5 Tips for Coping with ‘Cabin Fever’ During a Shelter-in-Place

By Sam Dylan Finch

Self-quarantine can be challenging, but coping with it isn’t impossible.

As many of us enter our second week of self-quarantine, we might be feeling that restless, irritable, trapped, discontented feeling we’ve come to know as “cabin fever.”

If you’re somewhere on the spectrum of “did my roommate always breathe this loudly?” and “about to shave my whole head if I can’t get a haircut,” you might be in need of some fever relief.

Because self-isolation and social distancing is still our best bet at containing the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s more critical than ever to not let our “cabin fever” jeopardize the health of ourselves and our communities.

With those parameters in mind, here are some tips for surviving a shelter-in-place without succumbing to “cabin fever.”

 Connect with nature

Getting outside is a critical part of mental health, but not everyone has the ability to do so right now, particularly if you’re part of a high-risk group. So if the great outdoors isn’t accessible to you at this time, you can still try to bring some of the outdoors inside.

Some options include:

  • Open all of your windows. If you can get a breeze moving through your space, it can help things feel less contained and more spacious.
  • Invest in some houseplants. Houseplants can help a space feel more lively and connected to the outside world. There are even online stores like The Sill that will deliver plants directly to your home.
  • Immerse yourself in a nature documentary. Planet Earth, anyone? Turn the lights down low, get some surround sound going if you can, and let yourself get lost in the sights and sounds of the natural world.
  • Get some ambient noise going. There are countless playlists and apps that include nature sounds like ocean waves, thunderstorms, birds chirping, etc. It’s not a bad idea to use these to self-soothe when you’re feeling cagey.

2. Get your body moving

When you’re feeling agitated, getting yourself moving can be helpful in discharging that restlessness. That doesn’t mean you have to become a marathon runner or fitness buff during your self-quarantine! You can keep it as simple and fun as you’d like.

Pro-tip: Joyn, an “all bodies” joyful fitness app, has made 30+ of its classes FREE for folks who are self-quarantined! It includes dance classes, low-impact cardio, yoga, and more.

3. Carve out some quiet time

Sometimes our “cabin fever” actually stems from being overstimulated or overwhelmed, particularly if we’re cooped up with other people. Finding a way to access some quiet and solitude can be especially helpful if that’s the case.

Some options (perhaps after telling your roommates to PIPE DOWN for an hour) include:

  • Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs. It’s not a bad investment right now and, unlike toilet paper, you can still purchase this online. If the sound of someone else’s breathing is driving you bonkers, this could be a lifesaver.
  • Take a mindful shower or bath. Many meditation apps, including Simple Habit, include guided meditations for when you’re in the shower or bath, and there are some you can find on YouTube as well. But simply practicing mindfulness — being aware of the bodily sensations and being present — can help quiet your body and mind.
  • Try gentle yoga. Gentle yoga can be incredibly helpful in calming our nervous system. These yoga poses for insomnia are great for self-soothing.
  • ASMR, anyone? Some folks swear by ASMR, using sound to target anxiety, insomnia, and more. This guide is a great introduction to ASMR and its uses.
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Sometimes our “cabin fever” actually stems from being overstimulated or overwhelmed, particularly if we’re cooped up with other people. Finding a way to access some quiet and solitude can be especially helpful if that’s the case.

Some options (perhaps after telling your roommates to PIPE DOWN for an hour) include:

  • Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs. It’s not a bad investment right now and, unlike toilet paper, you can still purchase this online. If the sound of someone else’s breathing is driving you bonkers, this could be a lifesaver.
  • Take a mindful shower or bath. Many meditation apps, including Simple Habit, include guided meditations for when you’re in the shower or bath, and there are some you can find on YouTube as well. But simply practicing mindfulness — being aware of the bodily sensations and being present — can help quiet your body and mind.
  • Try gentle yoga. Gentle yoga can be incredibly helpful in calming our nervous system. These yoga poses for insomnia are great for self-soothing.
  • ASMR, anyone? Some folks swear by ASMR, using sound to target anxiety, insomnia, and more. This guide is a great introduction to ASMR and its uses.

Redecorate and/or rearrange your space

Don’t underestimate what a few simple changes can do to make your space feel more habitable. If you’re going to be hunkering down for a minute, it could be worthwhile to change things up.

Some suggestions/inspiration for you:

  • Prioritize spaciousness. Wide, open spaces! If there are pieces of furniture that you don’t need right now (like extra dining room chairs, or a work chair that you only use during the day), try stowing them away in a closet or even a hallway when they aren’t being used. If there’s an opportunity to rearrange your furniture to make your room feel more open, experiment and see what happens.
  • Out of sight, out of mind. Clutter can make “cabin fever” feel a lot more unmanageable. Consider stashing excess decorations out of sight, like items you would usually display on a table or shelf.
  • Experiment with lighting. Lighting can actually have a big impact on our mood. If there was ever a time to hang up some twinkle lights, swap out your fluorescent lights with a softer lamp, or invest in a light projector that puts stars or ocean waves up on your ceiling (yes, these do exist!), now’s the time.
  • Do your best to keep things tidy. I know this sounds obvious, but it’s especially important to keep things as tidy as possible and to avoid clutter. This guide to decluttering when depressed is a helpful way to approach tidying up when things are difficult.
  • Create a vision board. If you’ve got a printer, old magazines to cut up, or an affinity for drawing, now is a great time to create an inspirational reminder of your hopes for the future. While the future might feel uncertain, it can be helpful to dream of the possibilities instead of fixating on fear. And, bonus, it can brighten up your space!

Transport yourself someplace else

When all else fails, sometimes we just need to imagine ourselves somewhere else entirely. Thankfully, there are plenty of creative ways to do this.

Pro-tip: If you’re someone that enjoys video games, delving into another world can be a nice reprieve. For non-gaming gamers, games like The Sims that allow you to create a separate life for yourself can be cathartic. For others, watching a playlist of “tiny house” tours or a favorite travel show can feel soothing, or getting lost in a fantasy novel.

If all else fails? Remember that “cabin fever” isn’t forever. 

Self-quarantine can be challenging, but coping with it isn’t impossible.

In fact, it can be a great opportunity to get creative about how you make use of your space, while developing new skills in self-care that will be beneficial long after a shelter-in-place.

And more importantly, it means that you’re taking the necessary precautions to protect yourselves and your community!

Doing your part to “flatten the curve,” while uncomfortable at times, is the best defense we have at slowing down exposure. You’re doing the right thing — so hang in there.

From the article in https://www.healthline.com/health/5-tips-for-coping-with-cabin-fever-during-a-shelter-in-place#If-all-else-fails?-Remember-that-cabin-fever-isnt-forever.

Sam Dylan Finch is an editor, writer, and digital media strategist in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s the lead editor of mental health & chronic conditions at Healthline. Find him on Twitter and Instagram, and learn more at SamDylanFinch.com.

As always please comment and let me know how I can improve our time together and let me know if there is anything you would like me to cover. Also please check out the links to products like the free Audible books below. This helps my with my costs of keeping this site going. Thanks.

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Published by Gene Smith

Sometimes go by "Grumpy Old Guy ". I am an almost retired guy living with diabetes in the American South.

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