Create space for transitions

There’s this thing I like to call “Survival Mode.”

It’s a feeling, steeped in fear, that overtakes you, making everything on your plate seem urgent, serious and life-threatening. It’s an anxiety that gets your thoughts swirling around and around, and keeps you from finding truth, trust or, at the very least, a clear next step.

Energetically speaking, it’s when your first chakra opens up wide and spills open cans of fear, encouraging you to jump out of your body and into the tornado of dark thoughts that threaten to consume you.

There is an evolutionary reason for fear. Fear is important; it keeps us safe. It nudges us to step back from that wind-swept ledge, to think twice about eating meat that smells that way, and to reassess a cliff jump into a stormy sea.

Fear is helpful when it indicates to us that there is danger around.

Fear is not helpful when it engages our body in something that isn’t dangerous or life threatening. This is when we get into survival mode, an extended fight-or-flight that wrecks havoc on our sensitive nervous systems.


This weekend, my family packed up our small town house and moved to a house in the country. We rented plastic bins to conserve paper, the consequence of which means that we have to pack and unpack in a specific time frame or pay more money. We hired movers, paid for by the hour, which means that their ability to be efficient had to match with our ability to competently pack and direct them, lest we pay more money.

Survival mode often creeps in when money is involved, because money is a huge part of our survival. If we have money, we have the means to ensure a roof over our head, food for our bellies, warmth.

So this move, while we had help from professionals and grandparents to watch our little Critter, felt a little like a race against a clock. Before I knew it, survival mode had set in and I was running on adrenaline.

I was exhausted by the end of each day. Not just because moving is hard, but because my adrenals had been taxed for 12 straight hours, as I loaded and unloaded boxes, moved furniture, chased my child, and tried to keep everyone fed.

As I sunk into a bath Sunday night, I finally had the peace of mind to actually pay attention to my thoughts. That’s when I realized they’d been running in circles – round and round, spinning stories about scarcity and push to rush rush rush – when I remembered something a teacher had taught me about recognizing the helpful fear from the harmful. She said that if your fear starts your thoughts spinning and you can’t settle on an action, then the energetic origin of that fear is not yours. 

If it’s not yours, you don’t have to be privy to it. You can release it, ground it away, blow it up or dissolve it. You can find your own answers instead.

Helpful fear, on the other hand, doesn’t waste precious energy spinning your thoughts in circles – it gives you clear directives: Run. Fight. Yes. No. Go fetal. Left. Right. It doesn’t waste time with long explanations, words or emotions. It calls you to action because there is actual danger.

So I used my tools – grounding and moving energy – to move the fear out of my body. My thoughts calmed. It was quiet in my head. With the quiet, I remembered some advice I’d received from a podcase on high sensitivity, a bit of information that seemed to obvious that I hadn’t even thought to name it:

Highly sensitive people need extra time for transitions.

We just do. Whether that’s the transition from waking to sleep, sleep to wake, meal to activity, or the big transitions like marriage or moving, we need more time. 

Time equals space. We need both in order for our systems to process all of the information they’re taking in. To unload. Decompress. Unwind.

The next time you find yourself in survival mode – thoughts spinning, body primed for certain attack – try to give your self some space. Take a walk, take a bath, lay down for a bit – see if you can get out of the spiral long enough to realize you don’t need to be there. Try this meditation for grounding that fear away so that you can come back into your own body and find your way forward.

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