As the world becomes more digital, many of us are working from home. Some of us freelance, others telecommute, and still others have dedicated themselves to full-time caretaking. While working from home has many advantages, if you have depression, anxiety, or both, they can turn into disadvantages quickly if you are not careful. Working from home can be lonely, and it makes overworking or turning your whole life into your work-space very real problems. While the solutions below are essential for those with depression and anxiety, they are good solutions for anyone struggling with a stay-at-home lifestyle.
Working from home, even if you’re telecommuting for one company, can be a lonely gig. Working as a full-time caretaker gives you company, but not necessarily companionship. Without peers and colleagues to bounce ideas off of, gripe with, or share successes, working from home can become isolation and add to symptoms of depression. Without measuring your work against regular benchmarks, it’s easy to become anxious that you’re not doing enough, as well.
Solution: Create your own social group.
If you telecommute, maybe some of your co-workers live nearby. Even if not, creating a social group with them online where you can talk to each other without discussing work is an easy way to develop friendships and build camaraderie among your colleagues. Look into and take advantage of community events;. public libraries often host a variety of events for business-minded adults, for instance. As a writer, I was delighted to discover that our library hosted write-ins during the month of November in support of National Novel Writing month – and I didn’t miss a single one.
Stay at home parents can join mommy and me workout groups, or take their children to music or tumbling classes. Once the kids are in school, parents can volunteer for field trips or school events. Additionally, attending PTA meetings or community events for full-time caretakers is a great way to find out how others deal with the same daily struggles and triumphs that come along with that role. If leaving the house is a struggle, then turning to online communities can be a good way to get that same interaction.
When making social commitments, keep track of them as though they are a part of your job. If you have to cancel, then try to reschedule as soon as possible, or at least make sure you acknowledge the cancellation. Nurture the relationships you already have instead of adding to your isolation.
When your office is your home, it’s easy to keep working as long as you’re awake. If you don’t set limits on your workday, then you can easily become consumed by your work obligations and start ignoring other elements of your life–time with family or friends, and taking care of yourself and your home can easily become low priority when you’ve got a million deadlines looming. Suddenly you’re not taking care of yourself, you may even forget to take your medications or go too long without showering. It’s also very easy to neglect your sleep schedule and/or skip meals when you’re not paying attention.
Solution: Create a Work Schedule
Treat work like you would if you HAD an office – that is, create a work schedule and stick to it. Personally, I work better if I sleep a little later and stay up past the conventional work day. That means my workday lasts from 10am-7pm. Sometimes I take a break when my fiancé comes home from work, but that means I stay up later and work to make up for lost time. I do my best to disconnect from social media during those hours, and leave my phone out of arm’s reach, just like I would if I were working in an office. If I get up a little late and have to make breakfast “during work”, I eat at my desk instead of watching television, as my work day has already begun.
I have to admit I’m guilty of skipping meals every now and again. In order to combat this, I make sure we have meal bars or easy-to-make food in the house so that I minimize that risk. And no matter where I am when my fiancé comes home from work, if he’s making dinner, I take a break and join him.
While working from home, no matter your role, self-care must become part of your job. Whether you struggle with a mental illness or not, self-care is essential and should be part of your daily routine, making it easier to integrate into your stay-at-home schedule.
When you break away from your job that means no work tasks are allowed. Lunch breaks, even when working in an office, are proven to help with socialization and productivity. Stepping away from a nagging task or just the monotony of the work day and giving your mind time to rest will help you reset for when you return. Breaks can be anything from watching an episode of your favorite show to taking a walk around the block to going to a coffee shop and treating yourself to a Frappuccino. Just make sure you treat it like a lunch break and give yourself a set time to return to your desk.
If parenting or caretaking is your full time job, then you absolutely must make time for yourself. Pick up a new hobby, or dedicate yourself to an old one, and request that you get time to yourself while working on it. If you have a partner, ask if they will take care of the kids while you enjoy a hot bath, some quiet time to read, or an hour at the gym. If you don’t have that option, then you’ll need to be a bit more creative. Finding “me” time as a single parent is a bit more difficult, but certainly possible with a few adjustments to your daily schedule. Parents should also do their best not to overbook themselves – especially in a multi-child household. Don’t be afraid to say no! You can’t help anyone if you’re down for the count.
Problem: Work/Life Imbalance
Working from home can also mean that you treat the whole house like your office. It’s easy to stay in pajamas, drag your feet to the couch and sit down with your computer in the same space where you lounge at the end of the day. If this is the case, you’re more likely to keep working well past your “work day” schedule (because now you’ve created one) and lose track of time. If you don’t separate your workspace from your life space in some way, it can affect everything from your mood to your sleep schedule, making depression and anxiety even worse.
Solution: Create a Designated Work Space Separate from the Rest of the House
In a best case scenario to this problem, you will have an office with a door that you can close for your work hours. Being in this space will signal to you and to others that you’re at work, and it will help you focus and be more productive. If you don’t have a whole room for working, then creating a work “space” separate that isn’t used for anything else is a close runner-up. Maybe there’s a desk in the kitchen where only your work files go, or a corner of the living room where you keep your computer and books related to your job. If you absolutely have to improvise, then almost everything can be compromised on but one thing: get out of your pajamas. Getting dressed in the morning signals to your body that sleep time is over, and work time is up next. This doesn’t mean you have to sit at your dining room table in a suit, but you should at least put on jeans and a clean shirt.
If your home is not conducive to work, then take your computer to a local coffee shop or diner and work there – either with or without headphones. Local libraries also offer quiet places to work and, once you get a library card, you can often access their computers and digital files if you don’t have one of your own. Separating your workspace from the rest of your life helps signal to your mind and body that there are still different modes in your life, and keeps you from getting distracted when you’re trying to relax or spend “me time”.
If you’re the caretaker, then get out of the house when you can! I can’t overemphasize the importance of your local library enough, as they will likely have programming for kids or elderly members of the community.
Local playgrounds and parks are also great distractions, or ways to get out and get fresh air. Create somewhere in the home that is just for you, whether it’s a meditation space or a reading nook, and make sure the family knows not to bother you while you’re there.
If you are working from home and struggling with depression or anxiety, the best advice is to always talk to your doctor first. While there’s plenty you can do to combat these illnesses, a medical professional will have more information on the symptoms and what may be causing them. As Telepsychiatry becomes more popular, it is certainly a viable option for those of us who work from home. Talking to a medical professional over skype or on the phone is a very easy way to take care of ourselves without sacrificing our workday. Talk to a doctor today if you think telepsychiatry is the right option for you.
Bratskier, Kate. “Eating Lunch at Your Desk is Terrible for You and Your Work,” Huffington Post; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/eating-lunch-at-your-desk_us_56d0847fe4b0bf0dab31debd.
Gray, Sherry. “How to Work From Home Without Losing Your Mind,” Entrepreneur; https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/253800.
The National Sleep Foundation. “5 Things You Should Not Do in Your Bedroom,” Valley Sleep Center; http://valleysleepcenter.com/5-things-you-shouldnt-do-in-your-bedroom-2/.
Stanger, Melissa. “10 Tips for Working Effectively At Home,” Business Insider; http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-be-more-productive-working-from-home-2012-9?op=1/#-leave-work-at-the-end-of-the-day-10.
Wolf, Jennifer. “Me Time For Single Parents,” About Parenting. http://singleparents.about.com/od/singleparentlife/tp/me_time.htm.