COVID-19, Loneliness, and Cabin Fever 

Healthwise Communications Team

Staying home and limiting contact with other people is important right now, but it can also be lonely and isolating. You might also be experiencing “cabin fever,” where you feel trapped, bored, and irritable. Try these tips to stay connected, positive, and healthy.


Stay Connected

If you’re cooped up with other people, such as family members or roommates, try to schedule fun time with them. Go for walks together, have a game night, or tackle that 1000-piece puzzle that’s been collecting dust in the hall closet. But be sure to get some alone time too, even if it’s just a bubble bath or jamming out with noise-canceling headphones.

If you’re self-isolating alone, there are lots of ways to connect with other people. Just getting outside for a walk or bike ride around your neighborhood will expose you to friendly faces (human and canine alike) and remind you that the world is, indeed, still spinning. Just take care to give others 6 feet of space.

Got a laptop, tablet, or even a cellphone? Pair one of those with an internet connection, and you have everything you need to talk “face to face” with anyone in the world. Virtual meeting apps like WhatsApp, Zoom, and FaceTime let you interact with other people from the safety of your home and feel less alone. Try suggesting a virtual family gathering, virtual book club, or virtual happy hour.

This is also the perfect time to respond to those game invitations people send you on social media and within apps. Strike up a game of Words With Friends or chess on your phone. You can find endless possibilities on the Apple App Store and Google Play.


Establish a “New Normal”

It can be hard to remember what time it is when you’re at home every day, let alone what day of the week. Maintaining a sense of normalcy—even if that normalcy means playing by new rules—can help you feel in control of your situation and stave off cabin fever.

Getting up and going to bed around the same time each day will help you fall asleep easier each night. Providing kids with a modified school schedule for online classes and homework can help ease their anxiety over being in a new situation as well (not to mention keep them out of your hair once in a while).

And while you’re probably skipping things like makeup or ties these days, at least maintain your normal bathing routine, get dressed each morning, and run a comb through your hair. Your reflection in the bathroom mirror will thank you, even if no one else notices.


Tackle Your “If I Ever Have Time” List

This can be a chance to do something you’ve never had time for in the past. Take an online class, build a model, finally binge-watch that show everyone else has been talking about, learn a new language with the Duolingo app (you know, for when you start traveling again), attend a virtual yoga class, or read your brains out. Nothing good in the house to read? You can instantly download Kindle books to any device, even if you don’t own a Kindle.

Now may also be the perfect time to tackle household chores you’ve been putting off (or never noticed until you found yourself stuck in the house for weeks). Re-organize the pantry, vacuum the couches, scan old photos onto the computer, clean out closets, or rearrange the furniture.

Outdoor tasks are a great way to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather this time of year. Clean out gutters, mow the lawn, plant a garden, or paint the fence.

Just don’t feel pressured by any “coronavirus hyperproductivity” you might see on your social media feeds. This is a marathon, not a sprint, nor is it a competition. Do whatever makes you feel good and happy, and let others do the same. Not everyone is going to sew entire quilts or make four-course meals from scratch every night. You do you.


Do What Makes You Happy

Everyone deals with anxiety and depression differently. For some, taking a walk or even just sitting on the porch for a few minutes can boost spirits. For others, a phone call to a good friend can do the trick. Journal, meditate, exercise, pray, cry, complain…whatever your “thing” is, do it! If there was ever a time to pamper and take care of yourself, this is it, so don’t be a hero.

If anger or frustration with other people in the house start to overwhelm you, though, remind yourself to stop before you act. Go to another room or walk around the block. Take deep breaths until you cool down. Remember that everyone is feeling stressed right now.

And don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you’re struggling with sadness, depression, or anxiety, and you can’t shake it. Many therapists can do counseling by phone or online. You can also look for an online support group. Call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5590, or text TalkWithUs to 66746.

Worrying about finances, your job, your kids’ schooling, older family members, and getting coronavirus all add to the pressure of self-isolation. But much of the world is dealing with the same isolation, cabin fever, and anxiety right now, so know that you’re not alone. In the meantime, do your best to take care of your physical and mental health, and remember that you’re doing the right thing. Staying home helps protect you, your neighbors, and those you care about.