If you’ve ever been stuck inside due to rain or a blizzard, you have an idea about experiencing cabin fever. However, anytime we feel isolated from the outside world ‘cabin fever’ can occur. COVID-19 social distancing and quarantine practices have many experiencing cabin fever due to confinement for a longer period of time. If you’re able to recognize symptoms of cabin fever, there are ways to help you cope and make isolation easier.
While we often think of cabin fever as just being listless or bored, true cabin fever symptoms include negative emotions, physical distress, and feeling as if you are cut off from the world. This is particularly true during shelter in place orders, stay-at-home orders, and self-quarantining. Without coping techniques, it can be difficult to manage cabin fever symptoms.
While cabin fever isn’t a true psychological disorder, the distress that many experience is real and can make your life difficult. There are a few symptoms that are more than just feeling bored. They include:
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless
- Sleeplessness or disrupted sleep
- Persistent sadness or depression
Individual temperament and personality will play a role in how cabin fever affects each person. Some handle isolation easily and take on projects or find creative ways to pass the time in order to keep symptoms at bay. Others might struggle more and have trouble managing day-to-day life.
There is no standard treatment for cabin fever, but there are coping mechanisms that can help. By finding meaningful ways to occupy your brain and energy, you can help relieve symptoms of cabin fever. A few coping mechanisms include:
- Spending time outdoors, which is extremely beneficial to mental health. It can help boost your mood and feelings of overall well-being. Be sure to check with any local regulations to avoid spaces that may be closed. If you’re not able to get outside, open up some windows, go out on a patio or balcony, or try bringing some plants inside with you.
- Create a routine, especially if you’re not able to work from home. Not having a routine is disruptive to our eating, sleeping, and daily activity schedules. In your routine, keep consistent waking and sleeping times, meal times, and exercise times. Fill in the gaps with work, hobbies, or house projects. Having a schedule allows you to more easily pass the time and gives you something to “look forward” to instead of being aimless the entire day.
- While you cannot meet up with friends in person, you can still meet up in different ways. Use platforms such as Facetime or Zoom to stay connected to friends and family. Keeping yourself in contact with the outside world will make your home feel so much bigger when you have cabin fever. It also reminds us that we are not alone.
- If you have a long-neglected hobby, this may be a great opportunity to start again. It may be a music instrument, a long forgotten knitting project, or that scrapbook you never got around to completing. When life gets busy, creative endeavors often get put on hold. Use your free time to take them up again and keep your brain busy.
- If you live with others, give yourself time each day for “me” time. While parents still have to care for their children, try to find a time in your day that’s all your own. Meditate, exercise, listen to music, or read a book during your relaxation time.
- Exercising is a great way to ease anxiety and lower your stress hormones. It also helps us boost our mood and gives us feelings of overall well-being. If you’re not able to go outside and exercise regularly, try body-weight only strength training or finding some video aerobic exercise classes online.
Thankfully, cabin fever is often short lived and a temporary frustration. However, if these feelings don’t improve, grow stronger, or your coping mechanisms are no longer working, you may benefit from talking to a mental health professional. Isolation isn’t natural and there are other strategies a mental health professional may want to discuss with you.
If you or anyone else you are aware of is struggling, reach out to a friend, family member, or mental health professional. Remember that you are never alone. During this time, our office is providing Telehealth services in order to best serve you. Learn more here.