UH professor shares cabin fever prevention tips
During this unprecedented era of the coronavirus pandemic, making the necessary switch to work or study from home also involves an emotional and psychological adjustment away from normal life and social opportunities.
Adapting to these new restrictions can have psychological effects on some, said UH psychology professor John Vincent. He said keeping a structured routine, maintaining healthy relationships, finding creative outlets and taking mindful breaks can help reduce negative impacts of this time.
“We’re going to get through this and come out the other side stronger and able to cope with adversity even better than we have in the past,” Vincent said.
Having a routine
Having a regular bedtime and wake-up time can help bring somewhat of a routine throughout the day, Vincent said. When a typical sleep cycle is changed, it can disrupt physical and mental well-being and cause the sleep cycle to change even more drastically as time goes on.
“I think human beings do better when there’s some predictability and some structure in terms of how we spend our time,” Vincent said.
Since some people that are working and studying from home now have more free time on their hands, Vincent said this is a “fantastic opportunity to pick up a project that you’ve wanted to work on or do something creative.”
Activities like art, music, writing, cooking and more can help stimulate the parts of our brain that are activated through creativity, Vincent said.
“I think we all benefit from having different parts of our personalities being kind of addressed in a way that we can have our creative side sort of have some expression, as well as our academic side have some expression,” Vincent said.
Because the restriction of staying at home may cause stress, uncertainty or boredom, Vincent said it’s best to be mindful of overindulgence in food or alcohol.
Vincent encourages people to exercise moderation on these fronts so that they don’t lead to other problems like deteriorating emotional or physical health.
Since the coronavirus outbreak is constantly updating, receiving news 24/7 can cause fear and anxiety for some. Vincent recommends finding a couple of news outlets that you trust and do sensible, fact-based reporting and check-in for updates either a couple or three times a day.
“The anxiety that you get with the latest dire predictions about whatever I think can really keep people very stirred out in a way that’s not helpful to our well-being,” Vincent said.
Maintaining healthy relationships
Even though there is a risk of negative impacts from staying at home, Vincent said there are some benefits that have arisen from this unique crisis because people have been forced to look at their priorities, such as relationships.
“When we’re forced to have less interaction with people we care about, friends and family and all that sort of thing, we will probably cherish that even more in the future,” Vincent said.
Platforms like group chats, video calls and social media have allowed groups to maintain social connections. For students back at home with their families, Vincent recommends resurrecting old board games and puzzles for a family game night.
However, students going from being fairly independent at their college dorm to being back at home with their families might be feeling “too much togetherness.”
Vincent said being confined in a close area during this time of anxiety can place strain on some relationships, so it’s important to take positive actions to be good to each other like sincere apologies, forgiveness and kindness.
Being kind to yourself
When the feeling of cabin fever starts to emerge, Vincent said taking a walk in the neighborhood can help provide a needed change of scenery to help break up the monotony that sitting inside can bring.
Vincent suggests taking “chill breaks” throughout the day by spending just a few moments of time deep breathing, meditating or using some mindfulness techniques to try to keep escalations of anxiety from taking off.
“Breaking up how you spend your time I think also accomplishes (minimizing anxiety) to some extent also,” Vincent said. “So you have a variety of things you’re doing, not just one thing.”
Keeping a positive attitude, practicing self-care and looking for things to be thankful for and have control over can bring positive effects during this time of uncertainty, Vincent said.
“We have to be very kind to ourselves,” Vincent said. “We have to look for opportunities to self soothe so that we’re able to keep our emotions from getting the best of us.”
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