You Can Create a Life You Don’t Need to Escape From. Here’s How.
If you’re reading this blog post, I’m guessing you want to create a life you don’t want to escape from (or you are one of my friends and family here to support me). Either way, you may relate to this story:
One day she woke up, took a good look around, and realized she didn’t like the life she was living. It wasn’t terrible; she had children, a job, and a spouse that loved her. Yes, she was grateful for them. But she didn’t like her life, much less love it. The feeling gnawed at her as she dropped the kids off at school and on the way to work. It stayed with her as she wrote reports, answered emails, and attended meetings. That night as she hurried to put dinner on the table, it was still one of the thoughts circling through her mind, along with Don’t forget to buy dog food. It’s time to schedule dentist appointments again, and Oh crap! There’s laundry in the washer that I forgot to put in the dryer, and now it probably smells.
After dinner and homework, while the kids were supposedly bathing and her husband was playing video games, she hopped online and searched “how to escape your life.” She read countless articles with titles like “10 Ways To Live Your Best Life”, but they make her feel worse. The solutions suggested seem absurd. She wondered how TF one “moves to a new country” when you have kids in school, dogs, a husband, and careers it took years of hard work to establish. Do you just turn your back on all of that? “Living below your means” is solid advice, but that has become the new American Dream. Expense inflation has outpaced wage increases, and everyone knows it. These “solutions” were monumental changes that overwhelmed her.
Sighing and slamming her laptop shut, she convinces herself that everyone must feel this way about their life. Everyone must feel empty and hollow, like a machine going through the motions. Or at least most people. Deciding self-care is needed, she soaks in a candlelit bubble bath and applies a soothing face mask before she heads to bed. She needs her rest if she is going to get up tomorrow and do it all again. There’s no escaping from the demands of life. Not in reality, anyway.
But what if there’s a way? Not a magic wand sort of way, but a real way to make that “I need to escape my life” feeling go away. A way to create a life you don’t need to escape from? There is a way, and all it takes are simple shifts to your routine (and no moving to another country).
It Starts With These 9 Small Shifts
Start Each Day With Thanks. It may sound contrite, but starting each day by saying “thank you” makes a difference. “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude” by Amy Morin in Psychology Today lists seven ways gratitude can change your life and provides links to scientific proof. Studies have shown that an attitude of gratitude helps you make friends. Those who practice have fewer aches and pains and tend to live longer. Making an effort to be thankful increases happiness and empathy while reducing depression and aggression. It improves sleep and self-esteem and increases mental strength.
With all that to gain, why not develop a daily habit of saying “thank you” for the blessings we already have? It can be as simple as a prayer or meditation. My current favorite way to practice is by writing in my gratitude journal. You can get one of your own here.
Change Your Thoughts to Change Your Life. I used to scoff at phrases like this and “mind over matter” until I started to live by them. Years ago, I tried selling protein shakes and herbal cleanses to friends and family for extra income. Although I never made it as a multi-level marketing mogul, I did become aware of my thoughts. I made a concentrated effort to change my negative self-talk. Every day while commuting, I listened to positive affirmations like the ones in the video below.
I may have looked crazy to those stuck next to me in traffic as I recited “I am confident and outgoing” and “I am worthy of love and respect” over and over again. TBH, it felt crazy. But it worked. The way I think about myself has changed. Fears that used to rule me may not have vanished, but they have lost their hold on me and my life. I have friends that had similar results with tapping.
Whatever the method, one of the best ways to create a life you don’t need to escape from is to change your thoughts.
Get Grounded. Not grounded like the consequence when your kid does the exact thing you told them not to do, grounded like connected with the earth. Hippies call it earthing. For most of us, it’s easy, right outside the door, and free. All it takes is having your bare feet or hands in or on the earth. It can be dirt, grass, rocks, or sand. You can do it at a stream, river, or ocean. It can be in your backyard or the common area of your HOA or apartment complex.
If you live in a big city, you may have to go to a park, but grounding is still possible. Those who live where it snows may need to get creative in winter. I suggest some creative ways to get grounded in the urban jungle or when it’s cold outside in this article. Benefits from as little as 10 minutes a day include reduced inflammation, decreased pain, improved sleep, reduced blood viscosity, increased heart rate variability (this is a good thing), and lower stress levels. (source:themovementparadigm.com/benefits-of-grounding/)
Laughter is the Best Medicine. Don’t want to take it from me? Even Forbes.com says so in the article “Six Science-Based Reasons Why Laughter is the Best Medicine.” It releases endorphins, which are the chemicals in our brains that make us feel good. When we laugh, Opioid receptors in the brain release endorphins. These are the same receptors that drugs such as heroin bind to. Like narcotics, the feeling of euphoria the endorphin release produces can be addicting. So addicting; it explains why laughter can be contagious. We can’t get enough of those feel-good chemicals.
How can you get more laughter in your life? Spend more time with that friend of yours that makes your cheeks and abs hurt from laughing too much. Go to a comedy club, which can be low-cost for those on a budget if you go to an amateur or open-mic night. Read a funny book or watch a hilarious movie. Oldie-but-goodie Grandma’s Boy makes my husband and I cry laughing; it might do it for you, too (but put young kids to bed first).
Make Time For Your Passions. I failed massively at this one. After I had kids, I became so consumed with paying bills and doing chores and cooking meals, and everything else that I forgot all about what brought me joy. Me that existed before kids loved reading long novels, writing poems and stories, and making art in all forms. Me that existed after kids did none of those. At one point, I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I read a book, wrote a story, or painted a picture.
Don’t do what I did, and if you find you already are, change it now. Yes, life is busy, and there are only so many waking hours in a day. We’ve all used that excuse. We also waste, on average, over 2 hours a day on social media. Shave an hour off 3-4 days a week, and you have time for activities that will bring you more joy than Facebook will. Being Facebook Queen will never bring you real joy. (No offense, Facebook). For more tips on how to balance your hobbies with your busy life, click here.
Change Your Perspective. One of the fastest ways I have found to change my attitude when I am feeling bad about my life is to remind myself how good I have it. A look out of my car window at the streets downtown in most major cities, where the homeless sleep in tents or under tarps, is a lesson in how I am blessed AF. If you live in the United States with the same roof over your head every night, you are one of the most fortunate people on the planet.
Volunteering at a soup kitchen, woman’s shelter, or food bank like Feeding America (you can sign up here) is guaranteed to be a reality check. Besides helping you see blessings you might be overlooking in your own life, volunteering has additional benefits. I won’t list them all here, but they’re extensive, and if you’re interested, you can read about them in Western Connecticut State University’s article “Benefits of Community Service.”
Add Adaptogens. WTF are adaptogens? How do they help me create a life I don’t need to escape from? I am so glad you asked! Adaptogens are plants and mushrooms thought to help keep your body in balance by managing physical and mental stresses. Don’t get them confused with micro-dosing “magic” mushrooms or ketamine. That is a totally different thing.
To be considered an adaptogen, a plant or mushroom must be non-toxic in regular doses, help the body manage stress, and return it to homeostasis. One of the most effective and well-known adaptogens is Asian Ginseng (Panax Ginseng), shown to increase a feeling of calm and improve memory. It can also help reduce fatigue.
Adaptogens can be added to foods, taken as capsules, or consumed as tea (here’s a great recipe to try at home). Drinking adaptogenic tea is extra beneficial if high-stress levels are a problem. Each sip is like a warm, soothing hug. Just make sure to consult with your doctor before adding adaptogens to avoid any interactions with existing medications.
Release Stagnant Energy. This means from your body and your home. I know this sounds “woo-woo,” but try it anyway. You might be surprised.
Change the Energy in Your Home
To clear old energy from your home, clear any stacks of clutter from tables and counters. Donate or toss items no longer in use. Open the windows to let in some fresh air (weather permitting). Use a natural lemon or pine-based cleanser and sweep, vacuum, and mop the floors. Try smoke cleansing using dried sage or pine, incense, or wood like Palo Santo. This is optional, so if you have allergies, lung sensitivity, pets, or live in a smoke-free building, a smoke cleanse might not be for you. Still feeling stuck after cleaning? Rearranging furniture is a great way to alter the energy in a room.
Change the Energy in Your Body
Any form of exercise that you enjoy doing can release stagnant energy from the body. I am a big fan of dancing like nobody is watching, long walks, and yoga. While gentler activities like yin yoga or casual strolls around the block help some, I find more vigorous forms better for energy clearing. The more your heart rate increases, the greater the benefit.
Taking a warm bath or shower can also help. I visualize any stress, worries, and negativity washing right off of me and down the drain when I am in the shower. This works even better on hair-washing days.
Breathing exercises can help improve mood, boost energy, and relieve stress. Depending on the technique, the breath can be used to speed up or slow down the heart rate and nervous system. Alternate nostril breathing is my go-to for when I feel like I am about to lose my you-know-what and need to calm TF down quickly. I use Ujjayi breath when I hit that wall at 3 p.m. and need a boost to get through the rest of the work day.
Also, don’t overthink it. Sometimes you just need to shake it off! Imitate your dog and spend a minute shaking every part of your body, starting with your feet and working up to your head, and then finish with a long, full-body shake.
The Last Shift to Create a Life You Don’t Need to Escape From…
Look Within and Take Action Where You Can. This seems obvious, but a lot of people neglect this one. If you are waking up feeling like you need an escape, why is that? What about your life is making you uncomfortable? Now take that list and find where you can make small changes to improve your existing life instead of escaping from it. Surrounded by a-holes? Cut off toxic relationships and spend more time with the people that are good for you. Hate your job? Update your resume and start looking for a new one. Stressed and overwhelmed? While you can’t let go of all your obligations, you can find ways you can scale back, delegate, or ask for help. Need to escape your phone? Try going somewhere with no cell or internet service for a weekend.
Often, the ruts we get stuck in are ones we built ourselves. Climb out of your rut with these simple shifts and create a life you don’t need to escape from.
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Did you find these “9 Simple Shifts to Create a Life you Don’t Need to Escape From” helpful? Please comment and let me know which one was your favorite, and add any tips you have! And don’t forget to subscribe here to get a once-a-week email with the latest links.