Choosing Happy While In Survival Mode

I have written about living life in survival mode before. There is a constant churn that exists when you are doing more with less. There’s rarely time to even consider my human conditions because I would have to pause to feel and grieve and pausing isn’t surviving.

There are so many reasons one has for living this way. In my own experience, poverty is the main culprit. In my career, I just haven’t made the same kind of money my peers were making and I haven’t had the same opportunities. Still, I am in charge of my choices and in the face of whatever hardships, I choose happy.

People living in poverty are twice as likely to be chronically stressed and twice as likely to experience depression as a result. Anyone reading this, who is also living paycheck to paycheck, understands this type of pressure.

Before I continue, I have to acknowledge “choosing happy” is a distinctly neuro-typical privilege. I feel it is an important distinction to make because mental illness and chronic stress isn’t the same thing. Though one can certainly lead to the other and vice versa. “Choosing happy” or thinking positive thoughts isn’t treatment for mental illness.

My experiences and the ways in which I respond is shaped by chronic stress. When I’m at the precipice, feeling most overwhelmed, there are some things I rely on to help keep me grounded and focused.


I love my people so hard. I love the way they love us. I work hard to cultivate my circle. My village, starting with my partner and kids are my greatest cheerleaders, loving me without judgement. My friends and family ties are strong, life tested and made to last. When I fall, they are there to catch me, consistently. They see the mess in me and make room for it. When I reach out for a hand in the dark, I trust there will be a hand to hold. If you don’t have that, come see us at BrGOL, we will uplift and cheer you on!

Us cheering you on!!


Often times as a mother, friend, or consultant, I am asked to do shit I don’t have the energy to do. In these times I try to remember, “No.” is a complete sentence. I can respond this way and I don’t have to explain myself, not to my children or my husband or even my coworkers, although, if I like you, I might take the time. In my own personal experience, people don’t pay enough attention to, “know better,” and humans have not evolved into mind reading as of yet. This means when I have had enough I have to say so.


There’s never a convenient time to relax on survival mode but, in order to replenish batteries, I need to find that time. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in our bodies, from the endocrine to the cardiovascular. Take an extra five minutes in the shower if you need to. Breath deeply throughout the day. Give yourself permission to relax, if even for a moment, everyday. Your heart and soul will thank you.


My house will never look like it belongs on Home and Garden. My closets will never be organized, my living spaces will never be completely clutter free. I have six kids and hardly any space or time or energy. I’ve got flaws. We are all flawed. After the self reflection, I’ve decided not to beat myself over them. I let myself off the hook for shit because I probably had a rough day too. Self-loathing and guilt has never helped me recover from a mistake. In times of deep regret, I take my loss and try to point some kindness inward.


I don’t know if I’ll ever bring myself out from poverty. I don’t know if I can over come all the obstacles in my way, whether imposed or built myself. The truth is, I do feel sorry for myself sometimes. My life is fucking hard and any happiness I have in it, is hard won, it’s my revolution in the face of the pain and sometimes humiliation, that comes from having to do more with less. Despite this, or maybe because of it, I am hyper aware of the things I did “right” like, my kids, the relationship I have with my partner, and the village of love I’ve built among friends and family. I recognize I have overcome plenty and I have grown leaps and bounds into a whole entire person I happen to love dearly.


81 Mental Health Resources If You Can’t Afford Therapy

Black & African American Communities and Mental Health

Ackerman Institute for Family

National Institute of Mental Health – Free Resources

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration


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