HOW TO COPE WITH “CABIN FEVER” by Lisa Fritscher
An excerpt from VeryWellMind.com
Medically reviewed by Carly Snyder, MD and updated April 23, 2020
Cabin fever is a popular term for a relatively common reaction to being isolated in a building for a period of time. Some experts believe that cabin fever is a sort of syndrome, while others feel that it is linked to such disorders as seasonal affective disorder and claustrophobia. Cabin fever is ultimately rooted in intense isolation, which may reach the level of a specific phobia.
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:
- Sadness or depression
- Trouble concentrating
- Lack of patience
- Food cravings
- Decreased motivation
- Social Isolation
- Difficulty waking
- Frequent napping
- Changes in weight
- Inability to cope with stress
Note that these symptoms may also be indicative of a wide range of other disorders, and only a trained mental health professional can make an accurate diagnosis. In addition, not everyone who fears being cooped up at home in the winter has cabin fever. Only when someone exhibits several of the symptoms mentioned above is a phobia more likely.
Like any mental or physical health condition, cabin fever is best treated with the assistance of a therapist or other trained mental health professional. You should contact your primary care doctor and set up an appointment to see him or her.
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: If you are housebound, this may not always be possible. But if you are able to go outside, even for a short time, take advantage of that opportunity. Exposure to daylight can help regulate the body's natural cycles, and exercise releases endorphins, creating a natural high.2 Even a quick stroll can help you feel better quickly. If you are not able to leave the house at all, get close to a window and start moving around.
- Maintain Normal Eating Patterns: For many of us, a day stuck at home is an excuse to overindulge in 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: When you are stuck in the house, you may be more likely to while away the time doing nothing of importance. Set daily and weekly goals, and track your progress toward completion. Make sure that your goals are reasonable, and reward yourself for meeting each milestone.
- Use Your Brain: Although TV is a distraction, it is also relatively mindless. Work crossword puzzles, read books or play board games. Stimulating your mind can help keep you moving forward and reduce feelings of isolation and helplessness.
- 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.