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January 2021
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What I Learned About Working From Home from 10 Years on the Dole...

Now, I'm going to be the first person to say working at home is not the same thing as being stuck on the dole. For one thing, working from home definitely pays better, trust me on this (even with the supplements, working from home still pays much better than being on the dole), and this opens up a lot of options which weren't available for me when I was on Newstart. But there are a lot of similarities between being locked down to the one place by a COVID-19 lock down, and being locked down to one place by the sheer fact I can't afford to go anywhere or buy anything. So here's some of the tips I'm finding I'm recycling now I'm back in my bedroom a lot.

1) You have to have a routine

This is even more the case for when you don't have the distraction of a job than if you do - you need to have a routine, and a number of things that need doing, and you need to be able to deal with those things during the course of a day in order to give yourself a sense of having achieved things. This is where "to do" and "have done" lists come into their own - they're great for creating that sense of achievement, which is something a lot of us need in order to maintain our mental health.

2) You can't just stay in one place all day

Whether it's on the couch in front of the TV, in front of the computer, curled up with a good book, or whatever - you need to get up, you need to move around, you need to do something that isn't just sitting in the one place. So take breaks, by which I mean things like "set an alarm to get yourself up off your backside and walk around the house", or "get up and walk to the end of the street and back again" or something like that.

(My plan for the next few weeks is I'm gradually emptying out various planters, moving them to the front garden - near my desk space - and I'm going to plant them all up with flowers, bulbs and herbs so I have something to fuss over and look at while I'm locked down...)

If all else fails, keep yourself decently hydrated - if you're drinking lots of water, eventually plain old bladder pressure is going to make you need to get up and move. At least fifty percent of my tea habit came about as a way of making sure I was getting up and moving away from the computer during the day (even if it was just to the toilet and back again).

3) Contact with other people is important

I say this as an introvert's introvert who has low social needs to begin with - humans need contact with other people in order to remind ourselves we're human. The good thing about this is it doesn't have to necessarily be in person - I find online chat works nicely for me (and once I've weeded my Twitter feed, I'm going to settle down and enjoy that rather thoroughly). But you need to be interacting with other human beings in some way, shape or form. Remember, we're descended from social apes (like chimpanzees) rather than solitary ones (like orang-utans).

4) Dress up and take pride in your appearance

No, really. This one helps a lot - maintaining a bit of pride in your appearance, wearing good quality clothes (yes, dress for comfort, but that doesn't have to mean ratty old trackie-daks, grotty t-shirts, or pyjamas all day), doing your hair, putting on makeup if you wear it regularly and so on. It goes in with "you have to have a routine" - having part of that routine involve making sure you look presentable (however you define the term) really does help with making you feel less isolated and more capable of connecting with people.

5) Make sure your surroundings are comfortable and comforting

If you're sitting in your bedroom a lot, make the bed. If you're in the kitchen, wash up the dishes and put them away. If you're in the lounge room, do a bit of a tidy. Tidy your desk or desk-like-area so you're able to work there. Make sure it's possible to stay reasonably warm (in winter) and reasonably cool (in summer) without needing to take heroic measures (like bundling up as though you're going to the Antarctic, or stripping to the skin). If you can't feel comfortable in your space, you're going to resent having to remain there, and you're likely to wind up feeling put-upon and hard-done-by. Neither of which feelings are particularly conducive to productivity or getting through things easily. This is something we don't really have much choice in, so we may as well treat ourselves kindly while it's happening.

6) Don't forget to eat and drink

Again, this goes with "you need to move". Try not to eat your meals in front of the computer - for one thing, it's not good for you; for another, it's not that good for the computer, either. Make your lunch into a meal away from your desk or desk-like-area - eat it outside if the weather's fine, but at least pick up and move away from your computer chair in order to eat lunch. Make your lunch a bit of an event - pick a favourite food or a comfort food, or just fancy things up a bit. Now is probably not the best time to start a new diet... but it is a pretty good time to try a few things you haven't tried before.

7) Get out and see some nature each day.

Go for a walk in the street; if you have a garden, take a walk around that. Encourage the local wildlife to hang around - a good birdbath can be made from a ceramic plant saucer (about 2cm deep, and about the same in width on the side, so they have somewhere to put their feet), and there are lots of birds which will take advantage of it to splash around and fuss at each other, and a lot of enjoyment can be gained from bird watching (this probably isn't a good idea if you have cats - not unless you can put the birdbath somewhere the cats can't get at it). Pets are great - even pets you borrow from the neighbours (our neighbour's cat considers us to be part of its regular staff, and will show up on a regular basis for pets and scritches, as well as considering our backyard as part of its tiger territory). Failing that, house-plants, pot plants on a balcony, and so on - anything will do, no matter how big or small. Combine it with your walk - have a look at the gardens of your neighbours (and if you really like what someone's doing with their garden, why not leave them a note to say so - combine socialising-at-a-distance with getting your daily dose of nature).

8) Remember, this too shall pass.

This period of lock down and quarantine will eventually come to an end (either they'll figure out that vaccine they're working on; or we'll develop a certain level of herd immunity; or the virus will just burn itself out; or we'll all decide there are different options in the eternal toss-up between safety and convenience). We won't be stuck as isolated, atomised individuals forever. In the wider scheme of things, human cultures of all kinds have survived multiple examples of pandemics and plagues (Western culture has survived a lot of them, but the one which sticks with me at the moment is the Black Plague of the 1400s - people back then thought the world was ending, too) - the situation we're in at present isn't actually an unprecedented one; it's just one we're unaccustomed to. The last time humans had to really worry about this sort of thing was back in the 1940s, and for those of us who post-date polio, it's not something we've had to deal with in our lifetime. But that doesn't mean we can't survive it. Remember, we're all descendants of the people who survived epidemics before us. We can get through this.

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Current Mood: contemplative contemplative
State of the Meg - Breakdown

I've finished my contract, and it's just about finished me. )

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Current Mood: exhausted exhausted
Employed Again

Well, I have a job again, for the first time since October 2008. I'm working for a call centre in Bunbury.

For those who don't live in WA, Bunbury is a big regional centre about two hours south of Perth. Since the suburb I live in is about half an hour south of Perth, I have an hour and a half commute every workday. Yay.

Good points: it's the same call centre Himself is working in, so we get to carpool (I tend to drive down, he drives home again); they pay me; I'm actually given a reason to get out of bed in the mornings.

Not-so-good points: Bunbury is a fair old way from home; I work Saturday through Wednesday, he works Monday through Friday, which means whoever is at home is without the car, because it's spending the day in a carpark in Bunbury; I have to get out of bed in the mornings (up at six to be out the door by eight-thirty to be ready to work by ten-thirty - so arriving at work by about ten-fifteen at the latest).

At present, it's just a six week contract. If I wind up having a job after the end of six weeks, we may start looking at moving down to Bunbury (or at least as far as Mandurah, the half-way point between Perth and Bunbury) in order to cut commute times and make things a bit more civilised in terms of shopping arrangements. At present, I'm looking at switching my one unit of university study over to external study (because there is no way known to mankind I'm going to be able to be attending lectures in Murdoch and working in Bunbury simultaneously) and seeing whether I can keep up external study while working. I figure it'll be one way of making a difference in my day.

But yeah. Working. Wow.

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Current Mood: exhausted exhausted
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