Valentine’s Day seems to be one of those holidays that you either look forward to or dread, regardless of relationship status. While the holiday is a celebration of love, sometimes the pressure of grandiose displays of affection, the expectation that the holiday is just for romantic relationships, and constantly hearing the question, “What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?” means the holiday can make you feel anxious, frustrated, sad or lonely.
While it has the potential to be an extremely stressful and upsetting holiday, we spoke with Caroline Tomlinson, a board-certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, to get some tips on how to have a mentally healthy, happy and equally self-loving Valentine’s Day.
Focus on What Matters Most
“Valentine’s Day is about love, and not just the love that exists between couples,” Tomlinson says. “If you are in a relationship and choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day, make sure to check with your partner about what they want. Do not focus on materialistic things but focus on what matters the most.
“If you are single, love yourself and spend the day doing things you enjoy,” she continues. “Do not allow a single day to define you or your relationship.”
A drawback to Valentine’s Day is that sometimes we can often mistake an extravagant celebration to mean that our partner really loves us. On the flip side, a small celebration may leave you wondering if your partner really cares. That being said, it can be hard to know exactly where each other stands and what you want when you don’t communicate.
For example, you might surprise your partner with a reservation at a fancy restaurant and they get disappointed because all they wanted was a romantic, casual dinner at home.
“To make sure that your partner is accommodated, it is important to find out what would make them happy,” Tomlinson explains. “If your partner wants a big celebration and you want something lowkey, but the goal is to spend quality time together, try to find a compromise. Maybe a romantic evening at a good restaurant that doesn’t typically have a crowd may accomplish that goal.”
The key is to avoid any disappointments is to establish what your partner wants ahead of time. Whatever it is make sure you have fun with your partner, and you don’t want to spend too much time focusing on the celebration and end up missing out on spending quality time with your loved one, Tomlinson adds.
Ignore Society’s Pressure & Don’t Compare
This goes for both parties — single and taken. Sometimes being single seems to be looked down upon, while couples tend to feel the pressure to “prove” their love to the world on Valentine’s Day.
“Valentine’s day has always been thought of as a time of love between couples. However, for so many others who may not be in a relationship, it may be a time of loneliness,” says Tomlinson.
If you’re single, Tomlinson recommends indulging in a good book that might occupy your time, ordering your favorite meal from your favorite restaurant, taking a relaxing bubble bath or participating in an activity you enjoy.
“These activities may help boost your self-esteem and keep your mind occupied leaving little time for self-pity,” she explains. “It might also be best to spend as little time as possible on social media to avoid all the pressures of the day.”
If you’re in a relationship, Tomlinson says to ignore what you may see in the movies, on tv or social media when it comes to keeping up with the Joneses, and any commentary you may receive from friends, family or coworkers.
“Social media adds stress by ‘showing off’ extravagant gifts received by couples,” she explains. “But remember, some couples may post extravagant gifts but are not truly happy. It may be a cover-up for what is really going on in their relationship. For example, you might have a partner who gives you a box of chocolates and a teddy bear, but they adore you and always do everything to make you happy. On the other hand, you might have a partner who gives you diamonds but is always disrespectful towards you.”
At the end of the day, Tomlinson recommends reminding yourself that it is not how much is spent on a gift but the thought behind the gift that counts. It is important to be thankful for what you have rather than comparing yourself to others and how they try to live on social media.
Plan in Advance
If you decide to do something for Valentine’s Day, lessen the stress by planning ahead. Make a reservation at the restaurant in advance, buy tickets for the show before they sell out, register for an event before it fills up — whatever the plan may be, get an early start. If you’re giving gifts, don’t wait until the last minute on these as well, it only creates more stress and anxiety.
Again, remember that Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be romantic. You can celebrate other types of love, like the love between friends or a family. Additionally, planning something to look forward to on Valentine’s Day can make the day feel less lonely. Instead of worrying about how you’ll feel alone, you’ll be excited about hanging out with friends or family.
“There is not any ‘perfect’ plan. Valentine’s day is about love and love should be celebrated every day — not only on Valentine’s day,” Tomlinson says. “Try to find out what you and/or your partner desires the most and then plan from there. The objective is to spend time with those you cherish. If there’s a smile on your face or your loved one’s face at the end of the day that is what matters.”
Be Kind to Yourself
“Mental health is vital every day, including on Valentine’s day,” Tomlinson says. “Unfortunately, society has put so much pressure on this day, it’s easy to lose the meaning of the day and put too much focus on the wrong things. Single or taken, remember to love yourself first and foremost and indulge in activities you love. Avoid things that will cause more pressure and anxiety. Your Mental health is important so give yourself a break this Valentine’s day.”
One of the best ways to go into Valentine’s Day is to keep a consistent routine so that it may seem like a normal day to you. If you always work out then keep your routine; if you go to work then go to work and try to be productive, etc. If you feel sad or lonely try to reach out to someone for support. Additionally, if someone you know has lost a partner or recently gone through a breakup, you might be able to brighten their day by sending them a card, flowers or a gift basket. It will cheer them up and make you feel good about yourself for brightening their day as well.
Oftentimes, on the “day of love,” it can be easy to forget about yourself. Remind yourself of all the things you love about yourself. Maybe you’re a really hard worker; maybe you’re a really great cook; maybe you have a beautiful smile, etc. And remember that love can come from all relationships, not just romantic ones and that even if you may feel like you’re alone, you’re truly not.