Overcoming Cabin Fever During the COVID-19 Pandemic

cabin fever during COVID-19

It’s been nearly a year since COVID-19 reached America, leading to nationwide lockdown and self-quarantine. In an effort to limit coronavirus cases in densely populated areas, California lawmakers have set particularly severe restrictions. Curfews, stay-at-home orders, and mask requirements have become commonplace on the West Coast. As we all do our part to stop the spread, there is no shame in admitting that being stuck inside for a year is mentally taxing. Today, we’ll provide a few tips for overcoming cabin fever during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why Do I Feel So Bad?

There are two key factors which contribute to feeling cooped up at home. The first is isolation. Social distancing and self-quarantine have reduced our time with family, friends, and coworkers. When we do see others, interactions don’t feel “normal.” The pandemic has increased our separation from others and resulted in more hours spent alone.

Next, there’s the repetitive sameness of every day. While our normal lives may involve a bustle of activities and locations, in COVID-19, we are all working, eating, playing, and socializing in the same place, day after day. Researchers have found that this has significantly affected our perception of time. Put simply, we’re missing out on the wide variety of human experiences (in fun and novel locations) that we’re used to.

Together, isolation and repetition have created the perfect storm for cabin fever: a constellation of symptoms which can occur during extended periods of confinement. Here’s how to know if you are dealing with this condition.

Signs of Cabin Fever

First, remember that “cabin fever” is just a turn of phrase; it’s not a diagnosis or medical concern. However, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore its symptoms. Being mindful of our mental state (and the factors contributing to it) can help us to enact positive change.

Common symptoms of cabin fever include…

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness and low mood
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anhedonia (losing interest in once-loved activities)
  • Irregular sleep patterns (frequent napping, difficulty waking)
  • Lack of motivation
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Excessive eating and food cravings

Like any condition, no two people will experience cabin fever in the same way. The symptoms listed above are the most commonly cited effects of prolonged isolation and repetition. They can also serve as indicia of other conditions, like depression. If you are experiencing significant difficulties, we encourage you to reach out for professional help as soon as possible.

If your symptoms are less severe, we invite you to try some of our recommended coping skills from CDC researchers.

How to Beat Cabin Fever

Psychologists and epidemiologists have put together a series of coping mechanisms for people trying to maintain normalcy during the pandemic. If your motivation is flagging and you’re feeling low, there is hope. Try some of these techniques for relief from cabin fever.

Create a Consistent Routine

It may feel counterintuitive to create a new routine so late in lockdown, but experts state that this can help to manage many of the worst symptoms of COVID isolation. You don’t necessarily have to do the same things every day; rather, simply set times when you will wake, eat each meal, exercise, and sleep. These events serve as healthy benchmarks throughout your day. As a bonus, you’ll find relief from many of the physical symptoms of cabin fever.

Take Breaks from the News

If you turn on the TV or look at your smartphone, you’re sure to see a bevy of upsetting headlines about disease, political unrest, and other current events. While we encourage you to stay up to date on these happenings, be mindful of how much of your time is spent engaging with this content. Set a timer for thirty minutes each day for the best balance of information (without overload).

Make Self-Care a Priority

It’s hard to feel your best when you’re not taking care of yourself. Be sure that you’re sleeping enough, eating nutritious meals (not just chips and sodas), and staying active. If you’re in need of some structure, keep track of your healthy habits in an app or written list.

Stay Mentally Engaged

Individuals in recovery know that boredom is a key risk for relapse. As we near one year of COVID, we’ve all had our own midday movie marathons; by this point, we’re probably scraping the bottom of the Netflix barrel. That’s not exactly a recipe for entertainment. Instead of re-watching The Office for the thousandth time, consider doing some mental exercises. Puzzles (crossword, word find, or jigsaw), books, and board games can all serve as great sources of stimulation.

Connect With Others

You can overcome the isolation of the pandemic by reaching out to your loved ones. Video chat with your friends, family, or sponsor when you need support. Don’t forget, there are a lot of different ways to stay in touch; send letters through the postal service, DM each other memes on social media, or write emails back and forth. The options are limitless!

Recovery Support During COVID-19

The pandemic has been a trial for all of us. Whether you are dealing with cabin fever in recovery or active addiction, professional help may be required. At HVRC, our clinicians provide hospital-grade care in a homelike setting. For more information about our addiction recovery and mental health programs, please contact our admissions team.