Hiking as a way to combat cabin fever during lockdowns and other occurrences: Guest post by Patrick Bailey

Photo: Rob Edge

Have you ever seen “The Shining?” This classic horror film puts its own spin on cabin fever when the husband goes stir-crazy and tries to kill his family. The film attributes the husband’s madness to the demonic forces in the hotel, but chest-high snow, isolated location, and being stuck inside the house with nowhere to go can also cause a person to experience cabin fever. 

Given today’s current state of living, we are all being forced to stay home as a way to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We are social creatures and being forced to stay inside, away from friends and socialization can cause a lot of people, including myself, to feel cabin fever creeping upon them. Hopefully, not to the extent that the husband experienced in “The Shining.”

Cabin Fever

Cabin fever is a term used to describe the psychological reaction to being isolated or confined for an extended period of time. The symptoms people often experience from isolation are lethargy, boredom, irritability, restlessness, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, depression, trouble concentrating, lack of patience, food cravings, decreased motivation, frequent napping, hopelessness, and drinking alcohol. 

Personally, I’ve experienced lethargy, boredom, depression, and decreased motivation that accompanies cabin fever, although thankfully not to the extent shown in “The Shining.” Being cooped up in my house all day is really draining and makes me feel like I am all alone in this. 

Factors that have been found to contribute to cabin fever include the inability to connect physically with friends and family, inability to partake in activities you enjoy, burnout, becoming unmotivated and lethargic due to having little or no work, and experiencing anxiety towards finances due to lack of income. 

I’ve experienced many of these factors even before COVID-19 hit. As a military spouse, moving every few years makes it difficult to make friends, find work, partake in activities I enjoy, and when moving we often experience financial uncertainties. With COVID-19 and social isolation the depression I was already feeling from being so far away from friends and family was only exemplified when the coffee shop, rock climbing center, shopping mall, and gym I enjoyed going to were all closed. I had to find new ways to ward off the dark cloud of depression. I tried cooking new recipes, cleaning neglected areas of my house, and even going for a run. However, while many of these activities brought me some joy, the joy quickly faded after the activities were done.

With no end in sight for this pandemic, many people, including myself are experiencing symptoms of cabin fever and looking for ways to overcome these debilitating symptoms. With Summer in full swing, it’s a great time to get out of the house, go for a hike, and spend some time in nature to help kick those cabin fever feelings to the curb. 

Hiking to Overcome Cabin Fever

Have you ever gone for a hike and experienced the aroma of nature filling your nostrils? Heard the birds chirping, chipmunks scampering through the brush, and the rustle of wind through the trees? Hiked a mountain and felt that crisp air at the top cool your skin before seeing the most peaceful views? Do you feel that? That’s relaxation and your next adventure in nature calling. One of the best ways to overcome those feelings of cabin fever caused by isolation is to get outside, spend some time in nature, and exercise. Hiking is a great way to experience the benefits of nature and exercise.

Hiking provided me with not only an outlet to get outside and shake my cabin fever induced depression, but also the ability to reconnect with myself in nature. There is something so calming about the smells, sounds, and sights that you can only experience when you hike a mountain or trail that leads to a gorgeous view. It really makes me feel like everything is going to be okay and just as the leaves change and fall from the trees, everything has a season and even this pandemic will soon pass. 

Spending time in nature helps to reduce stress and anxiety and can elevate a person’s mood. Various studies have shown that being exposed to natural environments can help reduce physiological stress. Walking in natural environments such as going for a hike has been found to be more effective in reducing negative emotions than walking in urban settings. Calming nature sounds can lower blood pressure and stress hormones in the body. The visual beauty of nature can have a soothing effect, distracting your mind from negative thinking.

When you hike your body is working hard to make it up those hills and the demands of the trials. Exercising helps keep the body fit and improves mood by elevating your endorphins. Tackling a challenging peak increases your self-confidence. Hiking has been found to even improve your quality of sleep. Being exposed to natural light reinforces the natural sleep-wake cycle.

Getting out in nature and breathing in that fresh air really takes the weight of depression off my shoulders and helps me recenter myself. When I get done hiking up a mountain or even down a trail, I get a renewed sense of energy and accomplishment. Breathing in that fresh mountain air, hearing the sounds of nature, and seeing all those gorgeous views really does wonders for my psychological health and even boosts my mood. I feel more relaxed and able to conquer the tasks I have for the day.

Additional Help

Sometimes cabin fever can result in turning to maladaptive coping mechanisms such as drinking alcohol. I’ve had many friends during this pandemic that have expressed concerns about their day drinking and drinking way more than they want to overcome their symptoms of cabin fever. It’s something that can begin as innocently as a mimosa to start your day and eventually turn into multiple drinks to block out the feeling of depression and ease anxiety. Turning to the alcohol is an unhealthy way to cope with your stress and can result in addiction and dependence. Drinking rehab centers are a great way to help you overcome your alcohol addiction and even break out of that social isolation. If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol addiction, rehab centers can help you overcome your addiction and get back to a happy and healthy life.

References

Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress. MayoClinic. 

Inpatient Alcohol Rehab Options. Sunshine Behavioral Health. 

Levels of Nature and Stress Response. Behavioral Science Journal. 

Sour mood getting you down? Get back to nature. Harvard Men’s Health Watch.

What to know about cabin fever. Medical News Today. 

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

For more information, visit Patrick Bailey’s website. Patrick can also be reached by email at baileypatrick780@gmail.com.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Pat_Bailey80

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-bailey-writer

 

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