Cabin Fever: A Survival Guide

Cabin Fever: A Survival Guide

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

Albert Camus

Spring is here!

…or so they say.

The calendar says it’s April. Spring break is behind us. And yet our thermostats and our driveways confirm what we’ve all been fearing:

We are not out of the (snow-covered) woods just yet. 

Unless you’re exceptionally adept at rolling with life’s challenges, chances are you’re experiencing a certain restlessness these days.

Maybe you’ve experienced it before.

The irritability. The listlessness. The growing feeling of unease that results from months of confinement and isolation indoors.

We’re talking about cabin fever.

Most of us have some degree of difficulty adjusting to the weather.

(Just think of your reaction to the first truly humid day of last summer. Not pretty, right?)

And for many of us, the changing seasons are reflected by significant changes to our mood, habits, and energy levels.

But for some of us, it’s the lack of change in weather that causes distress.

Especially when the weather is so dramatically mismatched to the season we’re currently in. The season we’ve been preparing for and looking forward to.

And when that weather has kept us cooped up for months on end, we start to feel the compound effect.

The good news is that we will get through it.

The ice will melt, the birds will chirp, and the sun will shine again.

But, in the meantime, whether your cabin fever is of the dreaming-fondly-of-flowers variety, or the Jack-Nicholson-in-“The Shining” variety…

…this post is for you.

Read on for your Cabin Fever Survival Guide:

If you’re feeling tense…

…then some good rest and relaxation are what you need.


  • Improve end enjoy your current environment. 
    • Change the temperature: Adjust the thermostat, put on (or remove) socks, warm up your tea (or add some ice). Even small changes like this can make an impact on your comfort level.
    • Get comfy: Find a comfortable place and position to sit. (Or if you’ve been sitting for awhile, try changing things up and moving around for a bit.)
    • Engage the senses: Light a candle. Diffuse some essential oils. Play some feel-good music. Snuggle up with a soft blanket.
    • Truly rest: Maybe some sleep is what you need. Or maybe simply shutting down for awhile will do the trick. Just decide what sounds best to you and make it happen.
  • Switch things up. After months of hibernation, it’s easy to get caught in a rut. Take a moment to be mindful of your typical daily routines, and then change them up a bit. Even simple shifts (e.g., eating breakfast in a different part of your home) can help you feel refreshed.
  • Practice self-care with a focus on relaxing and restorative strategies. Follow a guided meditation (e.g., the Headspace app has free ones you can try!), experiment with some gentle yoga poses, take a warm bath, bundle up and go for a walk. Whatever sounds best to you.

If you’re feeling sad/lonely/depressed…

…it may be time to get creative and find ways of connecting with yourself and the world around you.


If you’re feeling restless…

…it’s time to put that energy to good use!


  • Sweat it out. You’ve got a lot of restless energy after so much time indoors. Don’t try to fight it! Head to your local indoor pool and swim laps, log some laps at the mall, or do as many jumping jacks as you can right there in your living room.
  • Plan energetically. The sun isn’t out now, but it will be soon! Get a jump on all the fun by planning your warm-weather activities now. Clean out your closet, research recreation leagues and CSAs to join, rally your loved ones together and create a seasonal “inspiration list” of activities to enjoy together.
  • Make it mindful. Seemingly “negative” feelings like restlessness can provide some of the best opportunities to practice mindfulness. No need to complicate it. Just notice where you’re feeling it most in your body, imagine the restlessness lighting up in a vivid color, then melting away and swirling down through an imaginary drain in the floor.

If you’re feeling irritable…

…you’re in good company! But you don’t have to stay there. Some distraction and redirection can help you immensely right now.


  • Acknowledge your emotion. It sounds simple, but just the act of saying, “I’m feeling irritated right now” can help smooth the rough edges of what you’re feeling.
  • Pick an activity to occupy your attention. It could be a puzzle, it could be cleaning out a closet… as long as it draws you in and requires your focus, anything goes.
  • Find a way to contribute. Bake treats for a loved one. Help a neighbor shovel or salt their walkway. Volunteer at a local shelter, or sign up to deliver meals. It’s really hard to stay stuck in your irritability when you’re helping ease the burden on others, so get in there and help!
  • Adopt a new perspective. Your situation is less than ideal, and that’s completely valid. But, what would make this situation worse? Briefly imagining a worse set of circumstances can be a powerful vehicle toward acceptance, even gratitude.
  • Practice gratitude. It sounds counter-intuitive, but this is a great time to give gratitude a try. As annoying as it may feel to be snowed in (again), there is always, always something to be grateful for. Not sure where to start?
    • Begin by asking yourself: “What is this weather forcing me to do?”
    • Then shift the question to: “What is this weather making it possible for me to do?”
      • Enjoy a slower pace?
      • Save money and savor simpler activities?  
      • Rest my overworked mind and body?
      • Connect with my rapidly-growing kids?

Shifting from irritable to grateful isn’t easy, but it’s one of the most reliable and powerful ways to inject peace and joy into your life.

The best part? Practicing gratitude during times like this will help form the foundation for gratitude during challenging times to come.

And as for being grateful for the spring when it finally returns?

Well, you can probably figure that one out on your own.

Enjoy this post? You might also like:

Seasonal Depression Treatment
Navigating Spring Break as a Family
How to Practice Gratitude When You’re Not Feeling Particularly Grateful


Feeling cabin fever-ish? Ready to connect with a therapist?