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Survival Mode Self-Care

by megan dahlman
February 22, 2022

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Survival Mode Self-Care

It dawned on me the other day what it feels like. You know in the Old Testament, when the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness for 40 years - or in all honesty, what felt like an eternity - but they’ve been promised the promised land. They have hope of REST in the future, a feeling of arrival or a sense of “we’ve made it”. But right now, they’re in survival mode…still standing on the wrong side of the Jordan River, trying to make ends meet from one day to the next, battling off one enemy after another, wandering, restless, unsettled.

It dawned on me that those are the feelings I’ve been experiencing, and maybe you are, too.

If you’ve been following me for a bit or follow me on IG, you might know a little bit of our family’s story right now. And every day, I try my best to have a brave face…to keep showing up and coaching you and my members in my programs with strength, confidence, and courage. But the real story is that this season has been probably the hardest season of my entire life, second only to when I had Calvin, my firstborn and unknowingly struggled with postpartum depression.

And I’m only sharing this because there is a point to it. This is not a sob story, I don’t need sympathy, and I’m NOT playing the victim card. But I am learning some really valuable lessons about self-care right now, that I want to share with you.

Because if you’re in survival mode right now, this will help you.

And if you’re not in survival mode at the moment, you will be at some point. And you’ll need this advice.

So, the story is that this last year, we uprooted our family and moved back to my little home town in North Idaho. We decided to move back to the exact property I grew up on, and build a house. We left a lot of convenience and amenities behind, and decided to start over here.

As our house is getting built, we moved into a temporary rental home, which was really nice and comfortable, and really helped to ease the transition, but on January 4th our lease ended. But our new house is yet to be completed, so we parked our RV in one of my dad’s shops on their property, and tucked ourselves in for a few months. Where our tiny house sits, we have no cell service or internet access, we have no usable toilet, our fridge is miniature, and we now have to commute 3 hours total a day to get the boys to school, and it’s 20 degrees outside with 2 feet of snow on the ground.

If ever there was a cold, dark winter experience, this is it.

The moment that it really hit me that this was our new reality for the foreseeable future and I actually cried my first tears about the situation, was when I put on my boots, hat and down jacket and grabbed a flashlight just to walk to the bathroom, only to find that Peter had plugged that toilet earlier, so I had to walk back, rummage through all of our stuff to find a plunger, walk back and spend 5 minutes getting it unplugged, and then discover that I had started my period. Are you kidding me right now?

So, needless to say, we’ve been feeling homeless for a while, wandering in the wilderness, just trying to survive from one day to the next, but we can see the promised land. It’s coming and I really do know that my frustrations are totally first world problems, and there are so many others that have a much harder life, and I’m extremely grateful and blessed to have what we do have.

But many of my self-care habits have needed to adjust during this season. My expectations and non-negotiables need to be completely re-evaluated.

In a calmer, easier season, it was completely reasonable to have higher expectations and a more intricate routine. I felt really good when I was getting up at 5:30 am 5 days a week, strength training MWF, doing yoga TTh, planning out meals for the entire week, having some whole/unprocessed food prepped and ready in the fridge. None of that was stressful or too hard for me. But right now? There’s no way.    

But there ARE things I’m still doing consistently to show up for my body and take care of it well, even in this season. And I want to share with you what that looks like.

So, if you’re also in survival mode and feel ready to completely throw in the towel and do nothing, don’t do that. You’ll feel worse. Trust me.

This is exactly what I’m doing right now, and what I suggest for you when you’re just trying to survive from one day to the next.  

Take it day by day, and evaluate each day as its own unique scenario

  1. Don’t try to write out a full plan for the month or even the week.
  2. Wake up each morning and look at the landscape of your day.
  3. Notice
  4. Your highest & most important responsibilities for that day only (driving the kids to school or picking them up)  
  5. Anything that DOESN’T need to happen
  6. Any gaps of time that you have or can create and how big is that gap
  7. In this gap is where you’ll fit some type of physical activity
  8. Also, try to notice what might make you feel best that day (a nap, a walk, a full workout, a hot tub session?)

Just do one thing each day to get you moving

  1. My personal bare minimum right now is one strength training workout a week. Anything more is a bonus.
  2. So, each day when I’m looking over the landscape of the day, I ask myself, “Is this a good day to make that happen?”
  3. Some weeks, I’ve been able to make it happen earlier in the week, so by Thursday or Friday I ask myself again, “Is this another good day to make another workout happen?” And I do if I can.
  4. But no matter what, even if one of those full workouts can’t happen, I do something each day - a walk, a few stretches, foam rolling

For your nutrition, keep peeling back layers of habits until you can find one(s) that don’t feel overwhelming (drink water with meals, eat PRO’s, etc.)

  1. In my Total Nutrition Reset program, I teach habit stacking.
  2. The first habits are the easiest, but most important. They’re your default when life is tough and you’re in survival mode.
  3. Default to drinking lots of water, eating protein, eating produce

Make sleep a high priority

  1. Often, when you’re stressed, it’s tempting to want to numb out and stay up late and watch movies.
  2. But when your exhausted due to lack of sleep, it’s a million times harder to find the motivation to do something healthy for yourself.
  3. So I’ve been going to bed early (9:30) and getting almost an extra hour of sleep every night than I usually do.

Make stress-relieving opportunities a high priority

  1. I took a little stress factor quiz the other day, and sure enough, my stress is OFF THE CHARTS.
  2. Survival mode means stress. And stress means that your body is getting up every day and going to war on multiple fronts.
  3. Kingdom of Heaven - the bad king forced his troops to march for days without very much water, rest and sustenance, and when they arrived at the battlefront, they had zero strength left to fight with. (They were drooped over, dragging their feet, and letting their weapons fall out of their hands)
  4. If you don’t manage your stress to the best of your ability, the systems in your body will do this same thing.
  5. For me, walks, hot tub, taking a nap when I can, taking deep breaths.

Takeaway:

OK, so let me review those survival mode self-care habits with you again:

  1. Take it day by day
  2. Just do one thing each day to get you moving
  3. For your nutrition, keep peeling back layers of habits until you can find one(s) that don’t feel overwhelming
  4. Make sleep a high priority
  5. Make stress-relieving opportunities a high priority

You won’t be in survival mode forever. It’s something I have to keep telling myself, too. This is a season, and that’s ok.

I have to trust that God is faithful and He will give me the strength to persevere and get through, one day at a time.

But in the meantime, I’m totally resetting my daily non-negotiable habits to fit these current circumstances and continuing to show up for my body in intentional ways. And I know you can, too.

Listen, if you need a little extra help with this, I have two resources that I know would really help you out:

>>If you go to createmyroutine.com, I have a free routine creator template that you can download and work through. It’s like a worksheet that helps you prioritize certain aspects of your day, and helps you get way more organized. I highly recommend that go through that worksheet over and over again whenever your circumstances change. So once again, go to createmyroutine.com.

>>The second resource is full-on coaching. I know what you feel like you need…sometimes you just want somebody to tell you exactly what to do each day, and to not have to think about it or make a decision. Having that kind of help would completely free you up to focus on all the other pieces of your day that require more attention. And it gives you the confidence to know that you’re still showing up for your body in good, healthy ways. If that sounds perfect to you…like exactly what you need right now…then join me in Total Nutrition Reset. Don’t look to the right or the left, just go directly to totalnutritionreset.com and get yourself signed up. I’ll get you started coaching with me as soon as this next Monday, and it will be the best investment in yourself and your self care that you’ve ever made. I’ll say it again, don’t think about it anymore, just go to totalnutritionreset.com and get signed up.

Alright, be strong!

More Resources:

Trainer, nutrition coach, and Christian mom — in a culture that’s obsessed with “gym-selfies” and a number on the scale, I’m passionate about helping moms discover what it feels like to actually love their bodies and thrive in them.
Read More About Megan
Hi! I’m Megan.
Self-Care Simplified is for Christian moms that want to be equipped and encouraged to take simple steps towards the healthy life you want for yourself and the people you love.
Be sure to subscribe to Self-Care Simplified wherever you listen to your favorite podcast.
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Read More About Megan
Hi! I’m Megan.
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Self-Care Simplified is for Christian moms that want to be equipped and encouraged to take simple steps towards the healthy life you want for yourself and the people you love.
Be sure to subscribe to Self-Care Simplified wherever you listen to your favorite podcast.
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