Dealing with quarantine, isolation and the COVID-19 cabin fever blues

Miriam Campan
Friday, November 6, 2020
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Valle Vista Activity Director Tara Jimmerson sits at one of the many available lanais where residents can indulge in fresh air and sunlight.
Photo by Miriam Campan

As the long winter of 2020 approaches, people in Central Montana may experience what is known as “cabin fever.” With COVID-19 quarantines and isolations being put into effect, COVID-19 cabin fever is a new reality, but fortunately comes it with an abundance of strategies to maintain mental health.

How to maintain a healthy mind during quarantine or isolation
Those experiencing cabin fever as a result of social distancing or self-quarantine may be feeling additional stress beyond that which stems from simply being isolated.
Wendy Goffena, a licensed clinical social worker from Lewistown’s Mental Health Center recommends some of the following for strategies for managing feelings of isolation that can lead to irritability and COVID-19 cabin fever.
 “Keep in touch with family members. Get talking and communicate, whether on the phone or through the computer. Get back into hobbies. Go outside and get some Vitamin D,” she said.
COVID-19 cabin fever can affect not only those in isolation, but also family members who share a home space. Goffena advises that people are human, and with that can come a spectrum of uncomfortable emotions.
She said, “They [family members] are going to get angry and produce an irritable reaction.”
Goffena advises family members to take a break and do a grounding activity, check out guided meditations on YouTube or do something that is calming, such as taking a bath or a shower.

Strategies that work
Activity Director Tara Jimmerson has the important position of providing Valle Vista residents with activities that help maintain active minds and bodies.
“We try and take them outside when it is nice, or we get them out of their rooms for an indoor walk. We encourage activities like listening to music and doing crafts,” said Jimmerson.
Current Valle Vista resident Sara Baxter is coping with being sequestered since mid-March and offered advice.
“I watch a lot of television, and I look out the windows and walk up and down the halls. I do go outside and watch the cars go by and the birds. I am taking notes about things -- I write about people going up and down the halls, and I try to imagine what they did in their former lives. For people coming into assisted living, I recommend do not dwell on it, keep a good attitude, count your blessings and be grateful.”
Recent retiree Judy Thompson has been keeping in close contact with her family and her church. She counts her blessings, and is both grateful and frustrated with what technology offers.
Thompson said, “My church has gone totally Zoom. We don’t even meet face-to-face or have in-person physical meetings. The Utah church leadership has encouraged us to do a home-centered study that relates to the world, because this is a whole world pandemic. We just started with our local church meeting through Zoom every Sunday. It is so wonderful to see and hear and listen to the leadership -- that has been a miracle. It’s one of the things that makes me so thankful for technology.”
On the flip side are the emotionally draining and insidious political advertisements that come every time Thompson goes online.
“All of the political advertisements focus on the negative, I’ve struggled with it emotionally,” she said.
Social distancing has provided Thompson with many moments of self-reflection and personal growth.
“It has forced me to develop, because I am such a people-person. I have been forced to cultivate peace by being alone and not rely on other people for a sense of self-worth and happiness. This pandemic has really made me think about ‘I’m okay where I am.’  I am thankful for my many blessings and continue to seek ways to provide service with other people,” she said.
Other COVID-19 cabin fever recommendations come from, including maintaining a regular schedule, getting creative, taking a break from the news, easing stress through journaling, if living in a large household, finding some time for yourself, and doing simple breathing exercises to relieve anxiety or stress.




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