Mindset, NOT escape, is critical for mental health. In September of 2018, Harvard Business Review published a compelling article on the supremacy of learning versus relaxation: https://hbr.org/…/to-cope-with-stress-try-learning-somethin…. In summary, people who learn and grow WHILE they are ostensibly overworked and over-stressed have better mental health outcomes than people who focus on relaxation as the way to cope. Though escape may often be beneficial, its benefits are short-lived and inferior to simply learning.
Somewhere around 12-15 years ago, I noticed a trend that people who create daily enjoyment are persistently mentally healthier than people who travel often and/or “live up” the long weekend with frequency. In the tens of thousands of gym-goers, many of the regulars were just irrepressibly-happy and content people. Among those people, I seldom heard them tell stories about beach homes, vacations, or getaways. They were most often in town and in the gym on weekends. Their day-to-day lives were so good, by virtue of just daily stress management, that a “break” was actually more stressful than regular weeks. Every week they could point to skill development (strength) or language learning or artistic or musical endeavors. For them, when they would travel, a trip had more to do with immersive learning in other cultures as opposed to escaping a life of drudgery.
Then, I noticed it in myself. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed being all over the country and all of my international studies and vacations. But I did find a sort of emptiness when I would overspend myself at work before a dream trip in order only to overspend myself at work catching up upon return. It put mental health fulfillment beyond the attainable horizon.
Others have tackled this cogently:
https://qz.com/…/1…/going-on-vacation-wont-cure-job-burnout/ . Specifically, if you don’t manage most of your week or most of your year, the minority of it that is fun is insufficient to give you a NET outcome of contentment and health.
This is also why some studies on retirement show improved health markers while many other studies on retirement show increased risk of depression, cardiovascular disease, and predictable mortality increase. The benefits of relaxation are real. But they are not sufficient. Only a growth mindset is sufficient. Relaxation requires getaways. A growth mindset doesn’t.
Thus, we have to be careful what we’re comparing. If we are comparing an overworked depressed person who doesn’t take breaks to an overworked depressed person who does take breaks, yes, obviously the breaks reduce the negativity. But why compare two undesirable situations, only to discover the one that is less undesirable? Why compare two negative ways to live, only to discover which one is less negative? Why not seek a desirable and positive way to live?
Why not figure out a way to enjoy MOST of the time, instead of slaving to forget how you hate MOST of your life? I encounter this often. People want to achieve a future or distant point, hoping that it will pay off. It doesn’t. Never has. Never will. But you can obtain learning and growth this day, and every day.
I talk a lot about strength. I realize that. I would just as soon talk about learning piano or foreign languages or ballroom dance or painting. They all afford us an immediate and persistent payoff of growth that continues on long after the dopamine high of a party or an idyllic destination. Think about it. When you learn to become stronger, you ARE strong. When you fly to an island, you... once flew to an island. When you learn new words, you ARE more fluent. When you go across the world, you... are back in your cubicle.
Waiting to escape is not a great strategy. Running away is a symbol of nonstop defeat. Escaping is emblematic of undeveloped coping. On the other hand, daily learning isn’t just indicative of growth. It IS growth.
I would suppose this applies to a workspace itself even. If you continuously encounter exciting learning opportunities within your workspace, why would you want to get away from that? And if your workspace values relaxation time, I would suppose that you don’t JUST enjoy the extra relaxation, but also enjoy every day working for a company that values relaxation. Conversely, if you view each opportunity as time-wasting imposition, of course you better get out of there as soon and as often as possible. If you work for a company which doesn’t value time off, you don’t just get the gut punch of reduced relaxation, you are denied the opportunity to know you’re working for a good organization. That probably doesn’t feel like growth.
The goalpost is too low. Many of us are trying to figure out ways to hate our lives less through escapism. Why set the bar so low? Some people set the bar a little higher and seek tolerance or appreciation. Those are fine, I suppose. Absolutely, appreciate your life in a real and deep way. But why only appreciate it? Why not seek a positive in MOST days as opposed to seeking avoidance of negative SOME days? Why not learn new skills and new solutions instead of running from old problems? Why not learn to love your life?