Human resources officer Kath Gerona has backed out of two planned Christmas dinners with friends she had not seen for nearly two years following the news of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Gerona said her fear of catching the virus is spoiling her excitement to go out and socialize again. That pandemic anxiety is threatening to spoil the holidays for the second straight year.
"I thought that the pandemic would at least be better by Christmas this year but now I can't help but think what if the worst has yet to come?" Gerona, who has been working from home since the pandemic started, told reportr.
"I feel more nervous than excited about Christmas and next year," she said.
Just as the world thought it was finally moving towards the end of the pandemic, the Omicron variant comes as if it were the Grinch that stole Christmas.
So far, the World Health Organization said early data indicates the Omicron variant could cause milder disease, noting that vaccines and minimum health standards are still the best defense against the virus.
But findings may change as scientists are still studying Omicron. Researchers across the world are looking into whether Omicron is more contagious than other coronavirus variants and whether it is more resistant to vaccines.
When uncertainty clouds holiday cheer, how does one join the supposedly merriest time of the year?
Uncertainty triggers a range of emotions such as fear, anxiety, and sadness due to the lack of control that people are forced to deal with, said life coach Hasmin Miroy.
When life goes according to plan, people feel secure and confident. But when life throws a curveball, it could cause stress and anxiety according to the American Psychological Association.
"As people, we always want to be in control. We want to know what's going to happen next or how we could respond to a certain situation. That's the reason why uncertainty causes a lot of negative emotions because we don't have control," Miroy told reportr.
"We lose the foresight of what's going to happen next and that could be very stressful," she said.
Feeling pressured to be cheerful this Christmas? Don't be, said Miroy. Uncertainty is normal and feelings of anxiety and fear are understandable given the pandemic, she said.
For those who are struggling to find their Christmas cheer, here's how to deal with uncertainty during the holidays:
1. Acknowledge the feeling.
Feeling sad? Scared? Anxious? Acknowledge such feelings and know the root cause, said Miroy.
"Recognize your emotions. If you feel sad, scared, or anxious, accept it then ask yourself why do you feel like that?" she said.
Acknowledging such feelings would allow people to respond better instead of living in the cycle of fear due to uncertainty, Miroy added.
2. Live in the present.
It's a given that times are uncertain due to the pandemic. Instead of worrying about the future, Miroy advises living in the present and focusing on the now.
"If you're with family, focus on that. If you're spending time with friends, cherish that. Take it one day at a time instead of worrying about what could happen in the future," she said.
3. Focus on what you can control.
To regain a sense of control in times of uncertainty, Miroy advises listing down all the things that cause worry and anxiety, and segregating these based on what can be controlled and what cannot be.
For example, one cannot control the economy but personal spending is something that one has power over.
"Focus on the things that you can do instead of worrying about things you don't have power to change," Miroy said.
4. Talk to someone.
When feelings of anxiety prevent a person from living life, it might be time to talk to a professional.
Miroy said there's no prescribed period to do so and it's up to people if they feel like they should seek professional help for coping.
"It's different per person. If you feel like these feelings are preventing you from working or living your normal life, then it may be time to talk to a life coach," she said.
The pressure to have a good time this Christmas is heavy for a lot of people but feelings of worry due to uncertainty are normal given that times are abnormal according to Miroy.
"Feeling scared is normal because we don't know much about the new variant. So for now, take it one day at a time," she said.
Hasmin Miroy is one of the many professional life coaches in Life Coach Philippines. Check out this page for their services.