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Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever. It’s what we are all experiencing after these endless weeks of snow, snow piles, and then more snow. Then melting and freezing again. And floods. Endless weather!

If you have forgotten what it’s like to be cooped up, indoors, with kids and nothing to do, just ask a few mothers. If you can’t get out to your favorite activities, it’s very irritating. Even work becomes a welcome place to go – just to get out of our “log cabin in the snow”.

So where did the term “Cabin Fever” come from? Why fever? And what to do about it.

The term was first noted in 1838, according to a web search. However the slang idiom came much, much earlier, likely from the first settlers from Europe in the 17th century. These early settlers had to spend the long winters, stuck in the snow, in their log cabins, until the spring melt. Which was not much fun. And so the idiom arose.

The cabin was made of tree logs and mud, a technique probably learned from the Scandinavians. It has become a common romantic image in American history. Abe Lincoln was born in a log cabin and it’s part of his special persona, and something to be admired. Why a cabin made of trees should be so noteworthy is not clear.

The word “fever” in the idiom probably refers to the claustrophobic agitation that comes with being stuck in a small place, for a long time, often with the same people, or worse, even all alone.

In our psychiatric language of today, it is described as a feeling of irritability, restlessness, and impatience from being indoors too long. Other symptoms are being cranky, loss of sleep, overeating and winter blues.

Winter blues are often associated with SAD or seasonal affective disorder, from too short days, and too little sun and light, endemic to northern climates in winter. Supposedly, 9% of the people in Alaska have SAD, but only 1% in Florida.

So what to do about feeling sad, bad, irritable, bored? There is lots of advice on the web. Also lots of ads to sell you a cabin!

Well, supposedly first get outdoors. See people and socialize. You can always shovel snow for your neighbors. They will love you always.

Or get a good book, some homemade soup, and enjoy the peace and quiet. Or crossword puzzles and games. Children are harder to amuse, but they can always make a fort and an army of snowmen. No igloos though because they can collapse and so are dangerous.

Better yet, turn on our local TV channel, and watch what’s going on in local politics. It’s eye-opening. Zoning, Taxes, Budgets, Schools. Who wants to spend your money.

And hang in there. Spring is only a month away, or so we hope.

Credit: Ruth S. Foster