OTTAWA -- An Ottawa therapist suggests its "normal to feel lonely" this holiday season as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts traditional Christmas and holiday celebrations.

However, Nataxja Cini of Family Therapy is encouraging you to be open to "different and creative ways" to feel joy and comfort, while also focusing on self-care this holiday season.

Ottawa Public Health recommends that you celebrate the holidays with only those in your household plus one or two different essential supports if needed. That means traditional large in-person gatherings with family and friends will have to wait until after the pandemic.

Cini tells do not be surprised if you are feeling sad and lonely this holiday season.

"Don’t just hide your sadness inside this year; reach out and call or video call those you love. Talk about how you are feeling and then find the time to spend time together online so you all do not feel lonely," said Cini.

"Staying connected to loved ones will be more important this year for times when you feel the sadness of quarantine because we have spent so much of our year already isolated and distant from our friends and family."

Cini tells you should not feel guilty if you say no to visiting friends or family over the holiday season because you are concerned about safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Guilt is not a useful emotion when talking about your safety, the safety of elder or immunocompromised family members or friends. Feeling guilty about making the safest decision for you and your loved ones is unhelpful. No is a perfectly acceptable answer," said Cini.

"Not physically seeing your family does not mean you do not care about them or you do not want to spend time with them. It just means you will not be home or at the cottage or wherever your family gets together this year for the holidays. So many families will not be at the table together this holiday season but this does not have to stop you from loving or caring for your family."

Therapist Nataxja Cini of Family Therapy shares four tips for coping with the COVID-19 holiday blues with


With the unofficial start of the holiday season a week away, Cini says now is the time to tell your family you will not be coming home for Christmas and New Year's.

"You may be unpopular but you may also be surprised by your family's understanding. Start talking with your parents and siblings," said Cini.

"Do not send 'I'm not coming home' by text. This is an important conversation to have by phone or even by video conference."


"It is okay to be frustrated, upset, disappointed, annoyed, angry or sad that you cannot be with your family," writes Cini on the Family Therapy website. "Have an honest conversation without blame or shame about how you feel."

Cini tells there are kind ways and harsh ways to express your opinions and feelings.

"You can always say I am sad you are not coming home and it is your choice. We will miss you and we can't wait to see you again," said Cini.

"Many people are worried, scared or confused about what they should and should not do in this ever changing environment. Kindness, compassion, empathy, and understanding go a long way in helping to build and maintain your relationship with family members."

Cini says do not feel guilty about your decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Don’t waste your time and energy trying not to feel guilty, recognize your emotions, allow yourself to feel them, and try to move forward."


"Expressing your sadness and disappointment does not mean you can not try to blame or shame your family members for ruining your holidays," Cini says in a post on the Family Therapy website.

"If your siblings or relatives do not feel comfortable travelling, coming over for dinners, or hosting the holidays, accept this as a fact. It is better for everyone to be honest upfront then to pretend they are showing up and then ghosting you."


"This year, we need to find different and creative ways to feel joy and comfort in celebrating the holiday season," said Cini in a blog post.

"Maintaining that vital human connection is so important for our mental health."

Cini recommends families look for ways to spice up video calls, including singing carols or reading bedtime stories.

If you are spending time away from family and friends over the holidays, Cini says "self care is super important" this year.

"Please go outside. Take advantage of not sitting at your computer all day and get outside and enjoy the fresh air," Cini tells

"If you are in an area with significant restrictions go out and see the Christmas lights and decorated houses. Get outside and go for a hike. There are many things you can do to care for yourself that are rejuvenating."

Cini says that whatever you are doing over the holidays, self-care is important after a stressful 2020.

"Whether it’s doing a puzzle, spending time online gaming with friends, painting, running, reading a book, working out or having a hot bath find the activities you enjoy that help you feel refreshed and recharged."