One of the biggest complaints I’ve been hearing recently, from family and friends, is the boredom of being stuck at home all day every day. Stay-at-home orders are no joke, and if you’re finding yourself dragged down by cabin fever, you’re not alone. I’ll admit, as Covid-19 drags on, it’s getting to me as well.
The one advantage I have over other people, I think, is that even before the pandemic, I worked from home. As a work-at-home mom in a 1-vehicle family, I’m used to being home bound for days a time. So, while I’m also feeling the drag of not being able to take my daughter to the park or head to toddler time at the local library, I already have some strategies in place for making the days go faster.
If you’re finding yourself struggling with the monotony of being stuck at home, here are 5 ways you can break up your day, keep your spirits high, and power through this pandemic for however long it lasts.
#1: Get Outside
The benefits of getting outside can not be stated enough. Stay-at-home orders do not prevent you from enjoying the benefits of sunshine and fresh air. Social distancing guidelines do mean that you shouldn’t be playing in group sports or getting together with people outside your home, but there are plenty of ways you can enjoy the great outdoors without other people. Here are some things Ginger Snaps, Babyface, and I have done just this week:
- Taken a walk around the neighborhood
- Kicked a ball together in the back yard
- Raked our yard and cleaned up trash that has blown in over the winter
- Collected rocks and compared them with Babyface (Big/Small, Sharp/Smooth, Round/Jagged)
- Splashed in puddles together
Being outdoors is a great way to increase your energy levels, improve your mood, and encourage natural exercise. As a work-at-home mom, going outdoors has increasingly been my go-to solution when I feel cabin fever settling in. After 20 minutes of fresh air and sunshine, I usually feel more level-headed and cheerful. Even if you don’t have a toddler to goof around with, you can do yard work, take a hike, or even just sip a cup of coffee and read a book.
#2: Treat Yourself
If you’re anything like Ginger Snaps and me, the past few weeks have seen cancelled appointments and dates with friends. Things that I used to take for granted, like a twice-a-week cup of coffee with my aunt, aren’t on the options list right now. My father-in-law just shaved his dog because he can’t take her to the groomer right now. But nothing will give you cabin fever faster than being stuck in your house with the same people day after day without taking time out for self-care.
Especially when you’re stuck at home, finding little ways to treat yourself throughout the week can make a huge difference to your mental health. Even if you’re not leaving your home, and even if money is tight, there are plenty of easy ways to treat yourself. Here are some of the ways I treat myself when I’m home:
- Enjoying a hot cup of tea. Ginger Snaps actually makes a beautiful chai tea with a little bit of fluff in it (weird, I know, but it tastes so good!) and while it is too high in sugar content for me to drink it all the time, if I’m having a rough mental health day, he’ll make that for me as a way to help me relax, but every morning I have a hot cup of black tea to help wake up.
- A warm bubble bath. I’ll have Ginger Snaps take Babyface downstairs to play, and I’ll just take 20 minutes to take a bath. Honestly, I think being alone in the bathroom, without a toddler trying to climb up on me or flushing the toilet while I’m on it, is half of the treat!
- Ordering take-out food. Restaurants are a no-go right now, but–at least in Maine, where I live–restaurants are allowed to offer take-out options, and a lot of restaurants that don’t normally offer To-Go options or delivery have those options available right now. We haven’t done much take out, but I do have the Door Dash app, where you can choose for your delivery person to leave your food on your doorstep. (Fun fact: you can get $5 off your first three Door Dash orders when you use this link).
#3: Work on Self-Improvement
We all have things we could be working on–bad habits we’ve cultivated over the years or skills we’ve always meant to pick up. When you’re struggling with cabin fever or boredom, it’s a great time to work on improving yourself. Whether that means changing up your diet, exercising more, or learning a new hobby, there are plenty of ways you can improve yourself during this period of time. Here are just a few of the things I’ve been working on in the past few weeks:
- Intermittent fasting. I’ve lost six pounds in the past two weeks, which, while not a miracle amount, is pretty great. This video on intermittent fasting by one of my favorite YouTubers was the impetus that got me to try this and had me watching a ton of other videos and reading a bunch of research on the subject. Ginger Snaps and I have been doing this together–we tried a couple of time frames before settling on a 7PM-11AM fast (Ginger Snaps likes to call it “skipping breakfast” because he says intermittent fasting sounds pretentious. To each their own). In addition to the medical benefits of intermittent fasting, it has been helping us reduce our grocery bill, which is helpful for all the people, like us, who are struggling with tighter finances because of the Coronavirus.
- Home Organization: Clean pantry? Check. Clean bathroom? Check. New toy rotation system for Babyface? Check. If you’ve read my previous organization posts, you know that keeping my home in order is an ongoing challenge, but I’ve made a number of strides in the past few weeks.
- Working on My Handwriting: I saw this book on Amazon when I was looking at homeschooling resources (a weird hobby of mine–I don’t formally home-school my 1 year old) and it looked like fun. Cursive was only taught for a couple of months in my school, and I had honestly forgotten what some of these letters looked like. I’ve slowly been making my way through this cursive handwriting workbook. It wasn’t necessarily on my list of things I needed to work on, but it’s a relaxing way to end my day and I feel good that I’m learning something new instead of just watching Netflix 24/7.
#4: Find Ways to Connect with People
One of the reasons we all get cabin fever when we’re told to socially distance ourselves is that by our very nature, we humans are a social species. Ginger Snaps and I both consider ourselves to be introverts, not extroverts, but even we are having a hard time with our inability to connect with anyone we normally connect with, especially with Easter coming up. Meanwhile, our daughter is a social butterfly, and we can tell she’s having a hard time with being stuck with us all day every day. Here’s how we continue to connect with people in spite of social distancing:
- Video Chat: Babyface gets to see and talk to at least one of her grandparents or other relatives almost every day. Between Facetime, apps like Zoom and Marco Polo, and our Portal, our generation has tons of resources to help our kids connect with their extended family even when they can’t be in the same room.
- Social Media: Normally, I suggest keeping away from social media if you’re having a rough mental health day, but if your problem is cabin fever, social media may actually be a help. From Quarantine Karaoke on Facebook to friends flooding social media with landscape pictures, social media has actually done some positive things in recent weeks. Just be sure to keep your feed positive during this stressful time and unfollow friends or relatives who trigger your anxiety (You know who they are. If you unfollow them rather than unfriend them, they don’t have to know about it, and you can keep stress out of your social media feed).
- Texting: I have a couple of group texts going, including one with my two best friends and another with my family. Whether we’re sending each other funny comics or pictures of our kids, texting is a great way to feel connected. I know some people prefer being on the phone, but as a busy mom, I like texting because I don’t have to hush my daughter (she likes to scream “Hi!” and “Bye Bye!” whenever I’m on the phone–super fun during professional calls) and I can set my phone down, read Babyface a story or stir a pot, and get back to texting when I’m free again.
#5: Give Yourself Permission to Relax
The news has us on high alert. For many of us, finances are tight. You might be trying to work from home or educate your children yourself with limited resources. Some families are trying to do both. The stress of trying to keep up with life as much as possible, combined with the stress of Covid-19, is enough to make anyone anxious. Before you classify this anxiety as cabin fever, consider whether you have too much on your plate right now… and then give yourself space to relax.
It’s okay to have grace with yourself right now. It’s okay to let the homework fall by the wayside in lieu of baking brownies with your kids (they’ll learn plenty from that, I promise!) It’s okay to set the bills aside for an hour and have a dance party instead. It’s okay to play video games with your husband and eat frozen pizza instead of cooking tonight.
Cabin Fever CAN Be Reduced, Even Now
We’re all going to have our up days and our down days. But if you’re biggest problem with the Coronavirus is a bit of cabin fever, you’re among the percent of the population that has it pretty good right now. Instead of focusing on how hard it is to stay indoors and keep away from your friends, try to focus on the positives of this experience: the extra time with your family, the space to work on yourself, the fact that this is happening in the Spring when getting outdoors is an option, and the blessings of technology that allow us to connect in ways that weren’t possible during the Spanish Flu or the Black Plague. Cabin fever IS a problem, but it’s not as big a problem as the Coronavirus, and it’s a problem we can all work on… together.