Nfld. & Labrador

Self-isolating over the holidays? Here's how to get through it

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. Registered psychologist Dr. Janine Hubbard said self-isolation can have a negative impact on mental well-being — but there are ways to cope.

'It's okay to acknowledge this sucks,' psychologist says

Anyone who traveled to Newfoundland and Labrador after Tuesday at 3 p.m. — regardless of vaccination status — will have to self-isolate this Christmas. (Shane Ross/CBC)

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 OK to acknowledge this sucks."

Janine Hubbard is a psychologist and president of the Association of Psychology Newfoundland and Labrador. (Paula Gale/CBC)

After you've given yourself time to sit with your emotions, try to reframe your mindset, said Hubbard. She said most people experience a disrupted Christmas holiday at one point or another, and 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 says 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."

Hubbard says it's important to reach out while you're self-isolating. (Helen Tang)

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 countdown 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. 

Reach out

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.

Emergency

  • 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

Non-emergency

  • CHANNAL help line: 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

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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