How is everybody feeling?
This has been a tough week for me. Tougher than the previous three or four (but who’s counting?!) Like all of us, I am processing anxiety, stress, and just plain cabin fever. Anxiety, as I see the rising numbers of those ill with Covid-19 and hear more and more about the declining state of our economy; stress, as I remain in the house with my two boys- each an amazing human in his own right, but also managing his own concerns right now; and cabin fever- because, who isn’t?
Merriam-Webster defines cabin fever as a noun; a state characterized by anxiety, restlessness and boredom, arising from a prolonged stay in a remote or confined place. An article on the subject, to which I refer below, traces the origin of the term to the somewhere in North America in the 18- or 1900’s, when someone living in a remote cabin was homebound due to inclement weather or another plague, like typhus. Ick. Psychologists do not consider cabin fever an actual disorder, but instead consider it a “constellation of behavioral symptoms linked to feelings of physical and social isolation: irritability, restlessness, trouble concentrating.” Yup, that sounds like me.
Also like me is an extreme distaste for feeling this way. I like to think of that as a survival instinct, my natural state of recognizing when I feel like this, especially over a prolonged period of time. My response is develop a plan to encourage those feeling to dissipate. Of course, in between these two points I tend to insert at least few hours, if not a day or two, of wallowing in self-pity. Yeah, I’ll cop to that.
According to Kristen Rogers, in an article published March 19 on CNN.com, ways to “cure” oneself of cabin fever include these:
· Establish a routine.
· Mix up your space a bit.
· Stay physically and mentally active.
· Connect with others.
Okay… well… let’s look at how I’m doing these days. I have to give myself a little credit for employing these techniques: I’m usually awake by 6, coffee-d up 30 minutes later, and out walking with my dog a few minutes after that. Ha- that hits two! Routine and staying physically active! I also make my bed every day shortly after I get started with my day. (This could once have been judged as neurotic. Today it is a mark of my natural resilience!)
Hmm… Mixing up my space a bit? Yep- good on that, too. I have one of those very light, thin televisions I can transport easily from my bedroom to the living room. (I have a hangup about keeping a TV in the living room of my house. Our living room is visible from inside the front door. I prefer not to have a television dominate a room so close to where I greet guests. I'd rather keep attention on the guests than another screen. ) I move the TV into the living room some mornings when I want to feel like a business person on a break. Another way I mix up my space is by using my dining room table as everything from its intended purpose as a dining surface, to a fabric cutting-table, to a gathering space for my boys and I to confab the day’s plan. It's like a conference table in a fancy law firm. Of course, this table is also a clutter-magnet. I make a concerted effort at least twice a week to transform it from very-large-shelf-space into a clean area for dining or working. Do we get extra points for cleaning?
Connecting with others… Maybe this is where I’m struggling the most. As a teacher, I draw energy from students; we pass it back and forth like a ball in a basketball drill when we discuss ideas. As a mom, prior to lockdown I usually encountered my children after they’d been out in the world, experiencing a day on their own. When we chat, I help them process their experiences. Again, passing conversation back and forth, each of us gains from the interchange as well as contributes to it. As an artist, everything I make is an outward expression of some interior motivation. Implicit in my creativity is the requirement it be experienced by other people. My work doesn’t feel real until someone else “gets it,” too. The real trouble with cabin fever, for me, is that it’s slowing down the exchange of positive energy between me and everything else out there in this beautiful world. Hmm… now there’s some clarity. Definitely hitting the stay mentally active box on that one.