We can all go a little stir-crazy sometimes.
Especially in the winter.
Cabin fever is a condition that primarily strikes people who live in cold climates where wintry weather keeps them inside for days at a time. But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that anyone can fall prey to feelings of boredom, loneliness, and restlessness when they’re unable to venture outside their homes. Especially now, in the midst of a spike in pandemic severity, and while many people are still working from home.
So, combine winter weather AND a pandemic? That’s just a recipe for indoor insanity.
Whether you’re stuck inside taking shelter from a snowstorm or isolating to protect others from getting sick, knowing how to beat cabin fever can help you get through those frustrating days.
Here are a few tactics that have helped for me!
1. Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms.
You might feel tempted to curl up on the couch with your favorite junk food and alcoholic beverage to add some comfort into those lonely hours. Everyone does to some extent. Stressful times might make you feel vulnerable and eager to indulge in booze and baked goods, but they can actually make you feel a lot worse.
We all know alcohol consumption can have several less-than-lovely physical side effects, like dehydration, headaches, stomach discomfort and fatigue. It can also heighten feelings of depression and anxiety. Same with over-consumption of unhealthy foods, which can just make you feel even more lethargic and all-around crappy.
Try to limit these vices if you want to keep your spirits high while you’re hanging at home.
Drink water. Eat your nutrients. Take care of yourself. This time matters too, and so does your health!
2. Develop and stick to a routine.
When you’re working from home, you might be tempted to stay up past your usual bedtime and sleep late. Or skip lunch. Or work from bed with the TV on.
But not getting enough sleep can make you less resilient and can contribute to depression. And not having structure also makes you feel less purposeful and more stressed when you can’t depend on a routine.
Try to follow your normal routine as much as possible. Turn in at the same time each night and eat your meals according to your usual schedule. Get up and get ready. Eat breakfast. Make coffee. Put on a little mascara. Feel like YOU, even if you’re at home.
Keep up your structure. This can reduce feelings of restlessness when you’re stuck inside and eventually make it easier to return to your typical activities.
3. Find new ways to exercise at home.
Exercise has mood-boosting benefits that are perfect for beating cabin fever. If you can’t go to the gym, you might have to be a little creative with your workouts.
Search for a few fitness videos online. It’s been a game-changer for me, and can be a great opportunity to try a new activity or regimen. You can incorporate household items in your exercise, such as using soup cans or a jug of milk as weights if you don’t have free weights. Raising your heart rate helps you burn off restless energy, and you might notice that your mood improves as well.
4. Give your brain a workout.
Since the pandemic began, stores have been selling a LOT of puzzles.
Crossword puzzles, math puzzles, 1000 piece puzzles with photos of kittens in a basket.
While people are likely looking for ways to fill their time during the pandemic/winter, they are also unknowingly doing one of the best things to beat cabin fever.
Playing games and putting together puzzles has several benefits for your mental health. These activities could give you a sense of control during times when things seem to be spiraling in the wrong direction. The type of puzzle you solve doesn’t really matter as long as it provides a sense of satisfaction. So, go ahead and pull out your favorite crossword book, head online to play some brain training games, or dig in your closet for a puzzle. You may get so caught up in your task that hours could fly by!
5. Intentionally schedule at-home activitites with your partner, roommates or family.
Being couped up with the same people, night after night, can get old quickly.
Try to schedule and block out time for fun, at-home activities that DON’T involve screens.
Play games together. Do a craft. Make dinner from scratch.
Get creative! Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you have to feel stuck.
6. Brighten up the place and get some sunshine.
Cabin fever is sometimes related to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that can occur when people aren’t exposed to enough sunlight.
Getting more light can help treat SAD and depression. Weather permitting, try to get outside for a little each day. Even a short walk can help. If you can’t leave the house, try sitting near a sunny window or using special lights to mimic the effects of sunlight.
7. Be creative with maintaining social connections.
Let’s face it, warm weather is just more fun when it comes to socializing. Hosting a backyard barbecue or going camping with friends just aren’t options in the winter months. I’m also WAY more likely to take a trip to a bar or restaurant when it’s sunny and 75 than I am when it’s dark, cold and 34 degrees outside.
OR you may be isolating to prevent the spread of Covid, because it really does feel like everyone is sick right now or trying to avoid being sick.
While you could just relegate yourself to moping on the couch, there are other ways you can spend your time getting some human interaction!
Consider exploring new ways to strengthen your relationships and build new ones.
Host an online family get-together on the weekend. Have a couple of friends over for a small game night. Go for a walk with someone you want to catch up with. Even chatting with your neighbor from across the fence or facetiming with your best friend can boost your mental well-being when you can’t spend time in person with the people you love.
Just remember that human interaction is critical to our happiness and fulfillment, and don’t let yourself get deprived of it during this time.
8. Learn a new skill.
When monotony sets in, you might find yourself losing interest in certain activities.
That’s natural and normal and happens to the best of us.
It’s ok to put aside some interests when we don’t have the mental pull to enjoy them.
While you might not be able to regain your excitement about a certain hobby, you can always try starting a new one!
Think about a few activities you’ve wanted to try but never got around to doing. Whether you learn how to play the ukulele, pick up some watercolor paints, or choose to do something else, you’ll engage your brain and have fun ways to spend your time inside.
Being cooped up can leave you feeling stressed, especially when you have no idea of when your isolation period will end. Making a few healthy changes in your life can help you to maintain a positive outlook.
You may even emerge from this time with a new hobby and a healthier lifestyle that helps you get more enjoyment out of life!
Just remember, that warmer, brighter days are right around the corner, and you’ll get there, stronger, smarter and savvier than ever.
health.mil – Indoor Exercises to Improve Anxiety and Depression
hopkinsmedicine.org – Depression and Sleep: Understanding the Connection
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Huntington Beach, California
wired.com – Why You Gravitate to Puzzles When You Are Depressed
uofmhealth.org – Seasonal Affective Disorder: Using Light Therapy
esrc.ukri.org – Mental Health and Social Relationships