Sometimes, when life knocks you down, it hits you hard in the stomach, sending you reeling back, keeled over, and out of breath.
You don’t have time to slow down – you just have to deal with what’s in front of you.
You go into survival mode, and you’re fighting with all you’ve got to keep the most important things running smoothly, while you watch everything else come crashing down.
When Life Knocks You Down
These past few months, I had NO idea a mold problem would turn into months of taking care of the kids solo, and trying to handle the house issues while dragging our possessions through several moves with my three little ones.
In the midst of it all, my marriage and health were seriously struggling, my car broke down in Tennessee (and was going to cost more to repair than it was worth), I was trying to keep my business going, and we faced some big uncertainty about how things would turn out.
Yesterday, I was absolutely surprised to receive the best compliment from my mom and dad. They said when we came to stay with them last month, they could see how I’ve worked so hard to keep things normal and okay for the girls. The girls were bright and happy, and well behaved. My parents said they could see how much we had done with homeschooling, and they were really thriving, despite how CRAZY things have been.
I don’t say this to sing my own praises. In fact, I have felt like I am anything but in a good place. It encouraged me to hear that one of the most important things to me is okay.
But the bad news came out right after the compliment. “But..” my mom said. “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way. I can see how hard this has all been on your stress level, and it has taken a toll on you.”
As I listened, I knew she was right. Taking care of myself, my health, my sleep, even just taking a minute to relax and enjoy life, had taken a back burner to EVERYTHING else that seemed more important. I’m sure the bags under my eyes, the tiredness, the headaches, and my general stress and tension were easy to see.
I was at a point where I couldn’t go on the way things were going.
Maybe you’ve been there too – you’ve been in survival mode, and you start out running at full force, determined to push through whatever challenge is in front of you and get to the other side. You put work, household tasks, your kid’s needs, your commitments, or whatever all the pressing things are on your own plate, first. Maybe you’ve done this out of necessity, or maybe it’s been because of choices you’ve made.
I’ve been there at many different times in my life, sometimes because of stress over so many “small” things that have built up, sometimes over big things that are out of my control, and sometimes over things that I just feel like are too hard to change.
This time, at some point, I started to realize it wasn’t really working for me.
For one, I was working so hard and so much, that I wasn’t living life. I felt like I had run out of interesting things to write about, talk about, think about.
Recently, my husband and I realized we have been so focused on the challenges and trying to get through it, that we really didn’t have much to talk to each other about, besides what needed to be done.
Taking a Step Back
So, this past week, as we’ve moved back into our home, I made a point to take a bit of a step back… here are three examples:
- For the first time ever, I hired a cleaning service to clean my house. I am still fighting back the guilt of spending $70 on something so unnecessary (which I only struggle with when it comes to my own situation – I have never had a problem with others hiring a cleaning service)! When I push aside that guilt, I know that it was important for me to heal, catch my breath, and reconnect this week. The cleaning also gave peach of mind to know all of the dust and allergens that could harm my health were gone.
- I purchased two family boxes from Hello Fresh (you can use this link for $40 in free meals – the discounted prices will be shown automatically). This saved a lot of time time shopping and cooking, and we got to enjoy some healthy meals at home. By the way, we have tried three meals so far, and they have all been AMAZING. I prefer the healthy choices and quality over Blue Apron.
- I took advantage of grocery delivery from Shipt (plus $20 in free groceries). If you don’t have Shipt in your area, you can check AmazonFresh (new customers get a free trial), or check local grocery stores to see if they offer delivery or curbside pickup.
- We spent some time hanging out as a family, playing board games, going to a playplace (where my husband and I could drink coffee and eat cookies while the kids played), watching fireworks at a local festival, and we had a couple friends over.
We spent time living life and caring for the most important things this week. We accomplished a lot of household tasks too, but we left room for time to breathe and reconnect.
All of the problems and stress and pressing things are not gone, but they feel SO much more manageable after spending time connecting and figuring out what’s important.
Three Important Things to Focus on that can absolutely change everything
In my experience, no matter what the situation, when I feel myself slipping into survival mode, it’s usually because one or more of three important priorities are off. These are the things to focus on first to get out of stress mode:
- Our most important relationships need to be in good standing (to the extent we are able to make things right). For me, this means my relationship with God first, my relationship with my husband, with my kids, and other people who I am close to. It doesn’t mean perfection, but it means leaving room to nurture these relationships, and to seek help and support when we need it.
- Our basic needs and our family’s needs have to be taken care of and stable. When we’re unsure where we stand with money, bills, and especially food, shelter, and clothing, it can wreak havoc on our stress levels and make it hard to concentrate on anything else.
- Sometimes this is because the money just is not there, and we need a plan to cut expenses or make some extra income.
- Sometimes, it can mean taking care of those pressing tasks like taking care of our home, car, or other necessities.
- Other times it can simply be because we haven’t taken the time to know where our money is going, when we’re going to be able to pick up groceries, or even just what we will make for dinner!
- We need to have moments to ourselves (especially if you’re an introvert, like me), and time to care for ourselves. Collecting your thoughts, enjoying a break, getting adequate rest, and whatever you need to be a thriving person is IMPORTANT. When we let our own well-being take it’s proper place, and acknowledge how important it is, we can make healthy decisions about how much we take on in other areas (work, commitments, kids activities, etc.).
Game-changing Effects of Prioritizing
There are certainly times when these things are out of our control, but creating a plan to get our biggest priorites back on track is important. When one is out of alignment, nothing else seems to work.
Think about moving forward with a plan in place for each of these three areas, and life will feel more in control and hopeful. This doesn’t necessarily mean planning to spend equal time on each of these areas. Block off enough time in your life for each part to keep balanced and okay.
A solid foundation in these three things can give you support that helps you feel grounded and assured, even if other things are not going well or are out of your control.
Practice making a priority shift and work in the things that will really help you get out of survival mode. You may be amazed how small changes can help you live life in a way that is meaningful and joyful.
I hope when you’re stressed, you’ll find a way and give yourself permission to step back! Your health and well-being are worth it and important!