Time off for depression - what to do with myself?
May 23, 2014 12:23 PM   Subscribe

How would you use two weeks off work to hack your depression/relax/chill out?

I'm stuck. I'm in my late twenties, living in London UK... depressed, anxious, broke.

Some background: I'm on meds (two weeks into effexor after trying Zoloft) and have a good doctor, and see a nutritionist. Try to sleep right, don't drink and all those 'good' things. I'm frustatrated as hell as I've been in this funk for about a year but I'm not feeling normal yet. There's ups and downs. And more downs. With this med switcharoo (I think) and some stressy work stuff I've been having panic attacks at precisely the wrong time... basically being a mess. My Dr gently suggested some time off and my boss agrees.

So it looks like I might be able to take two weeks off work on compassionate/sick leave. Question is, what do I do for these two weeks. Seriously? I'm a worried digital professional who's connected too much anyway. What do I do for this time? Especially when I've got no money (seriously no spare cash at all, my partner is unemployed). I guess I want to make use of this time too... Get better in some way.

Um, so I guess my question is; how would you use these two weeks to hack your depression/relax/chill out when you don't know how to?

Aside from cash flow; assume I'm open to any ideas. Feeling really desperate about my mental health (of course forgot to mention I am on a wait list for free therapy).
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
I would set up a lovely routine for those weeks.

1. Head over to the library and find some nice books. The dusty kind. Wipe 'em off, but get the ones you really want to read, not the ones you think you should read.

2. Do the shopping and resolve to make one new recipe every evening.

3. Keep up with your fitness routine, or establish one.

4. Go for a nice walk every day, exploring new places or checking out differnt routes.

5. See if anyone needs a pet sitter while you're on leave. Make a new furry friend.

6. Go to museums, most have free days, or if you're on leave will let you in free.

7. Do a really thorough cleaning of your flat. Go through things in your closet, under sinks, etc. Get a toothbrush out for serious scrubbing. Ship shape and Bristol Fashion! A clean place eases 85% of my anxiety.

8. Put together a budget, knowing what my money is doing is super helpful to me.

9. Give yourself homemade spa treatments.

10. Take a different bath every night. With candles. And soft music. And a wine glass full of seltzer and flavor.

Depression and anxiety suck. I know. But do useful things in this time. Looking back on it, you'll remember what you did, not what you felt. So make these weeks about making your space better, treating yourself well, feeding your mind and pampering yourself.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:37 PM on May 23, 2014 [12 favorites]

Sitting at home and stewing is probably the worst thing you can do. I would start an exercise regime -- hopefully, one that gets you out of the house. Exercise is proven to help depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. I'm currently almost done reading this book, which I can recommend:

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
posted by alex1965 at 12:38 PM on May 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

Here's a few ideas:
-In addition to sleeping right and for appropriate amounts of time, practice going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day. Not having the stress of having to go to work and the stress of full workday, it'll be easier to start doing now.

-Cut off or seriously cut back on caffeine intake. Now is a good time to do that, as you're not dependent on it to get work done. Caffeine is tempting fate, as far as panic attacks are concerned.

-Figure out how you relax. Some people play sports. Some people relax by sitting back and reading a book. Some people do literally nothing. These are all totally valid ways to relax, but not universal. Spend this time figuring out what makes you calm: a long walk, a deep novel, whatever.

-This is a great time to clean your home without having the added hurdle of being tired after work, or wanting to do something more fun because it is the weekend. Buy supplies and clean every surface, and don't slack off on the hard stuff behind or under or out of reach.

-Practice meditating. There's tons of free resource online, and plenty still free of spiritual woo if you're not so inclined. Plenty on AskMe if you search.
posted by griphus at 12:40 PM on May 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

What I would do:

-Set an "out of office" message and disconnect completely for the whole time, until the day before going back to work.

-Keep my sleep/wake times the same but add in some early afternoon naps.

-Meditate (or do breathing exercises or relaxation exercises) 30 minutes every day.

-Walk 1 hour every day.

-Do some kind of hard exercise (running and/or bodyweight exercises like pushups, squats, etc) 30 minutes 3 times/week.

-Go to the library and read a self-help book like Feeling Good by David Burns.

-Write longhand in a notebook: what is bothering me (list all of it in detail), options for what I could do about it (go piece by piece; choosing to live with it or some piece of it is always an option)
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 12:41 PM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Sometimes during times like these a change of scenery is nice. Is there a family member or friend that you could crash with, even for a few days? Maybe just tell them "I just need a place to sleep and unplug for a few days".

Sometimes knowing that all of the day-to-day stuff is taken care of can help you relax and focus on you. For instance, I rarely go to my parents house, for reasons, but when I do it's usually the best sleep I've had in months, because I'm not responsible for the house or meals (even though I usually help, but I don't have to if I'm not feeling up to it).
posted by vignettist at 12:41 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Walk, bike, listen to your favorite music.
posted by goethean at 12:44 PM on May 23, 2014

I'd map out a daily routine. My best things for staving off depression are:
- go for a walk. Exercising and getting out of the house, two birds with one stone.
- house cleaning. Feels like I've accomplished something, plus a messy environment brings my mood down.
- cook a nice dinner. Again, feels like I've accomplished something, plus eating well is important.
-maybe ask your partner to plan some day trips? I have a hard time planning things when I'm depressed, but getting out and about is very good for me. My husband is great about this. I don't know where you're located, but hopefully there are some inexpensive options around, like going to the beach for a day (assuming you're somewhere that's heading into summer).
posted by Kriesa at 12:45 PM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yeah, sitting at home would be hard for me, because I know in the past that it's made things worse (for me). I think what I would suggest is to come up with a list of activities that make you happy, and then make a schedule to do those things. I like the library idea above. Also, maybe plan to go lie in a park on a nice day and watch birds/dogs/people. Decide to learn about XYZ, and go study it at the library.

One thing that's been fun for me, though probably because it appeals to my own quirks, which you may not share, is getting involved in some sort of citizen science project. (I spent one whole weekend with the Lost Ladybug Project.)

That would be my suggestion -- come up with a list of things, then schedule them. Also, have a plan for what you'll do if the downtime is making you more depressed (as well as a plan for checking in with yourself to see if that's happening).
posted by mudpuppie at 12:46 PM on May 23, 2014

-- See your friends (and other loved ones) as much as possible.

-- Go outside in the sun as much as possible.

-- Clean your house and take care of your body as much as possible.

-- If you have any hobbies, spend as much time on them as you feel like. Though if you're prone to escapism, make sure that you don't spend *all* your time on them.

-- If you're exhausted and just need to sleep and lay around in bed the whole time, that's OK, too. You don't *have* to prove anything or get anything done, this break is about being gentle with yourself and letting yourself heal. Just try to keep regular mealtimes and a regular sleep schedule, because not eating and/or not sleeping is very rough on mental health.
posted by rue72 at 12:51 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would choose nearby areas that I was unfamiliar with and go "explore" them at will/ unencumbered- preferably on foot --- I would also spend significant amounts of time doing something creative (i.e.painting/ cooking) -- also - no alarm clocks, minimal tv if any, minimal alcohol if any -- i would keep a journal to record any insights / express internal issues
posted by mrmarley at 1:00 PM on May 23, 2014

If I had the chance to get away from the internet (stuck online because of my job) I absolutely would. Spending time outside is helpful, especially in parks or other green spaces, even more so if you're exercising. Just walking if you're not up to more than that (maybe invite your partner to come along on long walks, so it's more fun). Here's another good book about exercise and anxiety/depression. Try starting a yoga routine if you haven't already (at home to save money, or at a donation-only studio), plus some harder cardio like running or biking if you can, and plan out how it can be a routine you can keep up.
posted by three_red_balloons at 1:10 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Two weeks will fly by. I would work on learning what you need to survive at work, and experiment with what things bring you more joy. You don't want to speend 2 weeks relaxing to be jolted back into reality.

And I wholeheartedly agree that you need to get out of the house for at least 30 minutes a day. You don't want to spend two weeks not bathing, not eating right, etc to only find your depression is worse not better.
posted by Aranquis at 1:18 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd do spring cleaning, like finding some sort of good-scented cleaner (pine or lemon or lavender) and scrubbing the top of the fridge and wiping down walls, mopping floors, giving away a box of things to charity. These sorts of purges go a long way toward making me feel more motivated and in control.

A walk every evening. A newspaper to read every morning with coffee or tea feels so civilized.

Some sort of touch. Trade foot massages with your partner. Hug your sister or pet a dog.
posted by mochapickle at 1:20 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

You are broke. You are miserable. You have 2 weeks free. Volunteer with anything that you find mildly interested. Really commit and throw yourself into it. The further out of your comfort zone, the better. Thinking about yourself hurts. Think about someone else until thinking about you doesn't hurt anymore.
posted by myselfasme at 1:23 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just listened to a ted talk about happiness.

A couple things that caused LASTING happiness -

1. writing a letter to someone that has been really good to you. Sit down and take time to write this letter of thanks, then read it to them in person.

2. Do something altruistic.
posted by beccaj at 1:33 PM on May 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you get stuck for things to do (I know all too well the feeling of "I'm in a city like London and I can't think of anything to do!") then Ian Visits always has a bunch of interesting and unusual things that are happening in London, many of them free. Maybe pick one of those every day.
posted by fabius at 1:42 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can't help but pass on some advice from my partner that has started to help me tremendously in my fight against depression (having tried many different meds over the past year).

Try to do something you enjoy everyday. Bonus points for things that make you move. Celebrate the smallest accomplishment.

For me, this has meant trying to force myself to walk more, even if I don't feel like it (incorporating excercise seems to work well for me - taking the stairs, getting off the bus a stop earlier and walking home, ect.). It means sketching/doodling even if I don't have a clue what I want to draw. It means singing along to old 90s R&B if that's what it takes to stop the rumination. It means playing a few games of DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) even if the last thing I want to do is be surrounded by people/noise. It means not feeling weird if the only motivation I can muster is to make food and clean my apartment. It means celebrating the completion of even the most basic tasks - going outside, going grocery shopping, texting/seeing a friend. And it means forgiving yourself for not doing anything at all sometimes.

Depression is an illness, yet unlike others illnesses where the patient is able to recover at their own pace, I feel recovery from depression is hurried. This may just be me, but I feel rushed by everyone around me to feel better - everyone wants to toss a pill at it to 'correct' the symptoms but not a single person has tried to get at the cause of the depression.

So, the key, for me, has been to remind myself that I'm suffering from an illness - an illness that's not even close to being understood yet - and recovering from something not well understood takes time. To expect to be better in 2 weeks will only compound the anxiety. Take your 2 weeks off to collect your thoughts and do the things you want to do (even if it's nothing at all some days) and draft a longer-term plan to recovery (incorporating exercise, joining a free therapy group, finding things that allow you to focus on them and not the depression).

I would also spend time reflecting on your life and areas that may be contributing to your depression. Is it possible some of your depression is situational? I know when I started to evaluate my life during the worst parts of my depression, I discovered a lot of what had made me anxious and depressed where things about my lifestyle. For example, I discovered I felt isolated because I lived in the burbs, surrounded by established families and older people whom I (being young, professional and gay) couldn't seem to connect with. I discovered this isolation was compounded by the fact that my friends and support were all at least a 30-60 min drive away (always in traffic). I discovered I was completely unsatisfied with what I was doing for work and lacking the resources to go forward. And I discovered driving was a HUGE source of my stress - and unfortunately, when you live in the burbs, driving is just something you HAVE to do. Meds certainly helped mitigate the symptoms of my depression so that I could continue to work (though I did take 2 weeks off - FMLA approved), but honestly, a true sense of change didn't occur until a year later when I started to take steps to improve those areas of my life that were making me miserable. Didn't like where I lived? I waited until my lease was up and moved back to the city - all said, I'm paying less to live in the city than the burbs now. Hated driving? I sold my car and now save almost $200/mo taking the bus. Miss my friends? I can just hop on the light rail to go see them. Loathed work because of lack of support? I stood up for myself and things improved. Nothing to do? I'm slowly branching out and exposing myself to all the wonderful things a city has to offer you. And the job? Well...I'm getting laid off, which has resulted in some very bad days, but now I'm starting to feel better about it - it was a source of misery and now I -have- to change that.

Are there things in your life that could be changed for the better? Things making you miserable now? I'm not saying you have to make drastic changes, but why pop a pill to force yourself to accept a situation your body is telling you it doesn't want?

I wish you all the luck in recovering. memail me if you'd like to talk more - I'm happy to help.
posted by stubbehtail at 1:55 PM on May 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

Don't put pressure on yourself. Find something beautiful each day. Go for a walk. Look at the leaves. Bring a library book. Get the sun shining on your face. Be kind to yourself. You cannot help bad brain chemistry.

On preview, go with what stubbehtail says.
posted by kariebookish at 1:58 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Since you aksed what I'd do: pack my tent and camp-stove on my bike and just start riding with some vague destination in mind, riding as much as I'm able to, stopping whenever I want to, finding a spot to camp at night. Or basically the same thing with my kayak. Bring some books to read for the rest periods. This just totally gets me out of my life, is meditative, and exercise does wonders. Chat with people you meet along the way so you don't feel too isolated (on one of these trips I was so remote I didn't see another soul for a week, and things got a bit dark at times).
posted by Emanuel at 2:28 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

The exhausting thing about depression is the inner roiling and mental repetition, as you endlessly and compulsively retrace useless, negative, self-destructive lines of thought. So it may be unrealistic to think you can take a vacation from that. Time off may just give you more time to dive wholesale into this internal roiling repetition.

The reason so many workaholics turn out to be depressives is because they're trying to use hyper-engagement in the world as a strategy for keeping themselves from endlessly drawing back into that internal roiling and repetition. You don't want to overdo it, or neglect other aspects of life, but engagement and activity keep you grounded in the external world, rather than wallowing in the mental echo chamber.

In other words, given that depression's an obsessive surfeit of introspection, time off for introspection may be as helpful for a depressed person as a banquet is for an obese person.

That said, time off to establish healthier patterns of eating, exercising and general self-care sounds really good.....IF, that is, you can ensure the time will be spent actively and energetically. If you can find a way to occupy your days with learning, sharing, engaging, working on these issues in a worldly way with vigor and enthusiasm, and stave off the scenario of flopping back into inner loopy-loops, great. You'll have to be creative, though....if you're broke, you need to barter and to use your network of friends, cuz you're not going to be enrolling in cooking school or yoga class.

What's more, the energy and engagement and creativity you'll have to apply to set up this program of active days (geez, two weeks is a long time) may, in itself, help take you out of your head. Projects are good! But, really, please don't spend two weeks languishing in your mental echo chamber in the name of rest and relaxation.

Do stuff. Say "yes" a lot; make action your default. Engage with people (even if they're not great). And (this really works): pretend to not be depressed, and keep it up even when no one is looking. Our habits of focusing attention, our personalities, all that stuff is incredibly arbitrary and shallow, and can be reset simply by pretending. You talk of hacking: this is how self-hacking works. you act like X, and X becomes how you act.

Also, try lying on the floor with a yoga block on its side just beneath your shoulder blades. Let your chest broaden and open. Relax into the sharpness; accept it and breathe deeply. I know this sounds random, but you will find it very very helpful.
posted by Quisp Lover at 2:58 PM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

If panic attacks and increased anxiety are new, those are not uncommon side effects of effexor. Because people will start it at an already stressful time, they don't immediately realize how much of their uncomfortable freaking out is the medication.

No matter what, it would be good to keep a journal to see what effects you how: when you sleep and wake, when and what you eat, medication dosages and times, emotional responses, etc. It could reveal trends you were not aware of, such as low blood sugar or lack of sleep exacerbating your moods, etc. If you don't find your anxiety decreasing, then say something to your doctor, because the fact this is a common side effect that is aggravated both adjusting and withdrawing from this medications is, let's say unfortunate at best.
posted by provoliminal at 3:06 PM on May 23, 2014

Hey last time when I was having a really bad week, my counsellor introduced me to this system called ACE.

Basically, ACE stands for Achievement, Closeness (to others), and Enjoyment... So basically list some activities under each which adds A, C, or E points.

So for example, for me
Achievement activities = going to class, band practise, reading thoughtful articles, eating healthy, looking polished, doing homework
Closeness activities = calling my parents, cuddling my dog, going to church, volunteering, having lunch with friends, going to exercise classes
Enjoyment activities = cooking and eating healthy food, getting enough sleep, exercising, reading novels, watching sitcoms, walking my dog, giving myself beauty treatments, writing my blog, reading advice columns

And then what you do is you keep a log (print out a week's worth of this sheet ). And you make sure that every morning, afternoon, and evening you do activities which add ACE points.

Thinking about 'achievement activities' might also help you to figure out what sort of cool skills/things you want to learn and explore during this break. Use things which have consistently made you happy for reference. So if you really like listening to music, achievement might involve working towards the goal of 'getting to know rock music in the 70s' or 'learning some songs on the guitar'. So this exercise gives you the framework to think about what skills YOU want to pick up.

Sounds a bit 'practical self helpy' but this helped me a lot when I was hurting and it helped me to focus on taking care of myself without any of the background 'noise'... So hopefully it will help you too!
posted by dinosaurprincess at 3:17 PM on May 23, 2014 [46 favorites]

During a blessedly short struggle with depression, I was able to drag myself out of my bed long enough to go to the local library. In 3 weeks I read 3 books and each in their own way helped me get through an illness that was not responding to medication.

The first was The Nanny Diaries, and it was helpful because it made me laugh my ass off.

The second was a novel by Mark Salzman called Lying Awake.

The third and perhaps most important was a science book called The Mind and the Brain, which was difficult for me to get through (I don't have a science background) but was fascinating and helpful nonetheless.

YMMV. Gotta say, that ACE system sounds like a great idea. Maybe I'll try it, and I'm not even depressed. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 3:25 PM on May 23, 2014

In my experience, staying home from work only ever made me MORE depressed. Is there any way that instead of two weeks completely off that you could go to reduced hours for a while? Unless your job is really awful, I think having somewhere to go to every day would help, especially if you can do it without the pressure of producing full-time output for those weeks.

If part-time work doesn't work for you, maybe go to the library every day and read a book or newspaper?

For the rest of your time: exercise is as effective as medication for many people.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:35 PM on May 23, 2014

Check with your doctor first, but start a Vitamin D supplement as well. (I take one every day along with my Effexor.) Once two weeks' worth of that is in your system, you'll feel awesome. Also do what the good people up above are saying about routines and all.
posted by mibo at 3:56 PM on May 23, 2014

With this med switcharoo (I think) and some stressy work stuff I've been having panic attacks at precisely the wrong time... basically being a mess. My Dr gently suggested some time off and my boss agrees.

I just wanted to tell you that, from personal experience, issues like this can do a real number on your ability to think clearly and carry out tasks and it is entirely OK if you can't do anything productive *at all* during your time off, if all you can do is get through the days. That's all that you really *need* to do, you need to survive each day. If getting through a day means sitting in a chair staring into space, so be it. That's maybe not optimal, but it's OK if you can't do "optimal." Just make sure you eat at least a meal or two a day and make it through as best you can. If you can get out in the sun, do it. If you can spend time with loved ones, do it. If everything is too overwhelming and all you can do is wait things out, then *do that,* that is perfectly fine. What does your doctor say you should aim for, in terms of how you spend your time?

I don't know how well you're functioning right now or what you feel like you can handle, but something my psychiatrist told me while I was in a rough depression is to plan one thing to do each day and then really try to do it, in order to feel more in control and focused. That "one thing" doesn't have to be anything major! (In fact, it probably shouldn't be -- this isn't a time to make big life changes and decisions and commitments). That "one thing" can just be to read a couple pages of a novel or to focus on a whole episode of a TV show or just whatever. Start from where you are, you don't have to do everything, just try to do one thing. And if you ultimately can't do that one thing on any given day, that's OK, too! Just try your best. Anti-depressants usually take at least four weeks to even get up to a therapeutic level so you're basically white-knuckling it right now even if this medication works out, and it'll probably take another month or two after that for the medication to be working how it should. So go easy on yourself, this is a rough, rough period (that, hopefully, will soon start getting better as your medication gets straightened out) and you're being given the time off so that you don't overexert yourself or put yourself under too much pressure and end up doing more harm than good.

Also from personal experience, if you start having issues like being completely unable to sleep (and are less tired than usual), you have to force yourself to eat anything or don't want to eat at all, you're having a lot of increased muscle tension, your mood is suddenly really variable or very angry/irritated or much brighter -- please let your doctor know. That might mean that you're transitioning into mania (or hypomania) and that's a bad reaction to the drug that your doctor would need to know about ASAP. I mention it because you bring up having exacerbated anxiety and mood changes even though you've only been taking this medication for a couple weeks -- I'm not a doctor and I'm not sure whether triggering mania is a risk with effexor specifically or not but it's something that happens to some people on antidepressants without a mood stabilizer (I'm one of them), and can even sometimes happen to people who aren't diagnosed as bipolar or who don't have/haven't had manic episodes otherwise.

Anyway, feel free to memail me if you want to talk. You're doing fine, you're being responsible by being open with your doctor, and by arranging things with your work, and by following your doctor's directions. Your partner and your boss sound like they're on board, too, which is really great. Try to continue being open with your loved ones, try not to withdraw. This is medical leave for a health problem and it's not a personal failing on your part and you're not doing anything wrong. For what it's worth, when I've had medical leave it has just ended up being about me making sure I eat every day and sleep every night, get along with people as best I can, and not screwing things up for myself too badly until I'm in a state to take on more. That's ultimately been the wisest thing to do for me, too (and I've faced much worse consequences for trying to do too much during a rough time than for trying to do even slightly too little, so I err on the side of "just a bit too little" now).
posted by rue72 at 4:58 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing making running part of your plan. Speaking from experience, there's nothing like exercise - hard exercise, like running - to expel negative energy as quickly as possible.

I also read Eckart Tolle's "The Power of Now" in chunks when I'm feeling low. Really helps me to gain perspective. Not everyone's into the spiritual/self help perspective though. YMMV.
posted by onecircleaday at 5:36 PM on May 23, 2014

A lot of good suggestions.

I'd say, try to spend as much time as possible outside of your apartment. As much time as is reasonably, comfortably possible. For me personally when I'm unhappy, staying inside by myself makes negative feelings reverberate or grow, magnify within the walls of my place. Which doesn't feel great. Get a lovely massage, go for a rigorous walk, try a good meal at a restaurant, look at art, see live music, volunteer with children, go to a petting zoo, finish chores. Fun, low-key, perhaps even new experiences.

...there are times when solitude is especially quiet, soothing and healthful...however I'm worried that, from the description of what's creating the "funk" (work stress), too much silence and alone time could kind of mestaticize some of the elements of the funk. Like you'd go from 60 mph to a complete halt, which can be difficult. Obviously, a near complete stop might be what will soothe you best, YMMV. But perhaps something to replace the thoughts exacerbating the stress would be very helpful.

This article in The Atlantic helps me immensely in framing my situation, whenever I have a bout of ennui/deep dissatisfaction. I like the empirical point-of-view, how dispassionately it looks at something that is very much rooted in feelings (happiness)...this viewpoint helps illuminate the subject for me, and it's very well-written. If you're analytical, maybe it can help you too. Print it out and read it at the park :)

You're fortunate to have such an understanding boss, who seems like he wants to be able to help you. You won't have to worry about not having a job when you go back. You live in am extremely vibrant geographic location. You're young in your late twenties, and have good medical support available. Good luck in these two weeks. I'm glad you asked this question, and I hope you've found something to help.
posted by tenlives at 7:50 PM on May 23, 2014

Write a book in your spare time. Self publish it on Amazon Kindle.
posted by Orion Blastar at 7:55 PM on May 23, 2014

This is an echo of answers others have given, but my first thought was absolutely take walks. A morning walk and a regular bedtime are cornerstones of my mental health strategies. The movement and the sunshine are both good for you. I like listening to audiobooks while I'm on my walk. It's very nice "me" time.

And don't hold yourself to too high a standard.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:25 PM on May 23, 2014

Writing as someone prone to crippling bouts of anxiety: I'd suggest trying to spend at least some of the time out and about, as a weapon against introspection (i.e. a chance to give your mind a break). Here is Londonist's guide to free things to do in London, which might help.

If the weather picks up a bit (or if you have decent waterproofs), I'll nth going for walks, preferably somewhere you can hear birdsong rather than traffic. Hopefully you can get to one of the bigger green areas without incurring travel costs. The idea is to be somewhere that encourages you to relax and take in your surroundings, not somewhere so familiar that you don't see it or somewhere so uninteresting (or stressful) that you prefer to focus on your worries.

As well as the big parks, London has 2500 smaller parks and gardens, and they're beautiful at this time of year (again, weather permitting). London Gardens Online tells you everything you need to know.

There is also a butterfly garden on the lawn of the Natural History Museum. It's not free, unfortunately (unlike the museum itself), but at £5.50 it's much cheaper than, say, London Zoo, and if you like butterflies, it's pretty enchanting.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:51 AM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

One non-intuitive thing that's helped me in the past is to tackle long-neglected, nagging tasks. I can't believe how much better I feel after I cross-off one of those long-standing items on my "to do" list. Since you have two weeks of time, maybe you can try it. Here's some more information on it.
posted by alex1965 at 8:36 AM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Rumination" is often considered to exacerbate depression, and so, in the interest of preventing rumination, I'd get out of the house as much as possible, and try to keep yourself occupied:

-Walking, as others have mentioned, provides tons of great opportunity for reflection, and is free
-If you can afford it, a cup of coffee someplace new
-Turning your phone off, as previously suggested, is sage advice
-A pillow fight with your partner?
-Enjoy the company of a good hole-in-the-wall bookstore
-Try to find a mailing list of cool, free events for London (surely your fine city must have some equivalent of this?)
-Sketch or take photographs
posted by sidi hamet at 1:26 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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