If escapism is your coping mechanism, try these 9 healthier alternatives

Graeme Richards by Graeme Richards | March 10, 2024, 7:08 pm

Escapism can be a tempting way to deal with life’s challenges. It’s easy to lose yourself in a book, a movie, or even a daydream instead of facing what’s really going on.

But here’s the thing: while escapism can distract you temporarily, it doesn’t address the root cause of your stress or discomfort. That’s why it’s important to have healthier coping mechanisms at your disposal.

In this article, I’ll share nine practical alternatives to escapism that can help you manage your stress in a more productive way. And don’t worry, these aren’t complex psychotherapeutic techniques – they’re simple, everyday habits you can start to incorporate right now.

Ready to face life head-on? Let’s dive in.

1) Mindfulness meditation

Let’s start with a strategy that’s been gaining a lot of attention lately: mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness is all about focusing on the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. It’s a simple concept, but it can have a profound impact on your mental health.

Consider this: instead of escaping into a fantasy world, you’re learning to face reality and accept it for what it is. This acceptance can help relieve stress and anxiety, making it easier to cope with whatever life throws at you.

There are plenty of resources available to help you get started with mindfulness meditation, from smartphone apps to online courses. Give it a try and see if it makes a difference for you.

And remember, like any skill, it takes practice. So be patient with yourself and celebrate the small victories along the way.

2) Regular exercise

This can’t be stressed enough: regular exercise is a game-changer when it comes to stress management. It’s not just about keeping your body fit, it’s also about maintaining a healthy mind.

Let me share a bit of my own experience. I used to find myself escaping into books or TV shows whenever I was feeling stressed or overwhelmed. But then I discovered the power of a good workout.

Whether it’s a run in the park, a yoga class, or just dancing around in my living room, moving my body helps clear my mind and lift my mood. It’s like hitting the reset button on my mental state.

And the best part? It’s backed by science. Exercise releases endorphins, our body’s natural feel-good chemicals, which can help to combat stress and anxiety.

So if you find yourself drawn to escapism, why not escape into a good workout instead? Trust me, your mind and body will thank you.

3) Healthy eating

We often overlook the connection between our diet and our mental health. Yes, it’s tempting to reach for comfort food when we’re stressed or anxious, but it’s not always the best choice.

Did you know that certain foods can actually help to reduce stress? For instance, dark chocolate is known to lower the stress hormone cortisol. Likewise, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and flaxseeds, have been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety.

So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and tempted to escape into another world, consider heading to the kitchen instead. Make yourself a nutritious meal with stress-busting ingredients. It might not be as instantly gratifying as escapism, but in the long run, it’s a healthier way to cope.

4) Journaling

Sometimes, the best way to deal with our thoughts and emotions is to put them down on paper. Journaling can be a powerful tool for self-reflection and stress relief.

By writing about your feelings, you’re not just acknowledging them, but also gaining a better understanding of why you’re feeling this way. It’s a healthy form of self-expression that allows you to vent without judgment or repercussions.

And the best part? There’s no right or wrong way to do it. You can write in bullet points, draw pictures, or just let your thoughts flow freely. The goal is to get your thoughts out of your head and onto the paper.

So, next time you feel the urge to escape reality, try picking up a pen instead. You might be surprised by what you discover about yourself.

5) Deep breathing exercises

When we’re stressed or anxious, our breath often becomes quick and shallow. By consciously focusing on our breath, we can help to calm our mind and body.

Deep breathing exercises are a simple but effective way to reduce stress. They can be done anywhere, anytime – you don’t need any special equipment or a lot of space.

Here’s a simple technique to try: Close your eyes, take a slow deep breath in through your nose, hold it for a few seconds, then slowly exhale through your mouth. Repeat this several times, focusing on the sensation of your breath moving in and out of your body.

This simple act of mindful breathing can help to bring you back into the present moment, reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. So the next time you’re tempted to escape reality, why not give this a try instead?

6) Connecting with loved ones

There’s something incredibly healing about human connection. In times of stress, reaching out to the ones we love can offer us comfort and perspective.

It’s easy to retreat into our own world when things get tough, but isolation only exacerbates feelings of stress and anxiety. On the other hand, sharing our thoughts and feelings with someone we trust can help us to feel understood and supported.

Whether it’s a heart-to-heart conversation with a friend, a comforting hug from a family member, or even a playful moment with your pet – these connections remind us that we’re not alone in our struggles.

So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and tempted to escape into your own world, remember the people who love you. Reach out to them. Their support and understanding might be just what you need to navigate through the storm.

7) Getting outdoors

There’s something about being in nature that can be incredibly soothing. The fresh air, the sound of birds chirping, the feeling of sunlight on your skin – it’s all very grounding.

In my own life, I’ve found that spending time outdoors can do wonders for my mental health. When I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, a simple walk in the park can help me to clear my head and regain a sense of perspective.

In fact, research has shown that spending time in green spaces can reduce stress and improve mental well-being. So the next time you’re tempted to escape into a fictional world, why not step outside instead? You might find that the natural world has its own kind of magic.

8) Cultivating gratitude

Focusing on the positive things in your life, no matter how small, can shift your mindset and help you manage stress. This is the power of gratitude.

By acknowledging and appreciating what you have, you’re less likely to dwell on negative thoughts and emotions. This doesn’t mean ignoring the challenges you’re facing, but rather finding balance by recognizing the good as well.

A simple way to practice this is by keeping a gratitude journal. Each day, write down a few things you’re grateful for. They can be as simple as a delicious meal, a kind gesture from a stranger, or a beautiful sunset.

Cultivating gratitude can help you develop a more positive outlook on life, making it easier to cope with stress. So next time you feel the urge to escape, try turning your attention to the things that make you feel thankful instead.

9) Seeking professional help

Sometimes, our stress and anxiety can become too much to handle on our own. In these instances, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional.

Therapists and counselors are trained to help you navigate through your emotions and find healthier ways to cope with stress. They can provide you with tools and strategies that are tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.

Remember, there’s no shame in seeking help. In fact, it’s one of the bravest things you can do. You don’t have to face this alone – help is out there, and it’s okay to reach out for it.

Final thought: The power is in your hands

The journey to healthier coping mechanisms is a deeply personal one. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one person might not work for another, and that’s okay.

What’s important is recognizing that escapism is simply a temporary solution, a band-aid for a deeper issue. It may provide comfort in the moment, but it doesn’t address the root cause of our stress and anxiety.

Remember, you have the power to change your coping mechanisms. It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight, but with patience and perseverance, you can make positive changes.

Whether it’s mindfulness meditation, regular exercise, or seeking professional help, each step you take towards healthier coping mechanisms is a victory.

You’re capable of more than you think. And remember, it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. In the end, the most important relationship we have is with ourselves. So let’s make sure we’re treating ourselves kindly and coping in the healthiest ways we can.