Jail cell.

I feel like I'm in a jail cell.

7 Tricks for Beating Cabin Fever

Feeling boxed in? Going a little stir crazy? Tired of being stuck inside? Sounds like you’ve got cabin fever! Don’t worry, these seven tricks will help you deal with being trapped inside during the winter weather.

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It’s winter here in the Midwest. The weather is unpredictable; yesterday it hit -22 degrees with the windchill, today it’s 15 degrees, and it might be almost 40 tomorrow. Even when it’s warmer, then everything is slushy and wet. Usually it’s just cold, though, and the end isn’t in sight.

So I’m going insane. I want to be out hiking, camping, running along the river, and just having a great time outdoors. Instead, I’m stuck inside with the heat on, dealing with dry and cracked skin, and feeling progressively more and more like I’m stuck in a cage. I’ve got the dreaded CABIN FEVER!!!

Jail cell.
I feel like I’m in a jail cell.

There is no known cure for cabin fever, other than getting out and about in the world. But when the air can give you frostbite in minutes, that isn’t always easy to do. So I’ve put together a list of tricks for fighting cabin fever. It may not cure you, but it might help you stay sane until the weather warms up enough to enjoy some fresh air!

1. Start a new project.
I’ve recently started a new woodworking project in which I’m trying to repurpose a piece of 100 year old staircase into a shelf. I only know half of what I’m doing and learning the rest as I go. It hasn’t made me yearn for outside any less, but I’m being productive and I’m not as stir crazy as I would be if I just sat on the couch.

2. Do something small.
Several times a week I stop by the Mississippi River before or after work and walk maybe fifty feet or so. It’s cold, way too cold to be out in office attire for more than a few minutes. So, while I’m only outside for maybe five minutes, those five minutes coincide with the sunrise or sunset, and I get to breathe in some icy river air, which makes me feel a little more alive.

Winter sunset by the Mississippi River
Definitely worth the chill.

3. Remove the word “No” from your vocabulary.
When it’s cold outside and the weather is bad, it’s easy to just lock yourself in the house, throw on pajamas, get under a blanket, and binge watch an entire series on Netflix. Even when someone invites us to do something, we think about how cold it is outside, how we’d have to drive in the snow, and how we’d have to put on real pants. Too often, we just say no. Don’t do that! If you’re feeling stir-crazy, staying in isn’t going to help. So start taking people up on their invitations, even if it’s just to go out for a bite to eat. Be a “yes” person.

4. Try a new indoor activity.
Is there a class you could take? A yoga studio you’ve always been curious about? Are you lucky enough to have an indoor climbing wall in your city? Have you spent a day in your local museums? There are tons of things you can try that happen inside. They’re no substitute for a hike, but infinitely better than never leaving the house! Even trying a new restaurant can help alleviate the strain of feeling cooped up.

5. Ask for help.
It’s okay to phone a friend, get on Facebook, or just talk to a coworker and tell them how badly you need to get out of the house. Ask around, see if anybody has any ideas about how to beat the winter blues. Someone you know is feeling just as fenced in as you are, and two heads are better than one.

6. Start planning an activity for the spring.
Sometimes, just working on the preparations of an outdoor adventure will make you feel a little better. Nothing is better than actually being out in the world and doing the stuff, but planning an upcoming adventure is a good way to manage the cabin fever. Right now my wife and I are working on some ideas for 2016, and I’m starting to plan my spring hike along the Great River Trail. I’m still itching to get outside, but at least I don’t feel like I’m not making any progress.

7. Bundle up and go anyway.
Just do it, you know you want to. Put on several layers, go to a nearby state park or forest. Maybe there’s a local nature preserve nearby that you can go tromp around in. Be careful, stay warm, and get outside. It won’t take long until you feel alive again. Soon after that, you may be ready for some hot chocolate.

A snowy hike at Yellow River State Forest.
Just go.

Don’t let old man winter get you down. Try out these tricks to keep cabin fever at bay, and before long it’ll feel like spring had sprung.


3 thoughts on “7 Tricks for Beating Cabin Fever

  1. Good advice 🙂

    I particularly relate to the first and last. I’ve began to learn how to whittle and it’s so absorbing that hours go by without me realising when I pick up the knife and wood. And of course, still going outside even if it’s not as far is the best thing to do. I always find that my wold shrink in winter and I more easily turn to city exploring but I’m always amazed by how many pockets of nature I can find in London.

    1. For me it’s really a blend of these seven that keep me from losing my mind! Having projects to work on has really made a huge difference though, as has planning my hike of the Great River Trail. Honestly, my winter overnight last month was a huge help (I’m in the process of finishing my post about that trip). Hopefully I’ll do another again soon. It was cold, but worth the effort! Until then, my little trips to the river are a treat that makes office life bearable!

      One day at a time, my friend!

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