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Have you ever been cooped up for so long you feel like you’re absolutely losing your mind?

Cabin fever is a very real concern for survivalists( or anyone else!) who for whatever reason become isolated for an extended period of time. Restlessness, lack of enthusiasm and abnormal sleeping behaviors are all common responses to cabin fever, and they’re all detrimental to survival.

Simple preparation can help relieve cabin fever, but that isn’t always possible. For storms or natural disasters with advanced warning, prepare as much as you can. To find out more about the subject, we consulted Chelsey Byers, a family life educator at the University of Illinois.

INDOOR FUN

One remedy for fever comes from Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). People who have fever have convinced themselves that it is awful and catastrophic to be cooped up in the house. These thoughts only increase their anger and frustration. A therapist using CBT would help challenge the “awfulness” of the situation. Yes, you may not like it, but you can stand it. Remind yourself it is only as awful or tolerable as you convince yourself that it is. What message will serve you better: “It is awful,” or, “It is bad, but I will get through it”?

One remedy for fever comes from Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). People who have fever have convinced themselves that it is awful and catastrophic to be cooped up in the house. These thoughts only increase their anger and frustration. A therapist using CBT would help challenge the “awfulness” of the situation. Yes, you may not like it, but you can stand it. Remind yourself it is only as awful or tolerable as you convince yourself that it is. What message will serve you better: “It is awful,” or, “It is bad, but I will get through it”?

“Go shopping for family activities,make sure kids bring work home with them from school, stock up on food and supplies and stockpile any necessities to sustain your family for weeks or even months,” suggests Byers.

If you have the space, consider doing the shopping and stockpiling prior to needing them. When disaster hits, everyone will be attempting to stock up, severely limiting available supplies. Being prepared can help save your lives and your sanity. “The goal is to keep your mind active, your body engaged and your emotions in check,” says Byers.

Here are some indoor suggestions for surviving cabin fever.

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Play board games or card games—Make sure you have a variety of games, with varying length, complexity and age level. Consider researching new card games to learn.

Play computer/iPad/handheld device games—Either alone or multiplayer, utilize technology to play games. Systems like Wii have family-friendly games with learning or exercise components to them.

Watch movies—Stock up on DVDs or use an online streaming service like Netflix to keep a fresh stream of movies, from entertaining to educational.

Read or catch up on magazines or newspaper collections— Find books for all levels of readers and consider getting some books to read as a family.

Do arts and crafts—Create a special arts and crafts bin with markers, paints, glitter, crayons, stickers, stamps, ink, various paper supplies, beads, string and other supplies. If you need help thinking of ideas, find a family-friendly craft book with fun or practical creations.

Start or practice a hobby— Utilize your time to work on crafts, knitting, sewing, woodcarving or other hobby. Consider learning to play an instrument or starting a new hobby.

Stay active by doing aerobics, exercising or rough-housing— Everyone, especially kids, will have excess energy to burn. Channel that energy into physical activity or structured rough playing the house. Consider exercise videos to help stay motivated.

OUTDOOR FUN

Cognitive behavior therapists often cite the 11th Commandment as “Thou Shall Not Whine.” Complaining about a situation does not make the situation better. It only serves to make you feel worse. So, stopping complaining! Focus on keeping busy rather than devoting energy to whining. Don’t stew, do.

Cognitive behavior therapists often cite the 11th Commandment as “Thou Shall Not Whine.” Complaining about a situation does not make the situation better. It only serves to make you feel worse. So, stopping complaining! Focus on keeping busy rather than devoting energy to whining. Don’t stew, do.

Many activities can be done indoors, but sometimes there is nothing better than getting outside, moving your body, removing the physical barriers of walls and getting fresh air. Beware of outdoor play time when the temperatures are cold.

In the summer, you can do most things outdoors to alleviate cabin fever, including eating meals, playing, even sleeping. “The winter is more challenging and outdoor time is much more limited,”warns Byers. Just getting outside can help alleviate cabin fever, and the following activities will give you something to do.

Play in the snow—Build snowmen or snow forts, have snowball fights or just spend time outside.

Take a hike—Often we stay indoors and limit our exposure to the elements. Being out in a snowstorm can be a great way to connect with nature and take int he beauty of the season. Taking a hike is a great way to burn excess energy, get exercise and pass the time. Make sure you choose an easy route, as it might be very difficult to walk through the snow. Bring any necessary emergency supplies with you in case of danger.

Shovel your driveway or walkways—Just spending fifteen minutes outside shoveling can help relieve the stress of cabin fever. Take turns shoveling so everyone can have a few minutes of alone time. Be careful to not overdo the shoveling, especially with wet or heavy snow conditions.

Go sledding, cross-country skiing or snow-shoeing—If you have the gear, utilize a warmer day by going out for some wintertime fun. Be sure to choose safe, familiar routes and bring ample supplies with you including food, water, first-aid kits and extra layers for warmth.

EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES OR CHORES

“While having fun is preferred, if you’re stuck at home for long periods of time, you will need to ensure you are keeping up with household chores and educational opportunities, especially for kids,” cautions Byers. Perhaps the first couple days feel like a vacation, but at some point, you will have to do some of these more menial tasks. Attempt to make them fun, include the whole family and turn them into a game to pass the time and avoid stress and fighting.

Homeschool activities—Take time every day to work on homework, reading, math problems or other educational activities. Just because school is cancelled or you can’t get there doesn’t mean it’s vacation. Take time to challenge your mind, whether a kid or adult. Work on learning a new language, brush up on skills or take turns teaching each other something new.

Work on career projects, business planning or extracurricular activities—There are always new things we want to do or work on, but time just doesn’t allow. Use this time to commit to these other projects. Apply for school, research new opportunities, update your resume, take an online class, plan a new business, create marketing materials, build a website, brainstorm ways to create new revenue streams or whatever it is you’ve been meaning to do for your career or yourself.

Cooking and/or baking— Being home can be challenging. Hopefully you have ample supplies to continue cooking and eating the foods you’re used to. The tendency will be to eat more junk or pleasure foods, but maintaining your eating habits will keep you happier, physically and mentally. Take time to try new recipes or cook complex meals or desserts.

Clean and/or organize your home—Sometimes being holed-up can help you get to projects you normally don’t have time for. Use the extra time to go through closets, deep clean your house or find new uses for old clutter. Catch up on laundry, give walls a fresh coat of paint or do a thorough cleaning.

Do household projects—Find the projects you never started, or never got around to finishing, and do them.  Cross the old to-do items off the list, create a new wish list and fix the things you’ve been meaning to fix.

OTHER TIP

The hardest part about cabin fever is long periods of time together with little escape, boredom, frustration and not knowing how much longer it’s going to last. Buyers suggests, “To help maintain a stable outlook, plan ahead as much as you can, keep yourself busy and attempt to maintain some sort of routine. “

 

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the Winter 2013 print issue of American Survival Guide.