I’m not new to the work-from-home scene. I’ve been a freelance book editor for nearly four years. I started a profile and took on jobs when I could, gradually progressing from a free-time thing, to a part-time job, and finally a full-time occupation. Granted, when job boards are barren, I spend a lot more time drinking coffee and looking for jobs than actually editing. I am fortunate enough to be married, and my husband makes enough for us to stay afloat when things are slow. My dream one day is to have a higher, steady income from editing books, maybe working directly and solely with a publisher. *sighs longingly while taking another sip from my first mug of the day.*
Anyway, I’ve written a post or two in the past year about starting a freelance gig or trying to get work from home on platforms like Upwork, but I thought I’d sit down and write about some of the challenges that crop up psychologically after spending so many weeks, then months, sitting at home in front of a computer screen or tablet.
The first thing, which I’ve mentioned before but want to reiterate if you’ve not been here before, is that you’ve got to have a routine to replace the commute you used to have. What I mean by that is a transition to mark when you’re “at work” and when you’re “off work.” In the old days, you got up to an alarm, maybe made coffee or stopped at a drive-thru, then spent a few minutes in traffic listening to the news on the radio before parking, walking in to the building where you work, then engaging with morning routines there. Say hello to this or that coworker, share some updates, check email, grab a refill of coffee, get ready to try and stay awake during the meeting at 9 a.m., etc.
With everything happening at home, you don’t have that clear delineation of “this is me at work” versus “this is me relaxing at home.” Oftentimes, you are perfectly capable of feeling relaxed while you’re sitting at your pc. You’ve stayed in your pajamas, got your coffee from your private coffee pot that you can (and will) refill a few times throughout the day just for you, just the way you like it. Sounds ideal in theory, right? But after a while, you might have noticed that it gets really hard to get up in the morning at the same time. You don’t have that demand on your body telling you, “ok, if you leave now, you’ll have exactly 22 minutes. It’s Monday, so people will be out slightly later. The line at Starbucks shouldn’t be too bad…” Instead, you’re not worried necessarily about shoveling your car out of the snow or making sure you’re up to start the engine a few minutes before you need to leave. You’ve got a meeting, but it’s happening virtually using Zoom, so you don’t really need to worry about morning routines and/or hygiene, right?
Wrong. And back to the routine comment. It is absolutely imperative (for a lot of people, at least) that you stick to a routine, even when you’re working from home and there are fewer demands on your time. Your mind and body need to know when it’s time to be on the ball and when it’s time for you to relax and decompress. You might find that if there is no clear separation here, you are pretty sluggish throughout the day and you find that there is never that morning point when you feel the regular “ok, time to work” sensations. Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to create the routine and return your body to some level of normalcy, even if you’re playing tricks on yourself.
First, get dressed. Even if you have absolutely zero human interactions in a workday, trust me, put on something nice like you might if you were going into the office, do your hair a little, brush your teeth, put on your deodorant. Ladies, put on some cute boots and put on those earrings you got but haven’t been able to wear out in public yet because they get tangled in your mask! Just try it and see how it makes you feel. Say to yourself, this is me getting ready to be productive and show up for me. I don’t need other people around to impress.
Second, eat something in the morning. Don’t just sit there and drink coffee until 1 or 2 p.m. This is something I struggle with a lot. But I definitely notice a difference if I can just get myself to eat a banana or something else nutritious, however small. Your body will turn on you if you start to mess with the routine of eating regularly and making good choices. It will be so easy to slip into this starve/binge cycle that puts on pounds over time. Make it easy. Prep your breakfast to be something you’ll look forward to and that will take just minutes to prepare. And remember, I’m not talking about a four-course breakfast with omelets and pancakes and bacon…but if that’s what will make you happy, go for it! (Just maybe not every day)
Third (and this is loose depending on what works for you), when you are done working for the day, take a hot shower, change out of your “work” clothes, and put on something comfy for the evening. This is one of the most joyous rituals of my day. This is how I say to my body and mind, “good work today, now it’s time to decompress.” If you have some favorite wind-down activities, let yourself look forward to that as something separate from your work day. Also, try to have your relax time somewhere separate from your work time. This is definitely something that will be different for everyone depending on your space. I have a hard time with this because I work and play in the same place (video games). But I definitely make time away from my pc every day just to sit down and talk with my husband, read, do a yoga class, or watch a movie.
And that brings us to the last tip that was on my mind this morning, Figure out something you can do for you, in a self-care way, and make time for that. I discovered yoga a few months ago and have since been streaming classes online out of a local yoga studio. If you have the space in your home, I definitely recommend something like this. But you could also just find a nice, quiet place to walk, or put on those headphones to drown out the noise if quiet isn’t an option. Read a book, engage with an old hobby that you just “haven’t had time for” lately. Tell yourself this is important; it isn’t just a luxury. You have to take care of yourself in all facets in order to function regularly at a level that is satisfying and comfortable. If every day feels like dragging an enormous weight around, then this is probably a step that you’re skipping. I know shit is hard right now, and you are probably telling yourself to suck it up. Maybe you can’t adjust your routine because you’re barely making ends meet as it is. You can tell people like me to fuck off, and I understand that. Or, maybe you know that just taking baby steps now will lead to a better mindset over time.
Try just taking two seconds in the morning to say something like, “I can do this. It can try, but life isn’t going to fucking beat me. This is my life. It might be hard right now, but I’m working to make my life what I want it to be.”
Ok, I’ll shut up now. Thank you for reading, and I hope your day doesn’t suck too bad today.