Day 23 – Is this cabin fever I’m feeling?

I love it when experts come out with something that completely agrees with how I’m feeling – so I read this note in the Gazette (on line of course) and went – Right – I have Cabin Fever too!

As per the Gazette – “cabin fever” is not an actual psychological term. But all that irritability, sleepiness, restlessness, lack of motivation or focus we’re feeling is certainly valid, according to some experts.

“There’s a cluster of symptoms that we see when people are forced to being cooped up for extraordinarily long periods of time,” said registered psychologist Janine Hubbard.

We are creatures of habit, so it’s no surprise that some people are feeling restless, which can manifest in dangerous ways, including risky public behaviour, she added. People who are experiencing a lack of control and stimulation “need to activate some of those endorphins,” she explained, as a way to shake off the lack of energy or motivation.

The feelings of cabin fever are compounded by one key question about around self-isolation: when will it end?

In Canada in general, and Quebec in particularly – things aren’t looking rosy. The newest estimates are at least another month – perhaps 2. I have a friend who has decided that she isn’t going to listen to the negative news stuff – but I’m more of the – if it’s going to be that long – let’s get organized – mentality.

So – here are tips to help cope: (as cut and pasted from an article by Alexander Mae Jones, a writer for CTV News):

WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE CABIN FEVER?

The good news is that there are a number of things that a person can do to fight the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

Establish a routine

You don’t have to get up at 6:00 a.m. every day, but keeping yourself on a loose routine of some type — getting out of bed at a similar time, having regular mealtimes, attempting to keep to a shower schedule — will help to keep your spirits up as the weeks go on.

“Having regular ‘work time,’ whether that’s you working, whether that’s your kids doing some schoolwork, whether that’s you tackling a project, (or) building some exercise time (is important),” Hubbard said.

Change your clothes

When you get out of bed, put on something that you didn’t sleep in.

“Get dressed,” Hubbard suggested. “Even if it’s just into (more) comfy clothing.”

Putting on a full suit for a work from home shift might be energizing for some, but don’t worry, it’s not completely necessary — the important thing is just the act of getting dressed at all. Wearing pants in a pandemic is an achievement.

Try to see the sun

If at all possible, getting some time outside can have a huge impact on your mental health.

“It’s amazing how much that exposure to sunlight is going to help with some of your endorphins and your serotonin levels, which are all going to make you feel a whole lot better,” Hubbard said.

If going for a walk makes you feel more anxious because of worries about maintaining physical distancing, just standing on a balcony, in your backyard, or on your front steps for a few minutes could improve your mood.

Be social…

Checking in with others through technology or phone calls is important. We all need social support, and just hearing a human voice can remind us that the world outside of our home still exists.

“If you’re used to having a coffee with a coworker each morning … set up some virtual Zoom meetings or FaceTime where you’re going to have your little cup of coffee together and just be connected,” Hubbard said.

…but take breaks from social media and the news

Staying informed on developments within your country and across the world is important, but refreshing Twitter all day and overloading on horrifying headlines can leave you feeling overwhelmed.

Hubbard recommended limiting your news intake to “once or twice a day (from) a reputable news source where you know you’re getting accurate, up-to-date information.”

And when you talk to family and friends over FaceTime or the phone, “try to keep your conversations about things other than COVID. Talk to them about the silly things you’ve been reading or watching on TV.”

This doesn’t mean you should not talk to loved ones about your stresses and how you’re holding up during this crisis.

But if conversations turn into two people repeating every upsetting news article they’ve read in the past two weeks, it could just leave participants feeling worse afterwards, instead of feeling connected.

Try to engage in “active distraction,” not just Netflix

Having downtime where you don’t have to think is important, and watching TV or movies can be great for that.

“But try to include some active distraction,” Hubbard said. “So something that distracts you and relaxes you, but also engages your brain.” 

This could be pulling out a board game if you are quarantining with multiple people, or “doing a puzzle or pulling out an old craft project.

“Something where you’re feeling both relaxed and productive,” Hubbard explained. This can help to take away some of the helplessness people can experience in this time.

Don’t compare your quarantine to others

“It’s really important to remember that this experience looks different for everyone,” Hubbard said. “So yes, while you may have some people who are able to use this as a time for … around the house projects or doing some cleaning … or developing a new skill, there are some people who are just trying to get out of bed every morning and get their kids fed and clothed and trying not to crumble.”

For some, their largest immediate worry right now is boredom and how to fill the days in order to stave off anxiety. But others may have family members or loved ones battling COVID-19, or may be still working on the frontlines, or may have lost their jobs and be preoccupied with financial concerns.

These people “don’t have time for self-development projects,” Hubbard said.

Others may be battling mental health issues strong enough that seeing people post on Instagram about how many new languages they’re learning may not be inspiring, but instead feel like social pressure to be doing better than a person is currently capable of.

If all you can do one day is get out of bed, put on sweatpants and reheat Kraft dinner, that’s still an accomplishment, Hubbard said.

“If that’s what you manage to accomplish, that’s fantastic. Tomorrow might look a little bit different. We’re all going to have our strong days and we’re all going to have our days where we’re not feeling so on top of it.”

Shower!

This one is from me personally. My friends and family are reporting that there is a lack of – well – showers happening. So make being clean part of your ‘cooped’ up routine.

Having already changed my clothes, bathed, and created a daily routine – I’m signing off to go for a walk!

The Soup Lady

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