When You Work at Home

More and more people are telecommuting and working as freelancers. If you're one of them, you enjoy some special benefits, but you also have some problems specific to your situation. Depression may want to keep you in bed or otherwise occupied, but you can overcome these tendencies with some special strategies.

Start Simply

Get dressed. Your goal for the day, as you begin to work through the dark clouds, can be as simple as getting out of bed and getting dressed for work. Depression or not, working at home takes a considerable amount of mental discipline. It's easy to do anything but what you're supposed to be doing.

If you're feeling good, you may decide to organize a closet instead of sitting down at the computer. If you're not feeling good, you may want to roll over and go back to sleep. Here's where you need a little help.

You probably feel better as the day goes on, so get your clothes ready the afternoon before. Put them within eyesight of the bed. In the morning, you won't have to waste energy deciding what to wear or even if to wear. Get out of your pajamas or your nightgown, and climb into your work clothes. You're going to feel a little stupid crawling back to bed when you're dressed for the office. Since you're up and dressed, might as well move on to the next thing. Leave the bedroom.

Alert

Don't mix your work areas and your play areas. Keep your work where it belongs — in your home office. Likewise, keep the distractions in your office to a minimum. Balance is key to managing your work, your life, and not so coincidentally — getting one up on depression.

Reward Yourself

Promise yourself a treat for getting ready for work. Schedule a massage, brew a pot of really good coffee, pencil in a run after work — whatever you'd like that will keep you on track. You're going to need to build in plenty of rewards for yourself, as you accomplish your goals. And you know what? You deserve every one of them!

Avoid Extra Responsibilities

Soon enough, you'll feel like tackling more than what's on your plate. This is not the time to ask for that extra portion. Deal with what's at hand, do the best you can, and let the extra helpings wait until later. There's always time for the extras. Right now, you are what's the main course.

Make a Schedule

Don't rely on your memory right now. Write everything down. You should have a notepad and pencil easily accessible at all times. Carry a little spiral notebook and stubby pencil in your pocket. Each morning, as you sit down at the computer, transfer the important information — dates and times — to your personal calendar. With the schedule in front of you, you'll stay on track and have a visual record of your accomplishments. Success breeds success. Success also helps elevate your mood and allows you to get more done. It's a happy circle, not a vicious one.

Essential

When you're on antidepressant medications, it's important to have your blood levels checked on a regular basis. This will tell your doctor if your dosage is at optimal levels and will also alert her to any potential side effects, especially regarding problems with liver functions. Antidepressants can require some fine tuning before they get you humming along.

Make Time Your Friend

You may not feel that you're making much progress, but you're too close to the situation. Realize that even as you're making steady progress, there will be days when you feel that you're slipping backwards. Acknowledge those feelings, and if they persist for more than a couple of days, contact your psychotherapist or physician.

Whether you're working at home or outside the home, unless the building is on fire, or somebody's leg is caught in the paper shredder, those office “emergencies” probably aren't. You're not at the top of your form right now and snap decisions aren't going to be a snap for you. Learn the following sentence and repeat as often as necessary: “I'll get back to you on that.” With those seven words, you've acknowledged the question or situation, accepted your part in coming up with some answer, and made a promise to follow through. What more could anyone want? And when you do follow through, your credibility gets a nice boost.

Reframing Your World

Keep it positive. The best conversations, and quite probably the most intelligent, will be those you have with you. Become your own personal coach and develop a few handy and useful affirmations that will see you through the more difficult times at the old salt mill:

  • I know what I'm doing.

  • I'm an intelligent and productive person.

  • No one can take away my talents, capabilities, and expertise.

  • In a thousand years (or less, if I'm lucky) this pain in the butt will be dust.

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