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Living In Survival Mode

Are you constantly feeling worn out, lethargic and unmotivated? Do you look at the people around you and wonder how they have the energy and drive to do what they do, leaving you feeling inferior, even lazy? If survival mode, often referred to as the fight or flight response, has been triggered from stress or trauma in your life, you are most likely not lazy, you’re just completely exhausted! In this post, I will explain how and why we find ourselves in an exhaustion phase from shock or fight/flight, why we store our emotions in the body and what we can do to resolve this in the clinic.

Fight Flight Or Freeze Explained
Living In a State of Permanent Fight or Flight
Signs Your Living in Survival Mode
Trauma’s Imprint on Our Lives
How to Stop Living in Survival Mode
Are You Or Someone You Know Trapped In Survival Mode?


Fight Flight or Freeze Explained

Survival mode or fight/flight is the body’s natural reaction when there is danger. When Survival mode is triggered by a trauma or accident the body responds with a chemical hormonal cocktail with the intent of saving your life at that moment. This results in a short term alert phase of fight, flight or even freeze. We will either feel frozen in our fear, the urge to flee from the situation or rage and anger that helps us at that moment to fight for our life.

Cortisol and the nervous system work to suppress these emotions to keep us focused on surviving the immediate future, in essence storing them away to be dealt with at a more convenient time. Can you relate to that internal dialogue when something occurs and you say to yourself “I don’t have time to deal with that” and you push it away for another day?

The body has now learnt to store emotions rather than process them in the short term, a pattern it will continue to follow unless we intervene. If these emotions are left unresolved they may be stored for years. Inevitably these unresolved feelings start affecting the body’s physiology as well as the way we deal with new stress that comes in.


“You are not lazy, unmotivated or stuck. After years of living your life in survival mode, you are exhausted. There is a difference!” – Nakeia Homer


Living In a State of Permanent Fight or Flight

When we are in stressful situations our brains record them for survival purposes in the future. This record of survival responses may be stored in the physical body or energetically in the chakras or auric field.

I like to use the analogy of the brain storing these survival responses in the same way we store files on a computer. When we encounter a new stressful experience the brain opens up a new file, let’s say the new file is named ‘Emotions’. Over time the brain will store more and more emotional experiences in that same file. As time goes on that file will begin to fill up, if we’re not regularly processing and moving on from those stored emotions. If these emotions are left unresolved they are stored in the body and become a part of our long term stress and can cause unusual emotional reactions to everyday stresses.

Let’s say over the course of your life you have continued to fill your file and it now sits at 85% capacity. You go on living your life completely unaware, and you may have long periods of time where you feel like you’re crushing it and life seems great. One day you experience a conflict, let’s say this conflict represents 20% worth of file space. Now we have a problem!

Because the body now has an overload of emotions all the stored emotions are now triggered simultaneously. Instead of your body responding to a 20% conflict with a 20% survival response it is triggered to a 105% response, completely out of proportion to what the present conflict actually deserves.

More often than not we fail to understand this dramatic response that’s come seemingly out of nowhere with no explanation. The confusion of living in a survival state and not knowing what to do or how to get help further compounds the problem. Now that your file is “full” even the smallest amount of stress can trigger this reaction leaving you in a constant feeling of physical and emotional exhaustion.

Sometimes we get so used to being in survival mode it starts to feel natural or normal. Because of this, we feel a constant need to protect ourselves from getting hurt again, stop trusting our intuition and cut ourselves off from the flow of life’s events. The greatest issue with being in a state of fight or flight (survival mode) is that it’s not sustainable and leads to a personal crisis.

the many internal and external factors that interact with and are stored in our mind

Signs Your Living In Survival Mode

When living in survival mode you’re always reacting instead of responding. Everything feels urgent whilst simultaneously you feel like you don’t have the energy to deal with the situation at hand.  Simple decisions and actions can feel like you’re making a life-changing choice! Sleep is usually disrupted further compounding your exhaustion. You may often feel anxious and uneasy or you may feel like no ones supporting you.

Living in a state of fight or flight leaves you exhausted, tired, drained, dehydrated and your physical body unusually tired or sore. You can feel powerless, stuck and unmotivated. The triggered survival mode puts some tricky energy into the body that makes it pretty challenging to see any way forward without feeling like everything will collapse. The effect of this is withdrawing from friends, family and loved ones, further exasperating all other symptoms

“Living with this condition means you’re not really living, you’re surviving!”

When I see new clients for the first time who are dealing with living in survival mode they speak about feeling constantly on edge and how everything feels like they’re taking a risk. They lose their ability to trust those around them as well as their self-confidence and decisiveness. They are constantly seeking external approval for their decisions, choices and actions whilst also holding a lot of anxiety about the future. Acute stress is overwhelming leaving them feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted.


Every client I have tested that is in a shock or a survival state also tests as dehydrated and/or a lack of ability to absorb nutrients. Not only is the client dealing with the emotional and physical effects of survival mode itself but now has to contend with the body’s reluctance to properly convert food to nutrition! What a metaphor that is; Like not being able to convert life energy into big dreams and experiences you want because you don’t have the resources to do so. Focusing on what you don’t have instead of what you do have only makes life harder.  Living with this condition means you’re not really living, you’re surviving!

Janette performing Kinesiology tactics on a seated client

Traumas Imprint On Our Lives

When we experience trauma in our lives it leaves an imprint. Potentially this imprint can be so powerful that it can literally change you as a person. You might remember your former self as being easy-going and calm but now tend more toward frantic and anxious. The imprint of trauma can be haunting and plays a major role in keeping you trapped in a survival state. I have found that trauma can be imprinted and suppressed so deeply that the client is completely unaware that their current anxiety actually is relating back to a trauma that happened 20 years ago.

This is something that I’m hugely passionate about! Kinesiology can find these imprints and help people live completely different lives. I can’t stress to you enough how many times I’ve seen clients go from living in a survival state, to living freely and in full alignment with their truth after working through their trauma and the imprints they leave.

“Trauma leaves an imprint on our lives”

How To Stop Living In Survival Mode

The first step in moving towards a life free from the burden of constant survival mode is to forgive yourself. Take a breath and look at your life from a detached point of view to see what needs to be changed right now. Maybe it’s simple, and maybe it’s not. You can begin by taking a walk and allowing yourself to reflect or by telling a friend or loved one how you’re feeling. It’s important to begin working on accepting yourself and everything that’s currently happening or has happened in your life.

The way out of survival mode is to clear the stress of the trauma held in the body, mind, spirit, and start making small changes in everyday life to reintegrate. In my experience, it’s best to seek the help of a professional to deal with this issue rather than attempting to work through it yourself unless you feel capable of doing so. Generally, the reason why people become stuck in this state is because the trauma or stress is too overwhelming for them to effectively work through alone. In these cases, meditation or breathwork doesn’t always help release these built-up emotions. In some cases, it can actually make it worse for them.

To clear stress in the clinic we first identify the event or cause of the stress when the body was triggered into survival mode. This initial step may be painful for the client to re-live so my approach is always to gently nurture my clients to a point where they feel comfortable and ready to revisit and let go of their past trauma.

At this point, it’s also important to identify which response (Fight/Flight/Freeze) was triggered as the body will behave and react differently for each. Using Kinesiology muscle testing techniques we can determine which of these responses are present in the body and check if more stressors have been triggered in the same or other events.

“The first step is to forgive yourself and learn how to trust again”

I believe it’s important to also perform a full range of response testing to encompass the body and person as a whole. Checking for blockages or unusual reactions I will test the startle and withdrawal reflexes, pain and anxiety responses as well as any indicators of shock, rage, numbness and many more. This comprehensive testing gives me the total picture of what the client is dealing with and allows me to have a holistic understanding of what needs to balance in order to make lasting change.

A key part of the road to healing is unlearning all the negative belief systems that have developed since experiencing the trauma. Negative feelings, loss of self-confidence, loss of trust in those around you and more will all hinder a client’s ability to move on and regain their natural equilibrium. Regaining this balance can be supported and cemented by learning breathing techniques to calm the mind from anxiety from past traumas. I also recommend incorporating regular meditation to develop and nurture a connection with self and relearning how to self soothe. The more this is done the more positive experiences you will have and the body will re-learn how to deal with stress and stressful situations.


Are You Or Someone You Know Trapped in Survival Mode?

I feel an immense amount of compassion for people stuck living in survival mode as they are usually going down a long path of trying to find the reasons why they feel this way. So when they find kinesiology I feel overwhelmingly relieved for them! If nothing else it’s important that you know that survival mode can be released, allowing you to live a better more peaceful life.

If you or someone you know are dealing with the symptoms of living in survival mode I urge you to reach out to a kinesiologist near you and begin your journey back to living, not just surviving.

Please feel free to comment with your own personal experience with living in survival mode or any questions you might have on the subject. If you’ve found this information useful and you’d like to help spread this important information please consider sharing 🙂

You can BOOK a kinesiology session Monday to Wednesday’s in my clinic in Crows Nest, Sydney Australia!


About the Author

Janette Harris is a certified Kinesiologist, mentor and the founder of the Sydney based Kinesiology clinic, Inspire Freedom. With over 10 years of experience and extensive qualifications across a range of Kinesiology modalities, Janette is passionate about helping her clients overcome their emotional, mental, physical, nutritional and energetic challenges.