I don’t know about you, but escapism is my go-to when I need a break from the stress and chaos of my life. And with most things in life, a little too much of one thing can be bad, so using escapism as a coping mechanism is a balancing act. Escapism lets us take our minds off of the craziness of life. It’s a privilege that escapism gives us, but there are good and bad versions. Figuring out healthy habits and coping mechanisms to deal with the stress and chaos of daily life is the difference between drowning and thriving. So is escapism good or bad?
Is Escapism Running Away?
On paper, escapism sounds like we are running away from our problems. If I avoid the very thing that’s causing me stress and escape into a book, I won’t be stressed anymore until I stop reading, but if I never stop reading, I won’t be stressed. It’s a slippery slope. Even more so if you switch out reading a book with drugs or alcohol. It’s like that thought you have after a night out with your friends at the bar when you know you’ll be hungover the next day. “If I just keep drinking, I won’t have a hangover.”
Avoiding responsibilities and stress continually with no plan to go back is unhealthy. It will build up over time like an unpaid credit card bill. But that doesn’t mean we all don’t deserve a break from the madness every once in a while. Think about your parents going on a date night. They went on a date night to be together alone and spend time with each other, but also to get as far away from their chaotic and loud kids whom they love. It’s why we take vacations from work. Taking a mental breather, relaxing, revitalizing, and taking on stressors with newfound energy is nice.
There are good and healthy ways to use escapism as a coping mechanism, and there are some bad and unhealthy ways. Procrastination is my biggest form of escapism, especially in college. When a paper is due, I suddenly have the urge to deep clean everything, meal prep for the next week, fix the burnt-out lightbulb in the closet, and everything else I’ve been putting off for the last few weeks. And while getting those tasks done is good, the timing isn’t. I’m not cleaning my room because I carved out time for it. Instead, I’m cleaning to avoid the paper causing my brain to short circuit.
Addiction is another form of bad escapism. I used drugs and alcohol as an example earlier, but addiction is more than those two things. It’s easy to point out because we all went through D.A.R.E., but if we are honest, there are things that we are addicted to that we don’t acknowledge.
Less Obvious Addictions
During the pandemic, I was playing an insane amount of video games. Granted, there wasn’t much else to do besides my job, walk my dog, and sit alone in my apartment, wishing for it all to be over. And while I wouldn’t consider my video game playing an addiction since it never got in the way of responsibilities, I know some people who struggled. The same can be said for our phones. TikTok has a hold over me that nothing else in this world has ever had. My screen time report every Sunday evening makes me want to vomit. I tell myself I should delete the stupid app off my phone, but I can never bring myself to do it. What’s one more TikTok during my lunch break or right before bed? The next thing I know, it’s three a.m., and I have to be up in a few hours.
Cleaning your apartment to avoid writing a paper is productive but doesn’t help you do what you need to get done. Productive escapism is the healthy version of the coping mechanism. It kind of deals with intent. You schedule a date night so that you can intentionally make time for your significant other. You clean every Saturday morning because that is cleaning time.
Productive escapism is an outlet to let go of your stress and relax. Maybe you like to play video games. Dope! And you get on and play with your friends at the same time every day or another day. (Whatever your schedule might be.) As long as your choice of escapism doesn’t get in the way of getting your sh** together and getting done what needs doing, you are good. We are all entitled to a reprieve from stress and life, but don’t let it become a nasty habit of avoiding responsibility. As my aunt would say, “everything is in moderation.”