The entire nation has been wrapped up in – or buried under – this winter’s infamous polar vortex since the season began. And as recently as this month, the icy meteorological clutch refuses to let up. It’s been too cold to stay outside for long, too gloomy to be motivated, and too snowy to go anywhere.
- It started early. In December, the U.S. recorded the eighth largest snowfall cover on record and the highest since 2009.
- It went on and on and on. As recently as March 3, schools and businesses closed from the South and Mid-Atlantic to the Northeast due to cold and snow. On that date alone, more than 2,400 U.S. flights were cancelled due to inclement weather. So you couldn’t get away from it if you tried!
And of course, it’s had a huge impact on our work life, as well. Scrambling to find sitters when school is closed? Massive hits on attendance because people simply can’t get out of their driveways? Even for those who’ve managed to avoid the emotional stress – not to mention physical ailments like never-ending colds and flus, which spread like wildfire when people are cooped up inside – a bout or two of cabin fever is virtually inevitable.
Cabin fever isn’t an actual medical diagnosis, but psychological experts concede that it does exist. As explained by Josh Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama, “it’s your mind’s way of telling you that the environment you are in is less than optimal for normal functioning. It’s when you’re in a space of restricted freedom for a period of time that you can no longer tolerate.”
Symptoms of cabin fever include:
- Feeling cooped up.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Feeling lethargic, unmotivated, irritated or edgy for no apparent reason.
Up the Mood at Work
Kicking cabin fever is all about mental and physical activities that release pent-up energy built up after being stuck inside for so long. In a sense, we all become like restless kids. We need to open the back door, go outside and make snow angels. Or something like that …
- Spring clean. This is a great time to change up the office a bit by rearranging furniture, cleaning out dead files and creating more space. If possible, relocate work areas nearer to windows. Brighten things up with colorful plants, artwork and colorful décor. Make it a group effort. Show off your handiwork and celebrate with spring-themed desserts including healthy options like fresh fruit.
- Launch a “Spring for Health” campaign. Form a committee from various departments to make it happen. Involve your health office and cafeteria staff if applicable. Encourage friendly competitions to exercise more or hold a weight-loss competition. Advertise it. Decorate for it. Make it fun. How about a company-wide flash mob or hula hoop contests at lunch or in the break rooms?
- Get some fresh air. Hold a meeting outside on the first day the temperature allows. Make it a walking brainstorming session. You can always jot down the notes right afterwards. You’d be surprised how invigorating even 10 or 15 minutes of sunlight and fresh air can be.
With a minimal commitment of time or money, you can turn cabin fever into an opportunity to build rapport, wellness and overall morale.