15 Creative Ways to Combat Cabin Fever While Working Remotely
Working remotely may seem great at first.
You can wake up when you’re fully rested. No one cares about what you choose to wear. Your commute is seconds and coffee and snacks are a few steps away.
It’s a dream workplace until it isn’t.
While working remotely has its benefits, it can also lead to feelings of isolation, symptoms of cabin fever, and strain an employee’s mental health.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, 70% of remote workers have reported disrupted sleep patterns as a result of the work shift. And, Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work report found that 20% of remote workers struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation.
With many companies opting to work from home for the foreseeable future, remote workers can’t ignore cabin fever. Instead, we need to recognize the symptoms and proactively work to combat them.
What Does Cabin Fever Look Like?
Cabin fever is a condition that no remote worker is immune to.
It refers to the feelings and symptoms elicited as a result of social isolation for long periods of time. Common symptoms of this experience include:
- Distracted thinking
- Diminished motivation
- Food cravings
- Disrupted sleep patterns (more or less sleep)
- Difficulty concentrating
Note: Many of these symptoms also overlap with mental health conditions. If you experience severe symptoms, speak with your doctor or mental health professional.
Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate the feelings of cabin fever brought on by working at home. If you start to feel restless and unsettled, try any of these tactics to combat cabin fever.
1. Sweat It Out
Countless studies prove the benefits exercise has on our mental health and wellbeing. When you start to feel overwhelmed, bored, or restless, it’s time to get up and move.
Best of all, there are so many ways to be active at home.
- Put on a YouTube fitness video and follow along.
- Get up and dance!
- Go for a bike ride.
- Go swimming.
- Give yoga a try.
Find what exercise routine works for you and get moving!
2. Go For a Walk
Did you know a simple 20-minute walk can clear your mind and make you more productive at work, even from home? Researchers at Harvard have found that walking can improve various cardiac risks such as mental stress, high cholesterol, and blood pressure, all of which can occur from prolonged periods of social isolation from remote work.
Experts recommend 30-45 minutes a day of walking, so break it up into two 20 minute walks or go for a nice long walk the next time you feel restless at home.
3. Close Your Eyes and Meditate
As a remote worker, there are times when you’ll feel like you’re drowning in project tasks and to-do lists.
When this happens, take a moment to relax and clear your mind through meditation. Meditation is proven to reduce stress and ease anxiety.
However, most people have no idea how to get started with meditation. Try using a meditation app for the first few sessions!
4. Take a Break—You Deserve It
We all work best in different ways. You may prefer to work in the early morning hours while your colleague works best during the late afternoon.
In this same fashion, we all take breaks in different ways, too. Once you notice feelings of cabin fever starting to settle in, take a break.
Whether your break means reading a book, taking a power nap, or watching the birds out your window, take a moment to breathe deep, relax, and reset.
5. Listen to Music
One of music’s best qualities is its ability to transport us far, far away from our reality. NPR even created a Cabin Fever playlist for those dreary winter months when we just want to bust out of the house and into a warm oasis.
Find music that transports you to a relaxing place and listen to it whenever you start to feel cabin fever creep in.
6. Change the Noise Around You
You don’t realize how much you miss the low buzz of an office ambiance until you’re working without it. Chances are, the sounds in your home are either too unpredictable or too quiet to productively work.
Ward off feelings of frustration and restlessness by turning on ambient noise playlists. From tropical rainforests to the hustle and bustle of a coffee shop, there are ambient noise apps for every type of environment. Put your favorite one on, close your eyes, and be transported to a new environment.
7. Go Outside
If you stay in your home office all day, you might begin to look and act like a vampire. Instead, get a little bit of sunshine and go outside every day.
This tiny boost in vitamin D will alter your mood, make you feel a slight increase in energy, and break up the monotony of the day. Go ahead and take a short walk, read a book on the patio, tend to your garden—whatever works best for you and your day.
8. Cuddle a Pet
When life gets stressful and you feel confined by the walls of your home office, seek out your pet and give them a good cuddle. Whether your furry friend is a cat, dog, bird, or another animal, spending a few minutes with them can help you relax and take your mind off of the day’s work.
Plus, petting and interacting with cats and dogs has been proven to reduce cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress.
9. Set Remote Work Boundaries
Those who experience cabin fever often do not have professional boundaries set with their colleagues. Instead, they end up working all hours of the day, unable to separate themselves from their work and the rest of their life.
To combat this, set firm working hours and communicate this with your colleagues. If they need to contact you outside of these hours, inform them they will not receive a response until the next business day.
This boundary ensures that you can walk away from your work at the end of every day and go on with your life, friends, and family.
Also, set boundaries within your home and with yourself. Designate a space that’s for work, such as a home office or dedicated desk. Then, only go to this spot when you’re working.
Lastly, let family members or roommates know that when you’re in this spot, you’re not to be interrupted.
10. Identify Other Work Locations
Go to any coffee shop and you’re likely to find rows of freelancers and remote workers typing away while sipping their coffee. Moving to a new location resets your brain and allows you to refocus on your work rather than feeling closed in by your office walls.
However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, remote workers are forced to find alternative safe locations to retreat to and work from when cabin fever hits. If it’s open and safe to do so, consider working from your local library or investing in a mobile hotspot and working from a park or even better, the beach!
11. Organize or Rearrange Your Office
Sometimes you can eliminate cabin fever with a little bit of tidying up. Take a few minutes to creatively rearrange your space or reorganize your desk.
This enables you to take a step back and start fresh with a new setup.
12. Join a Co-working Space
Co-working spaces are designed to benefit remote workers, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and other professionals through shared workspaces and resources. Many remote workers find that joining such a community helps break up the monotony of their day and wards off the feelings of isolation and restlessness associated with working from home.
Look for a co-working space near your home and inquire about their membership packages, perks, and community.
13. Find Ways to Stay Social
Cabin fever is caused by isolation.
So, do your best to stay social however you see fit. This can mean joining an online co-working space and attending their events or participating in a virtual group fitness class. Or, schedule a safe get together with friends and family.
Staying social keeps you feeling connected to your community and helps prevent extensive periods of isolation.
14. Get Dressed
The first few times you work from home, chances are you wore your pajamas all day.
But this gets old after a while and can have a detrimental effect on your daily outlook.
While you don’t have to dress to the nines every morning, make it a point to get dressed for work—even when it’s right down the hall. This mental shift helps prepare you for the day ahead.
15. Find Your Creativity Outlet
Work can be draining regardless of location. But when you add social isolation on top of that, it’s a recipe for cabin fever. As a result, you become tired, uninspired, and unmotivated.
Find time to be creative throughout the week to avoid catching cabin fever.
Fight Cabin Fever Your Way While Working From Home
Remember, just as everyone works differently, they’ll combat cabin fever in their own way, as well. It may take time to find what works best for you and your remote work routine, but you’ll be glad you did.