June 25, 2020, by UoN School of English
Confessions of an escapism artist – handling escapism while social distancing
At times like these, the urge to escape from the world is greater than ever. This may be through TV, books, games, music… anything that might help someone mentally escape from the reality. And with modern technology, it is all too easy to achieve. You may not even recognise that you are doing it. It’s as simple as listening to music on your way home after a hard day, or using your lunch break to watch a show on your phone. These things are well and good, giving us a way to entertain ourselves. However, it can easily become difficult to distinguish between wanting these escapes and needing them.
Between social distancing and feeling like the world is gradually falling apart, mental health suffers and escapism flourishes. In the need to hide from the harsh realities of the world, we find ourselves drawn into others. And while I am aware of the importance of engaging with different perspectives and relaxing through different forms of entertainment, I also understand how they can take over your own sense of self.
A lot of the time, escapism is a symptom of anxious or depressive behaviour. It can also worsen such issues if the consumer becomes increasingly dependent on the content. While the free-fall into indulgent consumption of escapist behaviour can be exhilarating at first, once you finish the book, or run out of episodes, you will find yourself clinging onto that other world.
With all of this in mind, here are some tips to help understand and control escapist tendencies:
1. Moderation is key
There is a difference between binge-watching a show because you appreciate it and doing so to escape. It depends on your attitude and level of dependency on the content. If you recognise that your time and mental real estate are being occupied by escapist behaviour, acknowledge it and try cutting back. You’ll know then just how reliant you are. Usually, the thing you don’t want to do is what you need the most.
2. Reach out
One of the easiest ways to help moderate yourself is to make plans and keep busy. Whether it’s meeting up with friends, or spending time with family, the people around you will help to ground you back into the real world. And if you struggle to hold yourself accountable, you can ask them to help moderate your behaviour. Even changing your routine and simply putting yourself in a public space can help to reset your mindset.
3. Join the dots
Try tracing any negative emotions or patterns that might have led to a period of escapist behaviour. It could be tied to certain situations or thoughts. Consider when and where you feel more inclined to escape and use that information to inform your behaviour. For example, I find that I tend to escape when I’m particularly stressed or uncertain, which inevitably only makes the problem worse. However, my awareness of this means that I can try taking steps to restrict myself, such as limiting time on Netflix.
4. Find the things in your life that make you feel grateful
If escapism is traced back to escaping from issues with your world, it suggests a negative mindset at its foundation. If that is the case, then try focusing on the things in your life that you are grateful for and use them to anchor you.
5. Don’t beat yourself up for slip ups
You’re still allowed to enjoy the things that you love. The trick is to not overindulge in them to the point where it becomes a form of escapism. Finding a balance is hard and can change over time. But if you find yourself slipping, remember to give yourself a break and focus on the positives around you.
Nina Shasha is an English student at the University of Nottingham.