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What is cabin fever: Usual symptoms and ways to cope

What is cabin fever: Usual symptoms and ways to cope
PHOTO: Unsplash

As per the recommendation from WHO, the best way to curb the spread of Covid-19 is to stay indoors. This has thrown up the chances of cabin fever.

Though mostly associated with winter storms and snowed-in conditions, any circumstance that prompts staying-in for a long period can cause the issue.

Are you unsure about cabin fever symptoms and how to cope with it? Here we tell you various methods to understand and deal with cabin fever.

What is cabin fever?

The feeling of restlessness, negative emotions and even, distressing physical sensations can be identified as cabin fever.

These feelings are heightened during isolation, quarantine and social distancing. It is not only about being lonely. Even cooped together as a group can give you these symptoms.

The problem is not listed as a psychological disorder, but doctors believe that the "feeling" is real. It can be serious if it affects the daily functions of any person. There are previous instances of extreme human behaviour.

The cause seems to point at isolation – whether alone or with a group. Boredom and want of socialising are the reasons.

Man is a social animal and must interact with others for mental wellbeing. Even an introvert needs a handful of close friends. Not being able to leave confinement can affect the psyche adversely.

Nothing stimulating to look forward to for long periods brings ennui accompanied by weird, risky behaviour.

Usual cabin fever symptoms

The symptoms are more than plain boredom. The intensity of these can disturb normal living and induce negativity. Some common cabin fever symptoms are:

  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of patience
  • Lack of motivation
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Persistent depression

Some people may show a change in their attitude towards others such as distrust or violence. Some people may lose all interest in life while others may jump into activities to fight their feelings.

Your temperament and nature will determine how you will react to cabin fever.

Coping with cabin fever

This is not a medically treatable disease, so there will be no medical intervention. Thus, the cure is in your hands. You may talk to a mental health professional to identify the problem, its intensity and your situation of isolation.

Since you may not be in a position to change the circumstances, you may tackle the other parameter – boredom.

Keeping your mind stimulated and your body active can help keep boredom at bay. This can act as a preventive measure as well as a cure for cabin fever. Your pent-up energy needs to be expended. Here’s how.

1. Follow a routine 

A stay-indoor routine will be different from your usual one. But it is a wise idea to create a new normal. Don’t binge eat, oversleep or treat it like a prolonged vacation. Routine helps calm anxiety. Schedule regular habits.

Exercise: Physical activity is the best prevention for stress and depression. The endorphins released keep you in good mental health as well as promote quality sleep. All these can ward off cabin fever.

Timely nutritious meals: Adhering to mealtimes will keep the energy levels intact. Enjoy comfort foods but don’t forget to have enough nutrition as well.

Adequate sleep: The initial tendency to catch up on deprived sleep will lead to sluggishness, if unchecked. Maintain proper sleep timings and sleep hygiene. Reduce naps to ward off lethargy.

2. Connect virtually

Lack of socialisation and human connection is a prime reason for depression and other ailments like heart problems. During this period, you cannot visit a friend or get together at the café.

But you must explore video chats, mail chats and other connectivity options.

Schedule chat time: Fix a time for video calls with family and friends. Make sure the kids are involved with the elderly during family chats. This will keep the spirits high for the aged and the kids connected to the extended family.

Share openly: While talking to friends and family, discuss your fears and worries clearly. Listen to theirs and empathise. You don’t need to pretend brave with your near and dear ones.

Write: This may be a good time to teach the kids to write letters. They may start by writing emails to friends, cousins and grandparents. You may drive in a bit of tradition by encouraging to write letters on paper.

3. Challenge your brain

One great way to fight boredom and stimulate yourself is to look for exciting activities. This has a dual effect. One, it takes off listlessness since there is something to look forward to.


Secondly, activating parts of the brain keeps the grey matter and neural actions aroused and healthy.

Learn something new: You may have put off something for too long due to your busy life. This might be the opportunity to take it up. It may be a language, a course or a skill such as art or baking.

Read books: This is the time to remember that a book is man’s best friend. Read books of your choice. Revisit classics. Escape into another world to push worry aside.

Finish overdue work: Pull down all the work you have been putting off for long. This is the best time to tackle time-consuming work like arranging the basement or creating photo albums.

4. Create happy moments

Just as stimulation is important, so is winding down. Find soothing and contented bits of activities daily. The feeling of bliss and calm can relax your frazzled nerves at this time.

Plan a home picnic: If you have young kids, they need to be entertained too. Planning a garden or indoor picnic would be a happy family get-together and perk up everybody’s mood.

Meditate: Meditation and mindfulness improve conditions related to stress and anxiety. At this time, you would find various websites and apps to help you through.

Snatch some me-time: Being in close proximity of even your family for a prolonged period can make you edgy. Take time out for yourself.

Go for walks, retire with a book or music, wake up earlier than others.

5. Change your attitude

There is a pandemic raging outside. Understanding your circumstance will help you react correctly.

Accept discomfort: Just like everything else in life, there is a learning curve in adjusting to a long period of homestay. You do not need to like it. Accepting what the situation demands and adhering to safety measures, will help us react to the changes positively.

Reduce news overdose: The constant media onslaught of negative news is capable of making one jittery. Continuous stimulation can make you feel overwhelmed with negativity. Give it a break for one day a week.

Limit alcohol: Whether you are relaxing or feeling worried, don’t reach out for alcohol. Besides disrupting sleep pattern and overall wellbeing, isolation may induce alcoholism, if not checked.

Use your phone: Reach out for help if you have any issues. Talk to your doctor. Contact helpline services for depression or anxiety. Download apps to help you through various activities.

In the end

Cabin fever is likely to crop up during a pandemic lockdown. If you know cabin fever symptoms, you can self-diagnose.

After that, implement some of the above-mentioned suggestions to counter the problem successfully.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

This article was first published in theAsianparent.

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