Chelsey Byers Gerstenecker
Extension Educator, Family Life
I don't know about all of you, but I think I am suffering from cabin fever. Merriam Webster defines cabin fever as "extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time." Yes, that must be it. I am feeling the effects of being cooped up inside all winter long. I know that I feel better when I get some sunshine and fresh air. But did you know that there are other things that we can all do as individuals or as a family to help us beat the winter doldrums?
If you are feeling stuck in a rut or just feeling a little blah, try rearranging a room to make it feel new. Or, spend the days when it is too cold to get outside spring cleaning a little early. Spring cleaning can be beneficial by getting rid of some of the winter germs, getting us moving, and by freeing up our time later when the weather is nice and we have more options of things to do.
Everyone needs movement and typically we are more sedentary during the cold winter months here in Illinois. There are many ways to get more movement into our day. Physical activity is not only good for our physical health, but it is also good for mental health. By getting more physical activity hopefully we will feel better. There is no need to shell out money for a gym membership you can get working around your house or walking inside the mall. Best of all, try to take advantage of the days that are a bit warmer and go outside for a brisk walk.
Speaking of getting outside, getting fresh air, even for brief amounts of time is great for us. Yes, even in the winter. Just be mindful that you aren't outside for too long when it is cold but the fresh outside air can have a lot of benefits. The outside air has more oxygen in it than stale inside air. This can help us feel more refreshed and relaxed by clearing our lungs and our mind. This can increase our concentration and help us think more clearly.
Another tip for breaking the cabin fever is to plan an activity for our family or friends. Maybe set a date to have a game night or movie night and get everyone involved in the planning process to build excitement. Game nights are often fun for families, couples, and/or friends. Don't get stressed by the planning; delegate tasks and then make a night of it. Whenever I am around my family or friends there is often lots of laughter and as the saying goes, laughter sometimes is the best medicine.
Finally, try to plan a little getaway or plan something that you can look forward to. Sometimes just a little getaway from our everyday norm can really improve our mood. If you can't afford a weekend getaway to somewhere warm, maybe just rent a local hotel room for the night so everyone can spend some time in a pool. Or, go visit a relative for a weekend and get out of your own home.
If these are not an option, try planning something fun that the whole family can look forward to doing in the spring or summer. Make a personal or family bucket list of things to do once it gets nicer outside. Having something to look forward to gives us hope and on cold dreary days that hope will help get us through.
For more information on this topic or other family life-related topics, contact Chelsey Byers at University of Illinois Extension at 217-333-7672 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.