How to get through Christmas if youre in isolation – including Zoom present opening and food parcels

It’s been a trying, exhausting, and turbulent year all round. With just days until Christmas, the Omicron variant has firmly taken its grip across the UK – leaving many of us fearing for our health as well as wondering what we’ll be allowed to do.

And sadly, for all those testing positive from 15 December onwards, it unfortunately means your yuletide will be spent safely isolating away from your loved ones.

“If you are forced to isolate at this traditionally joyful time it can feel especially bleak,” says Dr Alison McClymont. “Christmas is your time to turn off and tune in to what really matters: love, relationships, joy and family, and it might be hard to believe that if you’re not able to be with them.”

But all is not lost and here, Dr McClymont, a leading psychologist, shares her advice on how to make the best of a bad situation and cope with the unique circumstances. “Many of these tips will rely on you feeling well enough to do so," she says. "But if you’re positive yet not poorly there is no need to stay in bed for the day.”

10 tips for self isolating at Xmas

1. "Find the joy where you can," says Dr McClymont. If you have a garden, then remember: "You can still get out in the fresh air if you’re feeling well enough to. And the fresh air and sunlight will help boost your mood."

2. "Do your Christmas baking and cooking and enjoy having the time to do some leisurely playing in the kitchen, with no pressure to impress your loved ones – for once!"

3. "You can still connect over gift giving, open your gifts together on zoom and finding the time space to enjoy the experience of receiving and giving thoughtful presents instead of rushing through the experience."

4. "This the perfect time to give care packages. Hopefully they'll think of you too. Receiving a doorstop gift from loved one can really raise spirits when you’re feeling low, and lonely, so encourage relatives and friends to include some humour in there too, never have you more needed a smile."

5. "December 25th doesn’t have to be your one and only Christmas… extend your celebrations and get together to do your own personal Christmas day when you are out of isolation and feeling well again.

"Feel free to invite others over for that, they might be glad of a second chance at the big day too. Perhaps you can make the most of not spending it with your family this time, and plan an alternative version with friends instead?"

6. "Allow yourself to be fed up and have a good old cry," suggest Dr McClymont. "Feel the emotion you have today – yes it’s awful, and it’s OK to acknowledge that and feel that.

"Take time to reflect on anything you’ve experienced or learnt this year- it’s ok to say 'I found this hard'. Hopefully, this will be a one-off occasion. And one you’ll be unlikely to ever forget. You might even look back on it as a life changing experience one day and gain some self insight."

7. Do a gratitude list – even though it was a turbulent year we can always find something, even small to feel grateful for – maybe you had a job epiphany or you had more family time. Give space to finding joy in the present.

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8. "Turn off gloomy news for the day," says Dr Clymont. "Don’t ingest endless amounts of media and bad news blogs, it's not helpful right now. It’s ok to check out for a few days, particularly if it’s having a detrimental impact on your mental health. Put your needs first."

9. "It’s OK to just ignore Christmas if that feels easier for you," she insists. "If your gut says 'this year I just want to forget it', that’s OK, the sky won’t fall in if you choose not to be as festive as you normally would."

10. "Or," suggests Dr McClymont. "Do the opposite – go for all out indulgence.

"Why not allow yourself a whole day watching Christmas movies in a duvet, eating mince pies, have a champagne at noon, get a takeaway, stay in bed reading a book… whatever feels like self care and self love to you. Do that. It’s a hard time, but it doesn’t have to your hardest time, find your enjoyment where you can."

And look on the bright side, you won’t have a drunken uncle asking about your love life, or feel affronted by sibling rivalry. You might even have escaped an awkward lunch with your inlaws. Whatever you situation, look after yourself and get well soon!

Dr Alison McClymont is a leading psychologist with over a decades worth of experience at the forefront of mental health.

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