Surviving Cabin Fever: What to Do when it’s too Cold, too Dark, and too Dull


I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder is SAD. By this time of year, that’s exactly how I tend to feel. As a life-long Vermonter, I know that spring, in theory, starts mid-March, but the reality is, we’re still months away from green grass and budding trees. And, like clockwork, all of this gray weather is finally getting to me.

But I’m not alone. As a toddler mom, I’m noticing that I’m in good company these days. We’re all cooped up!

I started to put together a list of things to help break us out of our winter funk and get us through the next couple months without losing our minds. Here are some things that I’ve been doing to help ease the SADness and cabin fever:

At Home

Spring Cleaning: I’m one of those people who uses the change of the seasons to launch a full-scale purge and clean cycle. Every three months or so you’ll find me tackling closets and drawers and getting on my hands and knees to clean baseboards and remove sticky fingerprints. I decided that I’d get a jump on the spring cleaning while it’s still winter so that when the spring actually arrives, I can spend it enjoying the outdoors. (See my tips for streamlining your spring cleaning)

Cabin Fever

Fresh Flowers: When my husband and I first started dating, I used to tell him not to buy me flowers. “They just die,” I’d say. Now, I’ve come to appreciate the brightness and life they bring to my surroundings, especially in the dead of winter. If you struggle with seasonal depression or just feel generally blah this time of year, bring some plants or flowers into your space. It really helps add some color and life into your day.

Redecorate: I’m a sucker for a well-designed space and consider myself a bit of a budding interior designer. To my husband’s horror, I’m constantly “evolving” our home to reflect the feelings and vision I have for our space. I tend to tackle things room by room, ensuring that each space feels just right. It’s an activity that invigorates me, so I’m using the last weeks of this season to finish up a few projects so that when spring is finally here, I can sit back and enjoy my creations.

Cabin Fever
Lemons and citrus fruits help brighten up more than your palate.

Lemons: I know this is weird, but the color yellow is so cheerful and bright, so I try to incorporate pops of it wherever I can. Lemons not only brighten your space but also your taste. This time of year, I try to incorporate lemons into food and decor to give our senses a touch of sunshine. Here’s a great recipe using lemon. It still checks the winter comfort food box but brings in some brightness from the lemons and peas.

Cabin Fever

Family Time

Indoor activities: Because we are two working parents, we find that by the time we get home from work, it’s too dark outside to pull on our gear and head out to play. Because of that, we’ve had to get creative about indoor play in the time between school and dinner. Some of our favorites these days include finger painting (Crayola mess-free is where it’s at!) fort building, hide and seek, Play-Doh, and basketball on our indoor hoop. I think our son could play that for hours. It’s tough to avoid turning on the TV and vegging out, but these family activities keep our son engaged long enough to get dinner on the table.

Cabin fever

Events: By the weekend, it’s impossible to entertain ourselves for an entire day with finger paints and make-believe, so we’ve been looking for things to do that get us out of the house. Because our son is an avid basketball fan, we’ve been taking advantage of the very talented UVM basketball team. We’ve gone to a few games and are so surprised that Reggie is able to sit and watch entire games. It’s a good way to eat up some time and enjoy a good game.

Not to mention that sugaring season is coming! Maple breakfasts, tours of maple sugar houses, and lots of sugar on snow will brighten up our outlooks.

Maintain Traditions: For nearly 6 years, my husband and I have a Sunday tradition where we get up early, take our dog for a walk to get coffee and then take him to an open place to run around. We kept this going even after having our son. We’ve forced ourselves to continue this Sunday ritual through all kinds of weather, and it’s been a good practice to get us outside and in the fresh air, even if it is cold.

Cabin fever

Swim Class: We enrolled Reggie in swim class at 6-months old because we wanted him to be comfortable in the water. Two years later, we’re still in the under-3 class, even though he’s probably outgrown the skill level. Either way, it’s nice to have something to do every weekend during the winter months that not only teaches him a life skill but gets all of us out of the house and doing something active.


Health: This is probably the most obvious, but being physically active in the winter months is so important, not just for your body, but your mind, as well. I enjoy running, but not enough to do it in the cold, so the trick for me is to find winter workouts that I enjoy. I’m lucky that I got involved in the women’s indoor field hockey league 6 years ago, so that gives me a great outlet once a week. On top of that, I find other activities, like yoga, weight training, and pilates to keep me fit and off the couch.

Marriage: If you’re like me and get salty this time of year, it’s often your spouse that bears the brunt of your misery. My husband is pleasant in all seasons (I know, annoying, right!?) so I do a lot of work to keep my crabbiness to myself. This winter, we’ve been diligent about dating more frequently. We try to do something together a couple times per month to get out of the house and try new things. One of our favorites is going to the movies. It feels like such a luxury post-kid to sit and watch a movie for two hours while scarfing popcorn and Swedish Fish. Sometimes we’ll even go to matinees, since staying up past 10 p.m. is a challenge for me.

So even though that darn groundhog saw his shadow again this year, I think I’ve got a recipe to get through the next two months. What are your tips for surviving cabin fever?

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Michelle Besaw
I was born and raised in Vermont, went to college in Upstate New York, and spent some time abroad in Europe. After graduating, I worked as a newspaper journalist in my college town and met my now husband, Matt. I moved him back to my home state of Vermont and have since turned him into a faithful Vermonter. I gave up my journalism gig for a career in marketing and truly love what I do. I have a 17-month-old son, Reggie; he’s a budding conversationalist, avid basketball fan, and has recently taken a keen interest in snakes – much to my horror. We have a 6-year-old mutt named Benson who has finally adjusted up to sharing my affection. In my free time, I re-live my glory days playing field hockey and I enjoy all things health and fitness. I’m a make-up junkie, wine aficionado, and career mom just trying to figure it all out.


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