Dealing with COVID Cabin Fever

Dealing with COVID Cabin Fever

If you find yourself being forgetful, easily irritated with people around you, unable to get to bed or get out of bed, feeling bored or helpless, walking around in daze, or having sudden food cravings shortly after a meal, you might be dealing with the negative effects of being quarantined.

“Cabin fever” is usually associated with a type of claustrophobia and S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It is a term especially used during the winter months when it’s cold, the sun rarely shines, and we can’t easily get outside. Most of us can deal with cabin fever especially when we know there is a predictable end in sight. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 authorities don’t know a specific end to our new “Shelter in Place” lifestyle. A lot depends on the population following prevention and isolation measures.

Some say it can get worse and, like in Italy, people may only be allowed out for very limited purposes and might even be given a fine for violations. Being chronically away from our usual activities, friends, family, and co-workers seems to worsen that feeling of being cooped up.

The Stresses of Isolation

During this pandemic, where social (i.e. physical) distancing is the rule, almost everywhere, the stress of isolation brings with it some personal problems. Among them are loneliness, fatigue, motivational problems, hopelessness, unwanted weight gain, anxiety, depression, mental inflexibility, apathy, inadequate nutrition, lack of fresh air, sunshine and exercise. These symptoms may show up in clusters or one at time and there is no uniformity to them between people (just like the symptoms of a COVID-19 infection).

With more people out of work, or working from home, and with school and entertainment venues closed, isolation can certainly set in, making our ability to get through quarantining even more difficult.

Coping Skills

If you notice that you have some of the above symptoms and they seem severe, it is best to reach out for help right away. We are fortunate that there are MDs, therapists, lifestyle coaches and others available online to support you during this turbulent time.
If, though, you see only a few of these symptoms and they are mild, there are things you can do now to make your situation at home better. Here are some coping skills to manage the result of being stuck at home:

  • Bed is for bedtime: Sleeping longer at night, taking longer than needed naps and hiding out in bed will add to your sense of helplessness, as will working in bed during the day. Force yourself to get up and dressed on schedule and act like you are ready to go somewhere important even if it’s just on a brief walk.
  • Put yourself on a schedule: Establish a daily routine; it is especially good if you are restless or don’t know what to do next.
  • Convert hopelessness into helpfulness: There is someone out there that you can call on and let them know that “I am here for you and want to help.” For instance, the blood supply is low now so if you are healthy think of donating blood.
  • Get a Natural High: Open the curtains, or door or take a walk outside. The combination of vitamin D, fresh air and exercise does a lot to help pep you up.
  • Limit your sugar and high fatty food intake: Start monitoring what you eat. Try to manage the tendency to overindulge by prepping your meals and eating at regular times at a table rather than in front of the TV, phone or iPad. Adjust your food intake if your activity level is lower than normal.
  • Reward yourself: This is a great time to set achievable goals, track your progress and celebrate your successes. When you make of point of completing things you set out to do, you are climbing that wonderful ladder of self-esteem.
  • Be your hobby: What better time to (re)find a craft, hobby or skill. This will help you feel less boxed-in and give you a sense of accomplishment.
  • Be active indoors: Especially when the weather is not the greatest, try embracing indoor exercise. There are many free workout videos being offered online. Kids love to participate, and it helps burn off excess energy.
  • Learn new skills: Turn off the news, your social media and sitcom reruns. Here is your opportunity to learn something new and challenge yourself. The internet is a treasure trove of learning material.
  • Reach Out: If you can’t be near your loved ones, call/text/Skype/Facebook to find out how they are doing. You will both feel better!
  • Remember to celebrate milestones: Even if you must Skype or Facetime with family and friends, don’t forget to celebrate milestones like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Plan a theme. When we get our brain cells going, the four walls won’t feel like they are closing in on us.
    • See my Blog “Coping with COVID-19” and other Blogs on practical mindfulness, as well as my resources page.

Be positive! Problems can also be opportunities! Consider that, however bad it may get, metaphorically, this is the world’s method of resetting itself. We will have cleaner air and water, less traffic accidents, more time to develop new skills, and more to time enjoy our loved ones. Now let us try to reset our own personal priorities and habits. This means putting more effort into our own health and interactions with the people we live with and love. Mankind has survived many pandemics and other calamities in the past and we will do so again.

We are all in this together and can all do our part to make this a better world.

Arlene Unger, PhD is a Dana Point CA based Clinical Psychologist in private practice. Her approach is using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy along with Mindfulness an Acceptance Commitment Therapy. She is the author of numerous articles (www.drarleneunger.com) on the practical application of mindfulness.

She now concentrates her practice on Telehealth. She works with numerous platforms including Telemynde, Betterhelp and Talkspace and accepts most forms of insurance. Dr Unger has 20 years’ experience with Telehealth as an early adopter and has lectured on the topic.

Adopting A Restful Mind This Holiday Season

Adopting A Restful Mind This Holiday Season

As soon as the days get shorter and the air crisper our mind sirens seem to set off, especially around bedtime. Thoughts of family obligations, shopping lists, work deadlines, and even the upcoming tax season start to flood in. What happened to the sugar plum fairies, candy canes or candle ceremonies of our youth? So how do we bring holiday cheer into our thoughts while leaving the reindeer stampede outside?

ACCEPT REST

Training your mind to rest takes daily practice; it’s not an automatic skill. We have inadvertently trained ourselves to be super alert during wakeful hours, but that alertness doesn’t suddenly shut off at bedtime. Some of that may relate to not making time in our day to pause and reflect. The key is to leave problem solving to certain times each day and not just when we are settling down.

Sleep Train Your Mind

We need to train our over alert minds to take power naps, or time out, breaks during the day so at night we can easily fall asleep. Tossing and turning at night is typically the result of an overactive mind that can’t settle down. The key here is to make your bedroom your resting place, so when you enter this space, you will trigger restful thoughts. Soft music, dim lights and shutting down any of your blue light activities at least one hour before bedtime can give your mind the rest it deserves.

Worry Free Nights

At least two hours before bedtime—and outside the bedroom–set out to address any unfinished business that you didn’t address during the day. Personally, I like the idea of writing down my concerns for the day in one column and my hopeful solutions besides them. If I can’t come up with a solution, I write down “let it go for now.” Just jotting these concerns and answers down frees my mind to relax, rather than carry my worries into my sleep.

OCCUPY YOUR MIND

Reading about fiction at least 2 hours before bedtime, can give your mind the transition it needs from being overwhelmed by personal problems. Sometimes just trying to imagine the characters dress or customs refocuses and deactivate our minds. Also, imagining relaxing hobbies can be another tool to quiet your brain from overexerting itself before bedtime.

Manage “Poor Sport” Sleeping

One of the worst things you can do to screw up your sleep pattern is filling your mind with the belief that you’ll never get to sleep or stay asleep. Similarly, forcing yourself to sleep is just as bad for your mind and body. Try changing your beliefs and expectations about sleep. If you are beating yourself up, sleep won’t come easy no matter how much you try.

Be Mindful

Future thinking can evoke worry so why don’t you focus on the present when it’s bedtime? I like asking myself “What do I hear, sense, or feel as I am breathing? When something comes to mind, I just notice it and let it go. I try not to get caught up or trapped in my thoughts. Remember being mindful takes practice but you can learn to observe your thoughts even when you are distracted by the “have tos” of the next day.

PRACTICE SOS

Why not wake up from a restful sleep with gratitude and the determination to practice SOS (Slow down, Open Up and Smile). There is nothing like starting the day calm and centered. As you open the curtains, commit to being open to possibilities as well as problem today. While looking at yourself in the mirror tell yourself that it is okay to smile. By repeating this ritual daily, your rested mind will be ready for anything that comes your way.

 

REFERENCES

https://www.sleepfoundation.org

https://www.mayoclinic.org