I want to share something that I have noticed in myself and in some of my clients that can be an obstacle or stress between you living the life you truly want and where you may be now. I call it “ESCAPISM”. Escapism can be defined as a tendency to create habits or behaviours that distract or relieve us from anything that is unpleasant in our lives. Even if you have not experienced this before, it’s good to be AWARE of it when you face some form of trauma or stress in your life.
Unpleasantness can appear in many different forms and enter our lives at any age. These events could be anything from sitting in traffic on the way back from work to serious injury caused to the body by a motor vehicle accident, to witnessing a loved one go through something traumatic. Whichever it is, it leaves behind some form of anxiety, stress or trauma.
Escapism is not only bad. These are the habits or behaviours we employ to deal with what life throws at us, this includes events which work in our favour and events which seem not too. Escapism becomes negative when we employ these habits in excess and we call these maladaptive behaviours.
Essentially maladaptive behaviours are any behaviours or habits that are used to reduce our stress and anxiety, but the results are dysfunctional, non-productive and inhibit our ability to adjust healthily to the situations in life. These behaviours are ultimately more harmful to us in the long term than they are helpful. Examples could be excessive day dreaming, excessive sleeping or watching television or movies, excessive eating or drinking or partying, alcohol or drug abuse, withdrawal from peers, family and society in general. These are only a few of the behaviours we can display, but the point of exploring this is to establish that there are healthier and non-destructive ways for us to deal with the pain that life brings us.
Adaptive behaviour reflects our social and practical competence to meet the demands of everyday living. I’d like to share some tools with you that can help you deal with your anxiety, stress and trauma in a healthy and productive manner.
The best way to manage stress or anxiety is to learn healthy coping mechanisms which you can start practicing right now, but don’t feel pressured to start relieving all your stress instantly. Perhaps just try one or two until you find a few that work for you in your life. Practise these techniques until they become habits you turn to when you feel stress.
- Start Writing:
It may help to write for 10 – 15 minutes a day about the stress and how you feel. Now this may sound like its not something you can find time for. But putting things down on paper can be quite therapeutic. This is also useful to track our stress and can give us an idea of what’s causing it? Once we gain insight into what causes us to feel what we feel, we can develop better ways to cope.
- Let your feelings out:
Talk, laugh, cry and express anger in a non-violent, respectful manner when you need to. If you can’t talk to your spouse or partner, talk to your friends, family, a counsellor, or maybe your spiritual healer. Talking is a healthy way to relieve stress. If you really need to let it out. Scream at the sky. Cry to the ocean.
- Do something you enjoy:
You know I often hear people say: “I’m too busy to enjoy life.” Honestly speaking though, what else do we have to do, other than live the life we have right now? Time is not waiting for us. Life is ticking away by the second. So why not just be joyful whatever we’re doing? If we see ourselves as mortal and are aware that we have a brief existence, would we have time to be mad, or sad? Would we have time to be angry at someone? If we do things we enjoy, we can relax and do them effortlessly.
- Be self-aware:
What is self-awareness? Simply put, it is knowing as much as you can about yourself. It all starts and ends with you. This is the only sense of perception you will have from birth till death, so what’s the harm in getting to know yourself intimately? Explore and understand every sensation, emotion and thought. Focusing on the present moment is a great way to develop self-awareness. Our minds tend to work over-time especially when we are stressing or disturbed about something. We can practice being in the present moment by looking at where we are right now. By paying attention to what’s in front of us, our body, our breath. We can further develop this using this next tool:
- Start meditating:
I know when I say meditation, you’re probably thinking about sitting in the lotus position with your eyes closed. But meditation is actually about creating a little bit of space for you. Just for you. Space from your work, your wife, your children. Not too much space, we don’t want to withdraw from our loved ones. With this space we can focus our minds.
When you meditate, you can focus your attention on things that are happening right now. Paying attention to your breathing is one way to focus, or any part of your body. Simply just listen to the noise around you, the birds or the wind or the traffic. We may listen to the noise inside too. But just listen. Nothing else.
What’s great about creating this space is that it belongs to us and no one else, and we can go there anytime we need to. Right here inside. If we just sit with our eyes closed, the world disappears for a moment. If you practice this, you can open up many fantastic doors in your life and create joy, peace and fulfilment.
We all need some peace and joy in our lives, most of all we are constantly looking to be fulfilled.
Having a clear understanding of who we are, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts and what we believe in puts us in powerful position. This clear understanding allows us to know who we are and what others see in us. All we need to do is pay a little attention to ourselves.
- Get some exercise
A lot of our stress relief can start with the body. If our bodies don’t know peace, how can our minds?
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. You can start by simply walking, early morning walks are great to get focused for the day before breakfast or evening if that suits your time better. Even cleaning your house can reduce your stress as well as washing your car. Stretching can relieve your muscle tension. There are so many ways to become more active out there. Yoga is also an extremely helpful and gentle way to get your body active if the gym is too intense on your body.
If you feel that none of these tools can help or would add any value. Please get help.
Seek professional help, like counselling, coaching and therapy. The key is to communicate. We need to talk about what’s stressing us out. We need to let our loved ones know when we are struggling.
I know that some of these tools may sound unusual, but they really can help us reduce our stress and anxiety and we really should consider ourselves worth the investment. After all it’s a brief life for all of us. Nothing that we do or engage in is worth it, if it does not include our own well-being.
I hope that this was valuable to you and that you can start making steps to cultivate some peace and joy in your life and strive to live long and healthily.