It’s January – in Chicago – and the forecast we hear lately is comprised of more snow, dropping temperatures, treacherous driving conditions due to icy roads, blustery winds, bitter cold, etc. Not many of us want to leave the comfort of our couches or beds and venture out into the elements. The resistance in doing so can lead to feelings of boredom, isolation, repetitive days, and eventually for some of us; Cabin Fever.   

cab·in fe·ver “irritability, listlessness, and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors during the winter months”.

Some symptoms of Cabin Fever include:

  • Restlessness
  • Lethargy
  • Sadness/Depression
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Lack of patience
  • Food cravings
  • Decreased motivation
  • Social isolation
  • Difficulty waking
  • Frequent napping
  • Hopelessness
  • Changes in weight
  • Inability to cope with stress


*If you feel your symptoms are causing significant impairment in your daily life, the clinicians at Essentially You Counseling and Wellness Services can help.  

Cabin Fever is referenced specifically to isolation and confinement during winter weather, (as opposed to Seasonal Affective Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder) so getting out of the house can present its challenges. Stay positive as there are ways to cope with these symptoms and make it through these months.

Some coping suggestions are:

Getting out of the house – On the days it’s not colder than the surface of the moon, go for a stroll or walk the dog around the block. Getting physical exercise helps to release endorphins and produces a feeling of euphoria.  Also, on the sunnier days, you can jump start your Vitamin D production just by exposing your face for a few minutes (but don’t forget the sunscreen). For those unable to leave, go by a window for some natural light and do some stretching.

Maintain normal eating patterns– It can be difficult to not overindulge on these cold days in comfort foods and sweets as those do make us feel better. Be more aware of your food choices as overindulging can lead to health issues and perpetuate feelings of sadness and promote weight gain.  Choose lean proteins, foods high in Omega 3s, B12 and Vitamin D. Fruits and Veggies are a must.

Set goals– Daily, weekly and monthly goal setting can be beneficial.  Examples: Weight loss, writing a blog, organizing a room or closet in your home, reading a book, etc.  Each day you accomplish a task to get closer to reaching your goals, celebrate that! Celebrating small successes gives us a sense of accomplishment and boosts our mood.  Winter weather can force us to make use of the time inside, as some home improvement goals we put off to enjoy nicer weather outdoors.

Use your brain- Work on crossword puzzles, Sudoku, read books, play board games. is a pretty great website! Or choose an activity such as knitting or making bird houses to keep the mind active by doing some problem solving.

Exercise- Although it may be difficult to get out for a walk or run, you can utilize health and fitness centers in the area such as the local YMCA or Park District gym. If it’s difficult to leave the house due to transportation issues, you can look up work out plans on YouTube or Pinterest to do them at home.  Sex counts as exercise too!

Caring for plants-For those that have a “green thumb” and can’t engage in gardening, having some succulents or other indoor plants to care for which can provide that substitute.

Fill up the social calendar-This is the time of year for many craft shows, home improvement expos, car and boat shows, and travel shows. They can provide a source of inspiration to goal setting for the rest of the year on things you would like to do. Also, there’s places becoming more popular where you can go and paint a picture or make a craft with a group of friends as a night out to socialize. Book clubs are another way to engage socially and discuss your current reading.

Practice Mindfulness-Mediation can help alleviate boredom and irritability. Adult coloring books can help with anxiety and depression, taking a bath with Epsom salts can invigorate the senses and energize you to get your day started, or end on a relaxing note. Essential oils can be added as well; Citrus for that energy boost, Peppermint too, and Lavender for stress relief or relaxation.

Plan a trip-For those that do like to engage in outdoor sports, plan a ski or snowmobiling trip to take advantage of the winter weather. Or, plan a trip to the warmer parts of the country/world to rejuvenate your inner spirit.

Hopefully these suggestions help get you through this cold, and often times dreary time of year. The winter months can be an opportunity to take advantage of those actives and achieve those goals we otherwise wouldn’t because we are outside partaking in barbecues and pool days.