If you’re anything like me, staying home in quarantine for weeks and weeks now may have unveiled a few things: difficulty falling asleep, having no motivation to do anything, and just generally feeling down and hopeless – and not always understanding why.
Well, my friend, it sounds like you and me both have to deal with cabin fever.
I pulled up a description of cabin fever, and here’s what I found:
Cabin fever is a series of negative emotions and distressing sensations people may face if they’re isolated or feeling cut off from the world.
It’s not an actual diagnosable disorder, but those “negative emotions and distressing sensations” are very real, and very valid.
How can we cope with cabin fever, you might be asking? Aside from remembering the 4 things we can do when things don’t go according to plan, here’s a little something extra: self-care habits.
And because I believe self-care doesn’t always mean splurging on bath bombs, sheet masks, and scented candles, this list mentions completely free things you can do to boost your mood and cope better when you’re just tired of social distancing and self-quarantining.
Writing a gratitude list
When I first read about the effect of practicing gratitude on our overall happiness and health, I immediately thought I would try a gratitude journal.
Over time, you’ll find that tuning into the things that make you smile or happy – even little things like having your favorite meal for lunch, or seeing your pet do a cute thing – can really boost your mood. As time passes, you become more optimistic especially when you’re used to focusing on the positive things instead of the negative.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
Many people use journaling to document their day or week, and this exercise can be really healing to help you deal with cabin fever. Unguided journaling is most likely the most common way people journal, where you write free-flowing as things come to mind.
Some people turn this into a daily ritual, such as with morning lines. Morning lines is a practice where you write in a journal for about 10 minutes (or 3 pages, whichever you prefer) without any interruption.
Experiment with different times and settings to help you build a journaling habit in the first place.
Guided journaling is my personal go-to way of journaling. Because I always advocate doing things that work for us, I stick to guided journaling more often than unguided journaling. (But I do use both – since I find that they both have their own benefits!)
I often consult a list of guide questions that I ask myself each week, then reflect on those. Have some kind of structure helps me to organize my thoughts, instead of jumping from one to another, which I personally find draining.
Again, experiment with a journaling system that works for you. There is no wrong or right way to journal – there’s only a wrong or right way for you.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- A journaling notebook. Choose one that you love – be it ruled, blank, or dotted.
- A pen
When you’re feeling particularly stressed from staying indoors all the time, look into a few breathing exercises to calm yourself down and get more clarity of mind.
One crowd favorite, especially to deal with cabin fever and the stress that comes along with it, is the Square or Box Breathing method. You inhale for four seconds, hold your breath in for another four, exhale for four, then wait for four more seconds before repeating the entire exercise.
(I like following this gif to help guide me as I go, so I don’t need to count on my own.)
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- An optional guide for your preferred breathing exercise
- An optional meditation app (many are free!) to guide you through different exercises
If doing a full workout feels like too much right now, you can still move and relax your body with some floor stretches. Find a spot where you can stretch your arms and legs, or lie down, or just be able to execute a range of different poses and motions.
You might be sitting or standing in the same position for hours and hours on end each day – this isn’t good for you in the long run. So move your body with gentle stretches to get unstiff and feel instantly better.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- An optional exercise mat
- An optional stretching video guide. (Here’s my personal favorite stretching video from FitnessBlender.)
Indulge in your hobbies
Staying creative and having a passion project can be a big boost for your mental health right now. Not only does it provide us an outlet to let out negative feelings, but it also can provide much-needed novelty to help deal with cabin fever.
There are a few ways you can stay creative even when you’re in a dry-spell, but be sure to start from something you know or think you’ll like.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- The bare minimum supplies, e.g. watercolor paints for a painting hobby or a word processor for a writing hobby, to practice and indulge in your hobbies (remember, you don't need to spend on new things!)
What do you do when free self-care isn’t enough?
In this post, I showed you five indoor-friendly free self-care ideas – but how do you know when you need to get help for your feelings of anxiety, especially when you’re trying to deal with cabin fever?
If you feel like the feelings of anxiousness, hopelessness, or depression are getting the way of your daily life, if you feel unable to cope on your own even after trying all the ideas on this list, then you might need to get professional help.
At this point, I want to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with seeing a therapist when you need help with your mental health. In the same way we might buy healthier foods that cost a little more, we should also be open to investing in our mental health in the long term.
According to BetterHelp, therapy can ease anxiety by helping you identify, examine, and change negative thoughts that may arise. And especially when we’re dealing with a global pandemic that shows no signs of stopping in the next few weeks and maybe even months, we need to stay as vigilant as ever to keep ourselves mentally strong.
Deal with cabin fever to feel happier and healthier this season
Ask anyone who has to deal with cabin fever, and they’ll tell you it’s an ongoing battle. But we can always focus on things we can control to feel happier and healthier even while we social distance.
Which ideas do you want to try from this post? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Thank you to BetterHelp for sponsoring this blog post!