Just got a job but can't drop survival mode

I am so grateful to have found stable, full-time employment after almost two years of searching. The team is wonderful, the benefits are amazing, the pay is perfect, and although I haven't started the role yet, I anticipate enjoying my day to day.

And I am especially grateful because I've been searching for so long and my financial issues have caused depression, anxiety and low self-worth.

But I still feel like I am in survival mode and I am unsure how to shift my mindset.

When I got the good news, I felt a brief moment of relief and then I jumped right back into planning mode where I've been stuck ever since. It was as if there was no time for celebration and I can't say I felt or feel at all excited. It's as though I am waiting for permission or something to take a night off and relax.

For example, I have lived in a cold city for 5 years without a winter coat. I told myself that I couldn't buy a coat until I could afford a good one. And yet here I am, finally able to afford a good coat and I still feel like I can't spend the money, because that money should be saved as long as possible for groceries and other necessities (even though staying safe and warm in winter is also a basic nessecity).

Does anyone else have experience shifting out of survival mode into financial security? Any advice on spending money when it feels so scary? Thanks!

First of all, Agripina62, congrats on the job! It sounds like you put a lot of hard work into getting it and that hard work finally paid off with dividends. The tone of your post is as if you think something might be wrong with you for not, for example, buying a winter coat. But, from what you say it totally makes sense that it would be hard to say goodbye to survival mode when it's helped you not only to survive but to stay motivated to do the hard work you needed to land that job with "perfect pay." Survival mode has served you well and honestly, you seem like a total badass. What if nothing was wrong with you? What if it was normal that it's hard to say goodbye to an old friend who has served you well - even tho they're no longer needed? What if, for the time it might take to slowly adapt to your new reality, it's natural that you feel uncomfortable and scared spending money, even if intellectually you know you have it?
Congrats on the new job! I don't know if you've considered it but I think you might benefit from recruiting some external help that could be in the form of a coach, a therapist. From what you said, it might be a bit deeper than going to survival mode as you might be leaning on some beliefs regarding money, what you deserve, possibly how you view yourself (either consciously or subconsciously) and it might be interesting to understand where they come from and why they are engrained in you.One thing I can suggest is whenever you "go back into survival mode" what exactly triggers it? And for instance when you refuse to buy a new coat despite frigid temperature: how come that doesn't fall into the necessities bucket? (I'd argue it might) As for tips that might help you: I tell myself I am making money to spend it (not recklessly, and that's very subjective I concede) because this might be my last day on earth. As morbid as it is, it is quite the truth so do buy that coat, buy that bag you've been eyeing, or anything that's been on your mind :)
@agripina62, congrats on the new job, that's truly exciting! I can imagine that putting in the work for two years and seeing the results must be a relief, as you said, but having with the kind of mindset you probably had to have for so long can lead to permanent shifts in how we view money, and that can be so hard to undo. I think you should give yourself some time to settle into the new job, get a few paychecks in hand, and see how you start feeling. It takes our bodies a little bit of time to catch up to what we may mentally know, and the sense of safety you were probably looking for has not had enough time to permeate through your autonomic nervous system yet. If you ever need help in the future I am a coach and work with clients on helping them through difficulties like this (and happen to be offering 2 free sessions to anyone who is interested at the moment), so I'd be happy to work with you if ever needed!Good luck with your new job!
Been there, done that. Totally understand where you're coming from. I grew up in a poor household, with lots of siblings and very little money. Now that I am older and have become successful and financially secure, I still find that previous experience has shaped my behavior with money overall. Its hard since many people who came from a privileged life don't really understand that survival mode.I still stress a lot about money, even though I am doing fine. The only thing I've found that really helps that for me is building long-term wealth building habits and being really in charge of my finances, having backup savings, and trying my best to put thought and planning into purchases as I can. Just knowing what its like to be poor is really scary and its something I never ever want to experience again. Life become way more stressful when you have to worry about having enough money for food, clothes, healthcare and getting out of that is a huge struggle. Do what you can to secure your finances, read books on it and research different options to maintain your financial wellbeing.
Hi @Agripina62 Wonderful news on your new job! Is there someone in your family or friend group who you admire for their financial management? You might buy them lunch and ask for some ideas on simple steps to a strong financial baseline now that you have a great new job. Also - you might buy 2 coats (what?!) one for now and a better perma coat once you have 30 days of expenses set aside in savings. Imagine how rich you will feel - with 2 coats! It's the simple things, right? :) So happy for you and your success.
Hi Agripina, I relate to this a lot. I’ve been unemployed a couple times in my life and been insanely stressed about buying simple things that are arguably necessities too. One small thing that helped me was joining local Buy Nothing groups on facebook. Often people give away really great things that simply don’t fit in their lives anymore. They are also judgement-free zones to ask for literally anything. You could ask for a coat in a certain style (post a pic of something similar) in your size, no explanation needed. You really never know. I’ve even made friends by being active in these groups! I’ve also gotten specific books I was looking for that had long library wait times.If you’re still feeling in survival mode and need time before getting out of it, this could be a nice way to get what you need (not just a coat, you could ask for anything.)
Thank you for your transparency. You are not alone in feeling those thoughts. What has helped me was navigating it with a therapist. There were so many limiting beliefs I had and old conditioning that carried with me throughout how I operated in life and business. Feeling safe to feel joy, rest for self-care and giving yourself the necessities is what you are worthy of experiencing. For the financial aspect: I developed a clear plan of allocating how I used and invested my money when received has helped with purchasing items for me. With the help of a financial expert (or expert resources) in that area is key to work with to get started as each of our paths are unique. May you receive the revelation needed to shift to the experience you desire.
I think @VanessaH has hit the nail on the head - you've been using coping mechanisms that have been necessary and helpful for a while now, so that they've become habit. But as you shift into a new chapter of your life, those coping mechanisms no longer serve you the way they once did, and it's ok to let them go.It's absolutely sensible to build a financial 'cushion' of savings, and to stay on top of your finances, but your wealth is made up of more than money - it's also your health, your time, and your peace of mind. If spending some money can bring you some peace, I can't think of a better use for it ❤️Do what feels right for you too. When we moved to a larger home, I decided we weren't going to spend thousands on new furniture to fill it up! We had what we needed. So I spent time searching for second hand furniture, on eBay etc. and we got lots of bargains that way. But when it comes to food, I adore it (and am not a great cook). So I'm happy to spend a bit more on groceries or takeout to really enjoy food - it's still within our budget but it is a weight off when I don't have to think about what to make as often!
First - congratulations! You got the job! 🎉Survival mode is a state of being that helps us protect ourselves from threats. But when you live in survival mode for too long, it can become almost a habit. It becomes part of your identity. I lived in survival mode for a very long time. Backstory: My husband and three sons have the same rare genetic disorder, epilepsy, and are autistic. For their first several years, our lives were a blur of appointments and therapies between the three of them (we had two close together, and the third was our surprise 5 years later). When our youngest was very young, he started having seizures. He stopped breathing during these seizures. He was also prone to what they called status epilepticus - meaning his brain didn't know how to shut off the seizure. I had to learn CPR and breathe for my son as he turned blue in front of me. 10 out of 10 would not recommend that experience.In the middle of all this, my husband became disabled due to a life-threatening issue brought on by his diabetes. I began to freelance so we could have a little bit of money coming in. I had dropped out of school, one semester from graduation, because of our youngest's seizures. At this point, they were discussing possible brain surgery. Without a degree, I was more limited in what I could do, but I was one semester shy of an English degree - I knew I could write and edit.Within about 5 years I was e I was earning almost as much as my husband's disability payment, but we were slipping further behind. I looked for and found an amazing remote opportunity. That remote job turned into 5 years of growth at a great remote-first company. (there's more to that story, but that's a different story entirely)But as the boys grew to have more stable health, and I had a stable job, I went from constantly struggling to have food on the table and keep our sons alive to something I couldn't recognize. The boys still had issues, but they weren't the same. We still had money issues but they weren't the same. I was still scared and anxious all the time. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Constantly looking around, sure that something bad was going to happen. Over time I understood that I was still living in survival mode - and I didn't need to be. Today: Getting out of survival mode is hard to do. But it's served its purpose. I still lapse back into it from time to time. But I have CPTSD and other issues that contributed. I'm saying I lived in survival mode for decades, and I feel like I am mostly on the other side of it now. I survived. Survival mode served its purpose.AND SO DID YOU!You did survive! You made it through a very dark time. And now you're on the other side of it. It will take your body time to unlearn the subconscious behaviors you picked up to survive. You need to be patient with yourself and take small steps forward. One last note ...In Personality isn't Permanent by Benjamin Hardy, he talks about how your past doesn't need to define your present or future. You can change the story of your life in your mind, assign positives to the negatives, and train yourself to reframe your life. The benefit of this is that you can use that reframing to reframe your recent past and where you are right now. I am gentle with myself when I describe our life then. I accept that bad things happened, but that isn't my life anymore. I accept that my life was (and still is) hard, but I don't have to live in that emotional place of subsisting. I definitely recommend if you haven't already, you seek some help. It could be a counselor or a friend, a coach or a mentor. But whatever you do, you need to be able to talk with someone objectively about where you've been and where you are now. I'm positive you can find yourself on the other side of this. Because you did survive a lot worse. 🤗
Well I can definitely understand why you're still in survival mode - you haven't even started your job, therefore, you haven't gotten a single paycheck yet. That's still very scary. Give yourself time to start your new job and adjust to your new life with stable income. But also - it's the middle of winter so BUY THE COAT!! I just bought a very warm (and pretty cute in my opinion) coat on amazon for much less than at a department store and it kept me very warm when I was visiting family in Vermont over the holidays. Here's the link in case you're interested.
Congratulations @Agripina62 on finding that new role. I understand how you feel. I've been in survival mode my entire life. I know exactly how it feels to FINALLY get what you've wanted, but are unable to celebrate because you have to prepare for the next thing, "just in case". To always be looking around the corner for the next thing to take care of because that's what you've always done whether things were "good" or "bad". I had a coach, who is now my very best friend, hit me with a question that changed my life. The question was, what one thought could I change today that would shift me from a mindset of survival and scarcity into creation and contribution? Just one thought. That forever changed me. She challenged me to think about what would it look like to live in Possibility? To leave behind "should" and "must" and embrace YES. I offer this to you. Shifting out of survival mode is a process. What I learned was to renegotiate my relationship with money. I felt more secure when I had the money to meet my needs and when I had extra money, I felt guilty for spending it. I've come to understand that money is another tool, to create the experiences we want. More money allows us to create different experiences. What is a "good" winter coat to you? Is it expensive? Does it make you feel warmer? Is it a designer brand? What experience do you want with that winter coat? Again, the process takes time. You will go back to survival mode because like the other poster said, it served your needs when you needed it. However, when those tools no longer support you, you get to lay them down and begin to use the new tools that you pick up along the way. I also learned to shift from "budgeting" my money, to "directing" my money. I am in control of my finances, whether I have more to work with or less. I get to direct where my money goes. I like to use a system of allocating my money into Bills/Needs, Wants/Fun, and FutureMe. Intentionally setting money aside for things that I want and for the future, helps to give me that security that things are taken care of and know that I can create the experiences that I want to have, without fear of not having enough or doing something "wrong". Yes I still make not so great choices, and those are valuable lessons that I use to move forward. But I'm still in control of my money and no longer fear telling it exactly where to go and what to do :)Take some time today to celebrate YOU. You have survived my friend. And you landed a new job with the salary to meet your needs! Even if its just an hour, put on your favorite song and dance around your house to celebrate. You are going to be OK! You are OK! Best wishes dear heart.
Congratulations on your job!!You obviously have done an amazing job taking care of yourself during extensive difficult times. I have definitely been there and completely understand the lifestyle. I would say two things:Firstly, a good winter coat is a good investment, like a good nights sleep. It will pay you back, because you will be more energized and mentally comfortable and in a better space for the rest of the day and other tasks. As well, how it makes you feel will support shifting your mindset.Secondly, I have been intensely focused on mindset work for myself recently, so my experience is to first focus on stabilizing your nervous system - when you feel triggered, take a few minutes to breathe and calm down and remind yourself that you are ok, you are safe, you are secure. When you are calm, try and pinpoint any other deep rooted beliefs (ie. I feel worthy of money, I am deserving, etc). I have been playing affirmation tracks (you can find tons online, or record your own, but be specific!) in the background overnight while I sleep because our minds are less resistant in sleep state. It takes a long time and you might have nightmares because of conflicting beliefs at first. Sometimes I would wake up and actively disagree with the affirmations, but now even during the day my new beliefs come to mind very naturally.Also, spoil yourself with those new benefits! Enjoy them and remember you are worthy.
I think a lot of women can relate to what you're feeling, I appreciate you sharing. I was raised by a single mom and lived paycheck to paycheck until about a year and a half ago (I'm in my early 40s). What works for me may not work for you or others and you may find using a compilation of ideas on this post will be what works best (I'm going to look into the Buy Nothing recommendation by @Joie102, incidentally) but my peace of mind came with balancing my checkbook, creating and sticking to a budget, and building a savings account for emergencies that I felt comfortable with (not secure with, but not panicking about either...comfortable). Having that small sense of control with knowing what exactly is in my checking and savings account and having a budget for other things in my life has enabled me to splurge when I can and want to, and to know when I need to keep things in check and pull back, it makes me feel safe. When you've experienced having less for a long period of time the apprehension doesn't magically disappear, but I promise it does become easier. I also shop second hand as often as I can, partly for environmental and sustainable reasons, but also, it's cheaper. Lol. (Thredup & Offerup are good sites.) I contribute regularly to my 401K and additional accounts with a financial advisor, who I meet with regularly, and that puts me at ease as well. There are little things you can do to help you take back your sense of control until the survival mode feeling starts to fade and you realize, you're going to be ok. :) Sending hugs and understanding your way. I'm excited for you to embark on your new job. :)
I went through a parallel experience when I went from $20k to $70k. I had to learn how to spend my money--not because I was spending too much but I hated spending it. Of course, being frugal when you have the money creates its own headaches, like in your case, not having a winter coat in the middle of winter.My suggestion would be to budget some amount of money that you will spend on things that will give you the feeling of abundance, that is, the feeling that money will come and won't run out. You simultaneously have to work on the voice in your head. You can't just buy that coat and shame yourself for buying it. This simply recreates the cycle you're in. Instead, you have to live in the comfort and warmth of that coat, and appreciate what a good investment it was. Talk to yourself with a different voice, one that is grateful you bought a coat and knows money is a resource that can expand and multiply, not a little pot that will run out. You literally have to rewire your brain by creating good feelings around spending money as opposed to anxious/stressed ones. Slowly, slowly this will help your overactive nervous system start to regulate and you'll eventually come out of survival mode.Good luck and feel free to check in with how this goes!
Thank you everyone for your kind words of support and strategies to get out of this mindset! And update: I ended up buying the coat and am happily warm in my big city.