take a nap or two and will myself out of the first trimester sickness. 


I basically survived the first trimester on daily naps and the majority of my time spent on the couch (when I wasn’t in the bathroom).  According to my husband it was the worst of my pregnancies (based on my behavior) and the worst part is it started earlier and stuck around longer than any other pregnancy (I’m still not feeling 100%) 

It was survival mode in full force. 

So when it came down to writing this episode about surviving the first trimester through meal planning and meal prep, I just couldn’t bring myself to give any advice. 

Because in those long couch laying sessions I read what felt like every blog article ever written about morning sickness and surviving the first trimester, and you know what? 

None of it helped. 

Sure, some days sipping on a sprite made me feel better, and there were about 4 days when I was sure the vitamin b6 and unisom thing was totally working. 

But most days were just survival. 

…so I guess that’s what I talk about today. 

Surviving in survival mode (until you can thrive again)

Because even if you’re not in your first trimester or feeling sick on the daily, as mothers we all understand struggle…and we’ve all been in survival mode. Sometimes we need all of the tips and tricks and advice, and sometimes we just need someone to tell us that we’re doing just fine wherever we are and more importantly THAT WE’RE NORMAL. 

So let’s talk about the actual truth of what the survival mode is like, and see if we can find some silver linings even when life is just hard. 

5 Truths about Survival Mode

  1. Planning and preparing can help but only so much
  2. You need help, and that’s okay
  3. Different seasons call for different solutions
  4. Resting is NOT a waste of time 
  5. Ups and downs are normal and healthy

Planning and preparing can help keep you from survival mode, but only so much

Sometimes being thrown into survival mode can come out of left field, but often you know things are about to get hard.  When you are starting a new job, or welcoming a new baby, or adjusting to a new school schedule. 

For the times that you DO know something is coming, just because it’s going to be a rough road, doesn’t mean you should do NOTHING to prepare. 

I honestly only had about 2 weeks between finding out I was pregnant, and morning sickness beginning full force.  So not a lot of time to make a huge impact. 

But I did get a few things done that made a difference. 

I knew that in the past I had struggled to cook and eat meat in the first trimester. So for my meal prep in those first few weeks I prepped a bunch of different kinds of meat so we had a variety of things to cook from throughout the first trimester. 

It really did help to have that all prepped. 

Planning and preparation isn’t always the perfect solution

I probably cooked more because of this, and it was immensely helpful for my husband who ended up taking over the bulk of the cooking for the majority of the first trimester, but this doesn’t mean we were enjoying homemade meals every night because of all of my incredible foresight. 

I still couldn’t eat much of what I had meal-prepped so it was helpful for feeding my family but I still survived on saltine crackers or sometimes nothing at all. 

Our takeout bill also doubled or tripled and we probably ate out 2 times/week which is a huge increase from our 0-1 time/week that is normal for our family. 

There were many nights where the family ate leftovers, cereal, scrambled eggs, or whatever other easy thing we could manage. 

I’m getting wordy and I promised myself this episode would be short and sweet but the point here is that while planning and preparation is helpful, there are still situations that go beyond what we can plan and prep for. 

We did our best, and most importantly I ddin’t allow myself to feel any guilt about it.  I recognized that different seasons call for different solutions and no one is on their A game all the time.

When you’re in survival mode, you need to find help and that’s okay

I am so thankful for all of the help my husband offered in this time.  He took on the brunt of the housework, childcare in the evenings, and dinner cooking for the entire first trimester.  

But I know that many of you are not in the same situation that I am.  Maybe you are a single mother, or your husband is less willing to jump in and help out.  Maybe you work long hours while pregnant or any other number of struggles. 

My goal on the podcast is to help moms in the long-term find solutions to their mealtime struggles. 

But what about the short-term? What about those times when normally everything runs smoothly but life has thrown you some extra obstacles and you just need a little help. 

Embrace the help however you can get it. 

Get creative.  Trade babysitting with a friend who has kids that your kids get along with.  While this sounds like more work, I find that my kids behave better with friends around AND they leave me alone.  It’s really not any harder than just my own kids, and it opens up time for me.  Get a nanny if you can afford it. 

If meals are too much, lower your standards for a time of what you consider a meal.  Order hellofresh or another meal delivery service. 

If none of these are options, consider using the tv more.  You may have strong feelings about screen time or its affects (I do too) but in those most challenging circumstances it may be worth the trade-off for a season. Which brings me to the next point. 

Different seasons call for different solutions

In the book Essentialism, Greg Mckeown talks about trade-offs.  You get to choose what problem you want a solution to, and what trade-offs you are willing to live with.  You can’t solve every problem, you can only learn to define the trade-offs that you are willing to live with. 

The problem is that many of us try to set our trade-offs once and then live with it even as life twists and turns. 

So let’s say that on a normal day you want to solve the family dinnertime problem by cooking at home, and you’re going to make that easier through meal planning and meal prep. 

You know you are using a little more time to cook at home, but it’s worth the trade-off of time for improved food quality and health improvements, and the cost-savings you are sure to get by cooking from home. 

But suddenly, your time becomes even more scarce (or, more accurately, your energy becomes more scarce, which is a much more useful thing to track than time anyway.)

This can happen due to a pregnancy (my case), a new job, illness in the family, divorce or other family drama, a new baby, any number of things. 

The point is that suddenly time has become much more valuable and it may no longer be worth the trade-off. 

So it’s time to go back to the drawing board during this time of life.  Nothing has to be (or should be) permanent so there’s no room for guilt.  But maybe you decide that you still value wholesome meals, so you’re going to trade money instead of time and order hellofresh.  Or maybe you decide that for a time you are willing to lower your standards on quality in trade for greater ease in your life for a season. 

I find that when I consider trade-offs it makes decisions so much less guilt-inducing and that helps me choose the best solution for help. 

The season you are in will not last forever, and if it appears that it will it might be time to look for more long-term solutions. 

Resting is NOT a waste of time 

This mindset is something I have to work on DAILY. 

I am totally that mom that never sits down if there’s clutter on the floor, dishes in the sink, or a mess somewhere in the house (which if you have small children is any time said children are awake). 

But I learned something about rest during this last trimester that was really important. 

First off, as powerful as clearing physical clutter from our lives can be, I think it’s really important as moms to learn to clear mental clutter and find peace even among physical chaos. 

I still prefer a de-cluttered space…and in normal times I work hard to make that happen. 

But I discovered that I can still find peace and rest for 5, 10 minutes even when chaos abounds around me. 

I also noticed as I rested more that my mind actually became more active, in a good way.  It was as if the “busy work” thoughts dissipated and I finally had space for my actual thoughts.  No longer was my mind re-hashing my to-do list, instead I was thinking about the bigger picture, and more important thoughts. 

The cool part is that it was automatic and I started to feel inspired (though still unable to physically execute some of that inspiration) and it felt good. 

Like exercise, I think rest takes practice. 

At first, it can feel like a waste of time or like you aren’t seeing results, or that you don’t have time for it. 

But as you continue to practice and see the benefits, it’s hard to see how you got through without it before. 

Oh and I’m bookmarking these words for later (as a recovering work-a-holic mom) so if this is hard for you, you’re not alone. 

Ups and downs are normal and healthy

This thought was inspired by this talk based on the book and class at Stanford University called design your life. 

Bill Burnett gave this talk, and the part I found most inspirational is when he compared our life to his job as a designer. 

He says that he has days when he’s inspired and motivated and full of ideas, and days when he doesn’t (because after all as a designer you’re creating something new that’s NEVER been done before). 

This feels really obvious as a job, and I would never think less of him for not being full of ideas at all times. 

Yet in our own lives, we feel so frustrated or like we are failures when we have ups and downs. 

I know I do. 

I’ll keep up my journal for 3 months, and then lose steam. Or exercise is a habit, but then everyone gets sick and it feels like a small uphill battle to start again. 

But what if instead we could accept that as humans we are creating something new that’s never been done before (at least by us) our lives! 

…and the ups and downs are not only normal but maybe even necessary to finding inspiration for the future.

Well, that’s it! 

The 5 truths that can help you “survive” in survival mode until you can thrive again. 

I hope you enjoyed it! 

If you’re interested in other episodes on mindset, you might like the following: 

Self Improvement vs Self Acceptance: When to strive for more and when to find loving acceptance for how things are

Keystone Habits: What they are, and how to use them to start slaying your goals




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