Love Yourself – 10 Tips for your Mental Health on Valentines Day
February is often called ‘The Month of Love’ centered around the famous – Valentine’s Day. Historically, according to the Catholic church, this day came about in Rome when Saint Valentine decided to oppose the ruling of Emperor Claudius II who declared single men were better suited as soldiers, forbidding them to get married. Saint Valentine found this oppression unjust and against free will and married young individuals in secret. The saint was killed when he was discovered, but, there are several other stories as to how this day originated, linking back to a pagan festival of fertility as well. However, for many of us in the 21st century, as this day emerges, each city across the word is filled with the color red, florists stock up on red/pink roses, heart shaped gifts filled with glitter are available, restaurants run promotions for dining, social media becomes filled with couple selfies, love quotes and a lot more. Valentine’s day has come a long way, from liberating individuals to a commercialized season – all in the name of love.
For some, this may be a very happy occasion to share with loved ones. But for others, this can be an extremely difficult season that is not as rosy as it seems. Especially with the COVID pandemic, restrictions can make it hard to spend time with loved ones, or you may not even feel comfortable to connect with new people either, making it a whole new challenge during an already really tough time.
This day may focus our attention on the unrealistic ideals we often see on Netflix, social media and advertisements, triggering painful emotions and reminding us of struggles we are facing. For many, this day may be a reminder of not having a special someone or someone’s, of partners who are not physically around, of past partners or relationships, of prospective relationships that aren’t going well, or a reminder of grief, for significant others who have passed away. But, it is not always greener on the other side, this day may remind some of unhappiness felt in current relationships, relational conflict, times we failed to meet someone’s expectations, financial stressors and limitations. It can even force us into certain roles and put societal pressure on relational statuses with demanding questions of – “What are our next steps, where is this going and Let’s move to the next level of our relationship”, this can be refer to a proposal, having children, moving in together, being intimate, redecorating or trying to make the appropriate gesture. Consider how taxing it may even feel, to find someone to watch your kids on this day, make a reservation at a restaurant, find appropriate gifts or rekindle romantic intimacy. Apart from that, struggles with eating, body image, low self-esteem, love, perfectionism, performance anxiety and even, sexual anxiety just add to the entire well of distress we may be already feeling.
So, it might make sense now when I tell you that depression and anxiety rates increase during this season. Yes, if you’re feeling it and an array of other emotions, you are not alone! In fact, Valentine’s Day Depression is an actual thing, statistically you might feel despair, loneliness or worthlessness at a heightened level during this time. Regardless of which emotion you may be feeling, take a moment on this day to be kind to yourself , listen to your inner needs with care and on this day, love yourself instead! Your mental health is a top priority and bigger than this one day.
Here are some tips to care for your mental health on Valentine’s Day:
- Celebrate YOU with self-care and self-love: Pamper yourself with your favorite food or beverage, have a spa night , wear your feel good outfit, do some gardening or something creative, have a movie night, play your favorite game or read a book you’ve been meaning to get to – whatever it is that makes you feel good about yourself and gets you excited by you! Another great way to celebrate you is to take the time to value yourself – try making a list of things you love about yourself.
- Take a breath from social media: If you feel overloaded by continuous posts on social media or find yourself becoming more anxious engaging in overthinking, negative thinking or feeling down by it, give yourself the space to take a break and recalibrate. Remember that social media is not always a reflection of people’s real lives, so avoid comparison. It is ok that you feel drained by it. Our brains were not wired to receive so much information in milli seconds and it does get exhausted too. Rest is useful.
- Practice mindfulness: Life goes through phases that are all-consuming, busy and wild. So, by practicing some mindfulness or other forms of meditation, you turn off the outside noise for a little while and bring yourself back to you, your body and your breath. Mindfulness can also allow you to be in the moment, either by listening to music, practicing gratitude, doing art, writing a journal, walking or reading. However, you choose to experience it, it provides you the space to be here, fully present in the now.
- Avoid Substances to cope: It can be very tempting to shut off, detach and numb our distress, despair and loneliness through marijuana, alcohol or other substances. But, this short term relief may lead to long term consequences and does not allow you the chance to process your emotions naturally. Remember, emotions can feel overwhelming but they are not who you are and does not last forever. Emotions are just chemical messages from our brain.
- Pay attention to your thoughts and talk back: Our thoughts are not our emotions, although sometimes it may feel similar, pay close attention to what thoughts cause you emotions and begin to separate them. This creates a mindful distance and awareness to unhelpful thoughts that may take over your mind. Also, remember, not all your thoughts are true and you are not defined by your thoughts. If you notice negative thoughts or self-talk (our inner voice) don’t be afraid to talk back! Yes, it sounds bizarre but it actually works. Our thoughts influence how we feel and you will be surprised to see how you can feel differently if you alter your inner voice. Try talking back with some positive or realistic responses, for instance “I may not be in a relationship, but I am not alone I have…” Depression and anxiety feel like blacked out sunglasses we are wearing, everything is doomed and terrible when we have them on. Each time you talk back and alter that inner narrative, you help yourself take off those glasses a little bit. Another great tip is to weigh the evidence against each of your thoughts, it can help reframe it into a different light.
- Connect with your support system: You don’t have to feel all your emotions alone, often times, it makes it a lot harder to cope. Remember that as humans, we are social beings which helps us when we are feeling down or alone in more ways than you know. Also, this day isn’t only about romance, make space to celebrate all forms of love, including in friendships, parental and sibling relationships, or even, work relationships. Plan something with your support system to look forward to, whether it’s a game night, dinner, movie or even a virtual zoom hang-out. If that’s not possible, reach out to just talk, even if you feel you may not up for it, it could also be helpful and soothing to the person you may reach out to. Connection is more soothing than disconnection.
- Communicate what is happening in your inner world : Whether it’s to a friend or your partner, communicate the wealth of thoughts and emotions you may be feeling, no matter how long you’ve known someone, they can’t read your mind and you can’t theirs. Perhaps, each of you is living a different reality and when you communicate it, a shared one can be created with mutual understanding. It can also help you cope with overwhelming emotions and manage expectations.
- Creativity with the kids: For parents, engage in fun activities with your kids which might help you de-stress and stay in the present. Do some arts and crafts for this day, ask them what they love about themselves or each other, read your favorite poem or story with them, watch a family movie, go out for a walk or some ice cream – whatever allows you to let go and release the pressures of this day, even for a little while. This also might help your kids if their separation anxiety kicks in when you plan on going out later in the day.
- Try not to give in to societal pressure (Self Compassion): There’s a lot of pressure on how you should be, feel, act on this day but it does not reflect who you uniquely are. Take a breath and offer yourself some compassion, you are doing the best you can. Remember, you don’t have to be anything you don’t want to be, nobody is perfect , there is no one -way to do things and societal standards are not always realistic or rational. Listen to yourself, be practical and pace yourself.
- Seek Professional Help: Reach out to a professional who is able to help you cope, either in person or virtually. All the above tips are not a substitute for seeking mental health treatment but rather a supplement that may help alongside it.
If you need any assistance in finding mental health care, please feel free to reach out to us via email or social media.
We are here for you, now and always!
“If you have the ability to love, love yourself first.” – Charles Bukowski