Island Senior: Surviving Cabin Fever
Island Senior is a regular column on the San Juan Update written by Peggy Sue McRae…
According to Wikipedia, cabin fever refers to “claustrophobic irritability or restlessness experienced when a person, or group, is stuck at an isolated location or in confined quarters for an extended period of time”.
Anybody relate? They go on to say… “Cabin fever is not itself a disease and there is no prognosis. However, related symptoms can lead the sufferer to make irrational decisions that could potentially threaten their life or the life of the group with whom they are confined”. That is the part we want to avoid.
In my recent article, Island Senior: Coping With Coronavirus, How Is Your Mental Health? I concluded with recommendations from the Washington State Dept. of Health to guard against depression and anxiety by building resilience through connection, purpose, psychological flexibility, and hope. I thought it might be worthwhile to give these strategies a closer look:
Connection: Make a point to connect with nature. Find a non-touristy patch of woods and take a Forest Bath to rinse off some of that pandemic angst. Take a drive around our beautiful island or just go outside and sit on a log. You will feel better, I promise. Touch base regularly with the important people in your life. I do a weekly email check-in with my sisters. We recap our week, share creative projects, and also share what we are happy, sad, or frustrated about. If you don’t have a regular person to check in with make a point to seek out a person or group to touch base with.
Purpose: Now a respected professor and lecturer, activist Angela Davis knew solitary confinement inside of a jail cell. Any place you are quarantined on San Juan Island is going to be way better than that. In her Autobiography Davis wrote of that time, “Getting totally involved in my work was a fundamental condition of survival and sanity”. Few of us are as brilliant and dedicated as Angela Davis but if you’ve always thought that someday you would challenge yourself to build a ship in a bottle, study Opera, or learn to knit, that day might be here.
Psychological flexibility: You’ve no doubt heard the Serenity Prayer often used by people in recovery. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. These are words of wisdom we can all benefit from. As for keeping your mind supple, I highly recommend the free Mindfulness courses from Monash University in Australia as taught online through Future Learn. These are mindfulness courses with a brain science approach, and as an added plus have guided meditations with a soothing Australian accent.
Hope: Find ways to bring positivity into your life. Gardening can be a hopeful exercise. Even during a pandemic sweetpeas and tomatoes miraculously grow right up out of the ground. One sure-fire way to kick start positive energy is by practicing gratitude. Try writing down 3 things you are grateful for each day. Or sing. Not in a closed room with other people of course but like Maria Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, out in a field away from other people with your arms spread wide.
We may be isolated but we are not alone.
Link to: Island Senior: Coping With Coronavirus, How Is Your Mental Health?
Link to: Washington State Department of Health
Link to: Island Senior: Forest Bathing, an Antidote to Stress
Link to: Angela Davis Autobiography
Link to: Future Learn Online Courses