Mclean Hospital

Head and Heart: Take Care of Yourself on Valentine’s Day

February 12, 2020

Heart-shaped candy, jewelry advertisements, and a seeming shortage on red roses can only mean one thing: Valentine’s Day.

While there is no shortage of love in the air, holidays can be more anxiety-inducing than joyful for many—and Valentine’s Day is no exception.

Ads for high-end products implying that you must buy presents to show that you really care can cause stress over what to get a significant other and whether the gift is good enough for a loved one.

If you don’t have a partner on Valentine’s Day, some find it to be a lonely or anxiety-filled day.

Whether you have a significant other or are a party of one, Valentine’s Day can be a difficult day to endure. However, it’s important to spend the day just like the other 364 days of the year: taking care of your mental health.

Feel Better, Not Bitter

One important thing to remember is patience—with yourself and with others—around a holiday. It can be very easy to feel pressured into purchasing the perfect gift, going over the top with gestures of love, or simply feeling like being single is a bad thing.

It’s valuable to learn how—and what—triggers stress and anxiety, which in turn can affect you physically and mentally.

Stock image of woman writing in a journal
Valentine’s Day can be a hard day for some to get through, but it may help to remember that it’s just another day in the calendar

Dr. Elsa Ronningstam, a psychologist at McLean Hospital, shared the importance of understanding that triggers may come from many sources. Memories, stressful patterns, or potential crises are common triggers.

Some physical signs of mental distress include but aren’t limited to:

  • Headaches
  • Exhaustion
  • Digestive troubles
  • Oversleeping or not sleeping enough
  • Muscle aches
  • Body tension

Take a minute to think about how stress and anxiety feel in your body. Then take several more minutes to determine if there are specific events or situations that make you feel stressed or anxious. Once you learn what causes those feelings and how your mental health can be affected, you can feel ready to cope when those situations and emotions arise.

Expressing gratitude has been shown to help improve your mood. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try practicing gratitude for what you have present in your life. A good way to do this is to write down three things you are thankful for.

Going for a walk or to your favorite workout class can help lift your spirits. Feel-good chemicals produced by moving can help offset feeling sad.

Deep breathing and meditation are easy ways to lower your anxiety levels. Taking a deep breath in for four counts and out for seven counts can lower tension in the body.

If you’re feeling exhausted or having trouble with your sleep, regular exercise and deep breathing exercises can help with relaxing the body and unwinding for bedtime. If you experience depression or anxiety, consider cutting back on alcohol, as it can make you feel worse.

Express Love Your Own Way

Being surrounded with romance can be stigmatizing or overwhelming when you aren’t feeling good about yourself or your circumstances. The pressure to be social, happy, and present can make it difficult to speak up if you don’t feel like being any of those things.

It can be easy to compare your feelings to others who appear to be happy or may not be outwardly struggling. But by comparing to others’ surface-level feelings, you may feel more lonely or sad.

“[Having] expectations can bring up trauma or conflict,” said Ronningstam. These expectations can also create a sense of lost control or feeling like an outcast, she added. Individuals who don’t feel like they’re fitting in with the holiday mood can increase feelings of anger, which she suggested can result in “problematic and conflict-inducing behavior.”

Ronningstam advised spending Valentine’s Day—or any other holiday—doing something that feels good for you. “For many, it can be important for their own self-care to outline a plan for the holiday. This can include not celebrating it and doing something like a hobby or going to the movies.”

Daily gratitude practice is another way to share good feelings with yourself and others on a regular basis. By sharing appreciation on more days than February 14, you can build stronger relationships with others and improve your outlook on yourself.

Studies have shown that acts of gratitude can help you feel more positive and have stronger relationships. Show your gratitude with a handwritten letter, a phone call, an email, or silently recognizing a good person or situation in your life.

It’s Just Another Day

February 14 comes and goes every year. Even if Valentine’s Day makes you a little sad or anxious, it’s just another day.

Everyone experiences all kinds of feelings, no matter what the calendar says. By looking at your feelings non-judgmentally, you can dial down your stress and be able to make thoughtful decisions about what will make you feel better, both on February 14 and beyond.

If your emotions feel like they are too much to handle on your own, be sure to talk with a medical or mental health professional. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too on Valentine’s Day.

Do you or a loved one need mental health care or support? McLean Hospital is here to help.

Call us now at 877.646.5272 to learn more about treatment for depression, stress, or anxiety.

February 12, 2020

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