10 Ways to Resist Depression When You Work from Home

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.

1. Shower.

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.

5. Eat.

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.

 

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How I Prepared To Work From Home

So, I’m a full-time freelancer now. I’m self-employed, working from home, setting my own schedule – free as a bird. It took a lot of courage and a lot of preparation to make the switch, and I’m still working at it. I’ll always be working at it. Keeping my freelance career alive is going to be constant work.

Here are just a few of the preliminary steps I took to prepare myself to work from home full-time.

I established a brand.

That’s right. Allie Racette: Freelance Writing, Editing, and Content Marketing. My business cards don’t say the right thing, but they will when I run out and have an excuse to print new ones with updated information. (In my defense, when I first designed my business cards, I had absolutely no intention of going full-time freelance.)

Anyway. I think I’ll write a full post about branding in the future, but here are a few bullet points to tide you over:

  • Develop a website.
  • Stay active on social media channels.
  • Know your audience.
  • Market yourself.
  • Publish relevant content.

I fixed up my home office.

I wanted to work from home, so I needed somewhere in my home to work – other than my couch, my favorite chair, or my bed. I’m lucky enough to have an apartment with an extra room big enough to hold my desk, my printer, my books, and the rest of my home business paraphernalia. But my desk was a mess for months and months while I was busy working my office job. So, I cleaned it up. Dedicating a space for work helped me find the motivation to sit down and focus on my writing. See the before and after of my desk clean-up here: CLICK!

I identified sources of income.

Working from home isn’t going to be easy. I don’t have a small business, I don’t have a product to sell – I’m a freelancer. And I need to make money, somehow, by writing and editing from the comfort of my apartment. I spent some time brainstorming, and came up with a few things:

  • writing and editing jobs via Upwork
  • writing articles for local publications
  • writing tutoring services for local college students

The key is to maintain multiple streams of income. If I have one client I’m doing consistent editing for, and suddenly that client doesn’t have anymore editing for me to do – well, I’m shit out of luck. If I have multiple clients, losing one won’t completely sink me. Hopefully.

I learned a lot about taxes.

When you’re self-employed, taxes S-U-C-K. I was perfectly happy filling out my 1040EZ form last filing season, because I’m single, and I have no dependents – but now, I’ve doomed myself to a future of hideously complicated taxes. Or, at least, more complicated than the taxes I’m used to.

I’ve done a lot of Googling in the past month. I’ve opened a second checking account to manage my freelancing expenses. And I’ve learned about deductions. It’s all about deductions, my freelancing friends. I’ve read many, many articles about what I can and can’t deduct as a freelancer, and I’m sure I’ll read many, many more. A few of my favorites are these nice, simple lists from Quickbooks and Freelance Taxation, and these more in-depth resources from Forbes and Freelancers Union.

I quit my day job.

A little over a year ago, after just graduating from college and starting the transition to tumultuous post-grad life, I made a blog post (on another blog) about my post-grad plan. And I very generously offered my readers this advice: don’t quit your day job.

Well. Plans change, right?

So, I quit my comfy, consistent day job to give myself more time to pursue my writing. But, my advice to you isn’t to quit your day job – and it isn’t to keep it, either. My advice is to monitor your financial needs and adjust to your situation.

Right now, I have enough money saved up to support myself for a few months while I build a client base and establish myself as a freelancer. But, if I can’t pick up enough freelance work to cover all my monthly expenses – well, I’ll go get a part-time job. Working forty hours a week provided guaranteed income, but didn’t leave me enough time to focus on my freelancing. Working twenty hours a week, though, would give me guaranteed income and the extra time I need to freelance. Like everything else in life, it’s a balancing act.

If you’re considering becoming a full-time freelancer and working from home, prepare yourself for preparation. And if you’re already working from home – what are some of the steps you took to prepare?

What John Remembers

“I’ll write,” he promises. And he does.

The first postcard shows a mountain range, a picture captured on a clear day. A few wispy clouds drift by, but the landscape is still bright in the sun. When they’d hiked those mountains together, it had been thirty-five degrees, raining. Their sneakers had slipped on leaves, brown and red and yellow and blanketing the trail. They’d reached the summit covered in mud and laughing so hard their stomachs had ached.

John lies in his bunk and stares at the familiar scrawl. It’s a comfort, after a day spent in a torrent of enemy fire.

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John closes his eyes and thanks Gabriel for writing about simple, happy things.

On the second postcard, fireworks explode in blues, yellows, whites, reds, reflected in the ripples of the lake below. Every July 4th, John and Gabriel had sprawled in the sand and watched those fireworks, just the two of them, side by side, elbows brushing. Sometimes, instead of watching the fireworks, John had watched the way each burst shone in Gabriel’s light, light blue eyes. Sometimes, Gabriel had caught him watching, and snorted out a laugh.

John reads the card late on the evening of July 3rd. He hears an explosion in the distance.

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The postage stamp is an American flag. John vows to call Gabriel a dork when they finally see each other again.

John receives dozens of postcards. Toward Thanksgiving, Gabe sends an image of the Paul Revere house in Boston, where they’d taken a school field trip their junior year. It was the closest John had ever been to the ocean, before he’d been shipped overseas.

Near Christmas comes a picture of the frozen lake where they’d skated together many times over the years. John stares at the ice and the snow and tries to imagine it’s cold where he is.

Even when he remembers nothing else, John remembers the postcards.

He lives in a white room, with a bed and a chair and a table and not much else, and sometimes he forgets the time, and the day, and even his own name – but never the postcards.

On days he forgets, a kind woman with a soft smile and a softer voice hands him a box. Inside are the postcards – worn, smudged, stained. John lifts the cards from the box, one by one, with fingers that don’t feel like his own attached to hands that must be someone else’s. Through snapshots and friendly, nostalgic messages written in a scrawl that might have been familiar a very long time ago, John tries to reconstruct the life he’s forgotten.

Sometimes, a man sits across from him, and they sort through the postcards together.

“Do you remember this one, John?” the man might say. “Do you remember? It was Valentine’s Day, and we were both single, so I bought you flowers and you bought me chocolates and we went to these botanical gardens.” He taps the picture and snorts out a laugh. “Pretty romantic, if you ask me.”

John fights the urge to call him a dork, because it would be rude to call a complete stranger a dork.

Sometimes, clarity returns in tiny jolts, and John notices how tired the man looks. His face is distorted, blurry, as most faces are, but the tiredness is in the slope of his shoulders and the curve of his spine, in his gait when he walks and his voice when he speaks. When the man is tired, he says strange, sad things.

“I know you don’t remember, John. I know you don’t want to remember.”

“Just keep trying. For me.”

“You’re off somewhere else, blocking it all out, and you don’t remember me, or anything, and you probably don’t even remember yourself, sometimes.”

“We’ll get you back, John. I’ll get you back.”

“I won’t give up on you.”

It comforts John to know, even if he knows nothing else, that there is someone who won’t give up on him. On bad days – on the worst days – John feels like giving up on himself, whoever he is.

There are good days, too, when the sun is bright outside and John’s fingers and hands are his own, and the man sits beside him and they don’t even have to go through the postcards for John to remember. He remembers leaves and flowers and ice and the salty smell of the ocean. On the best days, John looks up into light, light blue eyes, and sees fireworks.

What’s She Reading? – January 18, 2017

I own a lot of books. Once upon a time, I read a lot of books. Lately, I’ve been buying a lot of books and leaving them to collect dust.

0118171709.jpgThis is my central book hub. It holds about 3/4 of my book collection (not including comics). As you can see, it’s beginning to overflow – because I have a habit of buying more and more books, even though I never read any of them.

“I don’t need more books,” I say to myself, as I walk into a bookstore. “I have plenty of books already,” I insist, as I pile my arms full of shiny new YA titles, a workout that leaves both my biceps and my wallet aching. “I’ll read these soon,” I promise, as I stack my purchases atop twenty other untouched adventures.

But I love reading. I really do. And I’m going to start reading again. Reading inspires my writing – I can’t be the writer I want to be if I don’t read.

So, here are five books – the first five on my 2017 reading list. After these, I’ll choose five more, and five more after that, and so on, and so forth, and – you get the idea.

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Mycroft Holmes – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

A Dog’s Purpose – W. Bruce Cameron

A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness

Tattoo Atlas – Tim Floreen

Hyperbole and a Half – Allie Brosh (on Kindle)

There they are. Wish me luck.

Oh, and let me know what books I should pick up next time I inevitably wander into a bookstore to spend money I don’t have!

3 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers (But Mostly for Me)

I know it’s been two weeks since January 1st, but bear with me. I’m still shaking off the holiday hangover.

1. Write more.

This is pretty obvious, right? Write. No matter how much I write, I’m never satisfied with how much I’ve produced, but lately (and for a while now) I’ve been writing next to nothing. I haven’t had the time. Forty hours a week takes a lot out of a person. So, in 2017, I’m going to write more.

2. Read more.

When I was a kid, I never stopped reading. I started reading Harry Potter when I was seven, started reading Lord of the Rings when I was eight. And reading taught me to write. The more I read, the more I learned about spelling, grammar, word choice, character development, storytelling. I learned to write from other writers by reading what other writers had written. But something (and hefty college textbooks are most likely the culprit) stopped me. It’s been ages since I’ve finished a book. The rows and rows of unread books on my shelves need some attention in 2017.

3. Take risks.

This is the real point of this post, I guess. Taking risks can mean different things to different people – and what’s considered “risky” can change throughout the course of a person’s life. Me getting behind the wheel of a car is a bit less risky now than it was when I was four years old (though, that’s probably debatable). For some people, taking a risk this year might mean writing a thriller when they usually write romance, or going to a movie alone when they’re usually too anxious to go without a group. These are worthwhile risks. They’re risks that will probably help a person grow.

My risk, this year, was a big one. For me.

I quit my job. My comfy, cozy, $14.00/hour, 9:00-5:00 (actually, 7:30-4:00, ew), safe, reliable desk job. Only, it wasn’t so comfy, and it wasn’t so cozy. Not for me; not at this point in my life. I’m 22. I’ll be 23 in just about three weeks. How can I already feel like I’m wasting my life when I’m not even one-third of the way through it, when I’ve only been able to drink legally for one-tenth of it, when I’ve spent all but one-fifth of it in school?

When I started, this job was a way to provide for myself, a way to keep my apartment and my car and my internet and my rats while I worked toward the life I wanted. I would go to work during the day, write during my free time. And I did go to work during the day – but I didn’t write.

I’ve been a writer since I learned how to hold a pencil, so how the hell have I spent so much time not writing?

I know it’s risky. I know it takes time to build up a freelancing career. I know my income won’t be as reliable as my not-so-comfy, not-so-cozy desk job.

But I don’t mind pinching pennies, as long as those pennies bring me joy.

Whatever your risk is, take it. If it helps you grow, if it’s good for you, if it brings you happiness – take a risk this year.

 

This Blog Is Looking Pretty Empty, So Here’s a Post

Step One of my (loosely structured) strategy to reclaim my authorial identity was to create this site. Done. Successful. Even one step can be a big accomplishment, if it’s a step in the right direction.

Step Three is to actually write something. I’ll work on that later.

Step Two was to reclaim my writing space, and I took that step this evening. Behold: my “office” when I got home this afternoon.

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Several months of persistent and omnipresent anxiety and depression robbed me of my writing space. I’m a notorious clutterbug, and when my mental health is less than optimal, the clutter consumes all. Anything without a place elsewhere in the apartment went straight to my writing desk – because, well, it’s not like I was actually using the desk to write.

My armchair in the living room (a monstrous, plush relic of the nineties, courtesy of my grandmother on my father’s side) is amazingly comfortable, but it’s not the sort of comfort that lends itself to productivity. It’s the sort of comfort that lends itself to Netflix and naps.

So, if I ever want to do this writing thing, I need my writing space.

Therefore, I cleaned. Behold: my office now.

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And yes, my diploma is wearing a bow tie. It’s my new role model for professionalism.

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Yes. Good.