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Christian Mom Survival Guide For When the Struggle Is Real

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What is the difference between living in survival mode and being overwhelmed?

Some may say they are one and the same. But if you have ever lived a period of time in true “survival mode,” then you probably know it is way different than being overwhelmed.

Being overwhelmed can sometimes be “fixed” or “adjusted” by implementing some new strategies. Usually organizational strategies, re-centering yourself, prayer and meditation and implementing new routines.

To relieve the “overwhelm,” you could do things like make changes to your diet, start an exercise routine or take some time for yourself — dinner out with friends, a massage, a pedicure, take a nap.

When you are in survival mode, the reason is almost always out of your control. There is no quick “fix” in these scenarios. You can’t simply get more organized and implement strategies that will get you out of survival mode.

Usually, when in real survival mode, you are also overwhelmed.

Survival mode is a period of time in your life when a force outside of your control exerts pressures, limits, difficulties, burdens, anxieties or demands on you.

Over the years, I have experienced many episodes of being forced into survival mode, and every single time it was beyond my control.

Pregnancies are really rough for me. I am exhausted and have limited energy for nine solid months.

Depression has been a part of my life for 20 years now. Most of that time my depression and anxiety have been controlled by medications. But, every so often the medication stops working for me and I have to switch medications. We don’t always find the medication that “hits the spot” right away. Months of transitioning occur. During that time, I am struggling to keep my head above water. Our whole family is thrown into “survival mode.”

Most recently, I have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I am only 39 (for a few more months, at least). The chronic pain I have been living with for more than eight months has also thrown us into survival mode. Why? Because, it can take 12 to 18 months to find the right medication for your body’s physiology, and even when you find the right medication, it takes about three months for it to start working.

There are numerous other reasons someone can be forced into “survival mode.”

  • A child with a disability or elderly family member who requires extra care.
  • A developmental issue or challenge for a child.
  • A physical illness or injury.
  • A mental illness.
  • The loss of a loved one.
  • Financial hardship.

I have a strong faith in God and a very pragmatic and loving husband.

Through the years, we have developed a routine for times we have had to live in “survival mode.”


My life experiences and my faith have helped me create, “The Christian Mom Survival Guide: For When the Struggle Is #Real.”

The guide is a simple 5 step process.

1. Identify.

Name the setback. Is it physical, mental, emotional or situational? Don’t be afraid to say it out loud. Often times, by simply recognizing the struggle you can gain back some control over the challenge.

2. Assess.

Take a realistic look at:

  • What you can do.
  • What you can’t do.
  • What you need help with.
  • What you need to let go and let God.

Dump each task, responsibility, chore or commitment into one of these “buckets” or categories.

3. Prioritize.

Prioritize the list of things in each bucket.

Example: In the “Can Do” bucket, what is the highest priority and what is the lowest?

4. Create a plan of action.

How are you going to get these things done? Will you set small goals for the things you can do? Will you pay for a service for the things you need help with? Who will you ask for help?

5. Let it go and let God. 

Practice acceptance. Embrace your imperfections. Focus on the positives. Pray. Be thankful. Trust God will take care of you through this trial.

There will be certain things you struggle to let go of. In these cases, turn to prayer and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this something you think is necessary because of societal or cultural expectations?
  • Is this something you think is necessary because you are placing unrealistic expectations on yourself?
  • Is this something you really have no control over and just need to pray for peace and acceptance?
  • Is it something you really need to focus on right now? Can it be saved for later?
  • Just because you can’t do it now, doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to do it later.

For me, this is the case with my desire/need to lose weight. After all the medications I have been on throughout my life, four pregnancies, bouts with depression, sleep disorders and physical illnesses like Rheumatoid Arthritis, I have continued to gain weight. But I know until things get under control, I will not have the physical or emotional energy into making a permanent lifestyle change of eating healthy and regular exercise.

Now, I have been saying this for years, it’s not an excuse. I literally have been facing one major struggle after another.

I am hoping I am on the cusp of escaping survival mode, but only God knows what lies ahead for me.

Another key person who has helped me through struggles my entire life is my mom. She always reminds me of three very important things:

1. Take one day at a time.

2. This too shall pass.

3. I am loved and have many gifts to offer.

Yes, these are phrases many of us have heard. But, we need to start taking them to heart.

A version of this post appeared on Dust Bunnies & Blessings.

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Thinkstock image by BrankoPhoto

Originally published: August 21, 2017
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