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Nervous about free time


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Hello everybody, I really hope you are all finding some sunshine today. I have somehow gotten to the point where I am super anxious whenever I have free time. I do not know what to do. Nothing I think of sounds good, and I talk myself out of it. I seem unable to enjoy anything. Anyone else get this way?  I did not used to feel like this. I could just enjoy doing nothing, or I would come up with something. Now I just feel like sleeping, but I cannot, my mind will not let me.  They days seem so stressful because I cannot enjoy my time. Has anyone found a solution for this? 

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Sorry, I do not have a solution, but I do recognize what you described.  That is a very good explanation of one of the most common symptoms of depression.  That reduction of enjoyment of previous pastimes is very common and easier to fight when you are busy with tasks that insist on being dealt with.  

If you are seeing a therapist, mention it to him/her.  He may have some suggestions that will help.  One thing that sometimes helps me is to aim 'small'.  Example:  Instead of trying to convince yourself to go for a bicycle ride, try encouraging yourself to just step outside for some fresh air.  Once outside, consider 'strolling around' for a few minutes.  Then try getting on your bike 'just for a trip around the block'.  Once on the bike and rolling, maybe just keep going a little further or to 'one more' place.  Hope this helps.  Good luck!

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Yep, that sounds and feels very familiar.

I read an article on Medium about the difficulty we have articulating how we feel after nearly a quarter of a year into the pandemic. Many of us have a lot of free time but nowhere we can go, resulting in cabin fever and boredom. It's not like a vacation, this was forced on us. Feeling frustrated and restless, sometimes scolding ourselves for not being more productive we "constantly look for that quick dopamine hit." Looking for a distraction on a screen or in your refrigerator, probably both.

But there's another reason I can get anxious when I have free time, and it has little to do with Covid; I've got nothing distracting me from feelings I don't want to feel or deal with. When that uneasy feeling begins to arise, my thoughts quickly turn to activites I can/should do then I tell myself, yes! What I really want is to be productive -- but that is a big lie I tell myself. Really, I just want run away from my feelings.

Recently I've been doing the opposite action which is to sit with my emotions and use techniques to work with them. Since you asked, here's what is helping me:

"Name it to tame it" -- for an example, read what I've been posting in the "How Do You Feel Right Now" thread. It might be boring to read but it's been useful to write. Emotion Wheel helps me with the vocabulary, we feel way more emotions than "sad", "bored", "mad".

Meditation, the practice of being still and paying attention to the present rather than getting involved in thoughts and the stories of our minds. "But I can't sit still it's so uncomfortable" - yes that's very true it is, and yes you can do it. Whatever you might think "Meditation is supposed to be", it probably isn't that. Google meditation for beginners. There are many hundreds of different meditations, why not give 4 or 5 different ones a try?

Journaling. Writing what we feel forces us to process it in our lobey juicy-gray think-meats. Use descriptive words and try to put emotions in to a context. Journaling adds a little bonus: we can spot trends once we've done it a while. 


I hope this is helpful and I'm wishing you some peace and contentment @jeffreyd.

Edited by Atra
I like crumb cake and tea
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I can relate to that feeling, and I'm sorry you're going through this. Here's a few things that I've found useful. They help sometimes, sadly not all the time, but often enough for me to try them whenever I feel like this.

Write the anxiety down. I don't mean journaling (although journaling can be extremely helpful as well), I mean literally writing down whatever comes to mind, getting it out of your body and onto the paper. It could literally just be "I hate this I hate this" repeated over and over, if that's what you're feeling. Just get it out. I've found that it helps a lot with the nagging feeling of nervousness and anxiety.

Make little changes. My depression will often convince me that activities I used to really enjoy are now too stressful or boring or I'm just too tired to try. Sometimes it helps for me to make little changes to the activity. I will move my laptop to another part of the room to play a game. I will sit on a pillow on the floor to watch a movie instead of on the sofa. Little things like that. I realize this sounds ridiculous, but sometimes it can trick my brain into believing I'm doing something 'new and exciting', and tip me over the edge into action.

Start small. As jkd_sd already mentioned, aiming small can really make a difference. For example, I'll tell myself I will just get up and make myself some tea, and that's all I need to do. It gets me up off the sofa or the bed and often that's all I need to 'get going'. Action triggers action.

Shift your focus to someone else. This one is really tough for me since I tend to isolate, but when I do manage to do it, it almost always brings a bit of relief. The idea is to get my mind off myself and distract it by talking to a friend or to someone online. Preferably actually talking instead of chatting(typing). It gets me out of my head, which usually helps with my anxiety.

Everyone is different, and what works for me might not work for you, but I thought I'd share in case you'd like to give it a try. Wishing you all the best, and hope you can find a little peace today.




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Thanks @jkd_sd@Atra@justannabelle

Those are some good suggestions. I do have a lot on my mind, so when I am idle all those worries come flooding in. I need to address how I respond to these worries (family, job). Working from home has been difficult because it is too quiet and isolating. One big factor too is that the antidepressants I was on for years no longer work, and I have been much more sensitive to things, that really amps up the anxiety. Thanks again for the advice, its comforting to know people are out there listening 🙂

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I look at free time and scream.  I always have to have some distraction even if it's just tv.  There's no such thing as vacation where I can set everything aside and enjoy myself.  There's always some worry eating at me no matter what!

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