Tuesday, 11 February 2014

cabin fever

Cabin fever.  The blues.  Doldrums.

You all know it.  Not Jack-Nicholson-in-the-Shining level madness, just that twingey, niggling feeling.  Frustrated, restless, anxious.  Trapped.  Maybe you feel stuck at your current underwhelming job and want to make a move.  Maybe you can't find a job, although your days are dedicated to trying.  Maybe you're surrounded by eyebrow-high stacks of snow - or at least the cold that accompanies it - and you miss warmth, outdoors and natural lighting.  Maybe you just haven't left town in too long, and town is feeling mighty claustrophobic.

We in the Northern hemisphere all get this way around this time.  Something about short days with little daylight seems to bring out our doubts and insecurities more than any other time of year, even though we've almost made it through the long winter haul.  I've been indulging in my fair share of cabin fever as of late, and while I can't fix whatever life scenario may be plaguing you, I am a strong believer in distraction as the best fever medicine.

So here's what I propose:

1.  Move 
 I know, I know, everyone's always throwing 'exercise more!' at you, but are you really going to deny you could use the endorphins?  Walk outside, run outside, cycle outside, skate outside, ski outside, ride a horse outside, swim out... okay, swim wherever you can that won't kill you.  You were designed to move.  Outside.*  Chances are, you're not doing that enough.

Outdoors an icy vortex bent on freezing your extremities and soul?

Indoor classes are great if you can swing them, and they have the added benefit of being social.  New people!  Novelty is our friend.  Check craigslist or the YMCA for cheap/free options.

If not financially or logistically possible, delve into the world of free online videos.  Zumba, pilates, kickboxing, yoga, learning Michael Jackson's dance moves - it's all there.  Try to find something that entertains your mind as well as exercising your body.
(For example, I look for Zumba videos in German, because I find it terribly amusing to hear the phrase, "Das ist booty bounce!" emanating from a muy suave Latino man.)

2.  Make something 
Better still, make something you don't already know how to make so that you must learn how to do it first.  You may even have to make it multiple times to get it right.  Try your hand at a pineapple upside-down cake**, knit a scarf***, learn how to make a GIF and then make an amusing one, build yourself a bookshelf, perfect your favorite origami animal, learn to play whatever instrument you can pick up for the least money on craigslist, make Tarot card readings for all your friends, plant a winter herb garden, sketch your pet or mother or lover (whoever sits still the longest), write and film a short movie.  

Me?  I'm a coursera junkie, so I'm learning to make life cycle assessments to judge how green a product is.  I'm also making some (bad) music on the guitar I'm clumsily learning to strum.  And I'm making a blog, but I suppose you knew that already...  

3.  Get in touch 
Find people you haven't spoken to in a while but wished you had.  Then, call them, write them a letter or send them an email.

You are strictly limited to these three modes of contact.

Why, you ask?  Social media undeniably has many perks and benefits, but points of comparison are not among them.  Everyone portrays the choicest versions of themselves online, the lives they want to be living.  At best, it may intimidate you out of getting back into contact, because you'll worry that your friend doesn't have the time.  At worst, you'll get envious of their 'perfect' life and decide that they won't be able to relate to your current discontent or feelings of inadequacy.

Both are bullshit.

That person would LOVE to hear from you.  It's just the truth.  I've had a 'life update' email recently from someone that I only knew for a couple months over four years ago, and I was ecstatic to receive it!  Who wouldn't be?  Who is too busy to feel pleasure at reconnecting with someone?
And who has a perfect life?  Really, who?  Get in touch so you can hear about how that adorable baby you've watched grow so sweetly in your newsfeed actually pukes on all their favorite sweaters and hasn't let them sleep in months.  Gain some real perspective.  It will simultaneously distract you from your own issues, and make you appreciate all you have that's going well.  Like your rekindled friendships.
Added bonus: your old friend has once again become your friend, no timestamp necessary.

4.  Plants
 Get some life in your interiors.  At home, at the office, in your car, wherever you have to spend a concerted amount of time, make sure there is something to remind you of life, mother nature, greenery, and beauty.  Flowers are great, cacti are hassle-free, you can grow your garlic or sprout your potatoes if you feel cheap or uninspired, just get ahold of some green.

5.  Music
This is the time for classic rock, 90s pop, ridiculous boy bands, reggaeton, any member of the Jackson Five, New Orleans brass, Edward Sharpe and his feel good entourage.  Whatever is going to get you involuntarily tapping, nodding and shimmying along with the beat.  Listen to music your parents loved when you were a kid, listen to bands with messages of love shacks and kodachromes, steamrollers and crocodile rock, fat bottomed girls and old time rock and roll.  Even hurting so good or doves crying are fair game.  Just don't sink into the emo world of one downbeat per minute, punctuated with moody musings.  If a band sounds like they could list Coldplay, Alanis Morisette or the movie Garden State as an influence, cabin fever is not the time.
(NPR concurs - try this playlist!)

6. Insert euphemism here
Just going to say this:
There's a reason nearly everyone you know was born in October or November, and it ain't just Valentine's Day.****

7. Write lists
 NOT 'gosh I'm so busy' to do lists.  Tread carefully on this one.  We're trying to build up, not bog down.  Make a list of something tangible that you know you will do, and will get enjoyment from.  Visiting your family sometime this year? Make a list of places in your home state that you've always wanted to visit or revisit.  Like books?  Make a reading list and then delve right in.  My love and I are planning a farm someday, and we make lists all the time of what we will grow, green features we'll include in the house, documentaries to watch, resources to consult, the works.  It's productive, it's a plan, and it makes it all feel more certain and concrete.  

Not what if.  When. 
Don't make lists of things you want but can't afford.  Don't make lists of things you'd rather being doing but can't.  Don't make lists of places you want to go, but don't imagine you will.  
None of those are useful, certain, or permanent.  Energy is wasted on negativity.

So there you have it.  Let me know if the fever subsides.

- xx


*We are plugged into too many screens and unplugged from our natural environment.  A big part of number one is aiming for a happier balance.

**I have thought of you, unsalaried person who thinks I'm only rambling on about options that require a viable income.  If cake ingredients are too rich for your blood, what about tortillas?  A bag of masa is something like 27cents, you probably have water already, and it's much harder than it looks.  Plus, if you go wild and spring for some cheap canola oil, you can make homemade tortilla chips out of all your failed attempts.

***Same audience: buy a sweater from goodwill and unravel it for yarn.  [Is that even cheaper than yarn?]  Whittle your knitting needles out of some tree felled by all these crazy storms.  Seriously, knitting does not have to be an expensive project.

****Just to be clear, I AM NOT encouraging you to have a baby.  I certainly hope that by this point you do understand what I am encouraging.  

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