10 Ways to Overcome Cabin Fever

Freelancing Overcome Cabin FeverAs the nights grow longer and temperatures fall, let us remember that this is the time of year when many freelancers succumb to cabin fever.

Cabin fever isn’t a disease. It is more a malady of the spirit characterized by sadness, lack of energy, malaise, and irritability.

Many people are prone to cabin fever around the winter months, because we spend less time outdoors and get less sunlight.

However, freelancers may be even more susceptible to cabin fever than the average person. Unless you have three kids to send off to school like I do, you probably won’t have any reason to drag yourself out of bed while it’s still dark out.

We don’t get out as often as our employed friends, and when it’s freezing outside, we have even less reason to leave home.

Cabin fever is no fun for anybody. It zaps our lives of joy and happiness. It even affects our ability to produce quality work–something which is crucial to freelancers.

In this post, I’ve come up with 10 suggestions for how freelancers can avoid or overcome cabin fever.


1. Get Outdoors

I’ve recently taken up running and experienced exercising outside at near-freezing temperatures. With my nose running and eyes tearing up, I totally get why nobody else is running with me. But it’s still much better than staying indoors and working out to my DVDs.

Granted, I probably wouldn’t run when there’s snow. Some people do, but not me. Fortunately, there are other things you can do outdoors in the snow. Take up a winter sport, build snowmen with your kids, and make snow angels.

2. Get Plenty of Sunshine

The lack of exposure to sunlight causes a chemical imbalance in our brains. This is what leads to cabin fever and, when severe, clinical depression.

The easiest way to make sure you still get plenty of sunshine is to open blinds and curtains. Work beside a window.

However, if you live in a place where the sun hardly shines in winter, you’ll have to invest in a lamp that mimics sunlight. This light therapy has proven to be effective for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

3. Stay Active

We already talked above about engaging in activities outdoors. However, even when you’re snowed in, it’s still a good idea to keep active.

Remove the clothes that are hanging on your treadmill and use the machine the way it was intended to be used. If you have them, now’s the time to use those exercise DVDs. Or set up a small home gym with weights, exercise bands, and a stability ball.

Avoid passive activities, such as watching TV or surfing the ‘net all day. In fact, I would recommend you spend no more time in front of your computer than what’s necessary for you to complete your freelancing work.

4. Make Your Environment More Cheery

Just because it’s cold and dreary outside doesn’t mean it needs to be the same inside your house. Put out your Christmas decorations and lights. Use bright colors on curtains, pillows and other soft furnishings. Take out the most luxurious beddings you have.

While you’re at it, why not buy a diffuser to make your house smell of lavender, peppermint and jasmine? These are just some of the essential oils that are considered uplifting and help address depression.

5. Entertain

Isolation is considered one of the contributing factors to cabin fever. If you’d rather not drive in the snow to have lunch with your friends, then invite them over for some tea and cookies. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate dinner party. Having even one person over to talk to face-to-face can help keep you from feeling lonely.

6. Grow Indoor Plants

Aside from helping to rid your home of stale air and making your space prettier, did you know plants can also lift your mood?

An Australian study found that when plants were added in people’s offices, they experienced, on average, 37% reduction in tension/anxiety, 58% reduction in depression, and 38% reduction in fatigue, among others.

If you’re not much of a green thumb, pick up a couple of indoor plants that are sturdy and don’t require a lot of care. Caring for your plants will also give you a purposeful activity while indoors.

7. Eat Good Mood Food

In a previous article, we’ve talked about foods that give you energy. Well, certain foods also help uplift your spirits. These foods contain high levels of an amino acid, tryptophan, which our bodies convert to serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness.

According to the book, The Serotonin Secret, the best sources of tryptophan are:

  • turkey
  • sunflower seeds
  • mung beans
  • lobster
  • asparagus
  • cottage cheese
  • pineapple
  • tofu
  • spinach
  • bananas

Eat at least one of these foods every day. Rotate them throughout the week for variety.

8. Engage in Goal-Oriented Activity

Boredom is one of of the other factors contributing to cabin fever. By having goal-oriented activities throughout the winter months, you can help stave it off. Of course, as freelancers, you’ll always have client deadlines to keep you occupied.

If you do decide to take a break from work, remember you still need to continue marketing your freelance business.

Also set goals for other areas of your life, such as relationships, housekeeping or home management, hobbies, etc. If you’re busy organizing your basement, for example, you won’t have the opportunity to get cabin fever (you’ll also have a reason to go outside and buy supplies).

9. Head South

Migratory birds and senior citizens who own condos in Florida are wise. They know to head where it’s warm during the winter! If the sub-freezing temperatures really get you down, see if you can temporarily move to a warmer location.

To cut down on costs, look at home swapping arrangements. Or hook up with a friend or relative for a few months.

10. Seek Medical Attention

If you’re experiencing symptoms that seem more severe than plain ol’ cabin fever, you may be clinically depressed. Consult your health care provider to get a proper diagnosis and discuss the appropriate treatment.

Cabin fever can be a big problem to freelancers. If you’re like me and live where winter takes up five months of every year, you’d want to avoid cabin fever as much as you can! Aside from affecting your productivity, it can strain relationships and rob your life of happiness.

By anticipating it and taking some simple steps to avoid it, cabin fever doesn’t have to be a problem. You can enjoy life and be a successful freelancer all year long.

Your Thoughts?

Have you ever experienced cabin fever? If so, what helped you get over it? Share your tips in the comments below.

Image by lisahumes

Comments

  1. says

    January, when all the anticipation for Xmas is over and the decorations are packed away, seems to be the worst month for me. I combat it by staying active with friends (we have a fabulous indoor track here) and also shortening my work week where possible so I have a day without kids to do the things I want to do. Getting outside, doing something fun and turning my schedule upside seems to help too. One thing I don’t recommend is writing about being sad or angry or negative because it forces you to dwell on those emotions and it makes things worse.

  2. says

    The first time I was laid off in January 2008, the high temp for the day was 15 below zero for more than a week. I had to work really hard to get out from under my blankets and go downstairs to my computer to look for jobs.

    That’s when I made one of my rules of freelancing: I have to leave the house at least once, every day. The only times I break the rule are if 1) I’m on a tight deadline and too busy to leave, 2) if I’m sick or 3) weather prohibits travel. At the very least, I will make sure I walk down to the mailbox to get the mail!

  3. says

    As someone who has worked independently from a home-based studio for most of the past 30 years, one of my most effective remedies for cabin fever is to schedule out-of-office activities with others in the same situation. Meeting weekly for coffee, scheduling lunch gatherings, or joining others for a museum/gallery visit is a great escape from the day-to-day and an excellent source of social interaction. I’m also taking an art class this winter, not directly related to my work, for a little creative stimulation. Having the “carrot” of annual Caribbean vacation, hanging out there on the calendar in early spring, always helps get me through the gray Oregon winter.

  4. says

    I’m going to write these down and post them on my monitor because I’m really concerned that with the amount of time I spend editing this season , that I’ll succumb to cabin fever. Thanks for sharing !

  5. says

    You give great tips. I thought that I was the only person who went through this. I have noticed a tendancy to get antsy, especially when I am going all out but still not landing the contracts that I try so hard to get. Every once in a while, I will step up to the house door, open it up, take a fulfilling breath, let the sun hit me, and try to listen to the silence outside and look up at the trees and the blue sky. It’s like being underwater and holding your breath for a long time and then finally coming up and breaking the surface for life replenishing oxygen.

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