I felt like hell the other day.
I was in a crappy mood, my negative thoughts were too loud, and my chest felt heavy with sadness.
There wasn’t a specific reason I felt this way — it was just one of those days.
Pretty much all damn day every day, I work. I love what I do, so most days, even if I feel like shit, I can get through all the bad and work my ass off.
But this day, trying was the last thing I wanted to do. What I wanted was to escape and forget all about my responsibilities.
Some people make bad decisions when life gets tough.
Young people, mainly because of peer pressure and the need to fit in will turn to drugs or alcohol to forget their baggage.
Neither of those is a healthy way of coping.
That’s why I put together a list of seven healthy ways you can escape life for a couple of hours — or an entire day — before you get back to reality to kick ass.
It’s okay to not deal with stuff now and then, just as long as you try again tomorrow. That’s the crucial thing here: that you come back and give life another go.
1. Work out
Hear me out before you roll your eyes and skip to the next point. Exercise is a great way to escape life and melt away stress.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forced myself to work out when I’m pissed or stressed only to come out in a fantastic mood.
While you’re exercising, you’re so focused on doing an extra push-up or not giving up that your mind can’t possibly focus on anything else. You don’t have space to think about the things that are causing you stress.
Whether you’re running, working out at home, or at the gym, you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll feel stronger and more equipped to deal with all the shit in your life.
There’s also research that says when you exercise you release endorphins and BDNF, a protein that, “has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch,” according to Fast Company.
Both are associated with feelings of euphoria.
Working out may be difficult and painful, but it’s worth it, and one of the healthiest way to escape reality.
2. Play a game
Play a board game with someone or download an app. I’m partial to two games on my phone, Monument Valley 1 & 2 and 7 Words.
I prefer those games because they require thinking, thus complete focus. Just like when you work out, you don’t have time to think about anything else going on in your life.
Here are two articles with suggestions for relaxing games and games that require a lot of thinking.
- Business Insider: 15 Games That Make You Smarter Just By Playing Them
- 7 Anxiety Relief Games to Instantly Reduce Stress
If you want to get off the screen, then play something in real life.
I’ll usually play solitaire or a game of speed with a sibling. Other times, we’ll play Mancala, Sorry!, Rummikub, or Monopoly — if we set apart hours.
Call a board night with your family, friends, or partner. Keep your phone off, stay present, and revel in the time spent with friends and family.
3. Make playlists
Psychology Today says, “When you experience an emotion while listening to music, your ancient reward circuits are flooding your brain with a chemical designed to make you feel good.”
While you can lay around and listen to music to boost your mood, I don’t usually do this, which is why I recommend making playlists.
This activity will bring you joy because you get to listen to music, which is proven to make you happier, and have fun.
I love being able to sit and listen to old and new songs while figuring out how to group them.
A playlist can be whatever the hell you want it to be. Give them genius or silly names. Make your music order so perfect you can’t possibly click shuffle, or do what I do and throw them in randomly because you always shuffle the songs.
Fill your playlists with songs from the same genre and others, mixed. Make one specifically for Sundays and another for long drives.
There aren’t any rules to playlists. You make them for you — that’s it.
Playlists I’ve created:
Pick up an actual book, read digitally, or listen to an audiobook. I don’t care in what form you choose to consume your books — just that you read.
Read something you genuinely want. Not what you think you should read.
If you can, go to the library and browse the shelves. Pick out books at random, read their summaries or their first pages, and take the one that interests you.
Don’t worry about the genre or whether you found it in the teenager’s section even though you’re twenty-three.
If you like it, that’s what matters. It’s about whether or not it will engage you.
Books are like little movies in your head, and it’s a great way to get drawn into something other than real life.
Here are a few books I recommend if you’re not sure what to read:
- Beartown by Fredrik Backman: It begins, “Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead, and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there.”
- 11/22/63 by Stephen King: What if you could go back in time and stop JFK’s assassination?
- We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia: Women go to school to learn how to become the perfect wives for their husband, who gets two wives. However, there’s a bigger conspiracy at play, and an unexpected romance blooms.
- Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis: “Have you ever believed that you aren’t good enough? That you’re not thin enough? That you’re unlovable? That you’re a bad mom? Have you ever believed that you deserve to be treated badly? That you’ll never amount to anything? All lies.”
5. Watch something funny
For the next hour — please don’t watch your show for longer than an hour — feel free to binge-watch Netflix, Hulu, or whatever the hell other streaming services you prefer.
However, you can’t watch something dramatic or heavy because that won’t get rid of your bad mood.
Do you know what will? Laughing.
- “Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
- Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
- Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.”
In summary, laughing makes you joyful — the goal we’re trying to achieve in your escape of life.
That’s why your best bet is to lose yourself in a sitcom, something light and funny.
I recommend shows like New Girl, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, or How I Met Your Mother.
6 Spend time with someone
Text a friend and have lunch with them, ask your siblings to come over for a game night, or go bowling with your partner.
The Mayo Clinic says that surrounding yourself with good people will:
- “Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
- Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
- Improve your self-confidence and self-worth”
Hang out with your happiest friend, or the friends that make you smile and laugh more than usual.
You don’t have to vent or talk about what you’re going through. Just enjoy their presence and have a good time.
A note: Don’t hang out with some asshole who will feed you more negative vibes.
My Domaine says, “According to relationship experts, we should distance ourselves from people who are overly jealous, disrespectful, and critical — all behaviors that leave us with low-esteem.”
These are the ways I turn my overwhelm into a little ball I can flick away. I hope they help you out, too.
Dedicate time to what you love to do but never take the time for. Color on your iPad, work on my art journal, write a song, or build a puzzle.
Lose yourself in a creative process without worrying about having to get back to work — and don’t apologize for it.