When it’s time to break free from survival mode

Break Free From Survival Mode

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It’s time.

Mid-summer, when our sixth baby turned a year old, I finally admitted to myself that I had been in survival mode for nearly a year, and that it was time to break free. 

There is a time for everything, and adding a sixth child to a busy family the same year that our oldest started middle school and All.The.Activities (cheerleading, music contests, volleyball, basketball, track) that go with it, well, that was a good time for survival mode. Do what has to be done. Hone in on basic needs. Get by. It’s okay!

Survival mode is a tool, not permanent state of being. Even knowing that, it’s overwhelming to conjure the effort to break free. But it’s worth it. Here are four strategies that work for me when it’s time to break free from survival mode.

Complete a project.

What is with all of the dirty dishes, cracker-coated floors, and mountains of laundry that a family of eight produces?! The hamster wheel of washing, sweeping, and folding only to do it all again and again is mind-numbing and a little depressing, especially when the time it takes to keep up (or not) with the basics keeps me from other projects that make our house a home.

We’ve lived in this home for 9 years, and in June we finally landscaped the yard. It was revolutionary to our curb appeal (and we have the community “Yard of the Week” sign to prove it. Ha!) and felt so good to work hard on a project that has a noticeable end result! And you know what? Though they may have sat longer than we like, the dishes, laundry, and floors all got done that week, too.

Don’t be afraid to accept some convenience and compromise in one area (we ate a lot of sandwiches over the summer) in order to free up time and resources for other projects and priorities. Get off the hamster wheel.


Redefine routines.

In the rote day to day of survival mode, we came to accept both the effective and destructive habits and routines we’d accidentally or otherwise created long after they were necessary, because it was easier than thinking through and expending energy on something new. For nearly a year, the baby slept with me because it was so much easier to nurse and care for her at night if she was right there. Until it wasn’t.

When it was time, and while the big kids were at church camp for a week, we decided to transition our 12-month-old to sleep in her own bed. (She had given up nursing a couple weeks earlier, so that part was easy.) It took a few nights and a few tears, but my husband and I have our bed back, and baby and I are both sleeping better in our own space. Freedom!

Do what you gotta do in survival mode. I’m a fan. I’m also a fan of breaking free when the time is right, and establishing new and better routines for myself and my family.

Find joy outside of the day to day.

Parenting is constant, 24/7 exhausting work. The intensity revs up when adding a member to the family. While enduring a lengthy survival mode and making hard choices (lots of “no”s) that help get the important things done, I can feel the joy draining. I can absorb some of that temporarily, but my joy meter is also a great indicator of when it is time to break free.

The day to day work of raising a family isn’t going away any time soon around here (and really, yay for that!), but it’s time to make room for some of the other things that bring me joy, and in turn, make me a better mom. This blog brings me joy. I may not be able to write every day like I used to, but we’re back on! Sharing Young Living Essential Oils brings me joy. I’m not ready for a full class schedule, but the business behind the oils is slowly working its way back into my days. Spending individual time with my children lights my Mama fire for each of them.  I’ve found ways to steal away one-on-one over the summer for a few hours. Find your joy!

summer9Use your mornings well.

In June, I bought my friend Crystal’s Make Over Your Mornings course. The one thing I knew I absolutely had to guard while in survival mode was my sleep, so I had been waking up with the kids for months. I still do some days. It’s time to break free, though, and I am certain that using my mornings well is key, because I’ve inconsistently tested that theory for days or weeks here and there between babies over the last 12 years. It works. When I do it.

The excuses came fast and furious all summer, but it’s time. School starts this week for us, which is about as “New Year Resolution” as it gets around here. Even as I am up ridiculously late hammering out this post (joy!) I know that tomorrow morning the alarm is set. New week. New school year. New freedom from survival mode.

I’ve only just begun the course, but I trust Crystal’s experience, expertise, and long-time success with the method. Care to join me? If you haven’t already purchased Make Over Your Mornings, you can head over to MakeOverYourMornings.com to sign up to download the first day for FREE. We can work through the course together!

P.S. Stay tuned for a very special one-day sale on Tuesday, August 25, 2015!

Have you recently been in a season of survival? How did you break free?


  1. I am just coming into the clear air of having a 12-month-old baby. So much mental fog lifts at that point! My friend and I were recently talking about how impossible it is to have good habits when you have a tiny baby. You can’t vacuum every two days because you’re holding a baby, you can’t wake up at the same time every morning because you don’t know when the next time you’ll get to sleep will be…and on and on. But in the last two weeks I’ve been trying to re-create the art of habits in my life. I’ve read Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin and it’s been very eye opening! Congratulations on getting out of survival mode and into the land of true living. I’m struggling into it, as well. =)

    • Yes, Mia! The mental fog! Sounds like I need to add Better Than Before to my reading list. Thanks for that!

      • I adored Better than Before and Gretchen has a newish podcast call Happier. She records it with her sister and each week they include a Better than Before tip. I use the podcast as a way to bribe myself to mop the floors. 🙂

        • I have never listened to a podcast (I know, DARK AGES) but it’s on my list of “I should someday.” Maybe that day will come sooner rather than later?!

  2. I just started blogging again today after a long summer hiatus – my last post was from Memorial day!! I was in survival mode but today is the day for me to get out of it to. My kids started school, I posted on my blog and I started Crystal’s Make Over Your Mornings Course. For a type B mom like me, that is epic and qualifies as the the most successful morning that I’ve had in a long time! 🙂 Here’s to a great “new year”!

  3. I’m in survival mode right now – complicated pregnancy with a very active toddler – but can resonate with this post. The very best advice I received before having my first child was that the first two weeks after baby is born (I stretched that into a month, easy) is just survival. Don’t try to get into a routine or schedule. Don’t try to do what everyone else thinks is best for you/your baby. Do what you need to do to survive. If that means you nurse every hour, then so be it. If that means you sleep in a recliner with the baby, then so be it. If that means you hold and rock that baby for hours on end, then do it. There is a time to get out of survival mode, but the first month after a baby is born isn’t it!

    • Absolutely! That is fantastic advice, and I used it for all six of my babies. I may have stretched it a little longer with each one… 😉 And I think there are different levels of survival mode, too. That first month = ALL about the baby!

  4. I have fewer children than you and they are both older but I still feel like I am in survival mood many times throughout the school year. As I headed out to a teacher in service today, my friend sent me this quote from something she is reading, “We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.” I love that. Don’t you think the wiser we are, the more awesome we will be? I don’t like it but I have realized that it is ok to wake up some mornings to find last night’s dishes still on the counter. Most often that means I was blessed the night before to have gotten the time to spend with friends or family. I will take that any day over a clean counter! Good luck as you all begin the new school year.

    • Enjoy your school year, too! And, YES to the dishes! On Friday a friend texted out of the blue wanting to know if we wanted to play cards, at our house (because it’s just easier with all.the.children) that evening, and I looked around at my mess and said SURE! The mess was still there the next morning, but WHATEVER.

    • That quote comes from Jen Hatmaker’s new book For the Love. It is very consistent with Crystal’s idea in Make Over Your Mornings that we put the big rocks in first instead of trying to do it all. Jen would very much approve leaving the dishes in the sink because that meant community came first that evening. 🙂 Like Crystal, she is very transparent that she does NOT do it ALL. She has a team.

  5. I love your advice about completing a project. It’s not something that I generally think about when I’m trying to get out of survival mode, but I see the wisdom of it. By completing one project, it generally gives us more energy, focus, and confidence to start another. I started blogging in April, and since beginning that project, I have begun to work on a book. The momentum builds!

  6. Hi Amy. Thanks for your post. It is encouraging. I only have four children (all boys) but they are all little. My oldest turned four last week. It feels like I am always in survival mode. I like your ideas. You are right on track.

  7. Jennie C. says:

    Good to hear from your again! I found myself saying…yes….yes…yes to so many points. Our youngest of 5 will be 1 in a few weeks and I feel like I’m on the cusp of emerging from the baby fog (just as soon as I get that girl sleeping through the night!)! Life is just too crazy during the day, she’d rather nurse throughout the QUIET hours of the night! Sound familiar? : ) We also moved this summer, so life has been NUTS. I too struggle with how to navigate life with our older children and wrangling the young ones. A constant juggle. We hired a friend to come in and help over the last year. With no family nearby, I needed the support in a BIG way! She was such a blessing in many ways.
    I’m looking forward to more me time as I wean our little lady. Thanks for the encouragement!!

  8. Routines definitely help me, but I have to remember to be flexible when they don’t go as planned! Thanks for this great reminder!


  1. […] friend, Amy, from Amy’s Finer Things, has a great post up on 4 Strategies to Break Free From Survival Mode. Here’s a […]

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