Some sayings have become such a common part of our language that we take them for granted. Cabin fever falls into that category and is defined as: A state characterized by anxiety, restlessness, and boredom, arising from a prolonged stay in a remote or confined place. Cabin fever has been in our vocabulary for about 100 years, thought to have originated between 1915 and 1920. While Honest Abe is likely the most famous U.S. president to have been born in a log cabin, six others also boast this humble beginning in their bios. You’ll have to look this up—and in fact, researching topics that interest you is a great way to overcome cabin fever, albeit one that requires consulting the Internet or an old-fashioned trip to the library.
Cabin fever is most associated with cold wintery weather when people are forced to stay inside. It is hard to imagine what folks did back in the day to overcome cabin fever—no television, radio, computers, and most importantly—no Internet! In celebration of our humble beginnings, here are several ways to overcome cabin fever that do not rely on high-tech gadgets or digital resources.
Get creative: You don’t have to be an accomplished artist to enjoy a creative project. This is especially fun for children who may be going stir crazy after a long, snowy winter. Coloring books have become all the rage for adults, so now people of all ages are enjoying an activity that was once considered primarily a preschool pursuit. Whether you use crayons, paint, colored pencils, yarn, cloth, self-hardening clay, glitter, beads or a host of other materials, summoning your creativity is a great boredom buster!
Get planting: There are plenty of ways to enjoy indoor gardening, many of which are edible. Colorful plants can brighten a bleak winter day and boost your spirits. Herbs, tomatoes, salad greens, mushrooms, carrots, lemons, and more can all be grown inside, even if you live in a small apartment. Tending to plants and watching them grow is both practical and therapeutic.
Listen to music: “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” ~ Maya Angelou. Yes, indeed, listening to a new CD or rediscovering music from your youth can be a wonderful way to overcome cabin fever. Music has an undeniable power to uplift one’s mood and spur creativity!
Go outside: Unless it is dangerous to venture outside due to sub-zero temperatures, high winds, or other severe weather, bundle up and try to go outside for a minimum of 10 minutes. Move your legs, look at your surroundings, and you might even spot some wildlife. Most people are vitamin D deprived in the winter, so going outside even on a gray day will help.
Get moving: Get regular exercise at least three times a week for 30 minutes. If you can go outside, try to take a brisk walk. If the weather is prohibitive, play your favorite dance music and invent your own aerobic moves. Of course you can always revert to some modern-day conveniences and follow exercise routines on You Tube or borrow exercise DVDs from your local library.
Cabin Fever Versus SAD
The boredom and blah feelings associated with cabin fever are not the same as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In 1 to 2 percent of the U.S. population, winter melancholy can escalate into SAD, a form of depression. Most researchers agree that people who suffer from SAD are sensitive to light, or the lack thereof and many are genetically predisposed to clinical depression. Less light results in lower serotonin levels and darkness prompts the production of melatonin, a chemical that promotes sleep. So the combination of less serotonin and increased melatonin in the body is partially to blame for SAD. Two tips for overcoming cabin fever also apply to SAD—going outside and getting exercise. However, some people with SAD need light therapy boxes and psychotherapy to combat this disorder.