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Three family activities to help cope with cabin fever

Cabin fever usually impacts families right about now each year. Here are some fun (and familiar) activities the whole family can enjoy.

What is cabin fever?

Did you know there is a medical definition for cabin fever? Cabin fever is the combination of psychological symptoms felt when a person feels restricted indoors.

People tend to experience cabin fever at different intensities based on their age, activity level, and how long they expect to be inside. In the wintertime, people tend to feel cabin fever around January or February. We know winter is almost over, but we also know that snowstorms and winter can drag on into April in the Midwest. Not knowing when the weather will give us a break can heighten our feelings associated with cabin fever. Many people experienced signs of cabin fever during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Some common symptoms are:
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Intolerance or impatience
  • I have cabin fever. Now, what do I do?

Here are four ways to help combat cabin fever.

Go outside

Even if it’s cold, taking a brief walk around the block or even stepping outside for a few minutes can help combat cabin fever. If you can, spread your errands out over a couple of days so you can get outdoors a couple of times a week.

Social support

If you aren’t able to go outside, interacting with others can help mitigate cabin fever. A phone call, Facetime, or even a zoom call are great ways to stay in touch with others and get some human interaction.

Stimulate your mind

Making productive use of your time helps make the days go by—getting you closer to Springtime. Choose a book to read with a friend and create a mini-book club. Commit to reading a section of the novel and schedule a call to discuss. Consider learning a second (or third) language. It’s never too late to learn! You may be interested in an artistic outlet like coloring, painting, or knitting. YouTube has hundreds of how-to videos available for free.

Playing games

But the all-time favorite is reliving childhood games with family members. Here are three of the best games for all ages to play indoors or outside (weather permitting).

Hide-n-seek for inside

Everyone in the house can play hide and seek. It’s a simple game. But, it can get a bit rowdy indoors. Everyone is in one room, and the Leader goes out into the house and hides an object. The goal is for the participants to find the identified object and return it to the Leader. The person/team that returns the object to the Leader takes over as the Leader for the next round. If participants have trouble locating the object, the Leader should offer clues to help keep the game progressing. Pair younger children with older adults, and they can work as a team.

Variations can include elements of “I Spy” where the Leader doesn’t disclose the object but provides a clue. The participants have to figure out what the object is and locate it before the others.

Simon Says

This activity can be fun for parents to play with their kids. It creates a wonderful opportunity for children to learn valuable listening skills while getting an opportunity to burn off some energy. If you aren’t familiar with the game, the rules are simple. The participants all stand up in from of the Leader, who we call Simon. The Leader says “Simon says” and includes some action like “touch your nose” or “jump up and down.” After a few Simon says instructions, the Leader omits to say “Simon says” before giving the task. Individuals that do the task sit down—the last person standing wins and takes over as the Leader.

Some timeless instructions are:
Touch your nose

  • Do a jumping jack
  • Turn around
  • Touch your toes
  • Take a step forward.
  • Clap your hands

Dance Party

This one can be a bit rowdy and awkward for individuals who may be self-conscious, but it can be fun and empowering. Try finding music with an upbeat rhythm. A favorite song the whole family can dance to is Happy by Pharell Williams. Children and older adults must see you having fun with dancing. So be weird. Laugh and exaggerate your movements, so they see it’s okay to look funny. Make the whole dance party exciting. For older adults, sitting in a chair and moving their upper bodies is equally beneficial. Clapping hands and singing along is also a fun way to elevate the activity.

A couple of considerations:

  • Make sure sharp edges and breakable items are stored safely away so participants can’t hurt themselves.
  • If you have children who tend to overstimulate, you may want to select different music that may be lower energy.
  • If you have participants who have mobility issues, more meditative music may be ideal.
  • Select music that’s relevant to the group. Ask for suggestions.

If possible, play the music video on your television during your dance party session. Omit if your audience is easily overstimulated.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to have fun! Dance Party is about shedding your self-consciousness and moving around—getting your heart rate up and burning off energy.

A final note about cabin fever.

As with any changes to your routine, check with your Primary Care physician, especially if you have a relatively sedentary lifestyle or health issues. If you don’t have a Primary Care physician, visit our Meet your Doctor page and schedule an appointment today.

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