If you’re an introvert with cabin fever, get out in nature — it’s a way to connect with the world that doesn’t have to involve other people.
It was a cold evening after a snowstorm. I’d been stuck indoors for the past day-and-a-half, curled up with books and the occasional Netflix show, plenty of coffee, tea, and blankets on hand. I cooked myself a couple of nice meals, had a solo dance party, and did some writing. It was the perfectly cozy introvert haven and a recipe for winter contentment.
But when the sky cleared late on the second afternoon as I finished watching a movie, I found myself getting… antsy. Restless. And annoyed with myself that I was still indoors. How long had it been since I’d gone outside, anyway? Even for a brief time, I needed to get out of my own space and out of my own head.
Introverts Love Being Home — But Not All the Time
Introverts have reputations for being homebodies. And, yes, we totally can be. I love weekends when I can stay home with zero plans. Being home all weekend sounds phenomenal, and often is. But we need to get out, too.
My recent ordeal with my snowstorm cabin fever got me thinking: How do introverts experience cabin fever, and what can we do about it? Yes, we love staying home. But we’re also human, and humans have basic needs. And I think that exploring this idea of introverts getting restless can help dispel some other myths about us, like that we’re boring, set in our ways, or don’t like socializing. (It can also help you interpret why your introverted roommate or family member isn’t quite themselves after being cooped up for a couple of days!)
Here are reasons why introverts struggle with cabin fever, and ways in which they may experience — and address — those needs.
6 Reasons Why Introverts Struggle With Cabin Fever
1. If they’re stuck inside with their own thoughts, it can be… a lot since introverts are prone to overthinking.
What makes introverted cabin fever any different from that of extroverts or ambiverts? For one, they probably have a higher tolerance threshold for staying home for longer periods of time. There’s a difference, however, between staying home and staying indoors at home.
Introverts are introspective, meaning we can have a self-awareness that allows us to see when something isn’t working for us. We have a social threshold when around others or when we’re in overstimulating situations. But we also have a threshold for being alone and/or in the same place for an extended period of time.
If we’re stuck inside with our own thoughts, it can be… a lot to take since we’re prone to overthinking. As for me, being in the same place for too long makes me feel overtired, restless, bored, and just generally unhealthy. (And it takes a lot for introverts to get bored — we’re big daydreamers and have vivid imaginations that tend to keep us entertained!)
2. They need to be outside in nature.
When introverts are in nature, they have a chance to clear their heads and process their thoughts. Maybe they have healthy, introvert-friendly outdoor habits or hobbies that inclement weather limits. Being out in nature is a way introverts connect with the world that doesn’t involve other people. I know that when I can’t go outside, I feel like my introvert battery drains.
We introverts also need space to clear our heads, and science has shown that nature is ideal when it comes to curing our overthinking. Sometimes I feel like my thoughts — which also include to-do lists, day-to-day stressors, etc. — are like a little kid with cabin fever, bouncing around the walls of my mind until they can burn off some energy by going outside.
I don’t always have to interact with other humans to cure my cabin fever. But I do have to interact with nature. Fresh air, greenery, and open spaces are therapeutic. I love walking, running, and hiking — all ways I can feel like I’m doing something to take care of myself.
3. They’re adventurous and curious.
The cozy chair in the corner isn’t an introvert’s only happy place — they’re interested in what goes on outside of their introvert sanctuaries, too. Sometimes, they get sick of being in that chair and need a bit of excitement and activity, even though they don’t like overstimulation.
A long drive by ourselves, a hike or bike ride, a walk around town at a time of day when it’s less crowded, time in the garden, a trip to a bookstore, an afternoon at a cafe — all of these activities are introvert-friendly and are examples of what we’d love to be doing if we weren’t stuck at home due to weather (or, as we’ve seen in recent years, a pandemic).
We also love taking advantage of bigger opportunities to do something new; in fact, many introverts are adventurous by nature, wanting to see and do different things. Would I love to take a trip halfway around the world, hop in the car for a 1000-mile road trip, or even just explore my own city on weekends? Yes — absolutely. My adventurousness means that I get extra restless when faced with a long, weather-induced stint indoors.
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4. They sometimes need variation in their routine.
Introverts do well with routines to fill their day, and those routines are sometimes beneficial even if they’re a more free-spirited type of introvert, as they can help prioritize what’s most important. Filling their time with things they love — and making sure they are regularly incorporated into their day — helps keep them happy.
But if we’re stuck inside for an extended period of time or doing the same thing week in, week out (like in the dead of winter), we don’t always like staying in our routines. We do need some variation in our lives.
Sure, we don’t really get bored with our own imagination as company. But if we find ourselves stuck on a loop and feeling frustrated with our simple day-to-day routines, then it’s time to switch things up.
Switching up our routine can also involve other people. If we live alone, we may need to spend time with other people for basic human interaction. If we’re an introvert who doesn’t live alone, however, we may need to get out for some alone time. If you’ve been stuck inside for a long weekend, maybe you’re the one who offers to run to the store — by yourself, of course — because you need some time alone outside of the house. And on that people-y note…
5. They do need to interact with people sometimes.
Even though introverts like me love spending weekends entirely alone, I always enjoy a FaceTime call with friends, getting to meet up with coworkers for dinner, or going out of town to visit family. In the digital age, being stuck indoors doesn’t mean human interaction is cut off, but face-to-face interaction with people you’re close to is always going to be better than connecting on a screen.
When I’m limited as far as where I can go and who I can see, even brief small talk outside of the house (which I do sometimes enjoy, but which has a negative reputation among introverts), can alleviate my cabin fever. A quick grocery store interaction — heck, even saying “hi” to a neighbor as they walk past with their dog — can help. They’re simple, friendly, in-person human interactions that cause me to smile.
These are instances where human interaction actually recharges me. A people-induced recharge is atypical for introverts, who are usually drained by social interaction. I’ve noticed, however, that cabin fever temporarily turns me into a bit more of an extrovert — or at least an extroverted introvert.
6. They’re concerned about their mental health.
Speaking frankly, like some other highly sensitive people (whether introvert or extrovert), I’m susceptible to winter seasonal affective disorder (SAD). For instance, I struggle with my mood and staying healthy when I leave and return from the 9-to-5 grind when it’s dark outside. SAD exacerbates my already-present feelings of cabin fever. I need to engage in activities that pull me out of that funk, but it’s hard to get out of the repetitive and depressing winter cycle of pajamas-work-pajamas.
Recognizing that my restlessness and SAD feed off of each other — and not judging myself too harshly for it — helped me this past winter in getting out of the house more. I created introvert-friendly opportunities to eliminate the cabin fever portion of these feelings, like going for a short walk just before it gets dark (since nature is such an elixir for introverts), running errands on my lunch break rather than staying in the office, and spending as much time outside on the weekends as colder temperatures would allow. And, no matter the temperature, I have to get outside almost every day, even if it’s just for a 10-minute bracing walk. That, in turn, has helped alleviate the effects of winter on my mood.
During that recent snowstorm when I realized I was restless, I went for a walk, during which I waved hello to a couple of neighbors, then went back inside after about 20 minutes. And only then did I look forward to returning to my cozy home. But this time, I had a new appreciation for it after knowing I’d taken the time for self-care to combat my cabin fever. I hope you do the same.