Dealing with Cabin Fever caused by Corona Pandemic-related Social-Distancing

Ok, so we are now deep in our self-isolation due to the pandemic. Social distancing obviously works (see this Washington Post article), so my wife and I “bolted the house door” and have dramatically limited our excursions into the outside world – like most of our acquaintances here in Germany. Not surprisingly, cabin fever has set in; that dreadful experience when the walls of the house seem to be closing in on you. It is as if breathing becomes more difficult, and the boredom is so stunning that our senses seem to be covered by an all suffocating net. I am pulling the (last) hair from of my head while gnashing my teeth! A quick look at the clock: our self-isolation has been going on for a full TEN hours!

How will we feel in ten DAYS? And what can be done to against cabin fever? I have checked across the internet and collected some ideas.

Cabin fever (also called stir-crazy, stir as in prison) is not a disease as such, but a claustrophobic reaction, resulting in irritability and restlessness, that happens when a person ends up in an isolated or solitary location, or stuck indoors in confined quarters for an extended period of time.

What helps?

  • Going out: even brief interactions with nature are helpful: garden, balcony, or even opening a window. Careful for those dizzy spells caused by a sudden intake of fresh air, you don’t want to drop down the building.
  • Keeping a schedule and regularity, for instance for your meals and activities.
  • Physical activity: indoor sports (push ups, crunches), yoga or breathing exercises. Take a look at this bloke running a marathon in his apartment. If you want to follow his example, do coordinate with your downstairs neighbors.
  • Keeping your mind intellectually occupied. Perhaps try solving an intriguing problem over a longer period of time – like challenging crossword puzzles.
  • Reading (I suggest these pandemic adventure stories).
  • Talking with people; by telephone, or shouting from your balcony. Carefully select the channel, you may not want to share details of your sex life with random passers-by.
  • Shaving
  • Writing (like this blogpost you are reading now).
  • Playing board or card games.
  • Cooking.
  • Creative arts (drawing, painting, singing, dancing). Get inspired by these Italians singing.
  • Can’t sing? Listen to music. Here my favorites.
  • In short: stimulating your mind helps keep you moving forward and reduce feelings of isolation and helplessness.

What doesn’t help?

  • Alcohol.
  • Smoking.
  • Drinking too much coffee or using other stimulants.
  • Sleeping too much (a good nights rest will strengthen your immune system, which in turn will help protect against infection; still, sleeping for long periods is also a symptom of cabin fever).
  • Eating too much. Don’t give in to food cravings.
  • Binge watching or computer gaming. Having that said, I am quite envious of my two millennial sons. After all, millennials know how to survive for weeks in a darkened room, feeding on potato chips and whiskey shots, while staring at a display, without any face-to-face interaction.
  • Try to limit your social media time.
  • Reading or watching too much news.
  • Counting and sorting your rolls of toilet paper.
  • In short: too much of any single activity is definitely detrimental.

Take some time regularly to evaluate how you are coping. Adjust your daily schedule if necessary. And most important of all: keep calm and try to keep a sense of humor. My wife and I are now well into our 11th hour of self-isolation and, at least superficially, still acting like rational, compassionate human beings. If we can cope, so can you :-)

More about the pandemic here.

The Raven (Oil on Canvas with Ocker and Gold. 2020. Clemens P. Suter)
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