Cabin fever is a popular term for a relatively common reaction to being isolated or confined for an extended period of time. Cabin fever is not a specific diagnosis, but rather a constellation of symptoms that can occur under these circumstances.
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:
LethargySadness or depressionTrouble concentratingLack of patienceFood cravingsDecreased motivationDifficulty wakingFrequent nappingHopelessness
Note that these symptoms may also be indicative of a wide range of other disorders. If these symptoms are distressing or impact your functioning, a trained mental health professional could help you determine if you have a treatable disorder.
Coping With Cabin Fever
If your symptoms are relatively mild, taking active steps to combat your feelings may be enough to help you feel better. If they are impacting you more significantly, they are best addressed with the assistance of a therapist or other mental health professional.
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. 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.
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.
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.
A Word From Verywell
While staying indoors and social distancing may run counter to our instinct for socialization, it is imperative that we heed the strict guidelines given by the CDC to help minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Ignoring these recommendations will result in an increase in the number of symptomatic cases and deaths.
It is important to take this situation seriously and face the necessity of being stuck indoors with ‘cabin fever.’ Read a book, play board games, watch television, and talk to friends via FaceTime—but stay inside.