If you’ve been experiencing any or all of these symptoms, you may be a victim of the COVID-19 virus:
• Sadness or depression
• Trouble concentrating
• Diminished patience
• Food cravings
• Decreased motivation
• Social Isolation
• Difficulty sleeping
• Difficulty waking
• Frequent napping
• Feelings of hopelessness and despair
• Changes in weight
• Diminished ability to manage stress
• And in the case of being isolated with another person, you can add to the list, irritability, short-temperedness, and argumentativeness.
The fever that we’re referring to is known as “Cabin fever”, which is defined as “a distressing claustrophobic irritability or restlessness experienced when a person, or group, is stuck at an isolated location or in confined quarters for an extended period of time” (from Wikipedia). Unlike an actual fever which sometimes requires the attention of a medical professional, cabin fever tends to be more of a mood disorder or psychological state than a physical condition, even though its symptoms often show up in one’s physical experience. Mood disorders are no small thing, and when they are deeply disturbing and persistent, they can require professional intervention.
There are, however, some steps that you can take before making the decision about bringing in the big guns. Here are a few suggestions:
- Get Out of the House. If you are housebound or live somewhere where there is a total lockdown, this may not always be possible. But if you are able to go outside, even for a short time, take advantage of that opportunity. Exposure to sunlight can help regulate and support the body’s natural cycles. If you can’t leave your home, move or exercise your body, as best you can.
- Eat Healthy. Cabin fever often causes appetite stimulation and recreational eating in order to avoid feelings of boredom and anxiety. Try to avoid overindulging in junk food. Healthy eating practices can increase your energy levels and motivation. Try to limit high-sugar, high-fat snacks, and drink plenty of water.
- Check-in. Practice frequent check-ins with your partner. Letting the other person know how you are each doing can do a lot to promote greater mutual understanding. Communications that are not judgmental or blaming can enhance the feelings of trust, goodwill and support in your relationships. Focus more on listening and understanding, and go easy on the advice-giving, particularly if it’s not solicited.
- Turn to Friends. Turn to your friends to meet some of your needs for connection. Although your live-in partner, if you have one, maybe a convenient source of contact, reaching out to close friends and/or relatives can lighten the responsibility that your partner may feel for fulfilling all of your connection needs. Failing to do so can add unnecessary stress to your relationship.
- Limit screen time. Try not to overly rely on TV and other electronic devices. While the temptation can be strong to indulge in screen time, too much of it can diminish your attention span and your energy level. This will make you feel more easily frustrated and impatient with others, in particular those closest to you. Instead, read books or play board games to stimulate and exercise your brain.
And by all means, attempt to have a long-range perspective. Eventually, we will be able to resume some of our normal routines and get out of the house more. It’s only a matter of time. In the meantime, some responsible self-care will help to get through this challenging time. And please remember to cut yourself and others some slack by remembering that we’re ALL doing the best that we can under extremely trying circumstances. Keeping this in mind can help you to experience more patience and a greater willingness to extend forgiveness not only to others but to yourself as well. And that’s something that most of us can use more of all the time, not just in times of crisis!