A few days ago, listening to the news updating on the Covid-19 outbreak in Belgium, I heard that they were talking about the Cabin Fever. Since what they were saying sounded familiar to me, I decided to do some research. Having spent 9 weeks at home, without going to work and without seeing people other than my family, I must admit that I also felt something strange. I don’t feel like going back to a so-called normal life (then I should also know what it is the meaning of this normal life and see if I like it).

Actually, I don’t want to go back to work, I mean to my office premises, as I have been tele-working very well since the beginning of the crisis. It wasn’t clear to me why, so I decided to try to find it out and I drove nearby my office place. I found out with great relief that I did not feel anything in particular, neither stress nor anxiety, or fear.

However, this did not change my wish to continue teleworking.

Photo by Ella Jardim on Unsplash

What is it about?

The Cabin Fever is a syndrome that you may develop as a reaction to being isolated or confined for an extended period of time. It is not a real mental disorder, but it is associated with a particular condition linked to a long period of being lockdown, such as a disease, or a pathological condition, or in the case that we have been just experiencing, with the Coronavirus pandemic. We can feel anxiety, insecurity, fear of the future and of those we don’t know. You don’t want to leave your own place and only there you feel safe.

This syndrome, first described in the early twentieth century, is not fully recognised at a scientific level because there are not enough literature and case studies. At the time, they referred to people who, for example, worked in the high mountains and spent a lot of time within their home. It was discovered that these people found it difficult to go out, because they felt that they could not control the external space. This may also happen to prisoners when they go out of prison (that is why it is also called prisoner syndrome). You may feel infinitely small in front of a big world, out of your reach.

What to do then?

We spent about two months locked in our apartment or house, worried about the spread of the virus, fearing of ourselves getting sick, fearing that one of our loved ones would get sick and fearing of losing our job.

The media have also played a bit with our fears: put on the mask when you go out (but there were no masks available), don’t touch anything when you’re out if you don’t have disposable gloves (also unavailable on the market), above all do not touch your face (do you know how many times are we tempted to touch our face in an hour? On average 60 times, that is once a minute. Try to pay attention to it). It doesn’t matter then if on the street you see people wearing the mask in an absolutely inappropriate way which could also be more harmful than useful (wearing the mask around the neck, putting it on and taking it off maybe with unwashed hands, leaving the nose uncovered – I know it is difficult to breathe with something on your nose and mouth).

And now that, all of a sudden, they tell us that we can get out, we wonder if the danger has really passed. Our mind is still focused on everything that has just happened and it is normal to think that there may be a situation of danger and / or insecurity outside (think only if you have to use public transport for example).

Photo by Clément Falize on Unsplash

Now, however, it is time to plan the future, calmly. Did you appreciate the quietness found during the time spent at home? I have appreciated it very much and I would like teleworking from home to become a regular working pattern. I wish that we could choose to stay at home to tele-work (it is obvious that it is not a possible option for all types of job, but big companies like Twitter have already adopted this policy and have decided that only those who want will go back to their office). I list only some of the advantages that this choice entails: your ecological footprint will decrease, your quality of life will improve because you find yourself with “freed” time, for example from avoiding the journey home-work-home. This time could be dedicated to your well-being.

Then you can arrange a meeting with some (a few) friends and pay a visit to your family (though without being able to hug each other yet).

A few days ago it has been announced that from June 3 we can return to Italy without having to spend 14 days in quarantine. So, we can start planning vacations. You could start too.

What you shouldn’t do is listening obsessively and compulsively (transforming or even adding obsessive-compulsive disorder – OCD – to the Cabin Fever) the continuous updates on new infections, number of deaths, and the news coming from other continents. Don’t watch catastrophic movies, they don’t help you but rather will increase your anxiety. Then, try to think positive, because as the law of attraction teaches you, if you think negative then what happens to you will be negative. Also be aware that most of the bad things you think won’t happen, and that’s statistics.

Above all, try to be courageous, patient and safe: step by step the world will start to turn again, more or less well, but I hope better than before.

However, if you experience a sense of terrible anxiety, a malaise that paralyses you and you feel like being surrounded by flames, or by monsters, or by dangerous animals, you should go to a professional, such as a psychologist for example, if you don’t want this syndrome to turn into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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