Escapism is a term we hear very often, especially when it concerns the arts, the creative things in our lives, and if you’re anything like me, that term had become reality in the previous months.
With a multi-month lockdown — thanks to COVID — I found myself gravitating back towards books and painting and writing. It was as if my mind was rejoicing in its own way, and it was. But it was more than just rejoicing.
I was suddenly trapped at home with both my parents 24 hours, 7 days a week. My high school graduation was hastily robbed from me, and the last months of my senior year were taking an ugly, uncertain turn.
That’s where Escapism entered.
At its root, escapism is really about our fight or flight response, that emergency response programmed into all of us. We become uncomfortable with our reality, but instead of going with the fight response, we opt for flight.
In my case, there was nothing to fight per se. I couldn’t stop the virus or cure anyone. Things were out of my and everyone else’s control.
I resorted to all the things I absolutely loved to do but didn’t have time to do during school. Hours would pass by with me perched in front of my easel, losing myself to every stroke of my brush, every color.
I read till standing up pierced my legs with pins. I read for weeks on end, from morning till night, till I breathed the very essence of the words. And I wrote. I wrote things out of this world and things in it.
People often regard my dear friend Escapism with an air of disdain, like the name itself somehow offends them, but they fail to recognize that we all escape from time to time in our unique ways and that said escapism has advantages.
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Benefits of Escapism
Escapism — in moderation — is healthy and found to be beneficial.
Emotions don’t last forever, and we most often just need to endure them to come out on the other side. Escapism offers the means by which you can endure.
When you’re able to detach yourself from a stressful situation for a while, you give your brain the space and time to calm down and think through things more logically.
In a study by Canbulat, İnal, and Sönmezer, they found that children who were distracted during blood tests had reduced pain and anxiety levels than those who were not distracted.
This study serves to show us how distraction — and thus escapism — can improve our mental health by lessening feelings of pain as well as anxiety and stress.
However, it is important to note that while escapism can be healthy, using it to become avoidant of life crosses the line into unhealthy territory.
Escapism is not meant to shelter you from life. It’s simply there to ease the burden.