“I Feel Stir Crazy”

Help for when you’re feeling trapped, agitated, and desperate to get back to normal life.

Human beings are social creatures, so it’s no wonder we feel the effects of quarantining, isolation, and social distancing so acutely, especially if we’re in areas subject to lockdowns or stay-at-home orders. Feeling isolated and lonely can take a heavy toll on your mental and physical health. It can send your stress levels soaring, trigger anxiety and depression, and increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. But even in the darkest days of winter during this pandemic, there are steps you can take to alleviate loneliness, protect your health, and strengthen your sense of connection with others.

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Get outside
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Connect with others
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Structure your day
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Exercise
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Travel online
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Use your imagination
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Practice acceptance
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Devise fun activities for your kids
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Remember why staying at home is important

Get outside

If you’re not quarantining, try to get outside as much as restrictions in your area enable you to. Being out in the fresh air and open spaces will improve how you feel and there are ways to turn even a walk around your neighborhood into a new, stimulating experience.

  • Choose a new route each time you go out—or better still, don’t choose a route at all and simply wander with no destination in mind.
  • Be a tourist in your own neighborhood and explore places you’ve never been to before or familiar places as if seeing them for the first time. What do you hear, smell, or feel?
  • Take photos of anything that catches your eye. There’s beauty in even the mundane and familiar.

Connect with others

Human beings are sociable creatures, so it’s important to safely keep in contact with friends, family, and co-workers. The more connected you are, the less stir-crazy you’ll feel.

Talk on the phone. Nothing beats face-to-face contact with others to ease stress, but talking regularly with others on the phone—especially people who really care about you—can help you feel less isolated.

Connect with video. Use video conferencing tools such as Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype to chat with friends and family members or spend time with co-workers. Try arranging group hangouts to play party games, watch sports, or enjoy happy hour drinks together.

Write a letter or postcard. Handwriting a letter can relieve some of the stress of confinement and help you uncover things you can feel positive about. And receiving a note in return can brighten any day.

Structure your day

Much of the cabin fever many of us are experiencing at this time comes from the loss of our normal daily structure. It’s easy to slip into the habit of sleeping too much or too little, skipping meals and exercise, or neglecting your personal care, especially if you’re alone or out of work.

To maintain a sense of normalcy if you’re stuck at home, establish a regular sleep, school, meal, and work schedule. It doesn’t have to be the same as your routine before the pandemic, but the more structure you can add to your day, the less oppressive time at home will feel. Try to include set times for exercising, getting outside, and communicating with friends each day.

Exercise

Exercise is a great way to relieve stress, take your mind off your troubles, and boost your mood. Even if you’re under lockdown or a stay-at-home order, there are still creative ways to exercise safely at home.

To break the sense of confinement, try to find ways of exercising outside, whether that’s walking with a friend if it’s safe to do so, cycling, hiking, playing in the park with your dog or kids, or stretching on your balcony, patio, or other outdoor space. If you’re in an apartment without easy access to an outside space, try exercising near a window. Getting the extra sunlight can help boost your serotonin levels and improve your outlook.

Travel online

The pandemic may have curtailed your travel and vacation plans, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience at least a taste of what you’ve missed out on—from the safety of home.

Recreate a trip you had planned. Read guide books for the location you planned to visit, view online video tours of museums or tourist attractions,  or shop the grocery store and create meals from that region. Take a virtual vacation here in different places around the world, try this list of museums, zoos and theme parks that offer virtual tours, or find online concerts from NPR or the LA Phil, for example.

Relive a favorite trip from the past. Turn old travel photos and other mementos into a scrapbook of your adventures, edit and share old vacation videos, or simply tour your favorite vacation spot online.

Plan for future escapes. Whether you’re hoping to get together locally with friends, take a road trip, or fly overseas, making plans can give you something to look forward to. Research your destination online, devise an itinerary, plan the route for a road trip, or build a playlist for your journey.

Use your imagination

We all have our favorite places that we miss when we’re forced to stay at home. It may be a place you like to vacation with friends or family, a favorite weekend getaway, or simply somewhere in your neighborhood that you always enjoy spending time—a shady spot in the park, a favorite coffee shop, or a sports venue, for example. But even when you can’t physically go there, you can still visit in your mind.

Guided imagery uses the power of your imagination to not only visualize and daydream about your happy place, but to also relax your body and mind and ease the stress of this difficult time. Use HelpGuide’s Guided Imagery Meditation to help you take a break and spend time in your happy place.

Practice acceptance

Places are closed, your routine has changed, and you’re stuck at home. No matter how angry or frustrated you become, you can’t change the reality of your situation. But you can learn to let go of the struggle and practice acceptance.

Allow yourself to feel stir-crazy. Instead of engaging in futile efforts to gain control over the uncontrollable, let yourself experience the discomfort of feeling confined. Like all emotions, if you allow yourself to feel stir-crazy, it will eventually pass. Use our Mindful Breathing Meditation to focus on your breathing and stay anchored in the present.

Focus on a solvable worry. Instead of focusing on your sense of confinement, focus on something that you can control, such as helping out a friend in need.

Devise fun activities for your kids

It doesn’t take being confined at home with children for long before all your usual games and activities have become stale. To stop your kids going stir-crazy, brainstorm some new, fun activities.

  • Play board games or complete puzzles as a family.
  • Use coloring books or watercolors.
  • If you have a dog, encourage your kids to teach it new tricks.
  • Build an indoor camp or fort using sheets, blankets, and pillows.
  • Construct an exercise circuit, obstacle course, or hold a dance-off with your kids.
  • Teach your kids to help cook and prepare meals.
  • Play with clay or building blocks.
  • Enroll your kids in helping with yardwork. Raking leaves may be boring, but jumping into huge piles of them can be lots of fun!

Remember why staying at home is important

When cabin fever bites hardest and you feel like you’re going to crawl out of your skin with boredom or frustration, it can help to remind yourself of the bigger picture and why you’re staying at home.

Enduring these hardships today will help to save the lives of the most vulnerable people in your community and prevent overburdening the health care system. Your sacrifice may even help save the lives of specific friends or loved ones.

It’s also important to remember that this won’t last forever. It will pass and when it does, we all will once again be able to enjoy the things that are most important to us.