You know those times over the holidays and winter months when you feel both restless and lethargic at the same time? When you want to be surrounded by loved ones, but also want to be completely left alone to stay in your PJs all day? When you need to take down the holiday decorations, but have no desire to accept that the longest month in history (at least January can feel that way) is coming? If you have experienced any of the above, then you may have experienced ‘Cabin Fever’ – it’s perfectly normal!

Cabin Fever can show up many different ways because it can be caused by different factors. Cabin Fever can be a result of isolation, or from spending time with others in a confined space, especially over the winter months. There is no one way that everyone will experience Cabin Fever, which means that there is no one way to combat it.

Symptoms of Cabin Fever can include:

  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Sadness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of motivation
  • Social isolation

How to Avoid Cabin Fever

An important component of avoiding any type of uncomfortable situation, is to be proactive. Rather than waiting for the discomfort to arrive and then reacting to it, we want to look at ways that we can avoid the discomfort in the first place. Like losing weight, it is much easier to stay a consistent weight through moderation than it is to lose those 5 pounds after enjoying too many holiday treats. The same is true for our mood.

In order to avoid Cabin Fever, we must ensure that we are taking action before it happens. One such option is to get outside and interact with nature. Research has shown that there are many cognitive benefits of interacting with nature, including enhancing mood and cognitive functioning. For example, take a walk to a nearby park and allow yourself to really notice what’s around you. Pay attention to the trees, the landscape, the snow etc. And if it is a park that you are familiar with, try to notice 5 new things that you haven’t noticed before.

Being social and making plans to spend time out of your home with friends or loved ones is another way to avoid feeling isolated. This can be as simple as meeting a friend for a coffee to catch up, or taking advantage of the cold weather to see a new movie.

How to Disrupt Cabin Fever

Maybe Cabin Fever has already snuck in and now we are realizing that we haven’t been proactive enough. So, how can you interrupt it? Well, all of the proactive solutions apply, but it may now take more willpower to create change.

Make a list of things that you would normally be doing if you weren’t experiencing Cabin Fever by completing this sentence, “If I was not feeling Cabin Fever, I would _______.” Once you have created the list, choose 2-3 that speak to you and create a plan to execute on them. Plan it into your schedule for a time that feels realistic and not overwhelming. These can also include things that you can do at home, such as early spring cleaning or catching up on hobbies you many enjoy.

What are your strategies to manage Cabin Fever over the long Canadian Winter? Leave a comment of what you have found works for you or something that you will try this winter that is new! You will inspire and help others!

Alexander Cameron

Author Alexander Cameron

Alexander has his Masters in Clinical Social Work from the University of Calgary and owns a private therapy practice in downtown Toronto. He has sat on several provincial advisory committees in Alberta including Engaging Men and Boys in Violence Prevention and has a special interest in working on healthy relationships and healthy masculinity. He has extensive experience in mental health, addiction, and domestic violence therapy. Read his blog at alexandercameron.ca and find him on Instagram, @thetattooedtherapist.

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