How to Deal With Cabin Fever

How are you coping with the coronavirus lockdown? Great, isn’t it!? A wonderful time to catch up on chores, backlogged reading and writing assignments, or personal relationships? 


You mean you don’t like being sequestered away for weeks or months at a time, under unpleasant circumstances, or even with people you don’t like? 

Well…It’s not for everyone.

The feelings of loneliness, isolation, and frustration experienced due to the need to stay inside or in the same place for an extended period of time is often called “Cabin Fever,” a term that came from the old days when people sometimes had to stay inside their homes for extended periods because of bad weather, turmoil, or other unpleasantness. Cabin Fever can manifest itself as a series of negative emotions or symptoms that people might experience if they are confined to one location for long periods.

Does any of this sound familiar? Certainly those of us who are affected by officially mandated or recommended stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic may have seen a sign or two of Cabin Fever, either in ourselves or others. These signs can cause undue stress, and include: restlessness, boredom, decreased motivation, irritability, impatience, disrupted sleep patterns, lethargy, and depression, to name just a few.

However, as noted by Dr. Debra Rose Wilson and the team, recognizing the symptoms of Cabin Fever and understanding some of the ways to deal with them might make the current isolation (and any future isolations) easier to handle. As Dr. Wilson further observes, a person’s “personality and natural temperament go a long way toward determining how Cabin Fever affects you.” In short, some people naturally deal with negative circumstances better than others, but there are things that everyone can do to help manage the coping process until the virus (in one way or another) runs its course. Fundamentally, finding ways to occupy your brain and body is of solid help, and here are some of the activities Dr. Wilson and suggest as being worthy of consideration:

Spend time outdoors

Being outdoors is good for your overall mental health. It helps to boost brain function and also seems to reduce stress and improve your mood in general. If local restrictions significantly restrict your movements during the virus outbreak, you can open up your windows and let in a fresh breeze, place fresh flowers around your living quarter, place plants and shrubs in your windows or balconies…anything that can give you an outdoorsy feeling.

Give yourself a routine

 Though uncertainties may seem to hold power at the moment, try to keep a structure in your life. Maintaining your normal eating, sleeping and exercise routines, plus (as much as practical) a reasonable work schedule, can help give you a bit of a sense of normalcy during an otherwise abnormal situation.

Maintain a social life

 Although your face-to-face pub, restaurant and movie routines may have been disrupted, you can still meet your friends, but in a different way. A vast array of social media platforms are at your disposal. Some people still maintain their Friday evening pub crawls, complete with drinks and the usual banter and visual effects. No, it’s not the same as being there, but it can be close enough to help you weather the isolation storm for a time and feel just a bit “normal.”

Express your creative side

Can you play an instrument, write music or poetry, sculpt, paint, do large jigsaw puzzles, cook? Do you want to start a new hobby? How about brushing up on your sports knowledge or Shakespeare trivia? Try to do something that will focus your brain on something other than your boring lockdown life – your imagination is the limit.

Carve out some time for yourself

Let’s face it, if you are sharing your lockdown misery with others in the same space, your feelings of claustrophobia and stress may be intensified. Although you probably have obligations to the people around you (partner, children, housemates) this does not mean that you cannot occasionally have a bit of time and space for yourself. Find some quiet moments and a place to enjoy them. Read, watch TV or make some long-overdue phone calls. Not only will your overall mental health recuperate, but the people around you will appreciate your improved attitude, even if only briefly.

Get some exercise

Research has consistently shown that physical exercise makes people less susceptible to anxiety, because it lowers the body’s stress hormones and increases the brain’s release of endorphins. These two effects together can help your mood and general sense of well-being. If you must stay inside, using your own body weight or light equipment can produce an exercise routine that will produce noticeable health and mood benefits. Even a simple program of in-place exercises such as pushups, sit-ups, squats, jumping jacks, and stretches can give you a nice structure of physical activity. More formalized regimens could include online instruction via Zoom or YouTube.


Are you into mindfulness or relaxation exercises, deep breathing, yoga, Pilates or other inner peace-type programs? Assuming you have access to a computer and the internet, you can find an online solution that fits your needs.

To be sure, isolation and induced depression are not (or should not be) natural components of the human condition. Sometimes, however, they can be forced upon us by circumstances beyond our control. This situation can be made even more stressful by the sense of unpredictability regarding when the isolation will end, resulting in a “double-whammy” negative impact on your overall mood. However, the suggestions offered by Dr. Wilson and can help to alleviate at least some of the worst effects of your Cabin Fever crisis.


Medically reviewed by Dr. Debra Rose Wilson

Written by: 

Follow us

Go to top