How Will the Omicron Variant Affect Your Holiday Plans?

As the new Omicron variant is starting to show up in Canada and in other parts of the world, some people in Ontario are re-thinking their holiday plans. The Federal government is scrambling to create new travel restrictions, hoping to slow down the spread, and in Quebec, they’ve just posted a daily Covid-19 case count of almost 1200, following the largest one-day jump in the past seven months.

For those of us who worry about such things, it’s starting to get scary again. As the holiday season arrives, families across the province are wondering how to gather, or whether gathering at all is even a good idea.

While we’re still unsure of how infectious and how dangerous this new variant is, it’s really hard to decide what to do. Should we be optimistic and carry on as if everything was status quo, or should we err on the side of caution? And now that travel is becoming that much more complicated, is it worth the risk to buy that ticket to head home for the holidays?

We don’t even know how safe we are against this new variant, even if we’re fully vaccinated. People are booking their booster shots and getting their kids vaccinated, but for many, the anxiety is still high. These have been extremely uncertain times, and just as we were starting to think that life was getting back to more-or-less normal, things seem to have changed from one moment to the next.

Source: Pexels.com

We’ve been traumatized by the pandemic

What we have to recognize is that many of us have been traumatized by the pandemic. The loss, the fear, the stress, and the social isolation have all come together to play havoc on our emotional equanimity. We’ve developed malaise, adjustment disorders, even full-blown PTSD. And with all stress-related disorders, we’re that much more vulnerable to other stresses.

At the best of times, we all have a certain amount of natural resilience and we’re able to bounce back fairly well from adversity. However, when we’ve been subject to the traumatic stress of a seemingly never-ending pandemic, our resilience becomes that much lower and our ability to cope is impaired.

For this reason, the news of the Omicron variant could be hitting many of us a lot harder than we might have expected. It’s easier than ever to become overwhelmed by the possibilities of everything shutting down again and to start jumping to worst-case scenarios. In our fragile emotional state, the last thing we needed, as the holiday season begins, is to have one more thing to worry about.

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Will people be changing their holiday plans?

I’m wondering how many people will be changing or even canceling their holiday plans. I’m wondering how many will be going ahead as though nothing has changed — perhaps, to regret it in the coming weeks.

Should we be that much more careful in light of the new variant? Should we double down, insisting on having our family gathering as usual, deciding that we’re willing to tolerate the risks? With so little information available, it’s hard to know if we’re making the right decision.

The holiday season is traditionally a time to relax and unwind, hang out with our loved ones, kick back and enjoy ourselves. With this frightening and mysterious new variant looming, how relaxed are we going to be, and how much will we be willing to risk people’s lives for the sake of our holiday fun?

Source: Pexels.com

What to do?

Everyone needs to listen to their own inner wisdom. They need to trust themselves to know what level of risk they’re comfortable with and what they’re not comfortable with.

Most importantly, we shouldn’t feel guilty about taking care of ourselves. Other people might try to pressure us into doing things that we don’t want to do, and we should feel entitled to say “no” whenever we need to.

We also need to be kind to our loved ones, and not make them feel bad if they are saying “no” to us. We all need to respect one-another and allow everyone to do what’s right for them.

As things become clearer in the days to come, I suppose that everyone will be finalizing, changing, or perhaps canceling, their holiday plans. And everyone needs to have tolerance and understanding around the choices they and their loved ones are making.

I hope that all of you remember to stay safe, keep your loved ones and also keep members of your community safe. And please, make sure to factor in your emotional well-being during this awfully strange holiday season.

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Marcia Sirota

Marcia Sirota

Writer, speaker, MD, and author of the Short & Sweet Guides to Life book series

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