Mind & Body

‘It’s over a year into COVID in New York and yes, I’m still WFH in jeans’

A somewhat of a WFH veteran, I’ve learned the importance of dressing the part when it comes to mental health.

Working from home isn’t a foreign concept to me. I’ve been working remotely in New York for the past near two years and before that was the weekend editor at Whimn.com.au (vale). There are some upsides to this:

No hellish commute? Excellent, more of a sleep-in. Not having to wear makeup? My skin is doing AMAZING, sweetie. Staying in my pyjamas or trackies all day? Eh, it’s complicated.

When the pandemic hit, and boy, did it hit us hard here in NYC for a few months, I was lucky enough that my work arrangement didn’t change at all. Though WFH is very normal for me now, it took a bit of time to get to the healthy balance I’ve been able to achieve.

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Initially, I would ignore the advice to maintain a routine, got up when I felt like it, sometimes replied to emails from bed, and stayed in my trackpants all day. I was sleeping longer (even 9+ hours a night) but woke up feeling fatigued and had less energy throughout the day. Upon reflection, these are all signs that pointed to mild case of depression.

I’d also committed the cardinal WFH sin of continuing to check my emails well after I’d clocked off and it was because there wasn’t a distinction between ‘work’ and ‘play’. When I worked in fashion marketing, the walk to and from work was a nice transition between work and home, but when work and home are the same place, I needed to create that boundary another way.

I started getting up at the same time every day, showering, and putting on human clothes, like comfy jeans and a baggy t-shirt, rather than clothes designated for slob days. It dramatically shifted my mindset and sure enough, this is supported by science with a term called ‘enclothed cognition’.

I’ve even taken it a step further and swapped the baggy t-shirt for collared silk shirts (calm down, I buy them second-hand from TheRealReal for $50) and that added polish puts me in a much more professional and productive mentality while still being super comfortable. Yes, sometimes I even put on tinted moisturizer and comb my brows.

“What we wear impacts on our mood, choices, behaviour and attitudes… These processes include our own attitudes towards ourselves and subsequent behaviour. It also relates to how other people relate to us,” Sarah McMahon, psychologist and director at BodyMatters Australasia, previously told me.

“Bearing in mind that what we wear impacts on our behaviour, we can easily imagine how pyjama-wearing may be associated with working from bed, not leaving the house, or not showering. Behaviours that are frequently associated with depression.”

After over a year, have I grown tired of the routine? Sometimes it’s a drag and yes, sometimes I spend part of the morning in my PJs while drinking coffee and working, but it doesn’t happen that often. Any time I am tempted to spend most of a working day in my trackies I remind myself of how crappy things felt and I dig myself out of the funk.