We are now beginning the third week of the shelter in place order. As I began to write this post, my phone rang, and shortly after, an alert sounded off on my cell phone, both were from the county health office reminding all of us to continue to shelter in place.
As weeks and time pass, it is not uncommon for people under these circumstances to begin to feel restless, irritable, and become demotivated.
Having to stay indoors for long periods can cause people to feel claustrophobic from being unable to do their regular routines. Many of my clients in silicon valley are not accustomed to spending long periods of time in their residence and not being able to get out and socialize with friends and family.
They are not able to frequent their favorite restaurants, theaters, and other hangouts. Furthermore, they are not able to travel for business or pleasure and begin to feel that they are running out of things to do while confined to their residence.
When we are confined to a limited area for extended periods of time, we can begin to develop what is popularly referred to as cabin fever.
Cabin fever is defined in the dictionary as “a feeling of irritability, listlessness, and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors during the winter.”
In our case, we could easily substitute the word “winter” for “COVID-19”, and the definition would apply to what many are experiencing. It is important to note that this is only a popular definition of a familiar feeling and is not a medical condition or disease.
Nonetheless, it is crucial during times like these that all of us develop a new normal routine that will help deal with the effects of cabin fever. So, let’s take a look at some ideas that we can do to cope and feel better.
What does your new normal look like?
The first thing that helps in offsetting the feeling of cabin fever is to set up a new routine – a new normal. We can begin by taking the time to develop and implementing a set schedule for mealtimes, exercise, work time, personal time, and bedtimes. Just as before the shelter in place, we had a daily agenda that we committed to regularly.
Likewise, now we need to develop a new schedule that works within our current circumstances. The new routine will help avoid each day and evening from becoming one long dragged out day after another.
Additionally, it would be beneficial to incorporate a set of specific, achievable goals and activities within each of our daily categories that can be accomplished each week. Having these small, objective, and specific goals to work through will give us something to look forward to and provide a sense of accomplishment after completing them.
Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Although health experts have recommended that all of us maintain social distancing, this does not equate to social isolation. There is ample research that demonstrates a lack of social connections increases the likelihood of individuals suffering from physical health issues.
Therefore, stay in contact with your social network. Develop a way to create a sense of community even if that means through electronic means—phone friends and check-in with them, send emails to family and friends. We have to keep in mind that relatedness is the single strongest predictor of our wellbeing, and in times like these, we need more than ever to connect with others.
How to maintain a sense of community
One idea that is growing in popularity is creating an online watch party where everyone watches the same movie or TV show simultaneously. In other words, your circle of friends or family agrees to watch the same video or TV show at the same time. You then all connect through phone or online through FaceTime or Skype. This allows everyone to interact and share the experience and gives everyone something to look forward to regularly.
Don’t overload on the news
In the current evolving pandemic crisis, it is essential to stay informed, understanding the latest precautions and recommendations by medical experts.
Nevertheless, it is vital to your mental health that you limit how much time you spend watching the news and following stories on social media.
Our minds are designed to respond to danger and threats in order to protect our overall wellbeing. At this moment in the pandemic, the severity of the crisis will continue to escalate before it levels off and improves. This means that the news will continue to look horrible before it gets better.
Unfortunately, much of the media are aware of our natural tendency to be drawn to warnings, and they are always seeking ways to grab our attention by highlighting the potential dangers and threats in any developing situation.
My recommendation is that you chose one trusted and credible authority and either check it once a day or, at most, check-in at specific times throughout your day. For example, you might decide to check once in the morning, again in the middle of the day, and finally once in the afternoon.
You will want to avoid watching the news or checking online sources before bedtime, as this will adversely impact the quality of your sleep and as we will see that can decrease your immune system.
Also, make sure to turn off all electronic devices at least one hour prior to bedtime. By doing so, you will fall asleep faster and experience a deeper sense of sleep. As we will see in the next post, sleep is critical to your overall wellbeing.
It is my hope and intention to provide everyone with some practical ideas that can help during these tough times by presenting them here. In my next post, we will continue to look at other ideas that can help us effectively manage stress during these difficult times.