There are days when all of us need an escape. When life feels like you can’t bear it as it is one minute longer. When you feel like you’ve hit a wall and can’t move forward in any recognizable way. When you’ve fallen so far behind that you just want a do-over, but know it’s not possible. Lately, more of us have been feeling this way as our way of life continues to be shaped by this crisis. We just want to run far away from this pandemic, to a world where no one has heard of COVID-19, where the freedoms we once enjoyed are ours for the taking again.
Unfortunately, there is nowhere we can run from COVID-19 and that inescapability is part of what makes this chapter in our history feel so challenging emotionally and mentally. It feels like there is no escape.
But we do have a way to escape a heavy moment at any time. And this would qualify, to me at least, as a heavy moment.
As humans, we have the most incredible superpower within our grasp at all times. We have the power of shifting our mindset. We have this thing called a brain and it allows us to receive what the world is throwing at us in any way we choose. Sure, some of you may be shaking your head at the thought of positive thinking when you can’t pay your rent and don’t know if you will have a job to go back to at the end of all of this. I don’t blame you; these problems are real and valid and as much as I would like to fix them for you, I’m unable to. What I can do is suggest that we are able to shift the way we are experiencing this challenging time. The way we think about a moment shapes the way we experience it. I know this is true as someone who has lived through various forms of trauma. As a result of my traumatic experiences, my mind has tended to overreact at certain moments in my life, similarly to the way people who have PTSD are triggered but at a much smaller scale. This tendency towards overreaction in the past has drained my energy and maybe even caused some of my illnesses.
As I have gone through my own healing journey, I have learned to allow my mind and body to react to things in a more appropriate way, lowering my “fight or flight” response (Dr. John Amaral‘s work on the subject has been a great resource for me, and he has been helping me on my healing journey). I have learned to calm my mind so that I can choose how I react and respond to the situations that arise in front of me or around me. And when I can choose how I respond to what’s happening, I am able to be at peace even in troubling times. Right now that is a good thing. It provides me with a mental and emotional escape when a physical escape is impossible.
Here are a few ways I help myself to escape the overwhelm that surrounds me:
Every day after lunch, I carve out a 25-minute period to listen to my favorite mediation app. Currently, I use Synctuition which has incredible guided meditations with brilliant production value that take you away like a Calgon Bath (“Take me away”… only those my age will get the reference). I put on my headphones, drink a glass of lemon water and lay down, sometimes on my front porch, sometimes in my bed, sometimes on the sofa, and sometimes right on the cool bathroom floor after a mid-day shower. I just close my eyes, take one deep breath and allow someone else to steer the ship for a while, flowing and following their words into a peaceful world where I don’t have to stay at home to keep myself and others safe. This has become an important part of my new normal. Sometimes I fall asleep. Sometimes I am fully engaged, enmeshed in this other world that my mind has created. Sometimes, I have to stop after 10 minutes. But even then, I feel like I had a break from the current reality and I come away refreshed.
Some days I decide to get my journal and find a quiet corner (which is my whole home since I am sheltering at home on my own). I set a timer for 10 minutes and I just start writing about a world that is not real. Lately, I’ve been writing about this character who is similar to me but has superpowers. This creative outlet allows my mind to escape this world that often feels like an endless cycle of eating, doing dishes, taking out the trash, and doing laundry over and over again. Usually, I feel reenergized after doing this. The world I write about is sometimes bright and beautiful but it can also be dark and dreary and magical. No matter what form it takes on a given day, spending a little time in this world allows me to come back to reality with a different energy.
Listening To Music
I love music and it’s always been one of my go-to’s for escape. Music has a way of taking us away, transporting us to another time and place. It’s the tempo, the texture of the sounds, and the story it tells us. Sometimes, we can get caught up in a nostalgic moment when a certain song comes on. When I need a moment away, I start a playlist that I know will make me happy or really sad, and I just go there. I play it and I allow those emotions to flood my soul. This is a good form of escape as well because it helps us to release any pent up emotions. When we are done and take off the earbuds, we are ready to face what we have to in real life again.
Giving Your Mind Permission To Drift
My final suggestion for an escape is something I do all the time. I like to let my mind wander. I do it a lot. I just sit at my kitchen table or on my sofa, or out in my backyard (usually with an animal by my side), and I just look at the sky, the trees and any passing wildlife, like a bird or a squirrel. I just let my mind go. I don’t try to think about anything. I just watch, and observe the leaves and they subtly shift with the wind. I notice the different colors of blue and grey in the sky. I ponder what it feels like to fly like those birds do. I really feel the warmth of the sun on my face. I try to absorb the moment through my senses and let my mind take it in without needing me to figure anything out. I give my mind a break from all its thinking. I let it just be with me instead of having to keep me safe or figure out what’s next or make a list of things I still need to do. We just sit outside or in the kitchen and stay present in the moment. I listen to the sounds around me, feel the wind as it slightly picks up against my face, I try to hear the birds from the next yard over… and usually I find myself smiling, feeling grateful for all that is.
These are some of the ways I escape without leaving my home. They don’t cost anything to do, and they will allow you to leave your worries behind for a few moments a day – a gift that is something I treasure in these COVID times.
Stay safe everyone, and stay in your compassionate heart…