Have you ever felt burnt-out and desperate for rest, relaxation, fun, or connection? But despite taking time to do something you thought would help you take a break and be ready to jump back into life, you still feel overwhelmed, anxious, and as though you have had no rest at all? This may be a sign that you are actually engaging in escapism vs. true self-care. The key is being able to tell the difference between the two so that you can care for yourself in ways that give you the rest and relaxation that you need.
What is Escapism?
Escapism is any behavior done to avoid or escape doing other important tasks. It is running away from responsibility which is different from self-care that consists of assertively pursuing healthy activities that can rejuvenate your mental, emotional, and physical energy. There are two primary types of escapism, Behaviorally Destructive Escapism, and Perceptually Destructive Escapism.
Behaviorally Destructive Escapism
Behaviorally destructive escapism includes any behavior done impulsively that causes physical, emotional, or relational harm to yourself or others. These are behaviors with short-term pay-offs and long-term consequences. This can include drug use, excessive drinking, excessive video game playing, excessive eating, tv watching, impulsive shopping, excessive and risky sexual behaviors, excessive social media use, etc.
Perceptually Destructive Escapism
Escapism can also occur based upon the attitude and perception with which you approach doing “self-care” activities. You may be turning a potential self-care activity into escapism as you continually judge yourself for taking time to care for yourself, feel guilty about taking time for yourself, and view the time you are taking for yourself as a time to escape and avoid what you really need to get done in place of feeling it is a time you are assertively investing in caring for yourself.
Short-term you will know if you are falling into a pattern of escapism if regardless of how much time and effort you put into doing restful and pleasurable activities, you feel they have no positive impact on your overall happiness and are not helping to rejuvenate you in your everyday life. Long term, you will begin to experience more frustration, overwhelmed feelings, resentment, and burnout concerning your life and relationships.
Behaviorally self-care is any healthy and positive behavior that you do assertively to take care of yourself. This can include simple things like taking a bath, spending quality time with a loved one, taking time to watch a movie you like, reading an enjoyable book, or working out. It can also include more complex and extravagant things like buying yourself something you have wanted/needed or going on a vacation. Big acts of self-care are not better than small everyday acts of self-care, the key is to do consistent self-care. This will help you to live a more balanced and happy life while also preventing burn-out.
Perceptually, the attitude with which you approach self-care is extremely important. You will get the most out of that time when you:
- Participate in activities or behaviors that are healthy, positive, and in line with your personal values.
- Do self-care behaviors on a consistent/daily basis.
- Allow yourself to be fully engaged in the self-care behavior, and practice mindfulness throughout that time.
- Do not allow your self-care time to be infringed on by others casually, treat that time as important and sacred and not just something you do when there is nothing else better or more important to get done.
You will know you are accomplishing quality self-care when after participating in the activity/behavior you feel any of the following sensations and/or emotions:
- More Fulfilled
- Less on-edge/agitated
- Ready to jump back into work and responsibilities
If you struggle with being able to get into a mindset that allows you to begin experiencing quality self-care, using free guided meditations on YouTube can be a way to experience quality self-care, and help to guide you into a more healthy mindset from which you can approach self-care.
If you are really struggling to accomplish quality self-care, it is recommended that you work with a therapist to improve your ability to care for yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, on a long-term basis.
Dr. Elizabeth A. Beckmann DMFT, LMFT, BA
Therapist at the Center for Couples and Families – Holladay