By Claudia Cole
In a place where you can unwind, walk around in your underwear, and spend the day in bed, there is truly no place like home. However, being stuck inside the house for days on end is enough to make any home feel like a cage. If you’re feeling lethargic, irritable, or restless, chances are, you’re suffering from something known as cabin fever. In the wake of COVID-19 and self-quarantine, you’re not alone.
Cabin fever is a popular expression often associated with the intense negative emotions a person experiences when confined in an area for an extended period of time. The concept has existed since the late 1800s when people became isolated in remote areas due to extreme winter weather. Despite that, cabin fever doesn’t always include snow blizzards, and a deranged Jack Torrance like The Shining depicts. In reality, it shares symptoms that can occur whenever someone is feeling isolated or disconnected from the outside world.
Though it’s not classified as a psychological disorder, mental health professionals do recognise that the symptoms are very much real. While some can easily find ways to overcome it, others may find it difficult to manage their day-to-day lives.
Symptoms vary but commonly include the following:
- Frequent napping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Irregular sleeping patterns
- Persistent sadness or depression
- Decreased motivation
Although this long period of isolation is a necessary measure for public safety, it has been acknowledged that it could have negative impacts on our mental health.
“We’re not in control of everything, but we are in control of some things and can be proactive about them,” says Dr. Radha Modgil. “When we’re doing something to help a problem or situation, it reduces anxiety and fear levels.”
So what can be done to help?
Just implementing a few adjustments into your lifestyle can minimise the feeling of cabin fever, ensuring your mental health and wellbeing are being supported in the best way possible. Here’s what to do.
Stick to a routine
As you may have already noticed, your usual routine has faced many changes over the last few weeks or may not even exist at anymore. It might seem pointless to stick to one when our lifestyle now has so many temporary limitations. Even so, our days still need a sense of structure. Whether that’s to continue your usual morning workout sessions or making sure you’re in bed by 10 pm, it can provide a great deal of comfort.
The certainty of a routine helps us to deal with the uncertainty life throws at us.
Organising our time allows us to form healthy habits and prioritise our responsibilities. This is especially important if you’re working from home and finding it hard to adjust. Carving enough time to complete your daily tasks sets aside more time to unwind, reducing stress levels.
For more inspiration and guidance, download Fabulous, a science-based app to help you build healthy rituals that suit you.
Explore your creative side
While Netflix and other streaming services are good sources to keep you distracted, it’s essential to keep your brain active. A great way to do this is to engage in some creative activities. Do you have a flair for art? Were you once interested in poetry? Reconnecting or discovering creative activities is a great way to not only boost the brain’s function but ward of feelings of restlessness and boredom.
In addition, one of the most beneficial aspects of exploring our creative side is that it provides a great sense of freedom. It permits us to take risks and allows us to engage with the world without judgment. Our imagination has the power to extend far beyond our reality. Why not use it to your advantage?
Make use of the space in your home
Our homes are designed in a way where we use different rooms for different purposes. However, in a world where technology has advanced, it’s very easy to spend most of our time in our bedroom accompanied by our smartphone or TV. If you’ve spent the majority of your time in bed or sat on the sofa in the living room during lockdown, no wonder you’re feeling stir crazy.
Use each room in the house for what it specifically designed for. For example, limit the living room couch area to unwind for the evening after work, or the bedroom for getting a good night’s rest. This will help reduce restlessness.
Here’s a tip: Try opening the windows or balcony doors during the day. Inviting some fresh air into your home, leave the place feeling less stifled and you more alert.
Though this extended period of isolation has proven to be difficult at times, continuing to stay home is essential to help keep ourselves and our communities safe. So, ensure your brain is staying active, stay connected, and remember, it’s all temporary.