Learn the cures for cabin fever

Last Saturday was my six-week anniversary of being homebound. And I’m getting cabin fever!
According to the encyclopedia, “Cabin fever is an idiomatic term for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person is isolated and/or shut in, in a small space for an extended period.”
That’s me exactly!
It all began Saturday, Dec. 5 when I accidentally hit my leg against the lower point of the car door with brutal force. The end result was a huge, painful hematoma.
That was the end of Christmas shopping, holiday parties, and concerts. And even going to the church Christmas Eve service or our regular New Year’s Eve Mah Jong party.
Or anywhere for a long, long time!
Ever since, trips to doctors have been my only excursions. First, every other day or even daily. But most recently, only every two weeks thanks to competent home health nurses.
Fortunately, my leg is slowly healing and the prospect of a skin graft seems more remote. But health professionals say it will take months.
“How many months?” I ask, but there is no answer.
“When can I go to the pool for water exercise?” I ask, “May? July? August?”
And there’s only an ominous silence!
In the meantime, I’m stuck in the house during the coldest and darkest months of the year. Now, I understand why Alaskans go to Honolulu, western Canadians go to Texas, and people from the east coast go to Florida during the winter months.
While writing this column, my Aunt Frances from Ohio called and I told her I was writing about cabin fever.
It’s always a pleasure when Frances calls. And this time, we shared our mutual experiences.
Although Frances is not completely homebound, she said she has cabin fever, too, because Ohio has had so much snow and cold weather this winter, accompanied by many cloudy, dismal days.
This conversation reinforced my belief that lots of older people have the same experience I’ve had this winter.
Some may not drive. Many live by themselves. They may have no family living close. Some experience short-term isolation caused by icy sidewalks while others are homebound long-term.
And some, like me, may become unexpectedly homebound due to injury or health crisis.
It’s easy to become depressed and lose energy at times like that. So you have to do your best to see the bright side of things and figure out what you can do to elevate your mood.
Escaping a rut of negative thinking is easiest when you get outside yourself.
Check with your local RSVP program to see how you can get involved volunteering from home. Invite in upbeat friends for coffee or to play dominoes.
Call other homebound friends and chat. Write letters and e-mails. Do chair exercises. Play solitaire with cards or on the computer.
Read. Find out how you can have library books delivered to you. Or write your life story.
And last but not least, watch classic movies from the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. Subscribe to Netflix to get movies through the mail.
In other words, it’s up to you to take charge if you ever get cabin fever.
After all, whatever your situation, this is your life and it’s worth a little effort to find happiness every day.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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