the good, the bad, and the ugly about the writing life

When You Need a Respite from Your Life: My Top 5 Ways to Escape

Escapism 101

My late husband Greg LacknerI am an expert at taking a break from my life. If you need a break from the work stress or the political landscape or the electronic noise, I am your first stop because I always have a bag full of tricks to get away for a bit.

Which is why I was surprised a few months back when a friend told me about the way she de-stresses that I had never thought about. She programmed her Instagram feed to be non-stop goodness via pictures of animals and flowers and lovely yarn. She says it’s her getaway. While I have beautiful yarn on my Instagram feed, I also have the Women’s March and the Pussyhat Project. Good stuff, mind you, but not designed to be calm or stress free.

Of course, the stress-free-ness of a site is up to you. If you are feeling oppressed by your life, the women who are stepping up and out in the public might be exactly what you need for a little POWER to the people action.

So here are my top FIVE ways to take a mental health holiday from your life:

  • 1. Reading
  • Lately, I’ve been a history of mystery maven by reading all of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot novels in order. When I finished those, I frittered away the little gray cells in reading the Ngaio Marsh books about Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn and his partner in crime fighting, the fantastic Sargeant Fox.

    I’ve already read all the Dorothy L. Sayers novels in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, but I may tackle them again when I’m done with Alleyn. As well as a nifty getaway from 2019, it’s fascinating to see what life was like between the world wars and into World War II in England and New Zealand. Marsh was an actress and theatre director, so she often has interesting theatrical characters as well as the usual smattering of retired colonels from the colonies.

    You can find a worthwhile getaway with thrillers or romance, as well. I have been swept away by some romances lately. If that’s your thing, try Piper Rayne’s The Bailey’s series set in Alaska or Meghan March’s various series about alpha males and their sexy partners. However, both of these are pretty racy books with sex scenes. There are a bunch of tamer series, too, if that’s what you prefer.

    For some serious me time, you might consider downloading an audio book. Then you can close your eyes and let the voice carry you away to places you’ve never been.

  • 2. Binge Watching
  • No matter what your tastes, there are shows both old and new that can help you escape reality. I’m a big fan of Netflix and Hulu. It’s not for everyone, but Hulu’s Harlots is a blast from the past that deals with the sex trade. It features Jessica Brown Findlay who you may recall from Downton Abbey because she played Lady Sybil. She’s wonderful as the premier courtesan of London.

    If I really needed to get away, I might opt for a binge-watch of Friends or Seinfeld. Both are just silly enough to take your mind off anything that annoys you. Of course, if you like gritty, go for the full monty and binge some Game of Thrones action. You may be happy to go back to your grouchy boss after a couple days’ worth of Westeros.

    And don’t let’s forget that you can binge movies as well as television shows. My sister has a wonderful collection of Disney films that help her get through the rough times. And, hey, you can sing along.

    Let the wonderful IMDB be your guide.

  • 3. Music
  • When I got my used car, Sirius radio gave me a good deal on their service. I keep meaning to try out new stations, but I always go back to my favorite, 80’s on 8. The original v-jays from MTV count down the hits every week, and I’m a sucker for that 80’s techno vibe. And nobody can beat Debbie Harry from Blondie when it comes to delivering ironic lyrics.

    But your tastes may run more to Pandora where you can program your very own radio station with only the bands you like. I’ve got a Tangerine Dream station for when I’m jonesing for all techno all the time. Spotify works in a similar fashion to Pandora, and my younger relatives love it.

  • 4. Social Media
  • As noted earlier, if you need just five minutes of sanity, social media can be that stress-free zone. But you need to program it correctly. If you don’t care to see the wonderful lives of your far-flung friends, tune that out in favor of your local botanical garden or I like to keep track of the Shibsibs ice skating duo and Johnny Weir on Instagram. Weir is divine in an oddball sort of way and the Shibsibs are sweet. Whatever your flavor, you can program it into your social media feed.

  • 5. Knitting/Cooking/Sports
  • Any hobby you love can also provide respite. Lately, I’m reading that knitting is the new yoga. Whether you like beautiful string or watching guys pummel each other with sticks, you can find YouTube videos, phone apps, e-newsletters or websites that can tune you into what makes you smile.

    Lately, I have been blown away by the recipes and writing from New York Times Cooking. Like pretty much everything else I adore, there’s a fee, but I would willingly pay every month to be able to wallow in their plethora of APPLE RECIPES. You want the perfect apple cobbler, no worries. In between easy sheet pan suppers (one pan to clean), I’m professionally jealous of Sam Sifton’s writing. He spins from perfect no-recipe recipes on Wednesdays to music recommendations (his own and the Times reviewers’) and brilliant insights into 9/11, why we cook for those we love, and life in general.

    Read him. You won’t be sorry. Like the writers I love best, he makes it clear that writing helps us to appreciate life. And he makes a mean pizza, too!

    The Last Word

    I’m good at escaping because I’ve had some practice. I’m a widow, and when my husband died, I needed to escape my life. It isn’t that I didn’t feel the pain, but it was sometimes too much for me to deal with.

    So, I learned to burrow into my blankets and escape to another realm. I had done that since I was a kid, and now the skill came in handy. My therapist assured me that I wasn’t running away—just getting a break so I could face another day.

    Take my advice and escape every now and then. Think of it as a mental health holiday that you deserve.

    That brief respite will make it easier to get back to your real life.

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