As a restless, over eager child turned impatient adult, the concept of staying in one place has always been foreign to me. Feeling uneasy with yourself? Call someone ASAP. Find yourself doing the same things over and over? Move to another city! Becoming brain-dead while binge watching Netflix? Go out on the town!
I had mastered the art of escapism, convincing myself that I wasn’t escaping, but just living out loud. That is, until recently — where a new city, a new experience, a new conversation just wasn’t cutting it anymore. And frankly, it never was. I began to realize that I rarely ever addressed the root cause of my unrest. That in escaping, I was also absolving myself of the responsibility and time required to understand what it was that would truly solve my listlessness.
So with this new realization, I made some changes: I discovered therapeutic activities that have eased my restlessness wholeheartedly, right in my own backyard. Check them out:
I started to volunteer in my own community
In retrospect, I find some of my past volunteer ventures in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and most recently, my plans to go to Malawi, partly rooted in escapism. Don’t get me wrong — I love that I had the privilege of going on these trips and to this day know they directly influenced starting my own ethnography agency. However, my reason for going was not purely from a sense of wonder and desire to help — I also had a deep need to escape.
To counter this, one day my mother suggested I consider volunteering locally. And instantly, it began to uplift my spirits. Even from an ethnography angle (the study and systematic recording of human cultures), it was just as fascinating to dive in to the subcultures in my own neighborhood. I’ve been able to see the US with fresh eyes through volunteering to work with ESL students. And I’ve even got a taste of puppy parenting through fostering abandoned puppies. It’s been great in so many ways.
Don’t go out to eat — Cook!
Though it may be the opposite of what I want to do when I am feeling anxious, cooking my meals has become both therapeutic and exactly what I’ve needed. I feel powerful, artistic and accomplished when I make a simple meal for myself. It exercises the creative juices, is a fantastic form of self-care, and makes me feel wonderfully full in a way that restaurant food rarely does.
Finish something in the house
Just push yourself to complete one thing — right now — that you have been putting off. I found one of the biggest things I had been running away from were the ever-growing list of To Do items. Now, when I find myself putting something off for too long or taking too many breaks, I will make a phone call to an insurance company, finish one of the 5 books I started, make a trip to drop off clothes at the thrift store, etc. It really makes my environment more bearable.
Even this article itself is evidence of my finishing something I had been putting off! I was going to escape to meet some friends, but then again, I have gone out to meet friends nearly every day this week — so clearly I don’t need a break. I just needed to stay put and finish something!
Vyjayanthi Vadrevu is an independent ethnographer/ design researcher and strategy consultant under her company, Rasa (www.rasa.nyc). She was also a star in Zenfulie’s documentary about self-doubt, #minusthedoubt, as an Online Cast Member. She works on social impact design projects as well as corporate technology projects, delivering insights to help her clients better serve their end users and beneficiaries.