While we are all doing our best to follow the guidelines of the CDC with staying at home and social distancing, it is important to recognize the signs that we may not be coping well. We often use the term cabin fever for a common reaction to being isolated in a building for a period of time. Cabin fever can be likened to a sort of syndrome, and has been linked to such disorders as seasonal affective disorder and claustrophobia. In fact, cabin fever is ultimately rooted in intense isolation.
If you are experiencing cabin fever as a result of social distancing or self-quarantine in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, you may be feeling additional stress beyond that which stems from simply being isolated. There are ways to combat the anxiety you may be feeling. Not everyone suffering from cabin fever will experience exactly the same symptoms, but many people report feeling intensely irritable or restless. Other commonly experienced effects are:
Restlessness-not being able to sit still
Lethargy-not wanting to do anything
Sadness or depression-nonspecific to any particular event
Trouble concentrating-unable to read, watch a show, finish a project you used to engage in with ease
Lack of patience-with your loved ones and yourself
Food cravings-especially sweets and carbohydrate dense foods
Decreased motivation-“I don’t want to do anything”
Social Isolation-not calling friends/family and not answering their calls either
Difficulty waking-wanting to sleep through this
Frequent napping-even after a full night’s sleep
These aforementioned symptoms may also be indicative of a wide range of other disorders, and only a trained mental health professional can make an accurate diagnosis.
Coping With Cabin Fever
So you checked more that 5 symptoms, now what? Like any mental health conditions, cabin fever is best treated with the assistance of a therapist or other trained mental health professional. However, if your symptoms are relatively mild, taking active steps to combat your feelings may be enough to help you feel better.
Get Out of the House: Now this is very serious. Depending on where you live and the access you have to a clear path, please keep social distancing in mind. Remember to wear a mask and to follow all CDC recommendations so that the virus is not spread further. Even if you just go for a short walk or drive around your neighborhood or backyard; sit on your balcony, front porch or near an open window. This fresh air and the sunlight provide nutrients that can help you fight the cabin fever blues.
Maintain Normal Eating Patterns: For many of us, a day, week, month stuck at home is an excuse to overindulge on junk food. Others skip meals altogether. However, eating right can increase our energy levels and motivation. You may feel less hungry if you are getting less exercise, but monitor your eating habits to ensure that you maintain the proper balance of nutrition. Limit high-sugar, high-fat snacks and drink plenty of water.
Set Goals: Setting daily and weekly goals, and track your progress toward completion keeps your mind occupied and helps you keep track of time. Make sure that your goals are reasonable, and reward yourself for meeting each milestone.
Use Your Brain: Be careful not to use TV too much as a distraction, it is also relatively mindless. Stay up to date on the recommendations but limit the time you watch the news. Try crossword puzzles, reading books or playing board games. Stimulating your mind can help keep you moving forward and reduce feelings of isolation and helplessness.
Keep a journal and pay attention to symptoms above. If you find that you are continuing to spiral, reach out to loved ones or professionals
Exercise: Even if you cannot leave the house, find a way to stay physically active while indoors. Regular physical activity can help burn off any extra energy you have from being cooped up indoors. Indoor exercise ideas include workout videos, bodyweight workouts, and online workout routines.
Please, please follow the CDC guidelines regarding social distancing and staying at home. Be wise and mindful and reach out to friends and family. Remember we are all in this together.