We haven’t seen the sun in days so…?


Cabin Fever
Photo credit: Battle Creek Yacht Club

It’s winter. It’s depressing. A lot of gray skies and very little sunshine. We stay indoors enduring long confinement and isolation. We have cabin fever.

A poet captures it in Haiku:

Outside brings no cheer
Dense clouds – lost sun – rain and snow
Hours creep mind races

Cabin fever can put a damper on the life of an otherwise healthy person. Here are common symptoms:

• Restlessness
• Lethargy
• Sadness or depression
• Trouble concentrating
• Lack of patience
• Food craving
• Decreased motivation
• Isolation
• Difficulty waking
• Frequent napping
• Hopelessness
• Changes in weight
• Inability to cope with stress

Here are some tried and true antidotes:

Get out of your house or your apartment. Move. Exercise. Expose yourself to sunlight. Look out the window. Keep your rooms well lit. Light and movement can release endorphins, which are a group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system. Their flow produces a beneficial effect.

Maintain a normal eating pattern. Eat regular meals and avoid excessive snacks and junk food. Limit high sugar and high fat snacks and drink plenty of water. It may be easier to meet your minimum water requirement by using zero calorie, lightly flavored and sometimes vitamin enriched water that is widely available.

Set goals. When you go to bed have an idea of what you want to do when you wake up. Don’t make it complicated so you can go to sleep. Get up at a specific time with the plan to do that thing. It doesn’t need to be “earth shaking” – just something worthwhile. Maybe cleaning out the refrigerator or organizing a cupboard. Write a letter, send an email, make a call that you have been putting off.

Use your brain. Work on a puzzle, especially one that is in a public area so you can meet with neighbors. Read a good book. If you have the opportunity, join a book club either in person or online. Complete the daily crossword puzzle. If you have access to “brain games” on a computer, use them.

Take advantage of opportunities. If you are living in a facility that features regular entertainment with movies, lectures, and live entertainment or outside excursions, participate. Bridge and other card games serve the dual purpose of challenging your brain and bringing you together with other people.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is recurring major depression with a seasonal pattern different from cabin fever. Its prevalence is between 1% and 10% . It occurs at the same time every year and typically affects women more than men.

The good news is that if you suffer from cabin fever you are in the company of millions of others. You will all get over it and be none the worse for it. It always goes away with time, sun and activity.

(Modified from Lisa Fritscher Oct 2019, and The Cleveland Clinic online)


By Savvy Senior

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