During the depths of winter, millions of people struggle with feeling restless, lethargic, unmotivated, and downright bored. The chill seems to seep into your bones, and it’s likely dark long before you get a chance to leave work.
If this describes your situation, you might be experiencing what’s commonly called cabin fever, and you’re not alone. Humans experience real fluctuations in their physiology as the dark of winter settles in, and the results aren’t always conducive to our modern lifestyle.
The good news is that there are concrete steps you can take right away to alleviate your symptoms. If you haven’t been able to banish the winter blues this year, here are 8 tips for beating cabin fever.
1.) Don’t Sleep Too Much
While it’s tempting to stay cuddled up and drowse the day away, sleeping too much and allowing yourself to give in to the boredom will ultimately only drive your moods down even further.
Try to stick to your normal sleep schedule and see your doctor if you have trouble falling or staying asleep for more than a week or so. Lack of sleep and disruption of your circadian rhythms are both major culprits in the progression of seasonal mood disorders.
2.) Maximize Your Home’s Natural Light Exposure
During the summer, we naturally tend to avoid the intense summer sun, drawing our curtains and turning our chairs away from bright windows.
During the winter, though, your brain and body will crave natural light exposure. Allowing as much sunlight into your home as possible will help boost your mood and settle the restlessness that cabin fever causes.
If you can’t get enough sunlight in your home to feel some benefit, talk to your doctor about full-spectrum lighting that mimics the sun’s rays. You may benefit from spending time sitting next to this type of lamp on days when there’s no sun to be found.
3.) Invigorate Your Environment With House Plants
Most humans are comforted and perked up by having even a single beautiful plant nearby, so scattering several potted plants throughout your home can be really beneficial. As a bonus, the air inside your home will be cleaner thanks to the natural air filtration plants provide.
If you don’t already have a well-developed green thumb, talk to an experienced nursery to make sure that the plants you invest in will do well in your home.
4.) Tidy Up
Any space feels small if it’s piled with clutter. It’s easy to lose the rhythm of keeping your home sparkling during the chaos of the holidays and the winter doldrums that sometimes follow. If you’re stuck inside, though, this is the ideal time to tackle those clutter zones.
Cluttered spaces can make you anxious, which will absolutely make your cabin fever worse. It’s time to take back your space, working one surface at a time. Take “Before” pictures; the Before-and-After comparison will be almost as motivating as the promise of a mood boost.
5.) Keep Your Body Moving
You don’t have to go out for a 4 a.m. jog in the snow to exercise during the winter, but it’s crucial that you keep moving as much as possible.
While current neurological science suggests it’s ideal to exercise with some exposure to natural light within the first hour of waking up, in the real world, any movement is better than no movement at all.
If your doctor approves, this would be a great time to try indoor cycling, yoga, pilates or kickboxing. These are all workouts that can be accomplished indoors at any time of day or night, making them perfect for a busy schedule and awful weather.
Remember, a strong body will have a lot more fun this summer than a sluggish, tired body, and starting now gives you plenty of time for rock hard abs by June.
6.) Boost Your Nutrition Efforts
Nutrition has a big impact on our day-to-day moods, so it’s more important during the fall and winter than at any other time. Unfortunately, because of our response to the cold weather, the holidays and wintertime are when we crave sweets the most!
Fortunately, you can indulge your sweet tooth while still making sure to pack your day full of nutritious foods. Try to eat 80% nutritious, mindful meals, and let the other 20% of your diet be strictly for indulging cravings or having a fun night out with friends.
Being consistent with this ratio, watching your calories and macros, can really help clear up cabin fever gloom.
7.) Host a Viewing Party or Game Night
Once you’re feeling a bit better, take advantage of your improved mood and have some friends over. Whether you watch a classic everyone knows by heart or watch the newest Game of Thrones, making your TV time a social occasion will be good for your brain—and theirs!
8.) Limit Your Alcohol Intake
While there’s nothing wrong with a moderate enjoyment of alcohol, too much will exacerbate seasonal mood disorders and stress your brain and body even further. That’s not even considering the impact on your waistline. Your physical health ultimately affects your mental wellbeing, and limiting your alcohol intake is a great step toward feeling better.
Finally, if these steps don’t help you feel better, or if you’re unable to implement changes that you truly desire to make, please speak to your doctor. Depression that goes beyond cabin fever and interferes with your daily life may require medication or other treatments, and it should be addressed as soon as you begin to suspect that something’s not right.
You deserve health and happiness. Make this the year that you don’t settle for feeling crummy for months at a time, and instead decide to push back against seasonal affective disorder and cabin fever.