There are times when you are walking down the road of life, whistling your tune, thinking your whatever thoughts and then… snagged! A vine of worry sneaks out from the forest and wraps it’s thin fingers around your foot.  It whispers your name creepily. And you feel yourself suddenly, and without any real reason, caught up in the emotional field of worry. Nothing has changed except that maybe you’re tired? Maybe you ate too much sugar? Who knows why? It almost doesn’t matter.

This happens to me almost once a day. Sometimes it grabs me just a little and I’m able to shake it off easily, and probably once a week it grabs me big time and I have to launch a counter-attack to get myself free.

Here are my tools for escape, I hope they are useful to you!

  • Escape from the physical feeling and feel another part of your body. Anxiety works its way into me often through physical sensation. Headaches, shoulder pain, or a great feeling of crumpling inward. This is often the case when I’ve been sitting around looking at a computer for too many hours. I find that ANY physical sensation at all can help. Take a hot shower, go for a walk, stand in the sunshine in front of a window, dance a little jig in the kitchen, go outside and look at the buds on trees or the flowers in boxes, find your way into child’s pose on the floor, walk up and down the stairs. I often do these things in a sulky way at first. “Fine, I’ll stand in this patch of sunshine, but I don’t have to like it!” And then, a little release. Some blood moves around around and before too long, I’m looser. Freer. Engaged. Sometimes the simplest strategy goes a LONG way!
  • Escape from this world and visit another. Escapist fiction is the best thing ever, but escapist movies will work, too. I just read THE MOST AMAZING BOOK for exactly this purpose. It was gripping! It was well developed! It was devoid of body drama (the main character wasn’t “unexpectedly the most beautiful girl in the land,” thank God) and it was LONG. Blessedly, beautifully long. You need this in your life: Uprooted.
  • Escape from the verbal world and draw. I have been teaching myself to draw since… maybe Thanksgiving? I am NOT GOOD. But that is not the point. As a highly verbal person with no visual skills, I hadn’t realized that the one thing I hadn’t ever escaped were the words… until I started drawing and the words simply stopped working. This, according the book I’m using to learn how to draw (Drawing on the right side of the brain), is because the detailed looking and noticing of drawing bores the bejeesus out of your left-side-logical brain. All I can say is it works, and it’s a blessed relief.
  • Escape from the tyranny of now and nap, meditate or do some hypnosis. There are times when your need to engage in the time-honored strategy of unplugging and plugging it back in. But for your brain. I know meditation is the go-to solution for this, but it simply wasn’t accessible to me for a very long time. I just couldn’t find my way into it.
    But, hypnosis. Oh, hypnosis is the best!
    And it turns out that the trance state of hypnosis is the exact same brain state as the deeper states of meditation. And it’s just so much easier. I started with hypnocloud, an app full of guided hypnosis for things like “law of attraction mastery” and “life your ideal life.” But the programs themselves are not the point (thank goodness, because they aren’t great)! The reason I like them is that the hypnosis sequences themselves are very good. There is one hypnosis sequence in a program called “mind clearing” that will bring you down off a cliff of complicated and entrenched thoughts and place your squarely in nothingness. It’s amazeballs. Give it a shot.
  • Escape from denial and feel those feelings! There are times when the fastest path out is through. If I’ve tried a few escape routes and the feeling is still lurking, it’s time to give in for a little while. Journal about my disappointment with deep, cutting pen marks, rant unfiltered to a friend on the phone, or simply sit with my sadness and give it a hug. Sometimes, for me, the only answer is to be still and feel.

What’s your go-to strategy for escaping?

About the author

Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist and business coach who helps accidental entrepreneurs get more clients and have a bigger impact. She is the author of Great Work, the host of the Unleashing Your Great Work podcast, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda's TEDx talk has received almost two million views and has been featured on TED's Ideas blog and Ted Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global.