Stepping Out of Survival Mode: Life Beyond the Pandemic

It’s interesting what your brain does to protect itself in the throes of trauma. It often goes directly into survival mode. When I arrived on the scene of my house burning and I couldn’t find my husband, and the EMT wouldn’t let me run into the burning house to look for him, my brain did a full-on shut down. I passed out, right there, on the curb.

Fast forward exactly three years and one month later to March 2020 and I was sitting on a camping chair in the woods and the world shut down. Again, my brain enacted survival mode, as most people’s did. Collectively, as a nation, we bought all the toilet paper, not because of hoarding, but because of survival. Knowing we were guaranteed a clean bum was a source of comfort. It was control when we could control nothing else.

Sadly, in March of 2020, coming home from camping, I was actually completely out of toilet paper. There was no source of quilted three-ply comfort for me. Instead, we bought a bidet. {For the record, it’s amazing and I strongly support anyone who would like to join the bidet club.}

It’s now spring of 2022, and we’ve rolled past the end of two years of the pandemic. No matter what side of the coin you land on when it comes to vaccines or masks or how any of it was handled, I think we can all agree on one simple thing. We are tired.

Like, really tired.

Many of us have been in survival mode for two years. We’re trying to keep our families healthy, trying to make the right choices, trying to keep our jobs, adjust to new schedules, zooms, and canceled plans. For some of us, my family included, our day-to-day lives look completely different than they did on March 1, 2020.

We’ve Just Been Surviving

It’s been tough. We’ve walked a long road, with so many other hard things along the way. We’ve all lost people. We’ve missed birthdays, weddings and funerals. We’ve canceled vacations and work trips.

We’ve battled murder hornets. We had so many named hurricanes in 2020 that we ran out of letters of the alphabet to name them so we started over with the Greek alphabet. Monkeys rioted in Thailand. Marine life returned to canals in Venice. There were protests and riots of all kinds across the country. We all watched a tiger monarchy. Redditors broke the stock market. Cardboard stand-ups of people started attending professional baseball games. The Department of Defense released an official report on UFOs. We survived one of the worst freezes Houston has ever seen.

The last two years have been wildly bizarre and exhausting.

In an effort to get through, many of us have created routines because they make us feel safe. We’ve bonded over a simple 5 letter word game. I think it’s the consistency and simplicity of the game that drove people to it. We’ve tried to control what we can, just to survive the stress of two years of weird pandemic life.

I’ve found that the routines I’ve enacted, while they have helped me keep it all together, now have me feeling…stuck. My hair was boring. My daily wardrobe of t-shirts and yoga or sweat pants became repetitive and dull {albeit super comfy}. My skincare routine had minimized to near nothing. I honestly don’t remember the last time I wore a dress. I haven’t done anything creative in ages.

Shaking Off the Dregs of Routine

Recently I’ve been making an effort to do things out of the survival norm to help shake off the dregs of the routine. We need to survive, but we also need to live.

A week ago I went to my hairstylist and asked her to completely change my look. I hadn’t dyed my hair since before the pandemic and I’d only gotten trims, many of them in our backyard. I was full-on red in “the before” and over the last two years my natural brown had mostly grown out, leaving a patch of red/brassy hair at the bottom of my long hair. She asked how much she could cut off and I just made it a point to say yes to everything she offered. We ended up cutting nearly 8 inches, she did balayage with deep reds and brassy browns, keeping my natural color up top.

I left feeling like a new human, I’d shed 8 inches of hair, but I’d also shed pounds of the humdrum routine I’d been in.

I also visited my aesthetician and vowed to be better about my skincare. I bought a few new products based on her recommendation. They’ve been a game-changer, not because my skin looks all that different {yet} but because it feels good to take care of myself. I’m taking time away from just survival and putting it back into my own self care.

I’ve been buying new clothing, trying out new looks and things I wouldn’t normally buy. I still mostly refuse to wear hard pants but I’m trying to venture out of the monotonous in an effort to really thrive and just feel alive.

I’m becoming more and more active in my hiking group. I’m leading paddling events and campouts and encouraging other women, men and children to explore the outdoors.

Truthfully, I’m still working on the creative aspect. We’re planning our spring garden and doing a lot of renovations in our yard. I also have some big plans for decorating my home office and studio space. I would really love to start painting and sketching again, but honestly, I haven’t made an effort towards it. It’s coming though. One thing at a time.

Stepping Out of Survival Mode

stepping out of survival mode- light at the end of a tunnel We’ve all been surviving the last two years, and that is not a bad thing, it’s gotten us through. I truly feel like 2022 is the time to break out of survival mode. I encourage you, no, I implore you to take a look at what routines you’ve taken on in an effort to survive over the last two years.

What have you let go of?

What do you need to bring back into your life that you let go of in an effort to survive?

What could you change or add back into your routine to help you really thrive?

How can you break out of survival mode and start living again?

I can’t wait to see what we can do, collectively as a culture, when we move from survival mode to living a life that brings us joy and meaning.


Pin this post and be sure to follow
Houston Moms
on Pinterest!

Previous articleGood for Her, Not for Me: You Really Don’t Have to Do It All
Next articleGrowing Up and Letting Go: A Pep Talk for A Mama’s Heart
Christina Sizemore
Christina {Chris} is a Houston native. She grew up just north of the Heights and after a short stent in Oklahoma to obtain an advertising degree, she now resides in Spring with her husband, daughter {2013} and black lab {2016}. In 2017, just before Hurricane Harvey, their lives were devastated by a house fire. They lost their home, belongings, dog and her husband almost lost his life. Chris had two options, succumb to PTSD, guilt and depression, or live. She chose to live life brazenly. Today she is a marketing consultant, writer, artist, and adventurer; working from home or from the woods with her family in their renovated camper. Together they have a goal of visiting every state park in Texas {there are 89 total}, stand up paddle board in tow. Chris is currently writing a book about their home fire journey. She has a passion for mental health, exploration and encouraging others to see the world, follow their dreams, and live life brazenly. You can find more of her writing and art at, or follow her on Instagram @strongerthanfire, where she shares her family’s adventures, encouragement and weird humor like the backyard telenovela and reviews of made-for-TV Christmas movies.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here