We have all heard the term at one time or another in our lives—cabin fever. However, how many of us really know what the term means or if we ourselves are suffering from the condition?
The term cabin fever’s official meaning is: “extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time.”
Contrary to what many may think, cabin fever is not a psychologically-based disorder that can be diagnosed, as there is no listing in the manual of disorders that psychologists reference.
With that said, there is no official definition used to describe it medically. One psychologist explained it best to CNN in that “it may not be a real condition, but the feelings it’s associated with are.”
What are the feelings that are associated with cabin fever? They can include a sense of confinement or that of isolation. Many have described it as a feeling of being anxious, feeling “cooped up,” and feeling like you are going “stir crazy.”
When left unattended, or ignored, cabin fever can sometimes lead to the medical condition of claustrophobia, which in and of itself is described as “extreme or irrational fear of confined places.”
Cabin fever is believed by many medical professionals as have ties to that of season affective disorder (SAD)—in lay man’s terms, what many refer to as the “winter blues.” This term is attached to a form of diagnosable depression usually experienced during the winter months and believed to be a factor more related to the reduction in exposure to light.
Although cabin fever is often termed more of a syndrome than a disorder, there are some symptoms that you can look for nonetheless:
- Irritability or the lack of patience
- Listlessness or feelings of distress
- Symptoms of anxiety
- Feelings of loneliness
- Feelings of depression, sadness or hopelessness
- The lack of motivation
- Fatigue, sleepiness, and lethargy
- Difficulty in concentrating
- The difficulty of fully waking or frequent napping
Cabin fever can, if it lingers on for months, become a threat to your overall health. It can lead to such conditions as depression, chronic stress, or paranoia.
Coping With Cabin Fever
There are several means of successfully coping with cabin fever.
The most effective one is to get outside and into nature. You don’t necessarily have to go anywhere, just enjoy a brisk walk around the yard. Spending some time earthing has proven to be a very successful manner of lifting your mood. Earthing entails where you come into direct contact with the ground, through the process of either laying on the ground or walking in the grass barefoot.
If getting outside isn’t currently an option, the simple act of sitting by a window and allowing the sunlight to reach your eyes and wash over you can prove to be most beneficial as well.
Make A Daily Schedule
Make yourself a daily schedule and work to keep to it. With the setting up of a regular schedule, or “to do” list, you will be adding a sense of normalcy that will, in turn, maximize your overall efficiency.
Also, include in the schedule a cycle of regular wake and sleep times. In an attempt to get enough sleep, most adults need an estimated between seven to nine hours. Avoid napping or sleeping during the day, as that will only work to throw your cycle off.
Plan to have your meals at pre-set times throughout the day and the week. Try not to skip any meals, as this leads to the term “grazing,” which is like it sounds, the process of nibbling and snacking all day, rather than having a proper sit-down meal.
In addition to making sure you are eating full, healthy meals, make sure to add a vitamin D supplement to your diet when possible. Science has proven that the sunlight activates the vitamin D stored under our skin. If we do not get outside enough, we often suffer from lower than usual levels of this vitamin.
Make time in your daily schedule to take a break and do those activities that bring you joy—such as reading, cooking, or baking. By taking on activities that engage your mind, such as puzzles, meditating, or cleaning your home, there is a feeling of accomplishment that can prove to be a mood lifter.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
When we exercise, we feel a “natural high” from a natural chemical the body releases called endorphins. These endorphins trigger your body to have more energy for the task at hand. If you find that venturing outdoors for a walk or even a run, is not a safe option for you, an alternative would be to try an at-home workout with the use of items around the home for weights.
There is also the option of taking up yoga or pilates at home, as they require the basic equipment of a mat to exercise on. Still, stuck for ideas? Try hitting up YouTube as there is sure to be something there that will pique your interest. We have all at one time, or another suffered from cabin fever—and never more so than during the current difficult times that our nation is going through. However, there are several methods that you can put into place to aid in fighting the feelings that the syndrome is known to invoke.