In Northern Minnesota we are accustomed to the term cabin fever during the winter and early spring, but social distancing has created a whole new meaning for cabin fever. Typically, we experience cabin fever during a winter blizzard or a long rainy weekend, but it can actually occur anytime you feel isolated or disconnected with the world - or you are required by law to practice social distancing.
There is a wide range of emotions and symptoms that can arise when individuals are confined to their homes. Some symptoms include: restlessness, irregular sleep patterns or poor sleep in general, hopelessness, decreased motivation, lethargy, lack of patience, irritability, depression, and difficulty concentrating. It is safe to say that everyone has most likely experienced 1 or more of these symptoms during the self-quarantining that we are all practicing.
What can you do to cope with cabin fever and relieve the associated symptoms? The solutions may be very different for individuals depending on your personal situation, but key areas to focus on are staying active and moving, maintaining a proper diet, hydration, and healthy sleep patterns. Some specific ideas to help provide a good place to start are:
1. Spend some time outdoors . Research shows that time spent in nature is time
well spent for mental health. Not only does spending time outdoors boost your cognitive
function, it may also help:
2. Give yourself a routine. You may not have a 9-to-5 job to report to while you’re
isolated, but a lack of routine can cause disruptions in eating, sleeping, and activity.
To keep a sense of structure, try to create a daily routine that consists of work or house
projects, mealtimes, workout time, and even downtime. Having an outline for your day
helps you keep track of the trajectory of your hours and gives you mini “goals” to hit
throughout the day.
3. Maintain a social life. So you can’t go to the movies or meet your friends for dinner.
But you can still “meet up” with them — just in a different way. Use real-time video
streaming services, like FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype, to chat with your friends,
colleagues, and loved ones. Face-to-face chat time can keep you in contact with the
“outside world” and make even your small home feel a whole lot bigger. Connecting with
others who are in a similar situation can also help you feel that you’re not alone. Sharing
your thoughts, emotions, and challenges with others can help you realize that what
you’re feeling is normal. Connecting with others may even help you find creative
solutions to an issue you’re
4. Express your creative side. Do you have a Pinterest page loaded with fun
projects? Were you once interested in painting? Do you have stacks of vacation photos
you once promised yourself you’d put in a scrapbook? Is there a recipe you’ve always
wanted to try but never had the time? Use your time in isolation to reconnect with
creative activities that you’ve had to put on hold because life got too busy. Spending
time on creative activities keeps your brain busy. Keeping your mind occupied and
engaged may help ward off feelings of boredom or restlessness and make the time pass
5. Carve out some ‘me time’. If you live with others, feelings of cabin fever may be
intensified by the nearness of other individuals.Parents have responsibilities to children;
partners have responsibilities to one another. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have
any time on your own. Give yourself time “away” from others to relax. Find a quiet place
to read a book, meditate, stretch, or pop in some earbuds for an engaging podcast.
If you’re feeling stressed, you may even want to tune in to a podcast on mental health or
6. Break a sweat. Research has shown that people who exercise regularly are less
prone to anxiety than people who don’t exercise. That’s because physical activity lowers
your body’s stress hormones, such as cortisol . At the same time, exercise causes your
brain to release endorphins . These neurochemicals can boost your mood and overall
feeling of well-being. If you can’t get outside, you can do a strength training workout at
home using just your body weight or simple equipment, like dumbbells or resistance
bands. Or you can put together your own routine by focusing on a few basic but effective
exercises, such as: pushups, squats, burpees, lunges, or planks. If you need a more
structured program, there are plenty of online exercise options on YouTube and through
various exercise apps.
7. Chill out. Not every minute of every day you spend at home has to be planned. Give
yourself some time to rest. Look for constructive ways to relax. Mindfulness , deep
breathing , and relaxation exercises may help you maintain your emotional health and
balance feelings of isolation or frustration.