WORKPLACE / OCT. 02, 2014
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How To Deal With Cabin Fever And Working In Solitude

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Regardless of the field that a freelancer specializes in, working a majority of the time in solitude is part of the job description. Most freelancers become such consultants because they enjoy time freedom, not having to work from 9 – 5 and being their own boss. There are pros and cons to working as a freelancer. Dealing with solitude is one of the factors that can be exacerbated during fall and winter months for those living in climates with changing seasons. This article will address how freelancers can deal with cabin fever and working in solitude.

Origin of the Term Cabin Fever

Cabin fever was first recorded in 1918 as a term that described a “claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or a group is isolated and/or shut in a small space, with nothing to do for an extended period.” The word fever basically described the general malaise, restlessness and irritability that a person could feel in such situations. In modern times, the term has been known to mean extreme boredom from being home alone. (Source: Wikipedia) As a freelancer, you may not experience an extreme form of cabin fever where your isolation causes you to sleep, distrust others or simply have an urge to get outside regardless of the extreme weather. However, working in solitude, especially from a home office during the fall and winter months can cause you to go a little stir crazy. Some of the tips shared below can help you to deal with your work situation and the colder, dreary weather.

1. Make a Decision to Get Outside Each Day

Interacting with nature is one simple therapy for dealing with cabin fever and solitude. Research conducted by Stephen Kaplan, Marc Berman and John Jonides—published in Psychological Science—has “proven that even brief interactions with nature can promote improved cognitive functioning and overall well-being.” (Source: Cabin Fever) So, if you don’t have kids that you need to send off to school every morning, find a reason to get out of the house even in the colder weather. We are all more prone to cabin fever when we spend less time outside and don’t receive the proper amount of sunlight. People, who are employed outside the home, are at least getting outside even in the colder weather. Understand that simply going outside to check your mail, going for a walk or visiting a friend can improve your ability to create quality work.

2. Don’t Live in the Dark Like a Vampire

It is vital that you receive the proper exposure to sunlight each day. The lack of proper exposure can cause a chemical imbalance to occur in our brains. When that happens, we are more prone to cabin fever and severe depression. (Source: ElementsBehavioralHealth.com) I am a freelance writer and I work from my home office that has large windows. I open the shades during the day to let the sunshine in. For those who do not have the luxury of having large windows or any windows at all in their home office, you should purchase a lamp which mimics sunlight. According to Psychiatry.org, light therapy has been known to be an effective form of treatment for those individuals suffering from SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Make an effort to create an office space that is warm and inviting. Paint the walls yellow or another cheery color. If you enjoy scented candles, burn some during the day to create that homey atmosphere.

3. Find Ways to Stay Active During the Day

Step 1 suggested that you find the time to get outside each day. Even if it’s snowing, shovel your driveway or walkway or take up a winter sport. However, for those days that you absolutely cannot get much time outside, it is vital that you find ways to stay active during the day inside. If you have a treadmill or exercise bike, utilize them during the week. If you don’t, take up yoga, Pilates, plyometrics, aerobics or some other type of exercise that you can do with or without a DVD. Exercise releases chemicals called endorphins and they “interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.” Endorphins trigger a euphoric feeling in your body and they improve your mood. (Source: WebMD.com) Don’t get bogged down with wasteful activities such as surfing the Internet or watching TV. It is also suggested that you only spend time behind your computer for short periods and then get up to take a break.

4. Schedule a Lunch Date or Outing Once a Week

Now this doesn’t mean that you need to spend money needlessly going out to eat. However, it is important to take one day during the work week to either go out to eat, hang out with a friend during the lunch hour or invite someone over to your house to eat. You need that personal contact and interaction; especially during the fall and winter months when cabin fever is more prone to set in. If it is not feasible to do this during the day, make sure that you schedule a dinner party during the week or make a point to get out on the weekends and have fun.

5. Plants Create a Healthy & Inviting Atmosphere

According to OneGreenPlanet.org, “by having indoor plants in your home, you are not only going to be breathing better air, but plants also double as natural mood enhancers.” Better Homes & Gardens has a listing of the 24 Easiest House Plants you Can Grow. You don’t need a green thumb to care for every plant. This activity of caring for the plants will also provide you with another useful activity indoors.

6. Eat a Healthy Diet Rich in “Mood Food”

It is important to eat a healthy diet that is rich in “mood foods”. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is a brain chemical. It is necessary for many vital body functions, as well as regulating our sleep health and our mood. Lower serotonin levels have been linked to aggressive behavior and anxiety or depression. Eating foods rich in serotonin helps to elevate your mood level. (Source: Muscle-Health-Fitness.com) In an About Health article, they listed several different foods that increase your energy and lift your mood: oatmeal, walnuts, salmon, tea and lentils.

7. Stay Focused on Your Career Goals

A final step that you can take to deal with cabin fever and working in solitude is to always be cognizant of your career goals. Don’t lose sight of where you want to be next year or in five years. Stay active in finding ways to continually implement activities which advance your career goals. This article shares advice on crafting your career portfolio which will keep you focused on your goals.

Dealing with cabin fever and learning how to work well in solitude can be accomplished if you follow the simple seven steps outlined in this article. Now is the time to be proactive and find ways to deal with such possible issues before they become actual problems.

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