Few holidays evoke as wide a range of emotions as Valentine’s Day. For some, it’s the ideal day to celebrate love and plan something special with their significant other. Certain hopeless romantics aren’t big fans of the commercial aspect of the holiday, and some absolutely love Galentine’s Day but couldn’t care less about Feb. 14.
But Valentine’s Day can be an incredibly difficult holiday for many people. Whether it’s due to a recent breakup, relationship problems or generalized depression, the day can be fraught with negative emotions. Luckily, coping techniques can ease some of the stress. Here’s what experts have to say about handling Valentine’s Day during a rough patch.
If you’re not loving the single life
If you recently went through a rough breakup or have had a stretch of bad luck in the dating game, Valentine’s Day is likely to bring up painful emotions — especially when it seems like everyone in your Instagram feed is celebrating the day with their special someone.
Tina Muller, family wellness manager at Mountainside Treatment Center, suggests refocusing your entire view of Valentine’s Day. “The holiday symbolizes love, so take that idea and apply it to yourself. Instead of focusing on love through an intimate relationship, focus on loving and supporting yourself,” Muller says. “Turn the holiday around and focus on something positive that’s going on in your life.”
Keeping yourself occupied in a positive way is key. Muller suggests planning something you enjoy, such as spending time with a close friend or family member or taking a yoga class. She notes that feeling a bit lonely or sad on Valentine’s Day may be unavoidable, but these emotions can be eased by “making a connection with someone, whether it be a friend or family member” and “being able to talk about how you’re feeling.”
If you have depression
Some people with depression are unaffected by Valentine’s Day, but for others, it can act as a trigger that intensifies the illness’s symptoms. “When a person lives with depression, every day can be a struggle. Add to that the contrived, artificial hype of Valentine’s Day, and it can be even harder to get out of bed,” Dr. Laura Deitsch of Vibrant tells SheKnows.
Deitsch suggests tapping into your “toolkit” on Valentine’s Day. “Think of the five senses: sight, taste, smell, hearing and feel,” she says. “Surround yourself with things that bring you joy to look at, whether they are in your space or one you travel to.”
Treat yourself to your favorite food or drink, snuggle up and listen to your favorite music, and use coping skills that you’ve previously discussed with your therapist.
If you recently lost a loved one
After losing a loved one, it’s common for all holidays to be painful. If that loved one happened to be your significant other, Valentine’s Day could shape up to be absolutely excruciating.
Michelene M. Wasil, a licensed marriage and family therapist, suggests surrounding yourself with people you love so you can seek their support if you’re feeling overwhelmed. She says it can also be therapeutic to think of ways to honor your loved one. For example, visit a place you both loved and pay tribute.
“I had a client who loved to hike with his wife. The anniversary of her passing fell around Valentine’s Day. I encouraged him to write a letter to her, plan a hike with a friend, and leave the letter at the viewpoint of their favorite spot,” Wasil tells SheKnows. This activity was healing for her client, and he told Wasil that he plans to do it every Valentine’s Day.
If you & your partner are coping with something difficult
We often associate Valentine’s Day struggles with people who are single — but it can also place stress on individuals who are in relationships. For example, Dr. Georgia Witkin, director of patient services development at Progyny, tells SheKnows that the holiday can be tough on couples who are struggling to conceive. Whether your shared stressor is fertility, finances or family, Witkin says that Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to “take a break from worrying” by sharing some quality time together.
She suggests playing a favorite game, looking at photos from the early days of your relationship or simply getting in the car and going out for ice cream. Witkin also notes that music can be a great stress reliever — and sometimes an aphrodisiac.
“Play your favorite songs from when you and your partner started dating. If the music is a song faster than your heartbeat, it’s energizing, so get up and dance!” she says. “If it’s slower than your heartbeat, it’s relaxing, so share a massage or bath. If you start with the little expressions of affection, sex often follows naturally.”
In an ideal world, holidays wouldn’t be triggering, but unfortunately, that’s not the case for a lot of people. If that’s the case for you, remember to take care of yourself.