10 Ways to Make Survival Mode More Bearable

Most of us have been there. You wake to the sound of screaming kids after a night of not enough sleep. A familiar sinking feeling fills your soul and you know it is going to be one of  "those days." Or maybe it started out okay but quickly took a turn for the worse. None of your kids would cooperate and it feels like even inanimate objects are fighting you because nothing is going right. It is just another one of "those days." 

"Those days," or survival mode days as I've come to call them, seem to be as much a part of motherhood as spit up and potty training. The are the days that you feel like life has run away without you. The days you hang by the end of your rope watching the the last few strands snap and fray.

Sometimes survival mode days pop up unexpected during a stretch of motherhood where you feel like you've got this. Other times, you live in survival mode. Day-after-day seems like a test of endurance and all you want is quiet, space and maybe a shower. 

Over the past four four years, I have become very acquainted with survival mode. Those days show up more frequently than I wish. However since I can't seem to make them go away, I have to learn how to work with them. Below are 10 things I've found, through experimentation and the advice of many wise women, that help make survival mode days a little more bearable, sometimes even a good day.


1. Recognize that this stage isn't going to last forever. 

When you are in the middle of a difficult stage of mothering, facing survival mode day after day, it is hard to believe that life will ever change. It is hard to believe that you will ever be able to enjoy the simple pleasures of a full night sleep or a hot cup of coffee ever again. While it is true that life will never be the same after you have kids, you will move through this season. Survival mode days will become fewer and farther between. Believe that you are in a difficult stage. It will pass. 

2. Toss the to-do list.

Survival mode is not the time to get things done. Toss the to-do list. Don't even make a to-do list. Pair down your day to the bare necessities:
  1. Keep your family a comfortable temperature.
  2. Feed your family.
  3. Love your family.  
If you can provide your family with those three, you are doing great!

If you are living survival mode long term, there will come a time when you truly need to get things done. At this point, put no more then three small tasks on your to-do list for any one day. If you don't get them done, give yourself grace and role them over to the next day.

3. Eat healthy, yet simple, food.

Your body needs good food in order to feel it's best. Fill up on fruits, veggies, good fats, lean proteins and whole grains. The quality of your diet is especially important if you are living in survival mode day-after-day.

Even though you want to eat healthy this is not the time to spend hours and hours in the kitchen. Choose meals that are easy to make. For example:
  • A plate with sliced cheese, fruit and crackers
  • Sliced veggies and store bought hummus
  • A veggie packed sandwich
  • Spaghetti with a simple sauce and simple salad or frozen veggie.
This is also an excellent season to give yourself grace and hit the drive-thru or order take out. Just try to balance convenience and nutrition.

4. Drink water.

Dehydration adds to the cloudy mind feeling that is already present when we are sleep deprived and stressed. Make sure to pour yourself 6-8+ glasses of water. Hate plain water? Squeeze in a few drops of lemon or lime juice or float some sliced fruit in a pitcher to help infuse the flavor. 

5. Get outside.

Sometimes, all we need is a change of scenery to change our attitude (or our kids' attitude). Go for a walk, play in the yard, take the kids to the park. Fresh air, sunshine and space to run can work magic!

6. Invite someone over and survive with a friend.

When you are in survival mode inviting someone over seems like the last thing you want to do. You haven't seen your living room floor in three days. Why would  you want to invite someone over into this mess? 

However, sometimes surviving along side a friend going through a similar stage is exactly what you need. Push aside the pride, leave the living room a mess and invite over your friend who is going through a crazy time with her 2-old-two too. Maybe the kids will play and the two of you can make PB&J sandwiches together. 

Really can't put aside the pile of laundry on your couch? Plan a picnic play-date at the park. Its get you out of the house and allows you to talk to another adult. 

7. Make friends with the T.V. 

Many of us worry about our kids getting to much screen time. But as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 3:1:
 "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." 
A rough day is a wonderful time to choose an age-appropriate movie or television show to let the kids watch. While they are entertained, grab that elusive shower or do something that recharges you.

8. Stay off of social media. 

It is tempting to jump on social media for "just a minute" in an effort to disconnect from the stress around you. However, this often backfires. Instead of a reprieve, you are bombarded with articles like "3 Ways 'Good' Parents Handle Sibling Rivalry" and pictures of a person your sister went to grade school with bragging about what an awesome mom she is because she is serving her kids rainbow fruit sticks complete with cantaloupe pots of gold. Seeing things like this while your kids are screaming at each other and eating left over pizza doesn't add to life's contentment. Instead, it breeds an attitude of discontentment and self-doubt.

When you need a break, read a couple of pages from a book, knitting a few lines on a project or just stare out the window for a few moments feeling yourself breath. Sometimes, I take this opportunity to empty the garbage. It's an excuse to walk outside, alone, away from the kids. 

9. Reward yourself. 

Mothering littles can be a very rough season. Give yourself little rewards along the way to look forward too. For example:
  • A serving from your special ice cream stash in the back of the freezer.
  • A hot bath with adult bubbles.
  • Some extended kid free time marked, in pen, on the calendar.
Whatever you choose as your reward, make sure it is something that you enjoy and recharges you.

10. Remember God is with you. 

Being at home all day with littles can be very lonely, but the truth is we are never alone. God is always with us. While He can't help us changing diapers and cleaning up spilt cereal, He can give us someone to talk too. He is a source of power and strength that we can tap into at anytime.
When you feel your hand slipping from your last threads of sanity, call out to God for help. He probably won't magically make it all better (though sometimes he does), but he will give you at least enough power to hold on a bit longer. Often if you keep calling out to Him, He will put into motion small and subtle things to help you survive.

What are some of your tips to help make it through a "survival mode" day?




Kristen is a wife and mother who likes to pretend that she can cook, write and create. She is a little compulsive when it comes to cleaning and organizing and has an ever growing love of dark chocolate, tea and Jane Austen. But mostly, she is a woman trying to figure out how to live a life she can be proud of.




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