Thriving vs Surviving

by | Oct 11, 2022 | Refugee Trauma Recovery

This past week, October 2-8, was mental health awareness week. In response to this, Mandy Walsh from Talk in the Bay wrote an article comparing the concepts of “surviving” and “thriving” in the mental health context. She highlights that the first key to switching from surviving to thriving is self-awareness. This helps individuals understand where they are and how they feel, which is necessary for enacting meaningful, lasting change. Self-awareness allows an individual to recognize when they are in survival mode and to recognize the ways they are responding to the environment around them — both negatively and positively.

After gaining self-awareness, Ms. Walsh writes that healthy coping modes are the next step toward “thriving.” When someone is in survival mode, they are shutting down in situations, running on autopilot, and becoming emotionally detached from those around them. Conversely, thriving involves anticipating and reacting appropriately to various situations, finding meaning in life, and feeling connected to those around us. This should be thought of as thriving mode-meaning individuals can consistently achieve this way of life with enough practice and support.

Lastly, Ms. Walsh calls out that achieving an individual’s true self is the final step in thriving. This is built upon the previous two steps to allow an individual to not just cope with the world around them, but to meet challenges head-on, find joy every day and make a meaningful impact in others’ lives. In this way, individuals are able to be vulnerable or forceful or caring or decisive or anything they need to be, depending on the situation and the people around them. By understanding oneself, a person is able to relate, connect, and respond to new experiences and overcome negative encounters or stretches in life. While these three steps are likely cyclical in nature, they can ultimately lead to happier, more adaptive individuals, networks, and communities.