10 Ways to Beat Cabin Fever, The Condition That Most of Us Are Suffering Now

The circuit breaker is starting to take a toll on everyone.

After spending so many days and weeks in your house, your window grilles now look like prison bars, and you spend most nights dreaming of the sun because you’ve forgotten what it looks like.

Things of the outside world that you used to take for granted now seem like a distant dream, like a drink with your friends or even a ride on an MRT.

The days are blending together and you’re not sure what day, month, or even year it is.

You start to wonder if you even exist, or whether this is one long, bad dream. Then your father comes in to offer some lunch.

How… how long has it been since the circuit breaker started, father?

Father: It’s been two days. Why the hell are you calling me father?

Two days? It felt more like two decades. And I think I can see the light…

Father: Oh sorry I left the torchlight on my phone on. 

Ahh, phones. I too used to love my phone, once. Now I just long for the loving embrace of a friend in-

Father: Aiyah, stop being so dramatic lah. Come out and have lunch.

The boy above might be taking the circuit breaker a little too hard, but many other people might be experiencing negative emotions during a lockdown.

This is called cabin fever.

Cabin fever refers to a distressing claustrophobic irritability, restlessness, or sense of isolation experienced when a person is stuck at an isolated location or in confined quarters for an extended period of time.

That’s basically the whole world right now.

Symptoms include restlessness, decreased motivation, hopelessness, persistent sadness, and irregular sleep patterns.

While there’s no standard treatment for this, there are a few ways you can cope with these new feelings.

Here are 10 things you can do to beat cabin fever.

1. Stick to a Routine

If you’re like me, your daily routine consists of watching Netflix for 12 hours, working for 20 minutes, and sleeping the rest of the time.

But did you know that a lack of routine can cause disruptions in eating, sleeping, and other activities?

Creating a daily routine is a great way to create a sense of structure and normalcy during Covid-19 isolation.

Come up with a routine that consists of work or house projects, mealtimes, workout times, and even downtime, so that you have ‘mini-goals’ to hit throughout the day.

And if you’re working from home, you should not work in your bedroom if possible, because working in a different space helps your brain distinguish between work time and off time.

2. Maintain a Social Life

Many of you have not seen your friends for so long you’ve forgotten what their faces look like. But thanks to technology, we can still “hang out” with our friends without actually meeting them in person.

Use apps like Skype, FaceTime, HouseParty, or even WhatsApp to chat with your friends, colleagues, and loved ones.

This prevents you from feeling cut off from the rest of the world as you’re connecting with people you used to see all the time.

Connecting with others during this period of isolation can also help you feel that you’re not alone.

3. Create Something

You could also use this extended period at home as a chance to express your creativity.

According to Forbes, engaging in creative behaviours can improve brain function, mental health, and physical health too.

Used to play the guitar or paint when you were younger? Even if your paintings look like the scribblings of a toddler or you suck at guitar, creating something can relieve stress and keep your brain busy during this extended period of isolation.

4. Exercise

It’s very easy to allow yourself to turn into an actual potato during a lockdown because you have an excuse not to exercise; the gahmen told me to stay at home.

But unlike many other countries, the Singapore gahmen actually allows you to go outdoors for exercise, as long as you practise safe distancing.

And according to Healthline, research has shown that people who exercise regularly are less prone to anxiety than people who don’t exercise, because exercise lowers stress hormones, such as cortisol.

And you don’t even have to leave your homes to get a workout.

Simple but taxing exercises like pushups, squats, burpees, lunges, and planks, can all be done at home.

You could also do other activities indoors to break a sweat, like yoga, dancing, and even household chores.

So, there’s really no excuse not to keep fit during the circuit breaker.

5. Avoid Conflict and Carve Out Some Alone Time

If you happen to live alone, you might be struggling with feelings of isolation and being disconnected from the world.

But if you live with your family members or friends, you might be experiencing an increase in the desire to punch everybody in the face.

As CNA reported, even those we love dearly can get on our nerves when we’re stuck inside with them for long enough.

And if we keep fighting with each other during this circuit breaker, this can amplify the negative effects of confinement.

So, try to avoid conflict, and spend time apart if possible. Carve out some alone time where you are doing something on your own and give your loved ones or roommates some breathing space.

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6. Redecorate or Rearrange Your Space

Remember that Malaysian man who used the lockdown in Malaysia as an opportunity to turn his bedroom into an Ikea-style showroom?

Image: Twitter (@FiqSaid)

That man had the right idea.

A few simple changes to your living space can fill up your time and make your place look fresher and more habitable.

Get rid of clutter, keep things tidy, rearrange furniture, and even experiment with lighting.

Have a cracked wall that you’ve been meaning to paint or wonky cupboard door you’ve been meaning to fix? Well, there’s no better time to do it.

7. Try Something New

Always wanted to learn a foreign language or a new instrument?

Well, novelty is the opposite of boredom, psychologist Scott Bea says.

When we do the same things over and over again every single day for a long period of time, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut.

Doing something novel breaks this cycle of monotony, and actually benefits your mind too.

Learn how to cook, read that book that’s been collecting dust for the last 6 years, or even take up yoga on YouTube.

As long as it’s new, it’ll be exciting.

8. Do Something You’ve Been Putting Off

Humans are great are disobeying the authorities when there’s a pandemic, but we’re also skilled procrastinators.

Everyone has a project or assignment they’ve been putting off for a long time because they don’t have the energy to do it.

Want to finish that short story you started long ago?

Need to clean out that drawer of yours that has letters from the 1990s?

Well, there’s no time like the present to tackle a project you’ve been putting off because it’s too challenging or time-consuming.

9. Become Zen

According to the Cleaveland Clinic, there’s a lot of overlap between cabin fever and an anxious, racing brain.

So, in addition to exercise, some quiet alone time can also help.

Take up meditation, for instance, as it has been found to reduce stress and anxiety and even improve your attention span.

If you have no idea where to start, there are many meditation apps that can guide you on your path to peace and serenity.

10. Escapism

If nothing else works, getting lost in an engaging book or film can provide enjoyment and pleasure, but they can also make you forget about your current situation.

According to NBC News, transportation – getting lost in a book, for example – can make you more empathetic and creative.

It can also help you escape, of course.

And if you read a non-fiction book or watch a documentary online, you can learn something useful while “escaping” from your current woes.

Alternatively, you could read our articles in our app or watch our YouTube videos if you’re really bored.

Here’s one for you:

Reader: Was this entire article just an ad for your articles and videos?

I’m offended that you would even think such a thing.

Reader: You literally just hyperlinked the link to your app in your apology.

Ok, you may have a point.

Look Forward To The Future

Either way, things are not ideal right now, but it won’t stay like this forever. There’s no use wallowing in our despair and complaining about things when we could make use of this extra time at home to do something productive or to blow off some steam.

Try looking forward to the future when you’ll be able to meet your friends, travel, and go back to work, instead. This can make you feel happier and more optimistic, and make you realise that this circuit breaker is simply a temporary but necessary solution.

But we shouldn’t neglect genuine mental health issues, of course. So, if you need someone to talk to, there are several hotlines which you can call, including a national one introduced recently:

National CARE Hotline: 6202-6868

Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444

Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

Institute of Mental Health’s Mobile Crisis Service: 6389-2222

Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800

Stay healthy!