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Work from home? 5 free ways to beat the stir crazy

Make no mistake, I love working from home. The freedom and flexibility are awesome.

Maybe that’s why so many people are doing it. According to a 2012 U.S. Census report, 13.4 million Americans work from home, up 41 percent since 1999.

But there are days that I find myself having conversations with my cats while I’m still in my coffee-stained pajamas at noon. I could stand to have less of those days.

Stir crazy is a legitimate condition, so I’m using the term cheekily here. But I do often find myself feeling out of sorts because I’ve been inside working alone for too long. I get claustrophobic, depressed, and, sometimes a little delusional. When I feel the crazy coming on, I usually head to my neighborhood coffee shop so I can get my work done around other human beings. But of course, that gets expensive [3]. Lately, I’ve been looking for more cost-effective solutions. Here are a five free ways I keep from going stir crazy working from home.

1. Go to the library

Ironically, my neighborhood library is right across the street from my neighborhood coffee shop. Lots of people go there to work, and the best part is, there’s a whole building full of resources if you need some inspiration for a story or project. Sure, you’ve got the Internet at your fingertips, but getting up and thumbing through something tangible is a great way to break automaton mode.

2. Go for walk

It takes effort for me to remember to go for walks. I’m always in the middle of something, engrossed in my work, and I feel like walking away will break my train of thought. But really, that’s the idea. Whenever I’ve been cooped up too long and I start to feel depressed, I instantly feel better once I’m outside, walking in the sunshine. Toss in the fact that, according to Popular Science, too much sitting can kill you [4], and walks are even more important. I now set my phone alarm to remind me, every hour, to stop whatever I’m doing and get outside.

3. Visit fellow remote workers

I don’t have many friends who work from home. But if you do, invite them over! Sometimes it’s less about getting out of the house and more about being around another human being. There are meetup groups [5] dedicated to remote workers sticking together, and I’ve even seen some shared office space rentals on Craigslist. Of course, the latter option isn’t free, but if you’re a remote worker who rents your own space anyway, you may want to consider sharing. Sharing could both deter feelings of loneliness and save you some money.

4. Leave for lunch

I try not to spend money on lunch. But all too often, brown-bagging means eating in front of the computer while working. This might be necessary when, say, there’s an impending deadline. But I hate making it a habit to eat in front of the computer. Thus, when I prepare my lunch, I try to leave the house and take a true lunch break.

Get your lunch, grab a book and go to a nearby park. Or have lunch on your patio. Or even in a different room of your house or apartment, while doing something non-work-related. The idea is to get away from work and take a breather.

5. Opt for a phone meeting

Recently, a client asked me to talk on the phone to discuss a project. “The phone?” I thought. “That’s weird.” It’s not. But I’ve become such a remote worker that talking on the phone now seems highly unconventional. I have clients whom I’ve never even spoken with outside of email. It’s great that we can get the job done remotely, but it sometimes makes me feel like I don’t exist outside of the computer (“Twilight Zone” theme begins playing). Plus, talking on the phone is efficient, quick and easy. You don’t have to interpret tone and you get a better feel of the person you’re working for or interviewing. Taking care of business in person or over the phone is a great way to remember there’s a whole world out there beyond my desk. Now, when clients, colleagues or interviewees want to discuss something, I try to make more of an effort to suggest a phone call. It helps avert the crazy if even just a little bit.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for a walk.

(Photo: Ognjen Odobasic)