Life gets crazy sometimes. I often don’t even notice it sneaking up on me, until I begin to experience the tell tale signs:
My shoulders tighten. I catch myself not breathing. I feel panicked. My mind swirls with so many tasks that I can’t determine what to do first.
When I do realize it, I have to revert back to my Sanity Plan (which I most likely ignored to get so overwhelmed in the first place).
What am I spending my time on?
Does it accomplish my primary objectives?
If not, those things have got to go.
But what about the circumstances when I can’t chop anything off my list? Occasionally this happens, and recently it’s been happening a lot.
What can I do to survive when things are so busy that I barely feel functional at all?
That’s where ‘Survival Mode’ comes in.
This is a life saving function that everyone must establish to get you through the toughest times. Sometimes these periods of time can be planned for, as in both of my most recent cases. The delivery of a new baby allows for major time to prep and plan. A scheduled surgery? It depends on how long you know in advance, but mostly you should have a good amount of time to get into gear.
Of course, there’s the unplanned stuff. Accidents and injuries, job layoffs, etc. Which is why you need to think about a survival plan even when times are good.
I think of ‘Survival Mode’ as your lowest default setting. It can be similar to the low power mode that is utilized on your computer or smart phone. This setting reduces the power draw of all activities in order to conserve precious battery life.
What is the bare minimum that I can do but still keep my life going?
So, what does my survival mode look like?
I am a mother of 4 and a freelance writer, and both of those jobs come with their fair share of obligations.
What can I cut?
Because my family does not rely on my income, as painful as it is, I can finish up my current jobs and stop requesting new work. It takes more effort to reboot my jobs again after a break, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.
When it comes to mom and homelife, this gets a bit trickier. Little people have certain needs no matter what mom is going through. I use the following shortcuts to free up some time:
- Do prep work: laundry, pay bills in advance, cleaning, fully stocked fridge, frozen meals, etc.
- Ask for help from family
- Assign more tasks to household members
- Hire a sitter to add another set of hands
- Make less elaborate meals or order takeout
- Cut unnecessary tasks: No dusting or mopping, spot clean as necessary and plan to deep clean when things calm down
- Say no to social events/obligations
‘Survival Mode’ is the only way I was able to get through my recent hernia repair surgery. As I expected from my research, my recovery was way more difficult than recovery from childbirth. To top it all off, I had a 7 week old newborn and it was scheduled for over the Christmas holidays (a story for another time). I was unable to do much of anything for the first 4 days, and then unable to lift more than 15 pounds for the remainder of the first two weeks. After that I was able to resume normal activities with the lifting weight still capped at 25 pounds until 6 weeks.
How did we handle it?
My husband and I went over in advance all of the details of what I would and would not be able to do. The upside to doing it over the holiday break, was there were more hands around to help and less chauffeuring that I needed to do. We kept our holiday plans to a minimum and RSVPed tentatively to all of the ones that we could not decline. I worked to get as much as I could done ahead of time (Christmas prep and kid prep mostly), and whatever I couldn’t get to was managed by other people. (Hello huge lesson in letting go!)
Childbirth and surgery are pretty major. But a ‘Survival Mode’ can be useful even more much smaller time periods or events. Is Christmas a really hectic season for you? What about when you get a cold that knocks you on your behind? Or, is there a particular time at work that requires strenuous hours and burns up all of your energy?
Having an established ‘survival mode’ can ease these transitions by allowing you to fall into a comfortable routine of reduced work load. This week a nasty cold has laid me out during the middle of trade show season and my husband being away. Having some of these mechanisms in place really prepared me for managing the kids on my own with a 101.7 fever.
The best part of ‘Survival Mode?’
Getting back to normal.
Do you have a framework in place for what you can do when things get difficult? I’d love to hear how other families manage these types of scenarios.