Somewhere around the time the New Year’s Eve parties ended, retail displays transformed from winter wonderlands to Cupid’s playgrounds. But whether you dread it or eagerly anticipate it, Valentine’s Day can also serve as a reminder that we can all use a bit of TLC (tender, loving care), regardless of our relationship status.
Unrealistic depictions of Valentine’s Day — outrageous marriage proposals, over-the-top dinner dates and more — can make the pressure to feel like you have to pair up and/or make everything “perfect” seem overwhelming, to the point that you may feel anxious. According to Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), everyone experiences anxiety (not to be confused with anxiety disorders) at some point in their lives. Anxiety is a feeling of worry caused by perceived threats in the environment that can manifest in feelings of fear, stress or nervousness, and physical symptoms such as increased alertness or rapid heart rate.
The good news is there are many ways to keep anxiety at bay. Here are some tips from Mental Health First Aid to help make the most out of this Valentine’s Day and manage any symptoms of stress or anxiety.
Focus on self-love and self-care.
Self-love is vital to mental wellbeing and helps reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. In fact, according to the MHFA curriculum, those who pay attention to their own physical and emotional health adapt to change better, build stronger relationships and are more likely to recover from setbacks. Whether you’re marking Valentine’s Day solo or with a special someone, consider nurturing the relationship you have with #1 – yourself!
Try positive self-talk. The way we speak to ourselves and about ourselves informs how we feel. Try replacing, “I hate being alone,” with “I accept and love myself, and I choose to focus on positive thoughts.” For more inspiration, here’s a list of positive affirmations to help with anxiety.
Treat yourself. Enjoy your self-care time! Do something you enjoy that also refuels you. Some ideas include practicing yoga or meditation or indulging in a mid-day nap if you’re tired. You may want to invest in learning a new skill, like cooking or dance. Whatever it is, do something that brings you joy even when no one else is around.
Communicate expectations and be present.
Your expectations of grand gestures and movie-worthy dates can lead to disappointment if they only exist in your head. If you are in a relationship, remember that your partner can’t read your mind and communicate what’s most important to you. Even if your partner decides to plan a surprise, try to stay open to new experiences rather than fantasizing about one ideal scenario.
To make the most of the big day, practice mindfulness and staying in the present moment. Focus on the “here and now” by practicing grounding techniques like listing everything you can see, touch, hear, smell or taste to stay connected and enjoy quality time with your partner.
Focus on what you can do together.
It’s easy for loneliness to get the best of us when it comes to Valentine’s Day, especially if you can’t celebrate together in-person. To help you feel close to your loved ones, focus on the things you can do together like:
Planning a trip. While you may not be physically together now, hopping on a phone or video call to brainstorm, research and book a vacation will give you something to look forward to when it’s safe to travel. In fact, research shows that people can experience more happiness simply planning a trip than actually taking one.
Stream a movie together. If you miss cuddling up on the couch to binge-watch TV, try grabbing some of your favorite snacks and setting up a FaceTime date to enjoy a movie or TV show marathon together in real time.
Holidays are great reminders to spend quality time with the people who mean most to us. Love comes in many forms – partners, family, friends – consider celebrating any or all of them this year.
Whatever you decide to do – whether it’s a fancy meal out, a romantic comedy marathon, binge-watching sports or a baking day – focus on acknowledging all the things you’re grateful for. Practicing gratitude is linked to improved wellbeing and life satisfaction. It can be as simple as, “I’m grateful to have a family to celebrate with;” “I’m grateful to be healthy and able enough to bake these treats;” or “I’m grateful to be so loved by my friends that they want to spend this holiday with me.”
We hope you enjoy a stress-free and memorable Valentine’s Day. For more ways to manage anxiety and #BeTheDifference for yourself. If you or someone you know is in need of support, DIAL 311 or 1-800-832-1200 to connect with trained counselors and Orange County resources 24/7.