I'm... Going to the Darklands...
September 29, 2011 9:37 AM   Subscribe

Give me some things I can do/accomplish? I'm slipping into a dark, sad place that I can't talk myself out of. Therapy and anti-depressants/anti-anxiety are taken care of.

I can't really start to fix (or decide to eliminate) my situational issues for another 6 weeks - not if I hope to have success - so I appreciate responses like "fix the underlying situation" but for now I need other ideas. I need to un-stick here, before this gets bad.

Money is a consideration but not a barrier. I'd prefer things that are flexible schedule wise. DC Metro area, some travel an option. Bonus points if I can create or learn something. I am open to discovering almost anything, so if you have a hobby to share please do!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
How's your fitness level? Can you start working towards a physical activity goal? I started training for a sprint triathlon, which is a really ambitious goal for me. It gets me out of the house and puts me in an environment where I can see real, if slow, progress. I knew it was helping my mood as well, but then last week I couldn't do any of my training because my kids were sick and the gym daycare wouldn't take them, and I like to lost my damn mind. If that's too ambitious and long-term a goal for you -- I'm training over thirteen months -- you could try a yoga class that meets a couple times a week or something.
posted by KathrynT at 9:51 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Some ideas:

Bake! Bake bread. Bake cookies. Bake other cookies. If you end up with too many cookies, give them to friends (bonus: you have to go out and interact with someone to give them cookies (well, or you could just leave them in their mailboxes or something)).

Clean, do laundry, fix things around your living space.

Pick a random skill to learn--learn to juggle or play an instrument or to write with the hand you don't normally write with. Previous questions could give you ideas of things people learn to do--a lot of this stuff isn't really useful, but it can be really satisfying to see measurable progress practicing a new skill.

Take a community education/art/dance class.

Set a goal to, I dunno, visit every park in the city, or eat at every crappy Chinese restaurant, or something. Become an expert on some aspect of the place you live.
posted by Vibrissa at 10:03 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Free horsie ride. Take some carrots.
posted by drlith at 10:03 AM on September 29, 2011

This is very short-term, but there are two arts/crafts activities I know of this weekend that are "making stuff" oriented: the Crafty Bastards fair and an artist workshop at the Fridge with Ben Tolman (both Facebook links, but the events should be findable elsewhere if you're not on FB).

Are you on Living Social or Groupon? They often have discounts to introductory dance/yoga/outdoorsy stuff classes. I've feel a lot better about life in general when I've got dance class to look forward to.

Cooking class? I've heard some Whole Foods have cooking classes, and there are certainly plenty of those in the DC metro area.
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:10 AM on September 29, 2011

Sew. I find making something for someone else - a simple quilt to donate for a kid's shelter for example - is so rewarding. It also makes me use my hands and get away from technology.
posted by Leezie at 10:10 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I was stuck in a horrible situation, my therapist said this:
"Usually I would advise people to just get out of the situation. Since this isn't an option for you right now, I advise you to just hold on tight until it's over".
For some reason that helped me immensely. Hold on tight.
posted by whalebreath at 10:22 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Take a camera and go outside. Go to a nearby park, forest preserve or stay in the city. Just walk around and take photos. This has kept me sane many times.
posted by marimeko at 10:33 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Will the encroaching winter hinder your mood further? If so, maybe it would be useful to look into some kind of light therapy, or failing that, be sure to get adequate time outdoors. Good luck!
posted by bunji at 10:44 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Join the Metafilter Health Month group! You can make your Health Month goals whatever you want, and you can start out easy. Having regular check-ins and a built-in group might be really good for you during a dark time.

I have to plug knitting as a hobby, as always. Local yarn stores often have classes and regular knitting groups, and knitters are a friendly bunch. And the good thing about knitting is it can be social or solitary, simple or complicated. Plus you get an excuse to hang out in Ravelry.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:45 AM on September 29, 2011

Fitness goals would be good. There are sites for pushups and pull-ups and running.

Maybe work on reading the top 100 books (there are plenty of lists), or just a book a week.

Learn a language.

posted by backwards guitar at 10:47 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

-cooking classes
-drum lessons
posted by sincerely-s at 10:59 AM on September 29, 2011

OK, this is based on a stupid movie, but in Yes Man, Jim Carrey tries everything. He learns a new language, he learns to play guitar, makes new friends with different hobbies that he then takes on - and he starts a lot of these activities by looking at a communal posting board. ("Yes, I would like to learn Korean." "Yes, I'd like to go see that new band." etc, etc.)

Stupid movie, but maybe a good idea? I dunno know. Good luck.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 11:12 AM on September 29, 2011

I can't remember where, but I recently read something that made a strong impression on me:

Do your Plan B.

The gist is this: we set goals to better ourselves, and all too often we set them a little too high. Then, when we don't [make it to the gym/eat healthy dinner/make your bed every single morning/whatever], we collapse in failure and give up.

Don't do that. Remember: you can have a Plan A, where you do everything you set out to do, and a Plan B, where you do some of what you set out to do. If you don't attain your Plan A, don't give up; attain Plan B.

example: I aimed to increase my physical therapy from twice weekly to every day. And then one day I didn't do it. OH NOES FAILURE! Except it's not failure, because I decided that this time I could follow Plan B: do my PT as much as I can and on the days when I couldn't, I take a long walk. Plan B!

Doing your Plan B will help to prevent you from beating up on yourself, keep you motivated, and keep you doing, which is important. If you manage your Plan A every time, then great! If not, that's okay because you're still doing the things you want to do, just at a slower pace. You can always work your way up to your Plan A.
posted by Elsa at 11:35 AM on September 29, 2011 [15 favorites]

Random suggestion for you - Flying Trapeze. It is an amazing adreniline rush and very quickly you get to accomplish something you wouldn't have ever imagined you could do. I'm hooked - it's a physical thing that I think is doing at least as much for my body as it is for my brain. Trapeze School New York has an outpost in DC. They are very well respected.
posted by Wolfie at 11:37 AM on September 29, 2011

Not many of these suggestions are creative. These are some ways I help myself to shake the blues. Being outside and getting sunshine on my head helps me tremendously. Here are some ideas that may help you feel better:

Pull the shades, open all of your windows. Put on some of your favorite music. Wash and change your sheets. Sweep, vacuum. Fill sink with some hot water with cleaning solution, wipe down counters. Wash your kitchen floors. Buy a big bouquet of happy flowers and put them in a vase. Put some fresh fruit in a bowl. Buy fresh food.

Load up your ipod with some cheerful music. Take a walk. Take daily walks.

Cook a new recipe.

Have a themed movie night. Watch a French film and make French bistro chicken. Watch a Spanish movie and make pollo al ajillo.

Rent a comedy or some interesting documentaries that aren't depressing.

Bring a snack and take a blanket, a book, and your camera to a park. Take photos of things that interest you (architecture, nature, etc). Read for an hour or two outdoors.

Go out to lunch to a casual restaurant that has good atmosphere. Bring a book, enjoy your food, people watch. Roam a bookstore afterward.

Look for an outdoor Tai Chi class if the weather is still nice.

Go to a live musical performance. This could be at a bar, university, high school, local theater...

Be a tourist in your own town. Sign up for a guided tour.

Check out your Go Do and the Arts & Entertainment sections of your newspaper. Sign up for a class, attend a festival, visit a museum, etc.

Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 11:54 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think this meets your requirements. Helping others always makes me feel better.
posted by bananafish at 12:46 PM on September 29, 2011

Make your physical surroundings look how you really want them to (really clean and dust, purge junk, paint, decorate, etc)
posted by WeekendJen at 1:50 PM on September 29, 2011

Nthing taking a camera out and exploring somewhere local through its lens. Nthing baking.

More suggestions, all for solitary, unscheduled activities:

Take a piece of corrugated cardboard 6" or so across and make a kumihimo disk from it. Take two colours of embroidery thread and make this pattern. Once you've got the hang of it, take two more colours (or the same two) and make this awesome ridged spiral. Feel proud.

(I'm suggesting this because as long as the slots in your disk hold the threads tight, kumihimo is incredibly quick to pick up; when I'm where you are, something new that doesn't give me good results from the outset is a bad, bad thing. Bonus: kumihimo started life as the craft of the samurai! Is that not cool?)

You might enjoy action origami. The great thing about action origami is that it's objectively successful when you get it right. An origami model never looks quite like the picture in the book, but whereas you can beat yourself up because your crab isn't crabby enough, if your flapping bird flaps, that's an unambiguous success. A good starting point, if you've never done origami, is probably the traditional jumping frog. Use a small rectangle of thin card - like an index card - and he should jump quite well.

Do you have a juggling shop nearby? I recently had fun learning to use a kendama - I can't do anything fancy, but I felt very accomplished the first time I caught the ball on the spike. I recommend this over learning to juggle because the ball doesn't run away from you when you miss a catch. (Though juggling is unquestionably satisfying.)

I swear it's coincidence that I just suggested three Japanese hobbies in a row.

Otherwise, perhaps go to a zoo/aquarium/aviary and watch some wildlife; or go to a park (or the river) and see if there are interesting birds or butterflies about; or lose yourself in the Smithsonian.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:57 PM on September 29, 2011 [8 favorites]

You could make a little project of completing all of these Capital Bikeshare itineraries.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:12 PM on September 29, 2011

I get a lot out of gardening. Guerilla gardening if you're up for it. Herb in windowpots, if that's more your speed.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:37 PM on September 29, 2011

Yoga. Times a million. Take the woo-woo kind where they talk about prana flowing through your chakras and such, ideally at an attractive, well-lit studio. Learn to feel your breath and sooth your mind and bring your body into beautiful symmetry. If you're willing to open yourself up to it, it can make an incredible difference to your mental health.
posted by ootandaboot at 4:03 PM on September 29, 2011

Walking or other outdoor exercise.

Gratitude journal. My therapist assigned me to write every day right before bed "what worked today" - and it can be something totally tiny: tea tasted good, I heard a bird sing, I finished something on my to-do list. So you go to bed remembering something pleasant that happened that day.

"Baby steps" - if there's something you want to do more of or be better at (any of the suggestions above for yoga, gardening, crafts, cleaning) - just do it for 10 minutes, half-hour, just the once, whatever.

And Health Month is great for anything you want to commit to doing, the MeFi team is pretty fantastic.
posted by epersonae at 5:20 PM on September 29, 2011

I wanted to start some kind of hobby that I could pick up, put down, and return to later during a period of particular inactivity and lack of motivation, a few months before I was to start school. I just needed something fun and challenging and creative, something that gave me a tangible *something* when it was complete, so I started sewing. I decided to make myself a quilt from scratch, all by hand. I used English Paper Piecing, and created all these hexagons out of really funky Japanese fabrics, so it was more modern and neutral and worked with my d├ęcor (and wasn't "girly"). I've finished about 1/3 of the top piece but have since run low on time (now that I'm in school) and funds to buy more material, but I can't wait to pick it back up at the Christmas break, if not sooner.
posted by 1000monkeys at 7:03 PM on September 29, 2011

while I was in the depressed situation, i got some enjoyment from reading a novel. The novel is about people living in situations where there is little opportunity and resource. However, the main characters still find joy from doing simple manual labor. So I suggest you try picking up some novels to read. Other suggestions include start to learn music, volunteer to help children. I also watched some silly love stories from korean tv drama. To watch people's love life in different culture somehow was entertaining to me at that time. But now without depression, I definitely do not have time to watch those and would feel those too fake. Good luck
posted by akomom at 10:08 PM on September 29, 2011

Nthing workouts, training. Weight lifting is good if you want see tangible progress. But cardio - running, cycling...etc., will be better for endorphins which will make you feel good.

Learn an instrument! In the time frame you have set out, I would recommend the ukulele or harmonica. Plenty of lessons available online, and you can pick up one or the other for about $20
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:17 PM on September 29, 2011

Teach yourself guitar. I taught myself with a chord chart and an old songbook, but that was before the internet. You can play many, many songs once you've mastered 3 chords or so.

Also, 6 weeks is not a long time. You can grit your teeth and get through almost anything for 6 weeks. I'm pulling for you!
posted by kamikazegopher at 10:22 PM on September 29, 2011

Draw something, or paint something. Definitely try to create something where there wasn't anything before, in any way you can.

Whenever I'm feeling seriously overwhelmed and anxious (like right now. Yay moving), I go right to my brushes and whatever canvas I've got, and let rip. By the time I'm done, I'm sooooo much calmer.
posted by mornie_alantie at 10:32 PM on September 29, 2011

1) Structure. Get up at the same time every day, go to bed at the same time every day, and eat at roughly the same times every day. Try to have a couple things blocked out on your schedule every day, and make sure that at least one of them is purely pleasant/fun/enjoyable. In some (really well-respected) day programs for people with serious mental illnesses, one of the big things is making a schedule for yourself.

2) If you aren't employed, consider volunteering. Doing something feels good, and pretty much any volunteer situation will have structure and some social contact built in.

3) I find that doing things for the people I care about often makes me feel better. Creative stuff is fun - I'm the knitting type, and with sufficiently large needles can pull together a scarf or hat in a few hours - but more than that, I try to really look at people, and think about what they like and need. Maybe you have a friend who really would love a wooden storage box in the shape of the Tardis. Perhaps a family member would be overjoyed to get an in-house herb garden in hand-labeled terra cotta pots. Maybe a friend of a friend needs a favor that involves 20 minutes of HTML.
posted by catalytics at 7:23 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Volunteer at an organize that does stuff you like (animals, art, kids, old people, new language learners...the list goes on). Helping someone or something else will make you feel better about yourself and will show you that you're not so bad off.
posted by angab at 10:19 AM on September 30, 2011

posted by angab at 10:19 AM on September 30, 2011

Anonymous, how are you doing? I've been where you are (fairly recently) and want you to know that people are thinking of you. If you want to talk about some strategies to get back into the world of the living -- which I need, too! -- I'm here.

You're not alone by a long shot. I hope things are going better for you.
posted by Madamina at 8:20 AM on October 4, 2011

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