I am in survival mode. I know many of you are also.

Parents stuck with no good back to school option are in survival mode. Workers being required to return to an office they are not really sure is a safe option are in survival mode.

I am in survival mode as I am hundreds of miles from home taking care of a family medical emergency, while I am job hunting and getting ready to take my oldest to college in the middle of a pandemic.

No one’s survival mode is better or worse. I describe survival mode as the season where you do just enough to get by – there is no threshold to pass to get into or out of it. You want to just hide under the covers, but someone has to run the asylum. But when that someone is you, there are three things you can do to streamline the basics to keep the ship afloat without completely debilitating yourself. This idea is based on the “Three D’s” that are presented in the Sorta Awesome podcast 253. I have modified my tool from “3 D’s” to MAD. The acronym cracks me up because when I am in survival mode, I tend to feel a little mad. Mad like manic. OK, sometimes mad like angry too. Survival mode is tough. Maybe this tool can help soften those edges for you too.


This first part of the tool for survival mode is M for meals. If I have a loose meal plan and know the groceries are on hand, I do not need to think about it and can move on to something more important. The converse of this is when it has been a rough day already and when it comes time to make the baked spaghetti and there IS NO SPAGHETTI IN THE HOUSE. Tears have been shed at times like these.

Having a meal plan removes a lot of uncertainty. Keep it broad and easy – sandwiches, pasta, pizzas on the grill, etc. Simple, quick, and bonus points for meals that allow for leftovers you can heat up for lunch.

Survival Mode


Next is A for acknowledgement. Don’t pretend this is business as usual. Denying this is a survival mode season will blow up in your face. Call it what it is and try to roll with the chaos. What this looks like for me is that while I am away from home, I have let go of 90% of my exercise routine. Yes, it is an important part of my life, but in survival mode while I cannot leave the house on my own schedule (or sometimes at all), it has fallen by the wayside. Instead of beating myself up over it, I acknowledge it is survival mode season and move on.


The third part is D for dishes, specifically the dishwasher. As part of my normal time nightly routine, I clean the kitchen. I know Tomorrow Susan feels more serene starting her day with clean counters. The minimum viable product of a clean kitchen is clean dishes so during survival mode I just make sure I run the dishwasher before bed. If we have a doctor appointment to get to, there might not be time in the morning to clean up the kitchen. ┬áIf something goes wrong in the night and we don’t get a lot of sleep, it is easier to continue with the day if cleaning the dishes out of the way.

Survival Mode

This is not my kitchen, but it is the clean surface look I love to close the day with.

If you are in survival mode and still trying to do it all, I invite you to download the Sustainability Checklist. It will walk you through some suggestions about what you might need to drop off the list for now – or for always!