Of Interest

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6 Tips to Avoid Cabin Fever this Winter

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Remember last winter in Minneapolis – St. Paul with its polar vortex and winter that wouldn’t end feeling? This year is supposed to be milder but you can expect plenty of days where being inside seems to be the only option and that can bring on a bad case of “Cabin Fever” for adults and children alike.

Cabin fever isn’t a recognized medical condition and it is not a form of the much more debilitating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) but it can make life miserable for you and those around you if you don’t take steps to “snap out of it.” Being confined inside to one place for an extended amount of time can lead to:

  • Lethargy
  • Irritability for no apparent reason
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • A bothersome “cooped up” feeling.

Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham defines cabin fever as “Basically, it’s your mind’s way of telling you that the environment you are in is less than optimal for normal functioning.” If that’s true, then the best way to avoid cabin fever is to trick the brain into thinking the environment is just fine and the best way to do that is distraction.

It’s one thing to be stuck in the house by yourself. Toss in another adult and a couple of kids and you have the potential for a volatile few days that are definitely not “optimal for normal functioning.” To avoid a mass attack of cabin fever try a few of the tips listed below.

Tips to Avoid Cabin Fever

The key here is to distract the brain and engage it with activities that it believes to be normal functioning. Here are a few simple ideas for kids and adults:

  1. Use the sunlight you have. If you are snowed in or “frozen in” but the skies are sunny, open the drapes and let the sunshine in. Pull a chair up to a window and read a book. Exposure to daylight is a “normal” function and reading creates a different “environment” inside your mind that does not involve confinement.
  2. Cook something. If you are a good cook or a bad cook you now have the time to try a recipe that you haven’t made before. Performing a task for the first time will fully engage your mind. If you are particularly brave, and if it’s appropriate, have your kids help with the task.
  3. If you have equipment in the house use it. Otherwise break out that old exercise DVD and have at it. Dress for the part and have your kids join you. Everybody can enjoy the endorphin high when you’re done.
  4. Don’t overeat or over drink caffeine or alcoholic beverages.
  5. Go camping. If you have young kids take them camping in the family room or living room. If you own a tent pitch it. If you don’t have one, rearrange a couple of chairs and use a sheet or comforter to create a tent. Invite all the stuffed toys. Let their imagination do the rest.
  6. Have a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle on hand for cabin fever days. You’ll be amazed how many times you’ll stop and work on it just in passing by.

The takeaway is to focus on something other than the confinement. The more engaged you are doing something else the less time your brain has to remind you that your environment is less than optimal. And remember that eventually the sun will come out, the temps will rise and your “time in stir” will be over.

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