A few months ago, I came across this comical piece from the New Yorker about working from home. It’s hilarious, mostly because it’s a little too accurate.
Everyone who works from home is at risk of getting sucked into a vortex of unstructured-ness, a wormhole of “I have nowhere to go, nobody to see, no one to answer to.” And on the other side of that wormhole is a person who has eaten an entire box of Thin Mints in ten minutes, has binge-watched three seasons of Law and Order, and hasn’t showered in three full days.
But what if you’re like me? What if you work from home and deal with preexisting depression? Working from home is great, but the lack of structure doesn’t mesh so well with depression. They compound on each other – and then it’s worse. Then you’ve eaten two boxes of Thin Mints, haven’t turned off the TV in 78 hours, haven’t moved from the couch all day, haven’t brushed your teeth in a week, and can’t remember the last time you actually got any work done.
Working from home can be very rewarding, but it can make pushing through depressive episodes even harder than usual. Here are a few basic, simple things I do to reclaim some small amount of humanness after days of work-from-home exacerbated depression.
When you’re clean, you will feel more human. I promise.
2. If you can’t shower…
Showering might be way too much effort, and I get that. If you can’t shower, try to clean up in other ways. Brush your teeth, wash your face, use dry shampoo, and put on deodorant. Even the illusion of cleanliness can help. Do whatever you can manage without wearing yourself out.
3. Drink a glass of water.
Even one glass of water will help. Hydration is so important! Eight glasses a day might be out of reach, but one glass is better than none.
4. Change your clothes.
When I’m struggling, I wear my pajamas all week. Even if I shower, I change back into the same pajamas after. Don’t follow my example. Even if you take off your pajamas and change into a different pair of pajamas, that’s fine! Just try to change your clothes once a day, or once every other day.
Eat, but don’t eat an entire box of Thin Mints in one sitting. Eat something easy but nutritious. Cheese and crackers. An apple with peanut butter. A handful of grapes. Some carrot sticks. Nourishing your body, if you can, might help you find a bit of energy.
6. Call someone.
Working from home can be isolating, and that can exacerbate depression. Call your best friend, call your mom – call someone who lifts you up. If you don’t like phone calls (#anxiety) a text is better than nothing. Do your best to reach out and experience a manageable amount of human interaction.
7. Spend time with a pet.
Pets are awesome. Pets don’t judge. Pets love unconditionally. I have two pet rats, Ethel and Doris, and just having them sit in my lap or on my shoulder for a while helps ease my depression. If you don’t have pets of your own, ask a friend or relative if you can visit their pets. When I feel like cuddling with something bigger than my rats, I go to my brother’s house to pet his dog. Animals have amazing healing powers.
8. Change your sheets.
Crisp, clean sheets are revitalizing. They smell better and feel better. If you don’t have the energy to wash and change your sheets, try changing just your pillow cases. Clean pillow cases will make your whole bed feel fresher, and help you avoid acne breakouts on your face.
9. Open the blinds.
If going outside is too much to handle, opening the blinds and letting a bit of sunlight in might help. Being able to see outside might help you keep track of time, too. Knowing when the sun rises and sets is a good way to orient yourself if you’re depressed and spend most of the day napping (like me) with no real sense of time or schedule.
10. Watch something funny.
I love drama. I can binge Criminal Minds or SVU like nobody’s business. But when I’m struggling with my depression, the last thing I should be doing is watching something serious and sad (as tempting as it is). Try watching something funny, instead, like a favorite cartoon, sitcom, or stand-up special. Laughter is another thing that might help you feel more human.
Ultimately, these are things that help me combat my depression. Feel free to give these tips a shot – but if you know these methods aren’t for you, that’s fine. Do what you need to do to get yourself back on your feet. If working from home is what you really want to do, you can find a way to make it happen.