With the majority of the world still in some state of restriction or lockdown, it’s becoming mentally and morally challenging to remain safe and sound indoors. As the pandemic continues to rage all around us and we adjust to this strange “new normal” way of life, it’s becoming necessary to find better ways to deal with our increasing cabin fever.
We’re not really meant to be locked down.
As humans, we are naturally social creatures who thrive on the connection that we build with others. We need that feedback and that interaction we get from talking to others and laughing with them, and without it we can get caught up the loop of our own panicked or negative thoughts. We’re living in an age, though, when we can’t be social. As we hunker inside, away from the virus that’s ravaging our societies, we can find ourselves suffering in more ways than one.
Cabin fever is a very real experience that occurs when we find ourselves stuck indoors and socially isolated or removed from the people and social experiences we’re used to. It’s serious, and one which touches on both our happiness and our mental health. If we want to make it through these lockdowns relatively unscathed, then we have to find better ways to acknowledge and address our cabin fever.
It’s time for you to embrace your cabin fever and make the most of it. You need to find healthier and more effective ways to engage your brain and your emotions, so that you can get creative and find the silver-lining in the place you find yourself in now. Ready to get off the couch and put that Netflix binge on pause? You have to if you want to break out of the cabin fever panic and get yourself back into a place of peace.
Signs you’re dealing with cabin fever.
Are you beginning to crack with the lack of social engagement? Do you feel like you’re going mad looking at the same 4 walls over-and-over again? You might be dealing with cabin fever, but you can’t resolve it until you fess up and get committed to improving things from the inside out.
Do you feel on-edge or more irritated than ever? This lack of patience is a common sign of cabin fever, and often one of the first to show. You may find that you have drastic mood swings, or that your fuse is shorter than normal. You may blow up on others as a consequence of this irritation, so it’s important to be aware of (in yourself and in others).
When you’re dealing with a serious case of being stuck inside, it can lead to an eroded sense of concentration which makes productivity a struggle. You may not be able to focus on one task, or you may find it to be creative or decisive. That’s okay. The best thing to do is to walk away from whatever task you’re trying to accomplish and clear your mind (or distract it) for a while.
Losing out on our social time and our work opportunities is demoralizing. It pulls a lot of the enjoyment out of our lives, and can make day-to-day living really hard. All of that considered, we can find ourselves dealing with low motivation or a desire to do nothing. This is regularly an early sign of depression and one which should not be ignored.
A need for naps
Do you suddenly feel like you have a definite need for naps throughout the day? Again, this is a common sign of cabin fever and a sign that your brain (and your heart) are struggling with the lack of involvement and connection with the world. Listen to your body, but don’t go overboard. While too much sleep may sound like a good thing, it’s not. A 26 minute nap once a day is often effective enough to give us the rest we may be craving.
Strange appetite patterns
Are you dealing with strange appetite patterns or eating habits that are disrupting your day-to-day routine? Binge eating is a common side effect of cabin fever. Likewise, we can find that the anxiety or frustration of our current situation makes it impossible for us to eat at all. It’s important that we find emotional equilibrium so that we can find the healthy middle ground.
Social isolation becomes toxic the longer it goes on. Because we thrive on social interaction, our brains actually struggle when we no longer have that socializing — or productive tasks to work toward. We can find that we have trouble with memory, thinking, concentration, etc. In order to stave off this cognitive disruption, we have to distract our brains and keep them sharp and focused on small, productive tasks.
Feeling hopeless or anxious about your life and everything that’s going on? You’re not alone, and you’re not abnormal. We’re living through scary times and you have every right to be concerned. Being absorbed by that fear, though, will leave you frozen and unable to make any real moves to improve your life. You’ve got to accept the state of the world, take the actions that you can, then protect yourself through distraction and diversion.
Disruption of sleep
Disruption of sleep patterns is yet another common side effect of cabin fever or social isolation. You may feel like you want to sleep more than usual, or you may find that you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Over time, this can leave us feeling exhausted and more unhappy than ever before. Sleep has a direct impact on our mental health.
What you can do to ease the anxiety.
Being locked down can leave us jittery and feeling a deep sense of irritation and unease. Don’t let the cabin fever destroy the happiness and the good mental health you’ve worked so hard to establish. Discover better techniques to help deal with your cabin fever, and you’ll be able to find some of your peace again.
1. Disrupt your routine
So much of our cabin fever comes from being stuck in the same routine each and every day. While we generally thrive on routine, it can become mundane when you’re stuck indoors, away from all the other stimulation that you’re used to. In order for you break your brain out of the negative-bore loop it’s on, you know, to break up this routine and re-interest it in the life that still exists all around you.
Hit the breaks on the rigid routine and mix things up a little. While you may not be able to shift your work routine, you can shift the way you spend your free time. Do things differently and change things up as much as you can every single day.
If you’re an early riser, give yourself a lie in. If you’re a late sleeper, get up early and do something productive. Set different tasks to accomplish for yourself each night. Maybe one night you play a video game, and the next night to start that knitting project you’ve been ignoring. There’s no right or wrong way to mix things up. Just make sure you break up your routine for a little stimulation.
2. Give yourself something to work for
So many people are suffering from the economic impact of COVID-19, and the current restrictions only add extra layers of complication to the mix. The day-to-day purpose of many of us has been removed, and we’re finding ourselves stuck indoors with nothing to look forward to and nothing to take an interest in. That’s why it’s important to re-engage the mind and the spirit by giving ourselves something to work toward.
Set yourself some goals that you can work toward if you’re someone who is currently out of work, or dealing with more free-time than you want to. This isn’t to say you have to become a master of productivity, or that you have to overhaul your home or your life.
Simply set yourself 3–5 tasks each day that require a little effort and a little focus. This will help eat up the time and keep your body invested in the process of living, something which is done through action. You can make these tasks as complicated or as simple as you like. Paint your office. Take the dog on a walk. Clean the kitchen. Create a task list that distracts you while giving you a simple sense of accomplishment.
3. Get out of the house
There is no denying that the average human is not meant to be kept cooped up indoors. We crave being social, but an even greater part of us craves being on the move and being outdoors. Getting into nature is proven to be powerfully transformative when it comes to mental health and improving the way that we feel. While we may be locked down from work and socializing, many of us still have the opportunity to get outside every day; and we should.
Spend 15–20 minutes getting outside every day. Go on a short walk around your block, or even just sit outside on a balcony or a patio. Spend that time really feeling the air and grounding yourself in the outdoors and its immense sense of presence.
For some, going outside is literally restricted. If that’s the case, then you need to physically engage your body in some other way in order to divert your thoughts and reset things in your brain (and your muscles). Do a short, but intense exercise for at least 10 minutes, 1x per day. Likewise, you can use short but intense bursts of cleaning or productivity to break up the monotony and engage your body.
4. Engage your brain
The human brain is a complex and nuanced thing, which works more like an organic computer than anything else. It needs to be intentionally used in order to stay sharp and helpful for us. When we’re stuck inside — removed from our work and removed from our friends — we can find our mind and our cognitive abilities going into decline. We have to make sure our minds stay sharp by creating opportunities for it to flex its skills.
Engage your brain. You need to get creative and find tasks that brain can focus on over your obsessively negative thoughts. We’re living through tough times. Focusing on all the misery and all the things out of your control won’t fix anything, and it won’t make anything better.
Stay informed and then divert your thoughts to something else that can benefit you in the long run. Puzzles are a great way to keep the mind sharp, but you can also invest in things like online courses which keep the mind sharp while also having the added benefit of building your skills and your sense of confidence in self. Want to get out of your negative thought spiral? Give your brain something else to think about.
5. Monitor your eating habits
It’s so important that we’re kind to ourselves right now, and part of that kindness includes nourishing our physical bodies and being kind to them. We can take that too far, though, when we over-indulge and allow our eating habits to get out of control. While this may provide a temporary sense of comfort in the long run, it only creates greater barriers for us in the post-coronavirus world.
Monitor your eating habits and make sure you’re being compassionate, but not going overboard. Give yourself plenty of time for treats that give you the boost you need, but don’t allow yourself to fall into binging habits and don’t get hooked on unhealthy food that creates bigger health problems later.
Keep a record of what you’re eating and keep a record of any health changes you may be experiencing. Pay attention to your gut health and make sure you don’t make your current lockdown status worse by giving yourself health problems that can’t be appropriately addressed. Eat as healthy as you can and use this time to experiment with any healthy habits you want to change or adopt.
Putting it all together…
If you are one of the millions of people around the world being affected by the lockdowns and restrictions, then you might be finding yourself faced with some serious cabin fever by this point. Cabin fever isn’t to be taken lightly. If you’re dealing with that anxiety and that feeling of helplessness, then you need to get creative and take action to engage your brain and your heart.
Disrupt your routine and mix things up. If you’ve been getting lazy, get up in the mornings and do something different. If you’ve been getting up, give yourself a lie-in. Set goals for yourself and give yourself something to work toward. This will keep your brain forward focused and your thoughts pointing in the same direction. Get out of the house (if you can) and try to get back into nature — and the fresh air — for at least 15–20 minutes a day. Above all else, though, find ways to engage your brain and keep it active. Call your friends, get invested in a new craft or puzzle hobby; the options are really endless. Be kind to yourself and nurture your body, but don’t let yourself fall into bad eating habits. Creating new negative patterns will only create more problems on the other side of the lockdown. Stay positive. The future is just around the corner.