Combating Cabin Fever

Lindsay Wellman, Dietetic Intern, University of Maine

You feel cooped up, you have a difficult time concentrating, you feel lethargic and unmotivated to do anything, and you’re feeling grumpy and irritated for no apparent reason. Sound familiar? These, my friends, are the tell-tale symptoms of cabin fever. If you have experienced a Maine winter, then you have most likely experienced cabin fever. I know I have. The only thing worse than having cabin fever, is being in a house full of young children who also have it. With the winter months upon us, that means school vacations and snow days. This will likely result in stir-crazy feelings at home, from both you and the kids. You can ward off cabin fever by keeping busy with activities, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and even braving the cold to enjoy some outside sunlight.

Although it’s tempting to stay inside and binge watch your favorite TV shows on Netflix, it will not do you any favors. Being active is one guaranteed way to boost your mood, and for children, to burn off their pent-up energy. Some fun, simple ways to occupy yourself and the kids could include going for a walk outside and turning it into a scavenger hunt or looking for animal prints in the snow. For inside activities you could, make an indoor obstacle course, play balloon tennis, or play a game using activity dice. For more ideas and instructions visit

Even though the cold temperatures can feel unbearable at times, there are multiple health benefits of getting outside in the winter. Playing in the snow causes kids and adults, to use different muscle groups than they would indoors, which is great for keeping the body strong and healthy. For smaller children, this supports gross motor development, teaches them problem solving skills such as how to walk on ice without falling down. Some fun outdoor activities could include looking at snowflakes under a magnifying glass or hanging a target from a tree and challenging each other to hit it with snowballs.
Another benefit of going outside is that sunlight promotes Vitamin D production in the body. Along with helping to build strong bones, Vitamin D also increases serotonin levels in the body, which regulates and improves mood. Happier kids will make a happier you! If there are days where getting outside is not an option, you can still get Vitamin D from the dairy food group. These would include fortified milk, cheeses and yogurts, as well as fortified cereals and tuna. Children and adults should get in three servings of dairy, per day to receive an adequate amount of Vitamin D. Research has found that Vitamin D can also aid in the prevention of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis and even cancer! Check out the smoothie recipe below for a delicious and nutritious way to get in some extra milk.

Keeping your home stocked with nutritious, colorful fruits and vegetables (canned/jarred, fresh or frozen) is a great way to ensure you and your family will eat well this winter. Fruits and vegetables are full of potassium, magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and folate. These all help boost the immune system, reduce stress and anxiety, reduce risk for depression, improve sleep and increase energy. These benefits are all helpful in keeping the effects of cabin fever at bay. Keeping fresh, whole fruits on the countertop is an easy way to encourage fruit intake in kids. If it is out and accessible, they may be more likely to help themselves and eat healthy without verbal encouragement. Having containers of washed and precut produce in the refrigerator is also a good way to promote a quick, healthy snack. Some ideas include berries, grapes, melon, pineapple, carrot sticks, broccoli, sliced peppers and celery. Check out the recipes below for delicious ways to get in some extra greens and Vitamin C this winter.

With these tips and recipes you are now ready to tackle winter, and your family will be happy and healthy. Remember to stay active, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily and get outside often. These ideas are suitable for the whole family. Here’s to making this the best winter yet!