Winter Blues: How to Survive Cabin Fever

The sun is rising later, setting earlier, and it’s gotten too cold to leave the house unless it’s absolutely necessary. It’s completely understandable if you find yourself in a little bit of a funk, being cooped up at home. Though there are the little pleasures that make the chilly season a little easier to bear, a crackling fire and a hot cup of cocoa isn’t going to remedy the claustrophobia you feel. Let’s take a moment to talk about cabin fever and the few ways we can combat the discomfiture of winter. 


Cabin fever is a euphemism for the restless and irritable feeling some get when they’ve been indoors for too long. Some might be triggered because they need a change in scenery while others have a reaction to a lack of Vitamin D usually received from exposure to natural sunlight. And while cabin fever might not be considered a medical disorder, Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) certainly is. This is why it’s incredibly important that you don’t underestimate what you are feeling. 

Symptoms include irritability, low mood and energy levels, fatigue, restlessness, excessive or little sleep (disturbed sleeping patterns), social isolation, trouble concentrating, increased or decreased appetite (altered eating patterns). 

Note: You know yourself well enough to gauge your ‘normal’ behaviour. Once you start acting out of character for more than just a day or two, it’s fair to assume something might be up. Booking an appointment with your GP might not be absolutely necessary, but talking to someone — possibly a friend or loved one if not a counsellor or therapist — is a good idea. There is absolutely no shame in admitting you’re having a tough time. You’ll often find that the more honest you are with yourself and what you’re feeling, the easier it’ll be to deal with.


The negative temperature makes leaving the house more punishment than anything else. While I tend to stay indoors, hosting dinner parties and game nights reminds me that I can still have fun despite the weather. Appealing to friends who, like you, don’t want to venture out into the cold will be much easier with a warm pot of mulled wine as a bargaining chip.

If your cabin fever merely needs a change of scenery why not consider taking a sunny holiday? Kwazulu-Natal is South Africa’s secret site of endless summer. Book a flight, and within an hour or two (depending on where you’re flying from), you can be dipping your toes in the warm Indian Ocean. The balmy weather, sublime sunshine, and tropical – often spicy – food will lift your mood, making you feel renewed for when you decide to return home.

When you’re feeling low, it’s important to be mindful of the bigger picture. Not only will setting goals help you feel more in control of the cabin fever, but having a project is a great distraction. Whether you choose to get a headstart on spring cleaning or task yourself with knitting a quilt for next winter, if you keep yourself busy you’ll have less time and energy to feel frustrated about being indoors.




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