8 Tips for Working from Home with Mental Illness
People with mental illness struggle with the same time management troubles, distraction dilemmas and isolation issues as others without mental illness.
With no time clock to punch and no boss monitoring your comings and goings, starting the day can be difficult, according to Deborah Serani, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and author of Living with Depression: Why Biology and Biography Matter along the Path to Hope and Healing. Or, just the opposite, you might work through your days and even on weekends, she said.
Working from home is tricky because it “requires a person to shift…from personal to professional mode,” Serani said. And that means a lot of self-discipline, which is regularly tested with piles of laundry and dirty dishes, she said.
Other sights and sounds also can pilfer productivity, she said. For Therese Borchard, author of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes, those distractions are her two lab-chow mutts, who ferociously bark at passersby, and a barrage of phone calls.
In addition to struggling with the same concerns, individuals managing a mental illness also grapple with unique challenges. Below, Borchard and Serani, who both live with mental illness, provide productivity pointers and share what works for them.
1. Create structure. Structure helps to create boundaries around work, home and play, which boosts productivity. Serani has been a self-employed psychologist and work-at-homer for almost 20 years, so she’s developed a good rhythm that keeps her productive. “I awaken the same time every day, and give myself two hours to get as much chore work and personal work done as I can.” Any tasks that are left get done after work.
2. Set realistic goals. Be sensible about what you can accomplish in a workday and at home, Serani said. “Living with a mental illness requires us to strive for well being each and every day,” she said. So it’s key to avoid overextending or overcommitting yourself to either home or work projects.
3. Map out your day. Productivity also requires a specific plan. For instance, Borchard writes down a task she needs to accomplish and approximately how much time it’ll take. Again, keep these goals reasonable. “I would give myself two to three hours to write a blog post. Some took longer, and others were easier,” said Borchard, who also writes the widely popular blog Beyond Blue.