Coping with the Anxiety of Cabin Fever: How to Stay Positive throughout a Pandemic Scare

Reports of cabin fever seem to suggest that this is a folk term, but there is actually research showing that it is a legitimate condition. A 1980s study of cabin fever gave official recognition to the term, and study results found that most people described cabin fever as involving negative feelings like restlessness and irritability in response to bad weather, confinement, or isolation.

These feelings seem applicable to the current coronavirus outbreak, with recent headlines stating that 16 million people in Italy are currently quarantined. In the United States, reports indicate that Californians have been asked to shelter in place, meaning they are to stay home as much as possible, and only leave if seeking medical care or obtaining necessities like food or gas.

During this outbreak, many are likely feeling the effects of cabin fever, as quarantines, shelter in place orders, and closures of gyms, movie theaters, and other places of recreation can result in people feeling rather isolated. On top of fear and anxiety surrounding the coronavirus itself, people may be feeling anxious about being confined to their homes and losing touch with the outside world. Fortunately, there are ways to remain positive and cope with the anxiety that this pandemic brings.

Get Outside and Move

Despite shelter in place orders, it appears to be safe to go outside during the coronavirus outbreak. In fact, California authorities are encouraging people to get outside for exercise, so long as they keep their distance from others. If you are feeling the effects of cabin fever, head outside for a walk or jog around your neighborhood. Spending some time outdoors can lift your mood and break up the monotony of being at home all day.

Incorporate Exercise into Your Daily Routine

Even if you can’t get outside, it is possible to exercise from home, and this can be an effective method for dealing with cabin fever anxiety. Some gyms and fitness instructors are offering online classes, and there is a plethora of workout videos available on the Internet. Some companies offer workout equipment that can be shipped directly to your home. If you’re on a budget, it is possible to get a workout in with just a set of dumbbells. Perform basic exercises like squats, lunges, biceps curls, shoulder presses, and pushups from the safety of your own home. Even short bouts of exercise are enough to lift your spirits. In fact, a study in Health Psychology found that exercising for just 10 minutes improved mood and energy levels.

Practice Gratitude

 Recognizing those things for which you are grateful can really make a difference during a time of cabin fever. If you’re feeling upset about being stuck at home, you can make a list of things you’re grateful for, such as extra time to sit down and eat dinner with your family, or spare time to do tasks you’ve been putting off, such as cleaning out the closet or filing your taxes. You may simply be grateful for a break from your usual fast-paced life. Taking time to practice gratitude in this way has been proven effective; a 2015 study in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that gratitude interventions improved satisfaction with everyday life and reduced anxiety. Gratitude may be just what you need during the coronavirus outbreak.

Stay Connected

During a disease outbreak, you may have cabin fever because of being unable to go out and socialize with friends and family. While it may not be feasible to connect with people face-to-face, you can maintain social connections via phone and Internet to help cope with cabin fever. Checking in with friends and family via phone or Internet several times per week can be enough to keep you feeling connected. Today’s technological advances make it possible to communicate, even if you must keep yourself at a distance. For example, apps like Facetime allow you to have a face-to-face conversation via phone. Using social media can also be a viable way to stay in touch; according to a 2013 study in Computers in Human Behavior, Facebook is effective for maintaining social connectedness, and using it to connect with others can reduce depression and anxiety and improve life satisfaction. Using this and other Internet resources can help you to beat the anxiety that comes with cabin fever.

Cabin fever may be an anxiety-provoking response to the confinement and social isolation that can occur during a disease outbreak like the coronavirus pandemic, but there are ways to cope and stay mentally healthy. Even if you must pause your normal life for a period of time, you can ease stress and tension by spending time outdoors, getting exercise, practicing gratitude, and staying connected with others via available technology. While confined to your home, you might even find time to revisit old hobbies, try out new recipes, or make your way through a neglected reading list.




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