What is “cabin fever” (and how to welcome it quietly)?

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What is “cabin fever”? Under this strange title of “cabin fever” is not simply concealed a not so crazy horror film from the early 2000s. No, “cabin fever” is also and above all a very contemporary evil if there is one. . It refers to the particular psychological symptoms that a person may experience when they are isolated, alone, at home.

Isolated or “confined”, as one would say more readily nowadays. A situation that we are all living in the era of the coronavirus, confinements and curfews serial. It is clear that the pandemic has exacerbated anxiety and psychological disorders generated by feelings of loneliness and isolation. So much so that more and more expert voices tend to generalize this not yet scientifically recognized notion.

Cabin fever is not just about a grayish afternoon spent drinking tea, quietly curled up at home. No, it designates isolation extended over a long period, with harmful and easily identifiable symptoms and consequences, directly related to our mental health, our emotions and our attitudes. But what exactly is it called? Small practical guide to reassure and raise awareness.

A malaise of confinement

First of all, what are the symptoms of this famous confined fever? The specialist magazine Medical News Today precisely lists its main psychological characteristics: severe boredom, increased irritability, constant restlessness and impatience, but also increased anxiety, lack of motivation, feeling of loneliness, hopelessness. The “cabin fever” would even involve cases of depression. As if the suffocating and anxiety-provoking setting of the closed doors – prolonged and standardized – were the source of all our discomfort.

“Although this ‘fever’ is not a recognized psychological illness, its emotional effects are real, and they can dramatically affect a person’s quality of life,” the scientific journal assures us. The consequences of this fever are concrete. Inability to maintain a form of routine, sleeping troubles, stubborn difficulty in concentrating, unhealthy lifestyle – eating habits in particular. To name just that of course.

Because the spectrum is wide, and “cabin fever” also involves more subtle things, relating to communication and interaction difficulties, or even to complications experienced simply by leave home to get some fresh air. The impression of isolation drags behind it a thousand and one ailments which depend on one’s own sensitivities, even if the general symptoms and consequences turn out to be similar.

How to face it?

All this is not reassuring. But once our sorrows are noted, how to face them? By indulging in some breathing exercises first, advises Lucinda Gordon Lennox, psychotherapist with Glamour. For the expert, it is essential to “activate the ventral vagal nerve and move the dorsal vagal nerve away”. To do this, we can also sing or laugh, even if it means learning about the singular practice of laughter yoga.

Get into meditationeven 5 minutes a day is also a good idea.

Stretch both arms very high above the head with the hands joined, feel the stretch of your whole torso, then release, “the shrink still recommends.

Other healthy tips, this time more psychological than physical: tell yourself that you are not alone in being alone (yes, it looks like Celine Dion). Relativize and measure (also) the advantages of our compartmentalized solitude (such as having more time for oneself, being able to finish a project …). Why not start a gratitude journal for example ?



How to cherish our confined minds?


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How to cherish our confined minds?

Second step, plan outings for a specific purpose (going to a park, to such and such a place at such time and for such purpose) to ensure that you reboost yourself over time. Have a goaleven anecdotal matters mentally. It can take the form of a written and detailed schedule (“5 minutes of meditation at 9 am”, “to make yourself a tea at 4 pm” …)

But above all, introvert·s and isolated·e·s should not forget the importance of human relationships. We therefore organize a walk with a·e which·e (respecting the 2 meters distance) for example. This is where the simple act of stepping out counts: even unfamiliar faces re-establish certain landmarks.

The Very Well Mind psychology site prescribed us also to intellectually stimulate our mind to soften this dizzying feeling of isolation, for example by indulging in crosswords, reading, board games.

For his part, MedicalNews advocates spending time in nature to reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood. People who are not fortunate enough to have access to a garden can still find ways to enjoy nature such as taking care of houseplants, growing herbs, watch the sunrise or sunset from a window or balcony …

Finally, communicating it to therapists and doctors if the situation persists or worsens is absolutely necessary. And especially not to be ashamed of it.

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