An introduction to cabin fever
These last few weeks have been extraordinary to say the least.
For many, this is a complete contradiction to their usual way of life – gyms, pubs, clubs, restaurants, sporting arenas – all shut down.
The imposed isolation is intended to keep people safe, but a side effect to this is the creation of an effect that, until now, the general population may not have been aware of but may soon become very familiar with…
According to the Merriam-Webster; cabin fever is “the extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time.”
You may have seen satirical portrayals of this effect on screen, the funniest in my mind being The Gold Rush starring Charlie Chaplin, but cabin fever is not going to be very funny for some.
The lockdown has stolen the routine and structure of many people’s lives and has shocked their very sense of being.
Loneliness has increased, as has the pressure on those sharing living spaces.
I have no doubt that once this situation is over, the clients I see for counselling will be presenting issues associated with this very topic, either as a single problem or something that has impacted on their existing concerns of anxiety, stress or depression.
What are the signs associated with cabin fever?
Amongst other things, cabin fever can include:
- Feelings of claustrophobia (enhanced feelings if you already have it).
- A sense of isolation and loneliness.
- Increasing worry and anxiety.
- Increasing tiredness and/or irritation.
- Affected sleep patterns – potentially impacting physical and mental wellbeing.
- Increased boredom.
- Increased appetite, especially for sugary foods.
- A lack of desire to exercise (or lack of motivation).
- An internal conflict about going out and staying in.
How do you deal with cabin fever?
1. Create a structure to your life
Routine is built into the human psyche.
Plan, set goals, maybe even create a timetable – but don’t worry, they don’t have to be set in stone, you can be flexible.
Just remember that it’s a guide to what you want to do and when you want to do it.
Structure can make you feel motivated and in control rather than bored or overwhelmed.
2. Meal prep
Plan what you are going to eat daily or weekly.
This can help with your shopping protocols too.
Stick to the basics if needs be but benefit from the sense of accomplishment in what you produce.
Just try it, use this period to experiment.
3. Switch off
Consider turning off all the electronic devices in your home, including your phone.
There is so much negativity in the media at the moment that it’s easy to get swallowed up in the commentary.
This situation is new to all of us, none of us have been here before and we all feel a little bit out of control, so let stuff go!
Only concentrate on what you can control, like turning everything off and appreciating the immediacy of nature.
This just might give you the mental and physical wellbeing boost you need, it’s a very useful mindfulness exercise.
4. Get “stuff” done
Get stuff done!
Use this time to do the jobs you’ve been meaning to do for ages.
Caveat – within reason!
A new kitchen extension is clearly a no-no but sorting out a cupboard, checking and filing outstanding paperwork or reading your backlog of books can all present situations that occupy your time and ease the feeling of cabin fever.
5. Stimulate your brain
Test your brain with games, puzzles and computations, or spend some time on future business plans, development projects or travel arrangements.
It doesn’t mean you have to do everything now. Planning for the future will give you a sense of purpose and hope… this situation is not going to last for ever.
I know you can’t go to the gym but get out and exercise!
Failing that, do some at home – utilise YouTube or exercise videos or be inventive with what you have around you.
The stairs can become a press up machine or stepper, tins of food can become weights and a belt can become a resistance band.
Just remember to be careful and sensible in your approach.
A little exercise can go a long way in reducing your anxiety levels and depressed moods, as well as give you a sense of control over your body and the way you feel.
Although I recommend turning off electronic devices at times, they can also be excellent resources for expanding your knowledge and developing new skills.
There are lots of websites including Centre of Excellence, Udemy or Future Learn, that have thousands of cheap online courses.
Find one that suits you or something that fits into your Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
You’ve also got the option of contacting new friends, colleagues or groups to help you progress.
Just remember to stay cyber safe. Watch out for scams and never reveal your personal or financial details if asked for by any site which isn’t secure, or you don’t know about.
9. Remain connected
Stay in contact with loved ones using safe sites like Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp or the latest Housparty app.
Seeing the face of your nearest and dearest, sharing your trials and tribulations and participating in a bit of banter makes all the difference for your emotional wellbeing during isolation.
If you (or someone you know) are elderly or on your own, you can contact charities like Help the Aged, ITV or the NHS that provide information and programmes for supporting isolated or lonely people (check out the links at the end of this blog).
10. Stick to sleep patterns
Sleep is essential in maintaining our health and wellbeing both physically and mentally.
Stick to both your sleeping and waking patterns.
Give yourself a reason to wake up in the morning and don’t get bogged down with serial TV binge-watching at night.
Just because you don’t have a normal work routine at the moment doesn’t mean you can start disrupting your natural rhythms.
11. Embrace the break from “normal” life
We often celebrate holidays as a chance to get away or take a break from “normal” life; so why not use this perspective and benefit from a period of relaxation.
You may not be able to do everything you want, but this time gives you a chance to really embrace some deep rest and recovery.
Working on yourself, doing as you please and changing your perspective from that of restriction and isolation to that of rest and recovery can make all the difference between coping and feeling overwhelmed.
Remember that this won’t last forever!
It will all be over one day but, in the meantime, know you have the resilience to cope with this situation.
Look after yourself and those you are in touch with and stay safe.
If you have any particular topics you’d like covering in future blogs, then drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy the ‘break’ and embrace cabin fever.