The global pandemic has forced most of the world to stay inside. Although there are plenty of countries that have not received many lockdowns, the very idea of a lingering disease plaguing the streets has left the entire world in a state of constant fear.
As such, its become more normalized to stay home.
And with convenience right at our fingertips, from fast deliveries to the prevalent immersion into the digital world, the trend of staying home will only continue long after this pandemic ends.
But with that being the case, it’s no wonder that a whole lot of us are suffering from what’s called cabin fever.
What is cabin fever?
Simply put, cabin fever refers to the feeling of restlessness usually caused by staying inside for too long.
Although these feelings were definitely heightened due to the pandemic — especially for countries that were forced to lockdown and stay inside — it’s a psychological effect that people have felt long before, although the exact origins are unknown.
Cabin fever can be categorized as a form of claustrophobia, where a person experiences great irritability and stress due to being in an isolating location or situation for long periods of time.
A person experiencing cabin fever can be seen to be going ‘stir-crazy‘ — a term defining a person who is ‘distraught because of prolonged confinement.’ The word ‘stir’ here is a 19th-century slang for ‘prison,’ which is believed to be originated from the Romani term sturiben, meaning prison.
Although at face value, cabin fever is used to describe irritation and restlessness from being inside too long, it in fact refers to a series of negative emotions people may face from social isolation.
Whether its due to current events or simply from the change in season, the effects of cabin fever vary from person to person.
In some people, these changes are fairly small and hardly noticeable. But they can be more severe, often in individuals more vulnerable to stress. You’d expect them to have a harder time dealing with the stresses of the economy and world events.— Michael Young, PhD, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology
What does cabin fever look like?
The root of cabin fever lies in a sense of isolation and hopelessness. Some common symptoms of this psychological feeling could look like the following:
- irregular sleeping patterns
- decreased motivation
- inability to wake up well
- lack of concentration
- lack of patience
- consistent sadness or depression
- constant anxiety
- distrust of other people
Tips for dealing with cabin fever
Cabin fever can be easy to come by, but hard to break from, especially if we’re all staying at homes more regularly. However, what’s important to keep in mind is that it is something that can be overcome with the right steps and awareness.
- Speak to people — Staying at home shouldn’t mean social isolation from the rest of the world or society. It’s important to take this time to call and contact loved ones. Catch up with people, share stories, and simply talk. Even if you don’t feel like you have a specific person to contact, these days there are plenty of platforms to allow an online connection, with some studies hinting that talking to strangers can have surprising benefits.
- Make sure you exercise —Exercise does more for your mind than you can imagine. Moving around can help to boost your mood, reduce stress, and elevate your thoughts. These days, there are countless workout apps to download and/or plenty of YouTube channels to help you get moving. There is literally no excuse to not work out these days, and this should be even more the case when staying inside.
- Disconnect from the digital — It can be difficult not to be on the computer or phone these days, especially with everything being online. However, spending all our time in front of a screen may only worsen our states of anxiety or restlessness. In fact, studies have shown that there is definitely an association between screen time usage and psychological well-being. The longer a person spent on a screen, the higher chance they had to have less self-control, more distractibility, and less emotional stability.
- Stick to structures and routines — As much as some refuse to believe it, structures and routines play an important part in our lives. Structure helps to keep you focused and routines can nurture consistency and self-control.
Breaking out of your shell
The tricky thing about cabin fever is that it sneaks up on us. We go about our days, thinking we are secure from the world in our own safe haven we call home, and yet if we settle in long enough, the lurking fever hits.
One moment we may feel fine, but another we could be struggling with irritability and become highly emotional and demotivated— feeling stuck in a rut.
There’s no running away from cabin fever. But the important thing is to recognize and acknowledge that it will pass, as long as we keep ourselves mentally and physically proactive. In a weird twisted way, cabin fever might be our mind’s way of reminding us to break out from our comfortable shells and be productive.
Negativity can be hard to avoid — especially when the world is going through a global pandemic, another potential recession, and a wild war. But stirring that pot of enthusiasm to learn something new can help remind us that regardless of what sits outside, the efforts to find and calm ourselves from within can inevitably help us out discover a light from the dark of our mental tunnel.