A chronically-ill lady's top tips/tricks/advice on working from home, self-care, planning & organisation, and other miscellaneous bits and bobs. Enjoy! T
This thread is going to take me a while, just fyi. I sat last night and tried to make a list of things I want to include in this but it's A Lot. It might come in dribs and drabs because I've been very fatigued the past few days but I'm working on it!
During this time, I'm happy to answer any questions people might have or give any advice or do anything in my power to help. I'm by no means an 'expert' in anything at all but I wanted to share my experience and things I've learned over the past years of working from home 💖
First, a disclaimer: the flexibility and ability to work from home is a privilege. My Masters degree is 100% research-based, so I can do the majority of it from home (unless I need books/printing or if I'm meeting my supervisors). My undergrad had a lot of flexibility too.
I've never had a job with this degree of flexibility - reasonable adjustments have been sorted for me while in my workplace instead. I've only ever done uni work from home but this is a full-time commitment for me.
If you are unwell, either with COVID or another illness (physical or mental), you're not coping, or you have caring responsibilities - productivity comes second! This is a huge change to our routines and if you're able to relax, do so!
Also don't get roped into the capitalist nonsense that is 'use this time to catch up on lots of work' or other mantras that glorify constant productivity at the expense of everything else/want you to turn your home into a work environment. Of course it is 100% okay to use this...
...time to your advantage or to learn new skills, but also remember that your mental health is more important. We're in the middle of a global crisis, you're allowed to feel that stress/anxiety and it's normal not to function 'business as usual.'
Hello again! I'm going to pick this back up again; I've been diligently noting down things to include but getting too stressed that I'll forget something that I don't even start writing. But, I need to just bite the bullet and stop thinking so much! So here we go 🤘🏻
A wee bit about me and my experience working from home: I have diagnosed ME/CFS, chronic migraines, GAD, panic disorder, clinical depression & obsessive compulsive personality disorder. These conditions often necessitate either adjustments or fully working from home.
Through learning to co-exist with my poor health over several years, I've developed what I consider to be good systems, organisation and self-care when working in my own home. I'm incredibly lucky that I'm able to work from home, it's a privilege not everyone is afforded.
Each health concern affects my motivation, abilities & mood in different ways so it's important that I'm attuned to my mind & body, can pinpoint what's affecting me that day, and then adjust accordingly.
Depression/low mood: manifests as lack of motivation and self-esteem (i.e. what is the point of doing anything, I'm useless anyway, I just want to hide away and be sad)
Anxiety/panic: my mind goes 100 miles an hour and my concentration is inhibited by the thousands of panicked thoughts going through my brain.
Migraine: I medicate every day for my chronic migraines (I'm prescribed amitriptyline, which has worked literal magic) and it's rare for me to get a migraine now (I still get mild-moderate headaches but they're different). If I get a migraine, I physically cannot work...
...because my vision is significantly impacted. I already have very bad eyesight and a serious astigmatism so if I try to look at screens I'll be in tremendous amounts of pain if I already have a migraine. In these rare instances, I have to write off any work and just...
...lie down in a dark room. If I get a headache, I'll medicate (I used to be prescribed solpadol and naproxen for this purpose but my headaches now go away with over the counter painkillers) and apply Tiger Balm/4head and take things slowly, that normally does the trick.
OCPD: this is my 'main' MH issue (my anxiety, panic & depression stem from this). It manifests as clinical perfectionism, strict rules, constantly-increasing standards, punishment, low self-worth, procrastination out of fear of imperfection, and lots of other unpleasantness.
A lot of the effects of OCPD can be experienced by anybody trying to be productive:
CYCLE 1: try to do task - tell self it needs to be perfect - don't start task out of fear it won't be perfect - procrastinate - rush task & don't meet standard - low self-esteem/punishment
CYCLE 2: try to do task - task takes ages because of overchecking behaviour - intense scrutiny means losing sight of bigger picture - standard isn't met or task isn't finished - low self-esteem/punishment
CYCLE 3: try to do task - task takes a long time but gets finished at the expense of all other facets of life - task is done to high standard and receives praise - perfectionist behaviour is validated & high standard is revised - brief 'high' from good job then back to beginning
These are the typical cycles of perfectionism that I get stuck in when I'm trying to work. I'm much better now at managing my OCPD but I still slip up. Last month I got an extension on a soft deadline because any time I tried to write I panicked that it wouldn't be perfect.
ME/CFS: this affects my mobility & concentration. Depending on how my body feels, I will work from home but still be somewhat mobile, I'll work at my desk, or I'll work from my bed. Brain fog is a side effect of both my mental & physical health problems as well as my medication.
I want to go into these a little more re. things that I find help them but I want to note that some days my health just has to take priority. I know my body and mind well and I know when they need rest - if I can, I will rest them and put work to the side until I feel better.
Rest, self-care, and sustenance are NOT things that need to be earned nor are you weak for needing/wanting them. We're all only human and we cannot operate 24/7 at optimum efficiency like robots. We need rest, creative stimulation, entertainment, food, water, comfort.
We're living through an unprecedented pandemic right now too - if you're not as efficient or can't concentrate as much as you normally would, THAT IS OKAY! Please, please be kind to yourself. You can't work under those forced conditions.
Plus, from a productivity perspective, you can't be efficient if you're not well-rested and well-fueled. You need a balance of work and rest, high-energy and low-energy, stimulating and non-stimulating. Time spent not working isn't time wasted - it is necessary & healthy.
The other day I shared a big list of useful resources - for general mental health aid, crisis contacts, and some nice Instagram pages I like for when the internet feels really loud. You can find it here: https://twitter.com/HollyLMckenna/status/1241384965461377024?s=19
Hello - I'm finally coming back to this thread & it's probably gonna be a long one. I haven't felt quite myself for a few days and a lot of my bad OCPD behaviours have taken over, so it's been difficult to manage. My dad is still going to work every day and I worry about him too.
So, a bit of context. I don't want any of the advice I give in this thread to come across wrongly so I feel like I should explain myself a bit. If you're not familiar with OCPD, it's a personality disorder (sometimes called Anankastic Personality Disorder) which manifests as...
...various compulsive behaviours which tend to be clinically perfectionistic in nature. People with OCPD/APD tend to have a very rigid view of how they do things, very high standards for themselves & very little flexibility. When I'm especially stressed or under pressure, these..
...behaviours often worsen, as is the case with lots of MH disorders. When things feel out of my control (i.e. a pandemic), I will try to exercise excessive levels of control over other things - my routine, my body, my standards for myself.
The way that I work, plan and organise my degree research is not how other people "have" to do it. The level of organisation and attention to detail that I strive to meet comes from my personality disorder (which took me a LONG time to come to terms with).
When I was studying for my final year undergraduate exams, I was also meeting with a psychiatrist. I made the decision to change how I worked during this period to test how I would work under less self-induced pressure and if my grades would slip as a result.
I didn't have to do this - I could've stuck to my extreme levels of cramming constantly, which tbh I wanted to do because it was familiar to me and I knew it worked. The way I plan and work now might still be considered extreme by other people but it is a HUGE improvement...
...from how I used to push myself to breaking point and punish myself for cracking. The point I'm trying to make is that you don't need to plan or organise to the extent that I do. The standards that I impose are completely internal and personal to me.
ANYWAY, now that I've explained myself a bit, I've been obsessing over how best to go about this thread. Initially I was going to do a 'day in the life' kind of thing where I went through my routine but it didn't work for me; so, instead I'm going to do different topics!
I think I'll touch on:
- planning & organisation
- flexibility & boundaries
- routines (morning & night)
- environment (noise, music, desk area)
- hobbies/side projects
- self-care
- bad days

If there's anything else you'd like me to talk about, let me know!
Planning is one of my favourite things to do and I try my best to keep a good routine with it, as OCPD can sometimes manifest as over-planning as procrastination from actually starting The Thing for fear you're not ready or it won't be perfect.
I dedicate each Sunday to rest, recuperation and planning ahead my week. I try not to do substantive work at the weekend where I can help it but I save Saturday as an 'overspill' day so if I don't get everything done I want to get done, I can finish on Saturday.
So, essentially, my week goes:
MON: work & normal routine
TUE: "
WED: "
THU: "
FRI: "
SAT: overspill day - finish any unfinished tasks from Mon-Fri
SUN: rest and planning day
Keeping Saturday as overspill also gives me some much-needed flexibility. I used to plan work for every single day of the week and would give myself huge amounts to do, so when I inevitably didn't finish it all I'd have no buffer zone, would fall behind & berate/punish myself.
Sunday being dedicated to planning & rest is also part of this flexibility. It means I have a day to set myself up for the week ahead, catch up on sleep if I need to, and means that I have some time off from working to plan what I want to work on next.
My planning consists of:
- a general weekly plan
- a reading list
- a self-care plan
- daily general plan (done in the AM of each day)
- daily journal
- lots of colour-coding
- some other misc. bits and bobs that I'll share below
You can follow @HollyLMckenna.
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