Storm prompts cases of cabin fever

2014-01-07T19:00:00Z 2014-01-08T14:05:16Z Storm prompts cases of cabin feverBy Vanessa Renderman, (219) 933.3244

HIGHLAND | When Megan Cleary looked outside Tuesday and saw plows had left a bank of snow at the foot of her driveway, she lost hope that she could leave her home for the first time since Saturday.

Even with a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, there was no way of cutting through the snow.

Disappointed, the Highland woman turned to Facebook and aired her frustration of having to cancel a playdate with her friend Molly Conley's family.

Cleary's 4-year-old daughter, Vivien, threw her head back in disappointment. She hadn't seen her friends since before Christmas.

Conley saw the post and offered to pick up Cleary and her children and bring them to her Highland home.

So the Cleary family pulled on their snow pants and waited for the friendly ride.

Glazed roads and snow-packed driveways left in the wake of the recent winter storm barricaded people in their homes, some for four or more days.

Being stuck at home for days at a time can be good or bad. It's all in the approach, said Barbara Santay, a licensed mental health counselor at Franciscan Hammond Clinic, in Munster.

“A lot of circumstances are made bearable by the view we take of them,” she said. “Make memories that are laughter-filled as opposed to feeling trapped and wanting to pull your hair out. It requires a lot of creativity and embracing it, instead of detesting it.”

Although “cabin fever” isn't an actual diagnosis, Santay said it is common for people to get antsy when they are stuck in a situation for an extended amount of time, especially children prepared to go back to school Monday at the end of their holiday break.

“Cabin fever is anxiety about not being able to change one's circumstances and kind of feeling trapped,” she said.

The break in the weather and the fact that streets are being cleared of snow is a reminder that change is coming, she said.

Instead of trying to control kids, people should try to get creative with them. Use a card table and blankets to build indoor igloos. Bring in a bucket of snow and make miniature snowmen. Have a snowball fight in the basement where the melted snow can run down the drain, she suggested.

“That's something your kids would remember,” she said.

Cleary's family, which also includes husband Joe Cleary and 7-year-old son Sean, went to Florida after Christmas. They returned in time to get snowed in.

Cleary, a substitute teacher for the School Town of Highland, is using all her creative energy to keep the children entertained. Christmas toys and electronics have helped pass the time. So have games and crafts.

“We got a Crayola crayon melter and we've made a hundred of them,” Cleary said. “Even our good crayons are no longer whole.”

Conley said Christmas toys have been a help. There are new board games and table tennis. There are chores, homework and taking down Christmas decorations, she said.

Monday night, she and her husband, Sean, rented a dance game for Wii gaming system for their children, 7-year-old Liam and 5-year-old Nora.

“We realized, 'We've got to find more because we've gone through what we have,'” she said.

The family ventured out into the cold, because the children didn't believe it was too cold to play.

“We did bundle them up,” she said. “We did the blowing bubbles in the cold and the throw hot water in the air. They loved it. And, after about eight minutes, they were ready to come back inside.”

There's an up side to being stuck indoors, Cleary said.

“It is always nice to slow things down and spend some time with your kids,” she said. “We are always going to the next playdate or next after-school activity. It has been nice. We've gotten a lot of cuddle time in.”

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