For hockey fans and ice-fishing enthusiasts, winter can never be too long. For a lot of other people, though, we’re reaching the time of year when we want winter to be over.
As we approach spring, one issue that many people deal with is cabin fever. It’s not an actual medical diagnosis. It’s that feeling of restlessness and anxiousness from being inside too much. It can be more pronounced at the end of winter, when we’ve spent a large portion of the previous four or five months hiding out from cold and snow and enduring decreased daylight hours, sometimes with little sunlight.
Dealing with it means finding another focus for the mind and body. Here are some options:
- De-clutter and organize your home: Clutter can compromise your satisfaction with your home and disrupt your well-being. Take some time each day to tackle closets, bookshelves, drawers and cabinets. De-cluttering fires up your decision-making skills and creates a sense of confidence.
- Learn a new skill: Master a new recipe, or even a new cuisine, learn to play guitar or try your hand at cake decorating. Anything that will challenge your brain will help ease restlessness you may be feeling.
- Exercise: When you get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes, it can release endorphins – that’s the feel-good chemical in your brain. Check out some workouts on YouTube or tackle that workout DVD if you can’t go to a gym.
- Change your diet: Eating a lot of processed or fried food can leave you feeling weighed down and sluggish. Swapping processed or fried foods for lean proteins high in omega-3 fatty acids, like lean beef and wild salmon, can help improve your mood.
- Meet up with friends: Winter can be an isolating time when we stay holed up in our cozy homes. Meeting up with friends for a movie, dinner or an outing can break through the unease that cabin fever brings.
- Get outside: If there’s no dangerous weather in the forecast, get bundled up and head outside. Take a hike through the woods, or even a walk around the block. The endorphins and fresh air will help ease cabin fever.
- Get some vitamin D: Sunlight on your skin allows your body to produce vitamin D, which helps your immune system and your mood. UV light therapy is an alternative if the sun isn’t making an appearance.
One caution: Seasonal Affective Disorder, known as SAD, and depression can often seem like cabin fever. If you or a loved one is struggling with persistent sadness or anxiety that disrupts the ability to function on a regular basis, please talk to your health care provider about treatment options.
Mark Jensen is Manager of Behavioral Health Program for Aurora Behavioral Health in Wauwatosa, WI.