Most people delight in the white winter landscape Mother Nature produces when it snows, but what happens when the snow makes you a prisoner in your own home?
Cabin fever is a generic term for the anxiety disorder Claustrophobia, which can occur when people are snowed in to their homes for a prolonged period.
A person exhibiting symptoms of cabin fever, or claustrophobia, will appear distressed, anxious and irritable. Other symptoms will include, sweating, trembling, a shortness of breath, a rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), nausea and dizziness, as well as an overwhelming desire to escape the confined space (Briers, 2009).
So, with the snow piled up against your door, and the realisation that you can't escape, how do you beat cabin fever when you are snowed in? Here are seven suggestions to cope with the associated anxiety, and activities to occupy your time and your mind.
1) Accept the situation.
Staying calm in any crisis is difficult but particularly important when you are snowed in. If you are indeed snowed in then attempting to leave your home in frustration will not only be futile, but could also be dangerous. Any roads that are still serviceable will be slippery and impassable, meaning that if you fall and hurt yourself ambulances will find it difficult, if impossible to reach you.
Secondly, becoming aggravated and frustrated will exacerbate the situation and could make you feel depressed, making the isolation feel even longer. Accepting the situation is not giving in to it, it is the best, and most constructive method of dealing with any enforced isolation - besides how are you going to shift several tons of snow?
So, now that you have realised that there is absolutely no way to get outdoors for the foreseeable future, what should you do next?
2) Tune in to local television and radio stations
Local television and radio stations are tailor-made to disseminate weather and travel information for your local area. Providing the signal to your home has not been affected by the snowfall, tuning in to local stations can give you important information on when the weather will lift, and where the local emergency points of contacts are. In addition to this, hearing a familiar voice on the radio will boost your spirits, and make you feel as if you’re not alone, which is very important when you are snowed in.
In particular, local radio stations may have phone-ins where you can learn of how your neighbours and other local residents are faring being snowed in.
3) Call friends and family
If you are elderly or live alone, contacting friends and family members, whilst you are snowed in is a vital lifeline, which will boost your spirits. Letting them know you are ok, or if you need assistance will also reassure their minds. So if the landlines are done due to the snowdrifts, it’s always a good idea to have a fully charged cell phone on standby.
Hopefully, by now, despite learning that you are snowed in for the time being at least, but are not in need of immediate help, you can start to make the most of your enforced incarceration.
Keeping your house heated is very important whilst you are snowed in, so keep the thermostat at a comfortable temperature and worry about the bill later. If your health deteriorates you’ll incur costly medical bills anyway, so just concentrate on keeping your body and mind in shape.
Exercising will help to maintain fitness and release endorphins, which are vital in keeping a positive frame of mind. Exercising will also keep you warm if the heating has been affected and will also lessen the chances of you developing hypothermia. Basic callisthenics, yoga or even running on the spot - anything to keep your blood flowing and your mind active, and will also help to pass the time.
5) Eat and drink regularly
Maintaining a healthy calorific intake is also very important when you are snowed in. Regular balanced meals, particularly hot soups and stews, as well as hot drinks, should be consumed at least three times a day. As the temperature drops your body will use more calories to maintain a core body temperature. This in turn can take energy away from other functions such as the immune system, therefore it is important to maintain a healthy calorie intake to avoid catching a cold or the Flu.
6) Occupy your mind
Reading, doing crossword puzzles, watching television and listening to the radio, and even playing video games, are all good ways to relieve the boredom and stimulate your mind as you wait for the snow to melt.
Also, if you have an annoying chore that has been festering on your to-do-list for months, why not use the time productively and get it done? Putting up the shelf in the spare room or sorting out your tax returns may seem a boring task, but you’ll feel good about them once they're done.
If you have a creative side, you could also use the time to hunker down and start that novel you always promised yourself you would write, but until now never found the time to start.
7) Enjoy the peace while it lasts
The modern world is a hectic place and we are all under pressure to adhere to deadlines and timetables. Whilst the prospect of cabin fever and being snowed at first glance seems no picnic, it nevertheless presents an opportunity to return to a simpler time when there weren’t as many distractions.
Once you have realised that the walls aren’t actually closing in on you, and that the snow will eventually melt, the time afforded you by Mother Nature could be seen as a blessing in disguise. Use the time you have to rediscover old hobbies you used to enjoy. Play that album you listened to in your youth but haven’t heard for years.
Time to one's self is a fleeting and an all too uncommon luxury in the modern world. Once the snow melts you may actually lament the passing of your wintry vacation.
Briers, S. (2009). Brilliant Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: How to use CBT to improve your mind and your life. Prentice Hall, London.