If you saw the Rishi Sunak article in the Metro will have had a bit of a giggle at the headline “Rishi explains his love for Jilly Cooper novels: ‘You need escapism in your life.’”
For those who haven’t read any of the Jilly Cooper books (I have actually read some of them), she’s famous for books which gush with romance and steamy scenes. Apparently our PM likes to read her books in his spare time.
Even though this might seem like something to snigger at, there is actually some science behind it all and so it’s worth exploring, writes Life Coach Shwezin Win, founder of Win at Life.
What is escapism?
Escapism means (as my dictionary informs me) “to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities.”
The term is used to explain immersing your mind into another place/time or scene. If you’ve ever read a book that you couldn’t put down, or watched a film you were totally engrossed in, you’re giving over your mind (and therefore your emotions) totally to that particular moment.
But you don’t need to only watch films or read a book for escapism. And that’s handy if you’re a busy contractor who doesn’t always have hours to spare. Taking a short break from the reality of daily life can be helpful to manage your stress.
Escapism for contractors
A client who is a contractor approached me for coaching because they were concerned about keeping all the skittles in the air while juggling a hectic life. The contractor works in IT; has an intense family life and an extremely demanding client, who insisted on fast turnarounds for their challenging (and multiple) stakeholders. Oh and the contractor had an impatient line manager to boot!
The real rub was that the contractor’s day was almost never-ending, as straight out of work meant straight into family commitments, making them feel constantly ‘on the go.’ Quite a proud and passionate type about their work, the contractor was finding it tough to stay on top of their game, feeling frustrated, tired and stressed.
‘Turn off and turn on again’ moments
In our coaching sessions, one of the areas we prioritised was how to manage stress levels throughout the day. The contractor needed “turn off and turn on again” moments – yes the ultimate fix to any PC having a tantrum but also the short-hand for the system we came up with to help manage their mental state. To keep them at their best, despite what’s thrown up in their face.
For these mini-moments of escapism, what my contractor client needed – and what you might need too — is some tools and techniques to help stay motivated, focused, and productive. The more we got this honed, the more they started to understand the early signs of stress and were able to identify their red mist-triggering scenarios!
When (or where) did you feel at your very best?
For this contractor, the visual aid was a picture of them surfing. It was the contractor’s proudest (non-work and non-family) moment, their happiest place. On one device, the contractor made the picture their screensaver, so it became something they could turn on quickly and just take a moment to breathe, and escape to that moment — remembering when they were at their very best. The contractor took back-in those feelings of pride, strength and focus. The duration is just a few minutes. Then, they were back in the room; reacquainted with their work and returning (emboldened) to face the challenge.
This escapism technique centering on a photo might not be right for you. You might want to pick up a much-loved book (authors other than Jilly Cooper are available!), watch a snippet of a favourite film or TV programme or perhaps listen to a burst of music. Do you have extra time on your hands? Then maybe take in some nature, do some gardening, or even dance it off!?
The key is this. Whatever you do, or wherever your happiest place is, chose something that helps you immerse yourself in a situation or place to help your mind focus on something other than the stress you’re currently feeling.
Four benefits of escapism
The real and significant benefits of positive escapism, for contractors and others are:-
- Helps to destress
Granted, the stress might still be there when you come back to reality! But your escapist experience may give you a boost of energy or motivation when you’re back.
- Promotes happiness
If you focus your mind on past situations that have made you happy, it can create the emotions of the time that happiness occurred. You’ll feel the same feelings and give yourself a boost.
- Motivates you
When life is tough, it can help to refocus your mind on why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Focus on a future that you want. So, as an example, imagine that old money jar you’ve got filling up — so you can have that dream holiday. Then maybe focus on that dream holiday to keep you going.
- Stimulates creativity
When you’re immersed in a book or a film, when you’re not stressed, it can trigger ideas and innovations that have been buried under your mind’s stresses.
But go easy with your own Jilly Cooper novel!
On the flip side, escapism can also be detrimental if you use it as a mechanism to escape the realities of life for long periods of time — maybe to avoid your anxieties and difficult emotions.
Be careful you don’t end up:
- Procrastinating (holding off making difficult choices),
- In denial (that a certain situation isn’t happening) and/or
- Taking on an addiction (such as to coffee, alcohol, or drugs),
Please escape responsibly
So, if you’re turning to something else to completely ‘forget reality’, doing it a lot or for long periods; with consequences for your health – or you’re just no better at the challenge on return, then refrain. Use your escapism experience wisely, and only when it helps you.
Of course, this goes beyond escapism. Knowing which tools you should use, for what, and when it’s going to be productive are all talking points our life coaching sessions together would cover. Learning about yourself with professional support, while being aware of the triggers so you can more effectively maintain your mental and emotional fitness, is essential for contractors who want to stay at the top of their game.
Lastly, I’m here…
If you would like some support to win at your professional or personal life more, I’m ready to listen — please click here to book a free 30-minute, no obligation call with me – https://go.oncehub.com/ShwezinWin