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Cabin fever

Cabin fever is the term we use to refer to an emotional state of extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time. The term evokes feelings of depression or restlessness caused by being isolated or sharing cramped quarters in the wilderness, for example being confined to a log cabin during a longwinter.

Cabin fever can become especially acute in prisons, military barracks, and emergency shelters. It is a natural human reaction also in cases where people are quarantined, on extended sick leave, or confined to their homes for other reasons.

The emotional responses to such situations vary from person to person and can range from anger to depression, hyperactivity, or anxiety. To avoid an eruption of negative emotions, it is helpful to be able to recognize your feelings quickly and to take them seriously.

Practical tips: 
  • Allow yourself to experience and perceive your feelings and analyze the individual situation. Depending on whether you’re living together with your family, have moved back in with your family in the current situation, or are living on your own or in a shared apartment, the status quo and the possible solutions may be very different. 

    • The following questions may be helpful in guiding your analysis: What feelings am I experiencing? What is my (housing) situation, and how do I feel about it? Writing down your thoughts on these matters or sharing them with people close to you can help to reduce the psychological strain. 

  • Defining your individual life rhythm and daily routines and identifying spaces for your different needs can strengthen your sense of self-determination during your involuntary confinement.

    • Guiding questions: What is my safe place to relax and unwind (e.g. bed or sofa)? Where would I like to go to exercise? Do I have a place where I don’t want to be disturbed? At what times of the day do I usually interact with others? At what times of the day do I want to be left alone and shielded from outside stimuli?

  • Respect your need for physical activity – it’s essential for reducing stress. You are allowed to go outside and enjoy some time in the sun. It will help to make the stress feel less immediate and give you some fresh air and a change of pace. 

  • Actively plan your everyday routines and share responsibilities. What can I do/what do I want to do/what can I delegate to others?

  • Give your mind and soul a break from time to time. Mindfulness exercises, small gestures or gifts to yourself, and daily rituals can help here.

Learn more!