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How to Cope With Cabin Fever

Updated on September 23, 2014

Cabin fever is an old phrase for people who would be trapped in their cabins during the winter months. Have you ever noticed a mystery door on the second level of an old house and wondered what a door was doing up there with no stairs or any other way to exit from the door to the ground outside? Then you've seen the winter escape door which was built into older homes when winters were harsh, far more than they are now. Snow would build up with snowfall and blowing drifts until people couldn't get out of their homes from the regular ground floor door. They could use that second floor door then. Step out with their snowshoes and avoid being trapped inside their own home.

It was when they couldn't get out, when they had nothing to do but wait for winter to thaw, that cabin fever came along. The night came early and the day started late. That gave them a lot of hours of darkness. Light was expensive. Cabins didn't have a lot of windows in the days of early settlers. If they have fuel for lamps or candles they had to be conserved to last all winter. It was also frigidly cold so everyone kept close together to share heat, days and nights too. That meant close, cramped quarters and a lot of time on their hands.

Can you imagine living like that? How restless you would become? How depressed over the length of winter and the hours of darkness? If it weren't so cold you could go off by yourself but everyone would be huddled around the source of heat. Sometimes they would have all the farm animals in the cabin with them in order to keep them through the winter. No wonder they would feel desperate to escape. My Grandparents told me some people did go crazy. Some of them needed to be outside so badly they died from exposure to the elements.


Modern Cabin Fever

Cabin fever didn't end with the early settlers. People can get the feeling of cabin fever in the summer when they stay indoors with the air conditioning on. People can be camping and living in a small tent during a few days of rain and have cabin fever. People who become afraid to leave their home for all kinds of reasons can be house bound and have cabin fever at the same time.

What do to About Cabin Fever

If you can get out at all, do it! Even if it means sweltering in the heat, getting soaked in the rain, freezing in the snow or having to talk to your neighbour - get outdoors for at least a few minutes. It will make a difference. Look around while you are out there. Kick some snow, pick a couple of flowers, splash the rain and rescue a worm from the sidewalk. Do something with your moments of freedom so you can go back to indoors feeling you took some kind of action.

If you have fellow cabin fever sufferers don't all commiserate, play a game. Drag out the board games no one has looked at in awhile. If you have limited supplies use pen and paper to play hangman. Start a jigsaw puzzle. Get out a deck of cards. Play I Spy even, you don't need anything extra for that.

Create your own TV show. Even if you are alone you can interview the four walls and everything in between. Talking to yourself is better than listening to the silence and feeling trapped inside of it. Break the silence - at least you know you have a captive audience who can really appreciate your sense of humour.

Relax. Get into a good book. Try yoga or something else you like to do to unwind. Spend the time pampering yourself with a hot bath, bring a book and spend as long as you want in there. If it's hot, bring a fan to sit on the floor and blow the air around from the doorway. The radio can sit on the counter. Just keep electrical things safely away from the water.

Exercise. Jumping jacks, twiddling your fingers and toes, whatever sort of exercise you can enjoy inside the house will work.

Go through cookbooks and find a great dinner to make with whatever you have available. Or, go out and grab what you need. This isn't a great time to over eat unless you are able to be active inside the house.

Start a new hobby or take up one you used to enjoy. Teach yourself to crochet or knit for example.Finally read the instruction book that came along with that new camera. Repair things you haven't had time to get around to doing in the house.

Sleep. It's free and pretty easy to do when you just sit there awhile.

Don't isolate yourself. Pick up the phone and find someone else home and fighting cabin fever. Send out a few emails, check Facebook and Twitter and see who you can find. Invite friends over.

If you are stuck indoors with people and you need to get out from under everyone bury your nose in a book, write in a journal or listen to movies or music which everyone can enjoy without having to talk to each other.

If you have the winter blahs, SAD (seasonal affective disorder), turn on some extra lights. The extra hours of darkness in winter can make you feel like you're living in a cave. So brighten things up. Even open up a couple of windows to let in some fresh air for a few minutes.

Don't overdose on the news. You can be sure they will be talking about how bad the weather is, you really don't need to hear more of that from someone else.


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    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 4 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      @Vikciw - Not so bad here for winter this year. But, I like a harder winter. It kills off more bugs and fungus, etc. I've found the summer after a mild winter is miserable for me (I have asthma and allergies). So a couple of really cold weeks may be hard to live with at the time but they mean summer will be better.

    • profile image

      Vickiw 4 years ago

      We're definitely on the same wave length with this one! Have had a tough winter here in our part of BC.

    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 4 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      @tipstoretireearly - You're in New York. There must be houses with that door on the second floor there, somewhere in your state. I see less of them all the time here, as old houses are being renovated and knocked down. Each one I see makes me think about the snow being that high. Weather is much milder now.

    • tipstoretireearly profile image

      tipstoretireearly 4 years ago from New York

      Getting out in the snow and cold often sounds uncomfortable, but it definitely lifts one's spirits. Investing in some warm mittens and hats makes it much easier. Great suggestions for getting through the winter. Interesting to hear about winter escape doors ... that's new for me!

    • collegedad profile image

      collegedad 4 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

      Gotta agree with this one. I've seen folks hole up til spring. It's never good!

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Good stuff here Laura. As a denizen of the Northeast I know the feeling of cabin fever. Your suggestions are good, to which I would add - dress up warmly and get out of the house (except if you're in a blizzard). Voted up and useful.