If you haven’t yet adjusted to the new reality of social distancing, you’re not alone. Cabin fever is a real thing — and might be setting in strong — but experts say it’s crucial to keep connected and positive while staying home and staying safe.
“We’ve never experienced anything like this before,” says George Keepers, chair of psychiatry at the OHSU School of Medicine. “It is an unprecedented situation to have so many people adhering to the sheltering in place and social distancing at the same time.”
Maybe you’re feeling great one day while a friend is feeling sad, or vice versa. That’s normal, too. “People are reacting to it in various ways,” Keepers says. “Some adapt to it very well and are by nature introverted, with a variety of hobbies and projects, and are very comfortable being on their own. It’s much harder for people who are not inclined that way. It’s important for all of us to maintain certain things while complying with the requirements of this situation.”
Here are Keepers’ top reminders for doing just that, plus a couple of our own.
Maintain a regular schedule
In between working from home, managing the household, homeschooling children and making time for our own self-care, it’s important to build a schedule and try to stick to it. That includes setting aside time to reach out to others by computer, video call or good old-fashioned telephone. “We are very lucky to be living in the age we’re in, with the ease of staying connected,” Keepers says. Minimize your intake of news and social media, and instead call a friend and plan your next Oregon adventure. Resist the urge to stay up past your bedtime. “Our circadian rhythm is governed by the light,” Keepers says. “If we start sleeping in and ignoring that schedule, our circadian rhythm can become altered and dysfunctional and lead to emotional and physiological problems.”
Home-based workouts are great, but if you’re able to get outside, make the most of Oregon’s springtime and walk, run or bike in an uncrowded area near your home. Doing so will improve your sleep and immunity, and give you a chance to take in the blooms and fresh air. Even a small mindful (slow and sensory-filled) walk is better than nothing at all, to get your blood flowing, reduce stress and boost endorphins. Remember that nature has the power to heal — for adults and especially children. Take this time to gaze at the stars and clouds, start a veggie or herb garden, sit outside and sketch your favorite flowers or trees. Don’t forget to give a smile to your neighbors and wave from a distance.
Add music, laughter and creativity to your day
While you’re taking a walk or doing chores, brighten your day with some of Oregon’s top artists — you may just discover a new favorite. Find our playlist at Oregon for Your Ears. Keep the smiles going with some good old belly laughs, since laughter is often the best medicine. Silent-film legend Buster Keaton’s “The General,” made in Cottage Grove in 1926, is a classic side-splitter for the whole family, while the new “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made” — a quirky filmed-in-Portland comedy about a boy and his imaginary polar bear friend — is stealing viewers’ hearts. Spot dozens more backdrops of the Beaver State in our lengthy roundup at Lights, Camera, Oregon.
Practice kindness — and feel great while doing it — by writing cards or letters for your local first responders including police, fire and medical workers as well as local grocers, teachers, bus drivers and mail carriers. Pro tip: Roll it into homeschooling for your language-arts lesson of the day. Support your favorite local shops and businesses by purchasing a gift card or gift for yourself or a loved one, and ordering takeout from a local restaurant. Oh, and don’t forget to unwind with a bubble bath or sweet treat to honor your own hard work, too.
Take advantage of virtual events
Oregon is a land of innovators, and during this time, there are more creative ways than ever to experience the world beyond our homes from the safety of our own couch. From virtual dance parties to wine tastings, art classes, storytimes, concerts and big events like the now-virtual Ashland Independent Film Festival (May 22-June 14), you can fill your social (distancing) calendar with a different event each day. Kids can keep busy with our Families’ Guide to Oregon Activities. In the kitchen, Oregon chefs like Departure’s Gregory Gourdet, Le Pigeon’s Gabriel Rucker, Nong Poonsukwattana of Nong’s Khao Man Gai and many others are using social media to share recipes and live cooking demos, as well as ask for support for the restaurant industry. Tune in and be inspired.
Spend time together and apart
Family game nights and meals (find Oregon’s top cookbooks here) are wonderful but should be balanced out with time for individual activities as well. “We’re now in a situation where we’re spending much more time together than we’re used to,” Keepers says. “This might create a bit of strain in families.” To keep everyone sane, be cognizant of everyone’s need for personal space — especially older children — and allow for that. Create a cozy personal space in your home and curl up with a good book. Here are Oregon authors we love; order online at Powell’s Books to support a Rose City institution.
Know when to seek help
Everyone can experience anxiety and sad feelings, Keepers says. But when those feelings are severe and accompanied by other symptoms such as loss of sleep, loss of appetite and suicidal thoughts, that’s the time to seek professional help. “Many psychiatric and mental-health workers have transitioned their services to telephonic and virtual visits,” including his clinicians at OHSU, Keepers says. Know that help is available, and book an appointment online.