If you think that being a beauty freelancer looks like something out of Sex And The City, then perhaps I’m doing the whole work from home thing wrong. Yes, trying out new hair, makeup, and skin products makes me feel glamorous at times, but in reality I’m typically decked out in pajama tops, sweatpants, and a makeup-free face. And in the four years I’ve worked from home, there have been occasions when the seclusion made me feel one step away from becoming Jack Torrance in The Shining.
OK, so I am definitely not going to become an axe murderer, but I am no stranger to feelings of anxiety and depression, as I’ve struggled with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder for as long as I can remember. This, of course, has made me drawn to the freelance writing lifestyle, as I’ve been able to manage my symptoms through countless therapy sessions and still have time to work from home a full day. However freelancing definitely has its setbacks. The lack of social interaction can be very isolating.
“Depression and anxiety seems to be a growing topic of discussion among freelancers, with more and more people noticing the impact their work situation has on their mental health,” says Lindsay Henderson, Psy.D, a psychologist who treats patients virtually via LiveHealth Online. “It is not uncommon for people to notice feelings of depression, isolation, or anxiety when working from home.”
While it may be great to wear pajama pants and skip out on the morning rush, a little bit of structure can actually help combat these feelings of loneliness. “The process of getting ready for the day and commuting to your place of work—though something that many of us often dread—helps to signal your brain that it is time to start the day and get to work,” adds Henderson. And when your home and work environment become blurred, giving your brain cues that separate work and relaxation time can be helpful.
This is what a typical day working from home looks like for me.
While I don’t work in an office, I’m usually at my desk at home, juggling deadlines and trying to keep my inbox under control. This means my use of makeup is slim to minimal—I’m more of a sheet mask kind of girl. I basically roll out of bed, throw on some sweats, and get to work. I usually save full-face makeup for days that require me to leave the house for events or appointments. But for one week, I decided to kick-start my day with fun, new makeup looks to signal the beginning of my workday and hopefully help manage my mood.
Clinical psychologist Annette Nunez, LMFT, Ph.D, founder of Breakthrough Interventions and creator of Forty Forty Vision, acknowledges the power of makeup. For some people it can be a quick and easy confidence booster to help set the mood for the day. “When [you] feel confident, [you] begin to attract positive people and circumstances into [your] life,” she says. “Confidence always leads to a healthier and happier lifestyle.”
Now, makeup by no means is an adequate substitute for professional treatment, but actress Elizabeth Taylor once said to “put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.” So I figured I would give this concept a try. For one week, I got dolled up every day in hopes that it would give me the put-together feeling Liz seemed to have mastered. The results weren’t exactly as I expected (not surprisingly, makeup isn’t a cure-all), but I did learn some important lessons during the whole deal.
1. Putting on makeup in the morning helped occupy my mind, leaving less room for anxious thoughts.
I usually start my morning doing mindless things like looking at cat GIFs or taking online quizzes, but this allowed me to do something more constructive. Yes, it’s true that taking thirty minutes to do a cat-eye or paint on a red lip didn’t enhance my productivity, but it did give me a fun and unique task to start the day. Note: A bold lip color is more confidence-boosting than a nude. The process of putting on makeup gave my over-anxious brain a distraction from the usual feelings of dread I get in the morning, but it didn’t completely erase my inner anxious chatter.
2. Ditching sweatpants for real clothes was another mood booster.
To up the stakes of the experiment, I tried revving up my wardrobe on day three to see what kind of effect it would have on my mood. Opting for a ’90s-inspired ensemble (including pigtails and a choker) totally made me feel like a Clueless extra that could conquer anything. Again, this didn’t totally squash the intrusive thoughts I deal with on a daily basis, but the change of dress helped me feel more put-together than the baggy sweatpant rut I usually find myself in. Overall, I felt more confident and productive. It turns out my baggy sweats may have been affecting my mood more than I previously thought.
According to the experts, a change of dress can be very influential on our mood. “When we put on a piece of clothing, we cannot help but take on some of the characteristics connected with it,” says Henderson. “Although it can be tempting to stay in sweats, your mood may end up reflecting this slouchy and casual outfit choice.” In my case, a change of outfit reminded me to stay strong and complete the tasks ahead of me.
3. It’s not so much about the specific makeup or clothing picks, it’s about the routine.
Wearing makeup and dressing before my workday really helped me switch gears from sleep mode to work mode. Sure, a good cup of tea gets me going in the morning, but putting more effort into my appearance is even more helpful. “Showering, getting dressed in clothes, and blow-drying your hair can be crucial in waking up the body and brain,” adds Henderson. Even on the days when I don’t leave the house, putting more effort into my appearance is definitely a great way to keep my mind on track.
And there’s one other way that freelancers can deal with isolation.
Experimenting with new makeup looks definitely was a fun challenge for me, but it wasn’t exactly the cure to manage my long-standing feelings of anxiety. OCD is a big part of my life. And while there are ways to manage my symptoms, it’s not just going to magically disappear. Putting on makeup and real clothes gave me a nice push forward, but it’s hard to deny that working from home is nothing short of isolating, making the need for social interaction a great one.
“Make sure you are prioritizing social connections and planning for social activities when you can. Join a book club to connect with peers face-to-face on an intellectual level,” says Henderson. “If you have any friends who also work at home, see if they’d be up for meeting for lunch, a walk, or even working side by side for the afternoon to help keep each other on track.”
While I may not be a social butterfly, I do recognize that socialization is something I definitely need more of in my life. So I’m on the hunt for fellow freelancers who want to meet up to talk sheet masks, writer’s block cures, and favorite pajama pants—I might even put on a bit of makeup for the occasion.
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