The World Health Organization gave a directive to maintain a social distance at the onset of the COVID-19. Social distancing means that you should have a radius of 6 – 8 feet away from the next person, avoid giving hugs or handshakes and keep away from public places and gatherings.
Inadvertently, this is to slow the spread of the disease, protect you from getting infected, and reduce the burden on the healthcare systems.
The ripple effect is that most employees are now working from home. For a species that thrives on social connections and interactions, these directives have a pronounced impact on you and your loved one’s physical and mental health.
What is Cabin Fever?
Cabin fever is an informal term used to describe feelings of being trapped, sadness, irritability, and restlessness that come about during long periods of isolation and impaired movement. All of a sudden, our once comfortable spaces aren’t quite welcoming anymore.
The demands of changing work environments as we keep social distance are making us overwhelmed. In turn, this causes us to feel lonely, lose concentration, and hamper our decision-making process.
In addition, those who have children will have an increased burden of child care, homeschooling, and house chores. Adding to this stress is the uncertainty surrounding this new normal.
With all this, cabin fever is almost inevitable. Undoubtedly, at some point, even the biggest optimist will become overwhelmed. Here are some tips that we can use to maintain our productivity and keep our body and mind in balance, keeping cabin fever at bay.
1. Make a Schedule and Stick to It
Let your new routine match your old one as closely as possible. Ensure that you have a set bedtime and wake up time that aligns with what you did before the directive to keep social distance.
Get out of bed, shower, and get dressed as usual, even though you are staying home and get your children to do the same.
Also, have set “work hours” where you do productive work-related activities, taking regular breaks and “non-work hours” where you take time to relax, spend time with your family, and do things you enjoy.
An excellent way to schedule your day is to ensure that your daily activities fit into these four categories; learning or work, responsibilities (chores), social connection, and leisure.
Let your family and friends know about and respect your schedule, especially since they can be your biggest distractors. Despite seeming like a good idea, don’t use this time to binge-watch your latest series or binge on video games.
Unfortunately, while it may help you pass the time, this leads to greater feelings of hopelessness and depression. Tasks you could easily accomplish become “the impossible task, adding to the anxiety and cabin fever.
2. Breathe Deeply
When you find yourself having feelings of hopelessness, take a deep breath. It will reset your brain, steering you away from the fight or flight cliff.
Furthermore, be mindful of your thoughts and stay away from any negative thoughts. Keep reminding yourself that these thoughts, for the most part, do not reflect the actual state of the situation.
You can use cognitive defusion to do this and take power away from negative thoughts. Add the phrase “I have the thought that…” in front of any negative thoughts you have.
For example, you can say to yourself, “I have the thought that… this will not get better” instead of “This will not get better.” Cognitive defusion takes the oomph out of the thought, making you aware that it is just a thought, not a true reflection of reality.
3. Let the Light In
Every morning, ensure that you open the shades to let the light into your space. Natural light is known to boost moods and helps to combat feelings of depression and anxiety. Natural light also helps to align your circadian rhythms, giving you better quality sleep.
Moreover, staying in a dark room will aggravate feelings of claustrophobia and give way to cabin fever. If possible, get out of the house, even if it’s for a few minutes a day to breathe in some fresh air and maybe, exercise.
4. Move Your Body
The freedom to move is a big part of independence. Being unable to move can make anybody feel stuck and out of control, causing cabin fever to set in. Moving about around your home every sixty minutes or so will have a huge difference.
You can set an alarm that will go off every hour. When it does, get up, take a lap or stroll around your house, get a chore from your list done, play with the kids, dance, or stand and stretch.
5. Have a Designated Space for Work
Have specific areas of the home set aside for work and restrict any work and homework related activities to them. Let the other regions be home, where you can relax, have fun and be with your family.
Though it’s tempting to have your laptop out on the dinner table, or in bed with your blankets, this robs you of the relaxed atmosphere you have come to associate with home.
This space can be a spare room, a corner of the house, or a designated table. Once done with your scheduled work period, don’t go back to your workspace until the next. Keeping away increases your feelings of control and keeps cabin fever at bay.
6. Find Ways to Socialize
The social distancing directive goes against everything it means to be human. Our species thrive on social connections and touch. Without it, you’ll feel abandoned, sadness will overwhelm you and the cabin fever creeps in.
To maintain your social connections, set aside time to connect with your loved ones through technology. Video chats are a great way to do this. Additionally, the experience can be more meaningful by having a shared experience.
Watch a TV program or movie that you and your loved ones both enjoy together on video chat. You can also share a meal or even exercise. Do this as much as you can, with those you love, while still respecting both their and your work schedules.
Though the directive on social distancing is the direct opposite of your instinctual response to seek social closeness, especially in times of crisis, it’s imperative to stick to it.
This situation is not ideal, but it is also not permanent. Remember, the human spirit has always been resilient. Even now, let’s trust that we will get through this.