I’m typing this at Zurich airport, with a coffee in hand as I wait for my friend Zoe to finish teaching a yoga class and come meet me. We’ve got a weekend together catching up, yoga-ing, brunching, relaxing and – well, escaping real life for a little bit.
I don’t have to think about my to-do list at work. There’s no “What shall we have for dinner?” debates with my partner. There’s room to decompress. Room to breathe.
While this is true of holidays and mini-breaks, there are plenty of other ways we can escape the humdrum of routine, and even the stresses and strains of everyday life. Escapism is something we all need – this is thought to be one of the reasons we dream when we sleep.
Our brains need to disengage with the conscious and let the subconscious take the reins for a bit.
(a couple of snaps from Zurich)
I guess what prompted me to write about this topic was the recent Mental Health Awareness Week which focused on stress. There was plenty of activity from the mental health and blogging community, lots of tips and ideas to help people reduce stress – but I don’t *think* I saw anyone mention escapism. Not explicitly at least.
Taking time for yourself, having a break from the everyday is all discussed, but what about the smaller moments of escapism we can get every day? And when does it teeter over into unhealthy behaviour?
Disappearing into another world for a bit can be incredibly rewarding. Yes the worries, stresses and strains will still be there when you return, but sometimes escapism can help you cope a little better, because your mind has had a rest.
Here are some ways to give your mind a break and escape for a little while:
Watch an excellent TV series or movie. I know, simple stuff right? But sometimes, shutting out the pressures of the world and losing yourself in a fictional plot can be rejuvenating. I tend to turn to Grey’s Anatomy for the ultimate escapism (though sometimes I need something a little less emotionally traumatic!) or put on a favourite film.
Read some fiction. I often forget how much my mind enjoys fiction until I get my teeth stuck into a really good piece of writing. I’m currently on a bit of a non-fiction binge, but have ‘The Power’ ready to step in and quench my thirst for fiction.
Video games. These are basically like movies that you have control over. You make decisions, you choose your adventure, you interact with a totally different world. Dan is a character artist for video games and I’ve learnt so much about them since being with him and I am in absolute awe of how much work goes into creating them.
Getting creative. This could mean drawing, writing, making – whatever it is that helps you get into a state of flow. For me, that’s writing. When you get really in to what you’re doing, time seems to stop. The world rushes around while you stay still.
What’s better, is that when you’ve finished – you’ve created something. So adding a sense of accomplishment to the escapism makes this the ultimate stress buster.
Scroll through Instagram. Yes, really. A little scroll can help transform us into the lives of others – it can give us perspective and change our view… if you use it right. It also offers us a way to connect with others and that is invaluable.
Meditation. The ultimate holiday for the mind. A chance to step back from the many thoughts running amok in your mind. A chance to be still, be present and acknowledge that the only thing that matters is now. There is no future, there is no past, there’s only now.
Listening to music. Some days I feel like I could spend hours just listening to music and daydreaming. And sometimes I feel like I should really do this more. There’s nothing like an incredible piece of music to whisk you away in your mind.
When it’s not so healthy
I couldn’t write about escapism without noting the less savoury side. Sometimes in life, things happen that are so awful, we can’t cope. It may be a situation that’s happened to you, or the thoughts and feelings of a mental illness.
When this happens, escapism can seem like the only way to cope. There may be days on end in front of the TV. There may be drugs, alcohol and/or risky behaviour used to escape. Sometimes our feelings are too painful and we feel like we need to numb them.
Again, sometimes – this can be exactly what you need at this time.
However, this is also when escapism can take an ugly turn and can do more harm than good. What I would say on this is to be gentle with yourself and also honest. If you feel like you’re using escapism in an unhealthy way, speak to someone. Let someone help you manage your feelings and return to your life.
Taking breaks and escaping real life from time to time can be a tonic when used right, and a poison when used wrong. Think about your motivations, how much your escaping and whether or not it would be helpful to speak to someone.
I hope this helps to remove any guilt you may feel about escaping the real world from time to time. We all need it sometimes. Take that break, binge-watch that TV show, lose yourself in a book. Relish the break, rest your mind and return refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to take on the world.
Just before I go, I wanted to remind you that my next Monthly Musings newsletter is going out this Sunday 27th May. This month I’ll be talking about ‘purpose’, what this means to me and how it shapes our actions.
As always I will include external resources, an activity and a downloadable for you on the subject. If you want in, subscribe via the link below before Sunday – you’ll also get my free 12-page guide to self-confidence.
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