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Escaping and Coping With Stress

At many points in our life all of us just want to leave the world we live in and go far away to a place where we can just let go of our everyday struggles and worries. People take refuge in our physical world with activities such as hiking, working out, etc. Some take refuge online in chat rooms with strangers or playing video games, and others console themselves with their own imagination. If humans did not have a way of relaxing, the world would not function and we would all live under colossal amounts of stress. Today I am going to talk about the importance of having escapes from reality throughout my own life.

From a very young age I have struggled with anxiety. Even when I was only 6 years old I would get terrible anxiety at night and constantly got irrational fears that my house would get broken into every single night. I would go to bed terrified. In order to escape my fear I would read. I’d read for hours and hours fearing what would happen if I went to sleep. I would get tired but the back of my mind would constantly tell me to stay up. If I wasn’t actively concentrating my whole mind on one action my brain would take me to scary places, and I would force myself into staying awake to avoid these awful thoughts. I wouldn’t stop reading because if I stopped reading my mind would make me feel at risk. It sounds absurd but I genuinely believed that. By early morning, my parents would have to stay at my side to make sure I eventually fell asleep. This continued for many years. Eventually, as I grew older I realized that there was no reason to be afraid of something that almost never happens.

Around 6th grade I was going through a program called Rainier Scholars. Rainier Scholars is an academic program striving to give low income students of color access to higher levels of education they otherwise would not have been able to receive. The program kicked off with an intensive 14 month schooling period. This 14 month period included classes in the summer and extra work on top of the regular school year. Every night during Rainier Scholars I would get about 3-5 hours of homework and had almost no time for anything but school. The amount of stress that the 14 months put on us kids was too much for a lot of us and we were left looking for escapes from school. I chose to escape to all the corners of the virtual world in my xbox 360. Video games had been in my life almost since birth. I grew up playing games like Dance Dance Revolution on the Playstation, Narnia and Shrek 2 on the gamecube, and countless other games on consoles like the Lego Clone Wars on the Wii and Pokemon on the Nintendo DS. During those 14 months I got an xbox 360 and I took full advantage of the console. I played for hours on the weekends, immersing myself in the worlds that video games put me in, and constantly making the stress of hours of homework go away. As people, we fear change and uncertainty. The predictability of video games brings me comfort as I try to escape the constant worry of late work and good grades.

The escape that has been most useful throughout my life as a whole has been music. I have always grown up around music and I have always listened to a wide variety. Whenever I am bored, I make playlists that include every genre of music. I have a very active mind and it never stops spinning. Music allows me to focus all my energy on one thing (listening) and helps me stop focusing on  everything else. I listen to music so that I can focus on one thing and nothing else. Sometimes that’s the music itself, but other times it helps me focus on other things and keeps my concentration very strong.

In the past, my escapes often consisted of me trying to escape my physical life and immerse myself into the fantasy world of a book or a digital world that was coded into a video game. But this pandemic I have oddly found myself doing the opposite. Today we go to school on a computer, we talk to people on a computer, we do our homework on a computer: we do so much on a computer that the computer has basically become our entire lives. With so much time on my hands this quarantine I picked up hobbies so that I would not go absolutely insane, but I realized that being on my computer no longer felt relaxing. 

Because of my love for music, I started learning guitar. I am very interested in regional Mexican music which includes mainly guitars as the instrumental. This interest played a big role in me wanting to learn the guitar. When I first started, I was hooked. I’d play for hours a day looking at tutorials on youtube. After a couple months I was able to play my first few songs fully. Along with guitar I started collecting vinyl. Guitar and vinyl collecting gave me a physical connection with music. A physical connection is something that we as humans need. In quarantine with everything being virtual we have nearly no physical contact with each other. The need to work with my hands and be able to physically interact with music is a really good escape for me.

We may not all need escapes but people shouldn’t feel ashamed to use them. I hope in learning more about my escapes that you will be able to use these techniques in your life. Sometimes we just all need time away from our everyday routine and worries.

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