Charlie: If you’ve been experiencing any or all of these symptoms, you may be a victim of a health condition that has been becoming increasingly prevalent in COVID-era in which we are all currently living:
- Sadness or depression
- Trouble concentrating
- Lack of patience
- Food cravings
- Decreased motivation
- Social Isolation
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty waking
- Frequent napping
- Changes in weight
- Inability to cope with stress
- And in the case of being isolated with another person, you can add to the list, irritability, short-temperedness, and argumentativeness
The fever that we’re referring to is known as “Cabin fever”, which is defined as “a distressing claustrophobic irritability or restlessness experienced when a person, or group, is stuck at an isolated location or in confined quarters for an extended period of time (Wikipedia).
Unlike actual fevers which sometimes require the attention of a medical professional, cabin fever tends to be more of a mood disorder or psychological state than a physical condition, although its symptoms often show up in our physical experience. Mood disorders, however, are no small things and when they are deeply disturbing and persistent, they can require professional intervention. There are some steps that you can take before making the decision about bringing in the big guns, here are a few suggestions:
- Get Out of the House. If you are housebound or live somewhere where there is a total lockdown, this may not always be possible. But if you are able to go outside, even for a short time, take advantage of that opportunity. Exposure to daylight can help regulate the body’s natural cycles and exercise releases endorphins, creating a natural high. If you can’t leave your home move or exercise your body, as best you can.
- Eat Healthy: Cabin fever often causes appetite stimulation and recreational eating in order to avoid feelings of boredom and anxiety. Try to avoid overindulging in junk food. Healthy eating practices can increase your energy levels and motivation. Try to limit high-sugar, high-fat snacks, and drink plenty of water.
- Check-Ins: Practice frequent check-ins with your partner. Letting each other know how you are doing in ways that don’t imply that they are the cause of your feelings can do a lot to promote greater mutual understanding. Communications that are not judgmental or blaming can enhance the feelings of trust, goodwill, and support, which can be diminished in times of stress.
- Turn to Friends: Turn to your friends to meet some of your needs for connection. Although our live-in partner is the most convenient source of the contact that is needed in order to avoid loneliness, reaching out to close friends and/or relatives can lighten the responsibility that your partner may feel for fulfilling all of your needs for connection. Failing to do so can add unnecessary stress to your relationship.
- Limit screen time: Try not to overly rely on TV and other electronic devices. While the temptation can be strong to indulge in screen time, too much of it can diminish your attention span. This will make you feel more easily frustrated and impatient with others, in particular those closest to you. Instead, read books or play board games to stimulate and exercise your brain.
And by all means, attempt to have a long-range perspective. Eventually, we will be able to resume some of our normal routines and get out of the house more. It’s only a matter of time. In the meantime, some responsible self-care will help us through this challenging time. And please remember to cut yourself and others some slack by remembering that we’re ALL doing the best that we can under extremely trying circumstances. Keeping this in mind can help us to experience more patience and a greater willingness to extend forgiveness to others. And that’s something that most of us can use more of all the time, not just in times of crisis!