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What Do We Do When We Want To Escape Reality?

Most of us have experienced the feeling before of wanting to escape. Here are some tips on what we can do when this feeling hits us.

Sometimes in life, we feel so overwhelmed that the prospect of running away seems appealing. This feeling can come on suddenly, or it can build over a prolonged timeframe. It is important to remember that we are not alone in feeling this way. Many of us have felt like this and have been able to resolve the situation or find a solution, where we once felt completely overwhelmed. We don’t have to continue feeling this way. 

If the desire to run away is there because we feel either physically or emotionally/mentally unsafe, it is vital that we seek help as quickly as possible. Help is available through the links provided below*. It can also help to find someone we trust to confide in, to ensure at least one person close to us is looking out for our well-being. 

Why do we feel this way?

When this feeling is sudden it is usually because we have been put into a difficult situation we were unprepared for. It may be an unexpected argument or perhaps our workload has increased without any warning. We may have received difficult news that we do not feel we can cope with. It can also come from scenarios that feel like more of a ‘slow burn’. A relationship that has felt strained for a long time, for example, or a job that has become increasingly less enjoyable. 

In any of these scenarios, we might feel as though we have nowhere left to turn, so it is understandable that running away feels like our only option. Yet, if we take stock of all of the times we have been faced with a situation that once felt utterly unmanageable, then we will find evidence that we have coped with and solved the unsolvable before. We can often deal with so much more than we think we can, and we don’t have to do so alone. 

How do we make the feeling of ‘I want to run away’ go away?

What to do when we have the thought “I want to run away”?
Regardless of the root cause, we must assess why we feel this way. Photo: Team Design

Take time out to assess the situation

Usually, the first thing to do when this feeling overwhelms us is to take some time to breathe and objectively assess the situation we are in. 

If we feel this way because of something sudden, like an argument or a particularly difficult work meeting, there is nothing wrong with making others aware that we are feeling overwhelmed and requesting some time out of the situation to get our thoughts together. It is possible that others involved may appreciate the time out as well, or they may even be unaware that we’re struggling to cope, especially if we are the type of person who tends to appear calm on the outside, even when we feel very anxious internally. 

There are many reasons why we may have times when we feel like running away from the life we are currently living. We may be able to pinpoint why we wish to isolate ourselves for our lives, or we may be feeling so overwhelmed with our current circumstances that the list behind why we want to run away feels endless. Regardless of the root cause, we must take the time to breathe and assess why we feel this way, and focus on the options and actions within our control.

Whether our situation is sudden or the result of numerous stressors building up for some time, we need to find the time and headspace to be objective about the scenario that is making us feel like running away. Sometimes, a helpful way to do this is to write it out. We could start by writing everything down and reflecting on our responding thoughts and feelings. Then, we might find it useful to note down people we trust that we could reach out to, places we could seek support, helpful actions we could take that are within our control and small things we could do for ourselves in this moment to help us cope with the situation. 

Seeking the positives can be difficult when our emotions are high, but sitting down to write (or type) can allow us to slow down, work through our emotions and sometimes even direct us towards a solution. Seeing things in print can help us to be more objective in our thinking and create some distance between us and the situation.  

Talk to someone you trust

It can help us to sit down and speak to someone we trust. Sharing our situation with someone else may help us to see things from a new perspective. This person may be able to highlight something we have possibly misread or misinterpreted, or have advice for us on what we may need to seek further clarification on.  We may also feel that it is important to seek professional advice as well. Depending on the situation, this might be through a community advice organisation, a trade union, or someone in the legal profession. It may also be that we require some mental health intervention through our local GP, mental health charity or a counsellor. 

Once we have assessed our current situation and reached out for support, we are in a more informed place to work towards ways to resolve or improve our situation. The first step could be to have a difficult conversation that we know has been needed for a long time. When this is the case, it is important to prepare for the conversation ahead. 

Prepare for a difficult conversation

What to do when we have the thought “I want to run away”?
Rather than to fire blame. Photo: Team Design

It is important to set the tone for the conversation before we start and let the other person/people know that we are feeling very uncomfortable and overwhelmed by the issue we are about to discuss. We may also want to have someone else we feel comfortable with, trust, and who knows the situation well, in the room with us. If this is the case, make sure the other person/people are aware that this will be happening and why you want them there so the other participant/participants do not feel attacked, or even outnumbered, in the room. 

When we are discussing a particularly emotive issue with someone, and we are worried they may feel attacked, it is best to address how a situation is making us feel, rather than to fire blame at the other person. For example, instead of saying ‘you made me angry when’ we can say ‘I felt angry when’.

We can ask for clarification if something is said that seems out of character for the person saying it, does not make sense to us, is about something we have perceived differently or appears like the other person has misunderstood something we have said previously. We will sometimes find that there has been a misunderstanding, but without first seeking clarification, we may leave the conversation with a misconceived view of what the other person was trying to say. 

We can sometimes leave a conversation and later wish to seek clarification about something after the fact. This is also completely okay. We can ask for this clarification at a later time if we feel it is needed, and possibly after we have chatted the situation through with a trusted person. It can also be helpful to ensure that the other person doesn’t need further clarification on anything we have said or requested. 

It may be appropriate to put the conversation down in writing, bullet-pointing the main points. This may be the best approach if it is work-related and help or clarification is needed concerning any work we are expected to complete. It may also make both parties feel more comfortable to have a record of the discussion. 

Find a solution everyone can agree on

By this stage, hopefully everyone involved has an awareness and understanding of the situation. Perhaps solutions have been found to ease the burden. It may be that clarification has been given over a misunderstanding, or someone was unaware of the extent of the situation. It may be that larger decisions and discussions are needed to help us resolve, or move past, a particular issue. The main thing is, that we have started the process of dealing with the very things that are making us want to run away in the first place, and we are on the journey to feeling better, even if we aren’t at our destination quite yet. 

What about situations we have no control over?

There will also be times when we feel like running away because of issues that are outside of our control. This may be a health diagnosis, losing a job, financial issues or something else entirely. It can be very overwhelming for us when we do not feel in control of things that have a massive impact on our physical and emotional quality of life. There is help out there for us when these pressures feel like they are mounting. If there are health concerns, we can speak to our local doctors’ surgery about available support services. if we have financial advice, Citizen’s Advice can help and there are several mental health providers such as Minding Your Head, Mind or Samaritans

Remembering that we are not alone and that help is available when we feel like we want to run away can bring real comfort. Knowing this can give us the confidence needed to confide in someone we trust or seek professional help. There are steps we can take to help us deal with difficult situations and difficult conversations, and when there are times when we feel like we have no control over our situation, there is support out there to help bolster and ground us once again. 

If we feel like we are in immediate danger, we must ring the emergency service line as quickly as possible. If we cannot speak, we can respond to the operator by coughing or tapping the screen. If prompted, type in 55 to be put through to the police. We can also register for EmergencySMS by texting ‘register’ to 999. 

If we are not in immediate danger, we can receive advice by ringing the police on 101. Alternatively, or additionally, the following services might be useful to us.

Please help us to help others and share this post, you never know who might need it.


Blurtitout employs stringent sourcing standards, using only peer-reviewed studies and academic research to ensure the accuracy of its content. For details on their editorial process, you can visit their website. This commitment to reliable sources is crucial in the health and medical fields. If you need help finding or interpreting these sources

  1. Citizensadvice.org.uk. (2024). Citizens Advice. [online] Available at: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/.
  2. Mindingyourhead.info. (2022). Minding Your Head. [online] Available at: https://www.mindingyourhead.info/.
  3. Mind.org.uk. (2022). Home. [online] Available at: https://www.mind.org.uk/.
  4. Samaritans. (2024). Samaritans – Here to listen. [online] Available at: https://www.samaritans.org/.


Cathy is a community facilitator and mother of 3 small children. She has spent the past decade working in the community development sector in Northern Ireland. Both her personal and professional life has led her to have a deep passion for supporting people suffering from mental ill-health.

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