As cases of COVID-19 soar and Newfoundland and Labrador moves into Alert Level 3, many in the province are grappling with changed holiday plans, and those who are self-isolating are dealing with the prospect of Christmas spent alone.
Anyone who traveled to Newfoundland and Labrador after 3 p.m. on Tuesday has to self-isolate for five days – which means they are in isolation until after Christmas Day. Many others are in isolation because they either have COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has it.
Dr. Janine Hubbard, a registered psychologist, said self-isolation can have a negative impact on mental well-being – especially if they're also worrying about finances, kids and job security.
Still, she said, there's some comfort in the fact that others are holing up at the same time as you.
"We're all in the same storm, but we're not in the same boat," she said in an interview with CBC News.
Hubbard said there are several things that people in self-isolation over the holidays can do to make the experience more bearable.
Reframe your mindset
Less than a month ago, N.L.'s public health officials seemed confident there was a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Everything changed in mid-December with the onset of the Omicron variant, which has led to skyrocketing caseloads across the country.
Hubbard said it's important to acknowledge any negative emotions, like frustration or anger, that you may be feeling as a result of this latest pandemic setback.
"Give yourself some time to grieve and mourn the fact that these holidays are not going to look the way you planned," she said. "It's okay to acknowledge this sucks."
After you've given yourself time to sit with your emotions, try to reframe your mindset, said Hubbard. She noted that most people experience a disrupted Christmas holiday at one point or another, and she said it's important to remember that it's just one day out of the year, despite the tradition attached to it.
Make plans to redo Christmas traditions once you're out of isolation, or later in the year.
"Use that as something to be looking forward to," she said.
Arrange with family or friends to video call during gift exchanges or other moments. If you don't have internet access, ask them to take a video, suggested Hubbard.
Getting through it
To avoid dwelling on your situation, Hubbard said it's a good idea to make a schedule of things to do and engage in "active distraction."
Reading, watching movies, baking and other activities can help the time go by, but Hubbard warns to be mindful of your social media use.
"For some people, it can provide great comfort and you're able to see what others are doing," she said. "If you're feeling more lonely or vulnerable or you're already angry because you're missing out, that can just increase those feelings."
Self-isolation is also a good time to indulge in favourite foods and drinks, but Hubbard cautioned against overindulging in alcohol or other substances.
"You don't have the social cues in terms of how much others are consuming around you during an afternoon or during a meal, so it's really, really easy by yourself to perhaps overindulge without realizing it."
How to help
If you know someone self-isolating over the holiday season, there are creative ways to help them get through it, Hubbard said.
You could design a count-down calendar, do chalk drawings in front of their house, or make a snowman in their front yard.
"Just little things to let them know that … people are thinking of them," Hubbard said.
You can also help with practical things like shopping or delivering Christmas presents.
Staying connected with family and friends is important, especially if you're feeling down, said Hubbard.
There are several services you can connect with if your mental health declining, like the Mental Health Crisis Line.
"There are voices at the other end of the phone to help get you through things," she said.
You can also contact the Mental Health Crisis Unit if you're feeling desperate — just make sure to tell them you're self-isolating.
The Canadian Mental Health Association Newfoundland and Labrador is offering days of "holiday help" on social media which offer resources and contact information for anyone who needs help over the holidays.
Some of these resources follow below.
911 / RNC: 709-729-8000
Mobile Crisis Response Service (Eastern): 709-737-4668
24-hour Walk-in Crisis Service Psychiatric Assessment Unit: 709-777-3021 / 709-777-3022
Mental Health Crisis Line: 1-888-737-4668
Health Sciences Centre Psychiatric Emergency Services: 709-777-6300 or 709-576-6555
Crisis Text Line: Text "Talk" to 686868
Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566 or Text: 45645
CHANNAL Warm Line: Telephone: 1-855-753-2560 or in St. John's (709) 753-2560
Bridge the Gapp App/line: 709-752-4618
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868