Fantasy Life Here I Come!: Addressing Life’s Challenges without Checking Out

“Once I make enough money, we’ll sell everything and move to an island. We can live off the land!” Sam to his 10 year old son, Tom

“Once I have that first bite of chocolate cake, the world disappears and I feel free.”
Joe in his 40s

“We just need a vacation. If we could find a little cabin in the woods somewhere, with no cell service or wifi, I think we could reconnect. I just need to spend time with you in peace and quiet!” Sal to his wife Jenny of 20 years

“I drink because it’s my way of checking out. A few shots under my belt and the worries of my life fade away.” Winona recently charged with a DUI

Day-to-day life brings challenges some expected (yes, your mother-in-law moving in will be stressful), some unexpected (wait, our adult child is moving back in tomorrow?). Fantasy is one way people try and escape. Whether it’s dreaming about living a 24/7 vacation, or spending evenings watching TV shows of homes and lifestyles outside of their means, people can put a lot of time and energy into imagined scenarios. Other folks focus on substances (drugs or food), and some people fill their lives with excessive activities (shopping, running, home improvement) or non-stop social time. I’ve learned over the years people have all kinds of justifications for these habits. “I’m watching home-improvement shows to learn techniques for my own home.” “I don’t use illegal drugs.” “I only shop for family and friends, not myself.” “I’m an extrovert; I need to be around people.”

At the end of the day, we all need a healthy system to deal with life’s challenges.
Identify the feelings. Joe felt overwhelmed and angry with his new responsibilities at work.
Identify the difficulty and take concrete steps to minimize the damage. Tom was being bullied in school and Sam needed to talk to the staff and create a game plan.
Notice the inclination to choose old coping skills. Winona found herself wanting to drive to the local bar every Friday night to “de-stress” after her long work week.
Add in new coping skills. Sal and Jenny started to schedule weekly hikes and set the goal of training for a 14er.

It is impossible to live a stress-free, challenge-free life. No amount of counseling, money, self-help books, friends, religion, or products can take away life’s difficulties. But we can intentionally take the time to address our challenges in a way that builds up our character instead of tearing it down.