I’ve been working at home since 2010 and I can’t give you any great advice about trying to be productive with very small children underfoot since my main solution for that during the early years was to hire someone to come care for the kids while I escaped to a library or coffeeshop. Whenever I was on my own with them I pretty much constantly felt like I sucked at both work AND parenting and that wasn’t even with a global pandemic to worry about so my best tip there is to be kind to yourself and allow your children as many potentially unhealthy distractions as possible. This is not a time for heroic screen time limits or a reduction in carbohydrate-centric snacks.

I do have some general tips, though, if the hermit life is brand new to you:

Make your bed every morning. Even if you plan to crawl right back in it after lunch or whatever, I recommend doing so because it is a very small act that somehow holds a whole lot of entropy at bay.

Keep up with at least a minimal amount of personal maintenance. I am not suggesting that you spend half your day blow-drying and misting setting spray over a full face of makeup, I’m just saying that whatever your usual face-the-public routine is, do at least part of that. Not only will this be useful if you get a last-second Zoom invite, but I find that it helps me feel more pulled together and capable. The more you look like someone who hasn’t left the house in days, the more you will feel like that person, and what you want to avoid here is to begin carrying around a volleyball named Wilson.

Get dressed. Cozy clothes are obviously where it’s at right now but I can tell you from personal experience that spending the entire day in my sloppiest sweatpants makes me feel icky. Your mileage may vary in this department, maybe a Snuggie makes you feel comforted and happy and if so you should rock that look 24/7 until the world returns to some semblance of normal (or we all devolve and begin wearing harvested pelts), otherwise find some outfits that aren’t constrictive or unnecessarily fussy but still help you feel — well, I was going to say like your best self but ha ha ha ha, no. Like your most okayest self.

Take screen breaks. I know this advice applies to being in the office as well but I think it’s particularly important at home, where things can just feel really weird when you’ve been head-down on your laptop for actual hours while sitting on the couch or whatever. Set alarms if you have to, just get up and do something different: start a load of laundry, walk around the block, stare morosely out the window and remember when going to the grocery store didn’t feel like an extreme sport, etc.

Fix yourself a real lunch. Now that we’re all trying to make our food last as long as possible I realize our individual menu possibilities may be limited, I’m just saying that if your lunch routinely becomes seventeen handfuls of Triscuits mindlessly consumed while scrolling the news you’re going to get bummed out and your keyboard will become absolutely fucking disgusting, don’t ask me how I know this.

Stay connected. This has always been a challenge for me personally but we’re mostly all in some form of isolation now. Text someone. Click that heart button like crazy. Tell someone you miss them or you’re thinking of them. Write a silly post about being stuck at home and throw that blog-bottle out to sea, because maybe it’ll be a tiny bit useful or at least bring a smile to someone’s face. Tell people what they mean to you. (You, dear reader, mean a whole lot to me.)


16 Responses to “How to be a hermit”

  1. Angie on March 23rd, 2020 9:42 am

    I just wanted to say your posts brighten my day! When I get the email that you’ve posted, it’s actually an email I open right away, which I know doesn’t sound like much. But I have like 2000 unopened emails that I ignore completely. So. Make of that what you will, but your posts are helping 😊

  2. Kim on March 23rd, 2020 9:44 am

    YOU’VE been making me feel better for well over a decade, and while it wasn’t Triscuits I was eating while reading this but Wheat Thins, it just goes to show how spot-on your words always are. Thank you as always.

  3. Suzanne on March 23rd, 2020 10:26 am

    The screen breaks thing is so important – when I worked exclusively from home, so many a day passed where my husband arrived home and asked me why I was sitting in the dark and, oh, whoops, the entire day had slipped past while I was buried in the computer.

  4. Gloria on March 23rd, 2020 10:45 am

    Linda, thanks for this. I just want you to know that I’ve been following you for many years, through thick and thin. I very much appreciate your writing. I hope that you do feel connected during these times. I chose to comment just so that you know that you are not simply sending your words out into the clouds, there are real people at the other end. I’m not finding the ‘stay. home’ thing to be too challenging, I’m nursing a broken ankle and my partner has worked from home for years. Once I’m walking and the weather is nice it may be more challenging. Getting dressed and keeping some commitments to yourself are so important. It’s also soooo important to be kind to yourself and know that whatever frustrations you feel, you are not alone, we all feel them at some point. Take care my friend!

  5. Emily on March 23rd, 2020 11:02 am

    Linda, your recent posts have definitely helped brighten these days. I always look forward to them, but even more so since I have had limited contact with other moms (and adults altogether). So thank you!

  6. Martha Pepek on March 23rd, 2020 12:58 pm

    Linda, thank you so much for this! I really needed it. You are helping me weather this storm. Trying to get my 6th grader to do remote learning whilst keeping my sanity has not been easy. These are wonderful tips and I just started this week off right by getting back into a routine. Last week was a wash…I feel like I was trying to figure out this new normal (I work as a paraprofessional in a 4th grade classroom, so I am home with nothing to do). Thank you for helping us all in this! ❤

  7. Haley on March 23rd, 2020 2:58 pm

    Thanks for being a part of keeping me sane!

  8. Trish on March 23rd, 2020 3:07 pm

    One of the best treats, thus far, is getting notifications that you’ve posted a new entry. It’s a highlight of my day. Thanks- for your words, always!

  9. sooboo on March 23rd, 2020 3:29 pm

    I too really enjoy your writing and these tips are great! Making the bed and putting on real clothes are key. I’ve been working at home for years now too so my daily life hasn’t changed too much but I have been reminiscing about the times “when going to the grocery store didn’t feel like an extreme sport”. Going to my local stores was the way I would take a break/ connect to others. I haven’t been in over a week and my cabinets are starting to look a little dire. I also love getting new notifications that you’ve posted as well as your cat videos on IG. Thanks for helping us to to be our okayest selves!

  10. Honeybecke on March 23rd, 2020 4:18 pm

    And you mean a lot to me! Thanks for giving us the goods in our collective time of need. No pressure but omg please don’t stop with your updates. ❤️

  11. Judith on March 23rd, 2020 5:56 pm

    Whoo! I needed this!! I am used to being semi-hermit and I like it, but being a home body and being an old woman in New York City afraid of going out are two competely different animals. I spent last week sending food packages to my son in LA, for his twin in Brooklyn I figured I would fix freezer meals. Not that they need it, these are things I did to keep stress and fear at bay.
    But unless you have more money tha I have or you are a hardcore survivalist there is so much food and tp you can buy. (By no means do their supplies reach the hoarding and depriving others level. I would hate that.)

    Anyway, yesterday I did not get dressed or make my bed. Spent they day in my night gown, went to sleep in the same nightgown and here it is, almost 9pm, still in bed in the same nightgown!!!

    I feel “normal” though a bit afraid at times, just reading, or so I thought.

    After reading your post I realized that I might be entering a stage of depression. As soon as I post this comment I will 1. change my sheets, 2. shower, and 3. put on a clean nightgown since it will be close to bedtime. And tomorrow I will get dressed and make the bed. And will not spend all day in bed reading about “fearless leader” and his shenanigans.

  12. Caitlin on March 23rd, 2020 8:58 pm

    Hi Linda! Longtime reader here who never comments, but I’m feeling urged to reach out tonight.

    To everyone who has posted here thus far: this is just the most lovely and supportive comment section I’ve seen in some time! Thank you all for being out there, near, far, and ultimately right here. I needed to see your voices tonight.

    I’m a therapist in Ohio, pretty new to the field, and for the past week I’ve conducted all of my sessions via video from my tiny apartment. I’m amazed at the myriad ways, on a scale of subtle to soul-crushing, that my clients are being affected by the pandemic. It’s been incredible to realize just how many teeny turning gears make up our society, and how delicate the whole system is.

    Therapy during this time has been weird and hard and I’ve struggled with what to tell my clients, especially on the days when I’ve felt like crawling back into bed myself. We therapists put a lot of pressure on ourselves to say the right thing. But Linda, your pandemic posts, and this one in particular, have helped me remember that I don’t need to make it so complicated for myself. Eat a meal, wash your face, turn on a lamp, breathe. We’re all here together, doing the best we can with the tools we have. I can listen, and reflect, and be a friend…while also reminding my clients to take breaks from the news. :)

    One thing I have been talking about a lot is that we humans inherently don’t love change; our bodies and minds often rail against it in all sorts of unpleasant ways. But given an acclimation period, we are miraculously flexible. Humans can adapt, and thrive, in the strangest of situations. It just takes time. Be patient, and give yourselves permission and space to adapt at your own pace.

    And finally, to Judith: sending you strength and light as you put your plans into action! You’re doing just fine. I’m sure I’m not alone here when I say I’m rooting for you.

    Thanks Linda, as always.

  13. Anna A on March 23rd, 2020 11:06 pm

    Thank you for this! The parenting and trying to work FT and feeling like I’m failing at both is not working for me right now. I’m trying to trust that we will figure out a balance. But I agree on the bed. Why it matters I don’t know, but it does help delay the entropy.

  14. Lee on March 24th, 2020 5:45 am

    I appreciate you, Linda! This post is spot-on. I LOLd about the Triscuits.

  15. TinaNZ on March 24th, 2020 1:29 pm

    Always been reading and always will. This is a great list of excellent ideas. One I would like to pass on is: use what was your daily commute time to take a brisk walk instead (well, two brisk walks). For me this will help keep the discipline of getting up and getting street-ready, for the duration. We in NZ have a four-week lockdown starting tonight so let’s see how that good intention lasts!

    Current biggest panic – how much grey regrowth will I have in four weeks time…

  16. Phoebe on March 25th, 2020 7:35 am

    Your writing has meant so much to me for over a decade but even more now. So often you get to the core of something I’m feeling and express it so clearly and eloquently. It has always made me feel more connected to others.

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