How to fight coronavirus cabin fever

We are now in the sixth week of lockdown. It’s Groundhog Day #40. And if you are anything like us at Word Monster, you’re probably in the midst of coronavirus cabin fever.

Working from home is our norm. We soon realised that our normal lives are what everyone else is calling quarantine! But it’s different to be stuck indoors all day by choice, so we’re actually starting to miss being able to get outdoors and go work from a coffee shop or something.

Here we take a look under the hood at the science behind cabin fever and share our combined ‘staying sane’ tips for dealing with work and family life in lockdown.

How does cabin fever affect your mind?

The term ‘cabin fever’ was first coined in the early 1900s to describe a type of claustrophobia caused by a period of forced isolation. People in North America were remotely isolated due to the harsh winter weather – not quite the cosy, fire-lit cabin experience we often dream about! 

Last month The Lancet published a review into the psychological impact of quarantine, citing negative effects to include post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion and anger. Some researchers have suggested there may be long-lasting effects. Eeek!

Research has shown that isolation can alter the structure of the brain. Several studies in mice and non-human primates have shown that social isolation can reduce the generation of new neurons in hippocampus – and decreased hippocampal neurogenesis can have a role in depression and anxiety. Sound familiar?

An interesting isolation study was published last year. Nine polar expeditioners lived in Antarctica for 14 months. They found a 7.2% reduction in hippocampal volume before and after their expedition compared with controls (Stahn 2019).

This is serious stuff. Isolation can lead to many negative health outcomes, both mental and physical. That’s why we’re making every effort to do all we can to help relieve stress and isolation during lockdown.

Top tips for combating coronavirus cabin fever

Despite usually working remotely, lockdown has affected our working lives here at Word Monster too. Those of us who used to work in a shared office can no longer do so, some of us now have children at home 24/7. The routines we used to take for granted, like popping to the gym over lunch or grabbing a cheeky Costa, can no longer happen. So, we’ve compiled a list that might help you make it through…

Work-related tips:

  • Keep to a routine of regular working hours; work in a different room to where you spend your down time if you’re able to
  • Take a proper lunch break – well away from your computer
  • See faces – keep in regular touch with colleagues and clients via Zoom or Microsoft teams
  • Deadlines can be more stressful when working from home – ensure deadlines are realistic and take the time to plan out how long your brief or project will take
  • Keep your line manager or client updated with your progress, let them know if it’s taking longer than expected, so timelines can be readjusted and your stress levels reduced
  • Have fun – did you know you personalise your Zoom backgrounds? Our Word Monster team meetings now take place all around the world. We’ve already relaxed on the beach and trekked through the jungle – last week we went to space!

Life in lockdown tips:

  • Make exciting plans for the future (Disneyworld here we come); keep a Pinterest board with inspirational ideas
  • Exercise. Just do it. Combine it with listening to your favourite podcast or a wildlife nature trail in your local park
  • Join local social media groups to keep virtually connected with your community
  • If you have kids (or even if you don’t)… go on an imaginary holiday, print off tickets, camp in the back garden. Your own home can still inspire an adventure!
  • Buy earbuds so you can’t hear the mini-monsters throwing tantrums or (not) doing their home school exercises (the provider of this tip remains publicly undisclosed [message us and we’ll gladly spill the beans])
  • Plan mindful activities to relax – colour in some key worker Thank You posters to display in your window

It’s competition time…

  • And finally… if you have kids at home, you will probably have play-doh in every room! Why not enter our Word Monster competition. We’re scouring the globe to find the very best play-doh monsters
  • Send your pictures to by 31st May. Prizes for the best! Winners will receive a 3D printed trophy and their very own 3D printed Toothy desk buddy (our beloved Word Monster character)

Mental and physical health is so important during this stressful time. We wish you all the best. And please remember that if you’re really struggling there’s lots of professional help that’s available to help. It’s OK to not be OK.