20 Ways to Overcome ‘Cabin Fever’ During Isolation at Home

 

woman in black top sitting on brown armchair

In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak, at least 1/3 of the country is either in quarantine or self-isolation. People are becoming antsy, feeling claustrophobic, getting ‘cabin fever’ and are otherwise going stir-crazy indoors.
It is ironic that we are getting to the point where we can’t even bear to be in our own environments and maintain our sanity. What is even more ironic is that, when we leave work everyday, our home is our solace, our ‘port in the storm’ and safe haven.

So, how do we now manage life indoors? There is always Facetime, Google Duo, and Skype for visual communication-effective forums which align with social distancing. Nonetheless, they don’t offer enough physical activity for many of us. We want the open air-the good ole’ outdoors. But, we can’t enjoy the outdoor environment as liberally as we have grown accustomed to.

We can still go outside alone to exercise or take a leisurely walk, but not too leisurely. We must maintain social distancing and return home immediately thereafter. At any other time, we would feel  a sense of relaxed comfort, safety and sanctuary from the outside world. That has now changed for lots of folk, and it is relatively early in this effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

If you have a front or backyard that you call your own, then you can go outside, without laving your house or having close contact with others. You can sit on your front porch, the kids can still play outside. But, if you live in any large urban city, it is likely you live in an apartment building. Your options are fewer, in terms of getting fresh air, unless you have a balcony.

Whatever the living situation, feelings of confinement or cabin fever while in quarantine or isolation don’t have to completely  stress you out at home. Should any such feelings arise, they can be managed strategically. These are some of the things that you can do to help you feel more comfortable and experience less stress in your space:

person lying in bed beside window

#1. Open your windows. Pull back your curtains, or draw the blinds during the day and welcome the sunlight. Sunlight triggers the body’s production of Vitamin D, the ‘sunshine vitamin’. It is critical for overall health, protects against inflammation, lowers blood pressure, helps muscles, improves brain function and may even protect against cancer.
Exposure to sunlight has also been known to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called seratonin.

Seratonin is associated with boosting mood and can help shake off the wintertime blues. Be advised that too much sunlight exposure, can be a danger, as the ultraviolet rays from direct sunlight are carcinogenic. The key is moderate sunlight, and while indoors, that’s what you will get- moderate, indirect exposure to the sun.

#2. Meditate. A few minutes of practice each day can help ease anxiety, making you more resilient to stress. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting, either out loud or silently, a positive mantra such as, “I love myself.” or “I feel at peace.” Place one hand on your belly to sync the mantra with your breaths. Let all distracting thoughts float away like clouds.

#3. Breathe deeply. This will only take about 5 minutes. Focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath begin in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth. Deep breathing counters the effect of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.

#4. Reach out. Your social network is still one of your best tools for handling stress. Continue to talk to others via social media or video chats. At the very least, you can still have telephone conversations. Share what’s going on. You can get a fresh perspective and still keep your connections strong.

#5. Be present. Stay in the moment. Slow down. Focus on only one behavior with awareness. Notice how the air feels on your face while you’re walking through your house. Taste each bite of your food and notice the texture. When you spend time in the moment and focus on your senses, you should feel less tense.

photo of woman laying on ground

#6. Visual Imagery. Find a quiet spot in your house. Sit or lay down straight, hands at your side. Close your eyes and begin to breather in and out, slowly and deliberately. After 2 or 3 deep breaths, imagine yourself in a special place. You can choose a day at the beach, in the mountains, or gazing into the sky at dusk. You can picture yourself in Paris in the spring or any place you find inviting, exciting or that will have a calming effect on you.

#7. Organize your digital life. Make backups of all of your important files on a flash drive, external hard drive or in the cloud. Scan photos, too. Also, clean up your desktop with designated folders for your files.

#8. Clean out your purse and wallet. Since you won’t be going out soon where you’ll need a big bag, it’s a good time to clean and declutter. Get rid of those old receipts, expired coupons, old unused lipsticks, old candy and gum and toss it all.
#9.Learn to give yourself a manicure or pedicure. You won’t be visiting your salon any time soon. So, give yourself a basic mani-pedi to relax and treat yourself. You can experiment with nail art or a crazy new polish color never worn. Be bold. Who knows! You may grow to love it.

#10. Clean your makeup brushes and your beauty drawer. You probably have at least one eye shadow never worn, old makeup past its expiration date, and lipsticks without the tops or worse yet without any creme left in the container. These things touch your face and close to your mouth. If salvageable, clean items per instructions.

man in gray shirt holding baby in white onesie

#11. Read a book. Pick up that book that has been sitting on your shelf or coffee table. You’ve been meaning to read it. Better yet, read to or with your child. Nonetheless, now’s a good time to get lost in a good book. So many adventures are to be had inside of those books. Take one!

#12. Update your resume, LinkedIn and CV. Even if you aren’t out of work or looking for a job right now, take a little time to reflect on how far you’ve come in your career and celebrate those highlights. Enlist a savvy friend, via video or email, to help you if needed. You probably will, because chances are you’ve done so many amazing things at work, you may not be able to keep track of them all.

#13. Have a Netflix binge. Get lost inside of a string of movies and TV series on Netflix. That is, if you don’t have the kids with you, or aren’t a parent. If you are a parent, choose some family-friendly shows, and don’t forget to include documentaries, too.

#14. Send some thank you notes. Nobody sends old fashioned than you cards anymore. You can. Is there someone who made at difference at work? A distant family member or friend who acknowledged your birthday this year? A heartfelt thank you letter explaining how it helped you or how much it meant to you will go a long way in making you both feel great.

#15. Volunteer. I am volunteering in a school community at a ‘grab n go’ food drive during this coronavirus. You, too can volunteer and show some kindness to others at this time….or at an time. Make the time, and there’s no time like now. It’s so meaningful and necessary. One can volunteer while keeping with ‘social distancing’ protocols.

high angle view of lying down on grass

#16. Explore the great outdoors from your living room couch.Yellowstone National Park offers virtual tours. Explore Mars virtually through NASA’s Curiosity Rover. Monterey Bay Aquarium also offers virtual tours.

#17. Have a night at the museum. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History  has exhibits you can view online. Certainly, there are other museums that offer the same.

#18. Go to the zoo. The San Diego Zoo can be visited online. Take your kids along with you.

#19. Take a cooking class. All of Julia Child’s classic cooking collection. Have a virtual video party with friends or a real one with your kids. Let them help in the prep of food. Enjoy dinner together.

#20. Go to Broadway. Broadway HK is offering free trials to watch from home without having to travel to NYC. Besides, since Broadway is also shut down right now, viewing from your home is perfect.

 

Of course, these are just a few of the many activities that you can try, not only during this global crisis, but at any time. Stay positive and think creatively about the many, many ways that you can make the best of your time at home. This is particularly important if you have your children at home with you. The way that they cope will be greatly influenced by the way you cope.

Protect your mental health and wellness at all times. Cabin fever won’t last forever! No matter how you may feel, you are not alone. We are all in this together! Stay positive, stay home and stay safe from harm!

How Being Positive Becomes Toxic

People are always telling you to stay positive-be positive-think positive. That’s not always realistic, nor is it 100% healthy. That kind of advice can be counterproductive to being ‘real’, being human.

Staying positive can be advantageous many times, but by the same token, brushing off your negative emotions can make situations worse, too. There are times when it is better to feel the negative emotions and get past it. Optimism can be a good trait, but forced optimism can be toxic.

Toxic positivity involves the minimization and invalidation of real, negative emotions in order to promote an excessively happy, optimistic state of mind. In the middle of a downpour of rain, you can always tell yourself that the sun is shining, but that’s not realistic. Something very real is happening, something that needs your action to remedy; not necessarily change.

You cannot remedy a situation unless you acknowledge it is happening first. In this situation, you need a raincoat, towel or an umbrella.

Before you move past negative, painful emotions, you have to process them. Toxic positivity tells you to suppress your emotions instead. That can be harmful. Suppressing your emotions prevents you from moving past trauma and it has real physical and psychological consequences. Stress and chronic pain, even self-medication result.

You can recognize toxic positivity by listening to your internal dialogue. You find yourself constantly telling yourself to get over it, that other people have it worse, and that you are being ridiculous. Even if you are repeating those positive mantras, you aren’t allowing yourself to experience the real feelings beneath the surface.

person holding gray and white throw pillow

Toxic positivity can also come from external sources, like your family and friends. If they try to minimize your feelings or always tell you to ‘suck it up’, distance yourself until you can work through your emotions.

Emotions are meant to be felt and experienced. Accept it. Allow yourself to feel all the pain and sadness and let them have momentary power over you. It’s all a part of what it means to be human, and the only valid way you will get through the rough times. Meditation and keeping a journal can be a great way to work through your emotions. Talking to a therapist or trusted friend can help too.

By doing these things, you allow yourself  the space to feel and manage your emotions, not just suppress them. Managing or regulating your emotions allows you to feel them on the spot, acknowledge them and then work through them as needed.

Forced positivity becomes toxic when you can’t or don’t process your negative emotions. Possessing the mindset that you ALWAYS have to be positive is toxic by itself. As humans, we have emotions and sometimes they are painful ones.

When you see a friend or loved on in pain, avoid being that person who says, “suck it up”, not allowing that person the time and room to feel the emotions they are experiencing. Be the friend who offers an listening ear, and tells that person that it’s OK to feel the way they do. Give them time to work through their internal feelings, and then communicate your reassurance that in time, they will feel better. Be there to help them work them through.

Even emotions that are painful or difficult to understand must be processed. Allow yourself some time to feel whatever it is that you are feeling, while engaging in healthy ways to fully process and move past them. Have faith that the sun will shine again. After all, you’re only human and being so, humans can expect to have a full range of emotions.

Black Women and Infant Mortality Rates

Despite ranking first in per capita health care spending, the United States ranks only 55th out of 225 countries (in order of low to high) for infant mortality rates, with 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. Moreover, this rank hides large racial disparitiesBlack infants die twice as often (11.1 deaths per 1,000 live births) as non-Hispanic white infants (4.8 deaths per 1,000 live births).

U.S. Black infant mortality rate is higher than in 97 countries worldwide. To effectively reduce this level of infant mortality, the U.S. must first address one of its root causes: low birthweight, which accumulating evidence suggests is caused in part by Black women’s stress.

Low birthweight is the second leading cause, after birth defects, of infant death in the United States, and Black infants are almost twice as likely to have low birthweight than white infants. This disparity remains even when controlling for mothers’ income, prenatal care, and education. In fact, Black women with college degrees are more likely to have infants with low birthweight than white women who have not completed high school.

Chronic maternal stress is one likely cause of low birthweight. Chronic stress produces hormones that damage the body over time. This damage, called allostatic load, can be measured and scored using health data (e.g., cholesterol, blood pressure, cortisol levels) and is a measure of cumulative adversity and disadvantage. High allostatic load scores have been linked to lower life expectancy and poor pregnancy outcomes, such as pre-term birth and low birthweight.IMG_3785(2)

Evidence suggests that environmental and social factors contribute to differences in allostatic load scores by race and gender. For example, upon arriving in the United States, Black African immigrants have lower allostatic load scores than Black people born in the country.

Studies also show that Black immigrants’ allostatic load scores increase the longer they live in the United States. Race and gender differences in allostatic load scores are not explained by different rates of poverty: At all income levels, Black women have the highest allostatic load scores. These findings suggest that racism and sexism in the United States affect Black mothers’ allostatic load scores and may underlie their high rates of low-birthweight deliveries 

The combined efforts of policymakers, researchers, and medical professionals can address racial disparities in infant mortality. Policymakers can support expanded data collection to examine within-group differences in infant mortality. For example, while Black infants have higher infant mortality rates overall, more and better data can enhance our understanding of important differences by maternal country of origin, length of time in the United States, education, and income level. This, in turn, may help medical professionals tailor interventions to meet the unique needs of the diverse population of Black women in the United States.

Researchers can help by studying which health data are key to measuring allostatic load, since there is currently no established, validated way to assess it. There is also limited information about how pregnancy impacts the measurement of women’s allostatic load. The evidence that allostatic load may underlie racial disparities in infant mortality reinforces the importance of developing a reliable measure for Black women, both before and during pregnancy.

group of women and men standing on gray and white concrete floor

Finally, medical professionals can address Black women’s allostatic load by incorporating stress-reducing interventions (e.g., mindfulness-based stress reduction, meditation, support groups) into their treatment plans for Black women before and during pregnancy. In addition to individual interventions, population-based strategies are also needed; one study found that community-based interventions may reduce stress for Black pregnant women.

Addressing racial disparities before and during pregnancy may reduce the incidence of low birthweight and save the lives of Black infants. Efforts to lower Black women’s chronic stress and allostatic load are critical for their infants’ health and well-being, and for the health and well-being of Black women themselves, across all stages of their lives.

[Originally published by Child Trends]

Trauma-Informed Parenting-Part 1[Understanding Trauma]

When a little child falls from the swingset in the backyard or playground, it can be a traumatic experience. As parents, what’s our immediate response? We run to the child, pick him or her up, take the child into our arms, and either kiss the ‘boo-boo’ or just soothe that child with words and hugs. We are helping that child develop resilience and envelope them with love and safety. It is those responses which help prevent lasting fears of swings and enable that child to try again. These events can be perceived as traumas, but we help children perceive them as simple accidents along the way to skill building.

Depending on our responses to the experience, adults can help prevent a child from developing a long-lasting fear of swings. If bitten by a dog for the first time, depending on our response a child can either become fearful of dogs throughout their lives or learn to be cautious around dogs or some dogs. These are not to be confused with many of the traumas which may impact a child’s coping or normal attitudes and behaviors in home, life or school settings.

Being trauma-informed is important for educators, child welfare workers and even more important for parents. Complex trauma describes ongoing experiences through which stress becomes unnmanageable to the point of threatening our physical and psychological integrity. Extremely vulnerable children and youth often experience multiple trauma-inducing events throughout their lives, which affect their ability to develop appropriate coping skills.

Remember fight or flight response as a way to describe reactions to situations in which we feel threatened in some way.  Among these two reactions is also the freeze response: ” Fight, flight or freeze!” During traumatic stress responses, the thought processing and verbal parts of the brain are overrun in favor of that fight, flight or freeze response. When a child feels threatened, their responses may be to cry and yell, run away, or hold their breath and stop moving completely. Can you tell which response is associatted with fight, flight, and freeze?

Because chronic stress and accumulated trauma cause long lasting consequences, it is important for parents and teachers to understand how a child’s experiences may affect their behaviors. His or her response depends on factors which include developmental age, their relationship to the perpetrator or victim and the challenges they face after the traumatic experience.

How do we support a child or youth affected by trauma? Children who’ve experienced trauma need to feel safe, and all parents want to provide this type of nurturing home for their child. Unfortunately, when parents or teachers do not understand the effects of trauma, they may misinterpret children’s behavior and feel frustrated. Attempts to manage troublesome behaviors may be ineffective and often harmful. By increasing your knowledge of trauma, you can support your child’s healing, recovery, your relationship and family as a whole.

Trauma may affect children’s( …)  in the following ways:

Bodies

• Inability to control physical responses to stress
• Chronic illness, even into adulthood (heart disease, obesity)
Brains (thinking)

• Difficulty thinking, learning, and concentrating
• Impaired memory
• Difficulty switching from one thought or activity to another
Emotions (feeling)

• Low self-esteem
• Feeling unsafe
• Inability to regulate emotions
• Difficulty forming attachments to caregivers
• Trouble with friendships
• Trust issues
• Depression, anxiety
Behavior

• Lack of impulse control
• Fighting, aggression, running away
• Substance abuse
• Suicide

Factors that determine the impact of traumatic events  include :

  •  Age. Younger children are more vulnerable. Even infants and toddlers who are too young to talk about what happened retain lasting “sense memories” of traumatic events that can affect their well-being into adulthood
  •  Frequency. Experiencing the same type of traumatic event multiple times, or multiple types of traumatic events, is more harmful than a single event.
  •  Relationships. Children with positive relationships with healthy caregivers are more likely to recover.
  •  Coping skills. Intelligence, physical health, and self-esteem help children cope.
  • Perception. How much danger the child thinks he or she is in, or the amount of fear the child feels at the time, is a significant factor.
  • Sensitivity. Every child is different—some are naturally more sensitive than others.

The effects of trauma vary depending on the child and the type of traumatic events experienced. It is important that parents and educators and professionals who work with children understand trauma.The right kind of help and intervention can reduce or even eliminate many of the negative consequences.

Children are naturally resilient. Some stress in their lives help their brains grow and new skills to develop. However, trauma by definition occurs when a stressful experience, such as being abused, neglected or bullied, overwhelms a child’s ability to cope.These events cause that fight, flight or freeze response, resulting in chsnges in the body[faster heart rate, higher blood pressure]as well as changes in how the brain perceives and responds to the world.

In many cases the body and brain recovers very quickly with no lasting harm. For some children, however, trauma interferes with normal development and can have lasting effects.