It’s Valentine Day tomorrow. The time of the year when we are encouraged to share and celebrate our love, compassion and togetherness. However, it can also be a holiday that creates many feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can be difficult to cope with, even more so this year. In this post we will address this holiday and it’s impact on our mental health. We will also cover why these negatives feelings are more common during Valentine’s Day and discuss some potential tips for coping during this tough time. So, let’s get to it:
How does Valentine’s Day negatively affect our mental health?
Being alone isn’t always a bad thing, and some of us cherish our alone time as it gives us the space to recover and recharge. That being said, like too much of anything, being alone in excess can cause us to feel upset and isolated. Whilst loneliness isn’t actually a mental health disorder like depression or anxiety, it is one of the core causes and symptoms to many different mental illnesses. Unfortunately, due to this, it means when we are suffering from the likes of social anxiety, we can feel very cut-off and also at the same time struggle to actually connect with others and soothe this need for interaction.
There are many causes of loneliness including big life changes such as leaving a job, going through a bereavement or ending a relationship. This is even more common around big holidays that encourage social interaction such as Christmas or Valentines day, which we will explore later in this post. This is extremely common nowadays, with us being in a pandemic and having to fo llow government lockdowns and restrictions, it can create an overwhelming feeling of isolation, which can cause us to feel more stressed and upset. Due to this we not only continue to suffer alone but it can greatly impact our self-esteem.
- Self-Esteem Issues
I’m sure most of us are familiar with the concept of self-esteem, but for those of you who aren’t, self-esteem or self-worth is essentially how you feel about yourself and your behaviours. This can cover what you think about your intelligence, physical appearance, beliefs or even emotionality. Having a positive opinion of yourself, without being overly extreme and narcissistic, can help us go through life being all that more positive and determined, and generally helps us maintain a healthy sense of wellbeing.
This isn’t that simple for everyone though, me included, and for many of us we can struggle with viewing ourselves in a positive light all the time. This kind of low self-esteem can take shape in many different forms, including struggling to say no to people, thinking others are better than you, feeling unworthy of love or affection and having an overall negative outlook on life.
With holidays like Valentine’s Day especially, our inner critic senses these wavering thoughts and latches on to them, amplifying what we are already telling us. ‘Nobody likes you’, ‘You aren’t good enough for them’ and ‘You don’t deserve love’ are just a few of the expressions you hear yourself feeling. It’s when we give into these thoughts and start listening to them like they are the truth, that we face further problems.
Depression is a topic I have covered on this blog before. In simple terms it is an overwhelming feeling of sadness or emptiness which each of us can experience to a different degree depending on our situations etc. This feeling can spread and affect us in many ways, be it physically such as not maintaining good hygiene or loosing your appetite, or emotionally through feeling worthless or easily irritable. Like the above, these feelings of low self-worth are amplified even further during holidays where we are told to celebrate our relationships with those around us.
Depression has so many negative connotations, and rightly so. However, some of these connotations come from the stigma around mental health, which leads some people to believe those suffering from depression are just weak or attention seeking. This is not the case. Depression is a serious issue that needs addressed and I recommend that if you are struggling with this or feel like there is nobody who can help, to speak with a GP or a trained counsellor/therapist. I felt that way once too, and it was only by facing the issue head on that I was able to finally go about mending it.
- Relationship Troubles
Being sad on Valentine’s Day isn’t something that is reserved simply for those who are single. It is very common that people in relationships or marriages also suffer from a low mood around the holiday. It can seem strange to think about as ‘how could someone in a relationship be lonely?’, but this is another negative stereotype that we need to address head on.
Whilst being in a relationship and intimately connected with someone else can be an extremely positive and powerful thing, it can also have it’s downsides, and these tend to be brought into the light around Valentine’s Day. You may be in a long-term relationship but have fallen out of love or you may be in the middle of a huge fight with your spouse, but once Valentine’s comes around it’s like we are supposed to shut this down and be all ‘love is amazing’ for the day. This can cause even further fractures in relationships. Just because two people seem happy together, doesn’t mean that either of them are.
This point I just wanted to touch upon briefly as I think it is an extremely valid reason that may affect our mental health over Valentine’s Day. If you have had someone close to you pass away, be it a partner or a friend, then you may feel overwhelmed even more than usual on these days. Just like it’s sad to spend your first Christmas after they are gone, or how it feels sad when their birthday rolls around, it can be extremely difficult on Valentine’s Day. You may be plagued by sad memories or grief and this is perfectly normal, just as long as you aren’t letting these get out of control and lead to further, deeper issues.
Why are these problems more common on Valentines?
Whilst I have mentioned a few times above how Valentine’s Day can amplify problems we already have or lead to the creation of new ones, I wanted to now take some time to explore why this is more common on the day itself.
- It’s A Big Deal Socially
Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest holidays of the year for consumerism. If you walk into just about any shop, there will be couple’s gifts and romantic meals for two and part of an aisle dedicated to all things red or pink, heart shaped and scented. Seeing this when we are feeling lonely or our self-esteem is wavering, acts as a constant reminder of what is upsetting us. It’s unavoidable. Even these days where we have the option to do our shopping online, you’ll get holiday themed adverts telling you what your loved ones would like most this year. These don’t take into consideration those of us who are feeling depressed or have no loved ones around us.
- Social Media is a Breeding Ground for Envy and Jealousy
How many times have you been on social media around Valentine’s Day, or even just the anniversary of someone you know, to see endless posts of fantastic plans, romantic photos and comment after comment of others telling them how cute they are. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against public or social displays of love and affection, and I’m definitely not as cynical as I sound above, but I do have one main issue with these kinds of posts.
Social media is a self-advertised snapshot into people’s lives, but the thing is, just like photographs, they can be filtered. I know not everyone is guilty of this, but I know from personal experience there have been times were I have posted on Instagram in a way that made my life seem better than it was. It’s a human instinct. We are competitive and we want to be seen, so displaying our lives in this rose-tinted way just makes a lot of sense when seeking approval.
This being said, those of us who see these posts, especially when we’re feeling upset or lonely around the holidays, can start to feel envious or jealous, and this can lead to even further problems. That inner critic I mentioned earlier will latch on once again and start asking why we don’t have someone like that or why we don’t do nice things for those we love? It’s a vicious cycle and ultimately can leave us feeling extremely worn out.
How Can We Cope with These Feelings?
- Love Yourself
To commence my selection of tips that may help us cope during this holiday, I thought I would start with the most obvious, but also the most forgettable. I read something a few weeks ago, which asked me to take a minute and list everything you love in your life. I thought ‘eh, what the hell’ and gave it a go. So, after the minute was up I was happy enough with what I had down; my partner, my training, this blog etc. and then I continued reading. The next sentence is what struck me. It asked whether or not I had written down myself. I hadn’t.
See the thing is, it’s so ridiculously easy to get caught up in the romantic relationship connotations of Valentine’s Day that we forget one of the core relationships each of us has, the one with ourselves. How many of us can actually confidently say that we love ourselves? I for one wouldn’t be able to say this a few years back, but thankfully now I’m in a much better place and this has not only improved my relationship with myself, but also my relationship with those around me.
Take some time to love and care for yourself over this holiday. If you’re feeling lonely maybe address some of those feeling and where they are coming from (safely and at your own pace of course). You’ll find that you feel better for it in the end, and that you’ll not focus so much on finding a romantic relationship like this holiday seems to ask you to. Afterall, how can we expect anyone else to love us if we don’t first love ourselves.
- Make Plans
Another option to cope with the holiday if you’re feeling any of the earlier mentioned issues such as depression or loneliness, is to distract yourself. You can do this by making plans either alone or with friends or family. Not everyone has a significant other on Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t mean we can’t share love with those around us even by going for a coffee and a catch-up with a friend or planning to stay home and watch a movie you’ve been looking forward to seeing.
The one thing I will note with this, is that you shouldn’t rush any romantic plans just because the holiday calls for it. If you’re experiencing low self-esteem and feel you must have a date or else you’re a loser, then this will most likely lead to you feeling worse. As people, we aren’t designed to be alone permanently. Even the most introverted of us like the company of others and find that it can cheer them up. That being said, being in a relationship isn’t some target you must hit immediately, and rushing things can lead to problems, be it upset after failure or rushing things with the wrong person. If you do have a date planned for the holidays, there is nothing wrong with that, just make sure you are interested in the person you’re going on the date with and not the idea of not being alone.
- Take a Break from Social Media
This one may seem like a given after my earlier discussion on social media over the holidays. If you find yourself getting easily upset or annoyed due to social media during Valentine’s Day, then it may be best to take some time away from your black mirror. I know that this can be quite tricky as it is very easy to get wrapped up in social media and have hours pass before you even realise, but if it’s causing you distress, then it isn’t worth it.
If you’re not quite ready to give up screens for the day, then maybe just focus on specific social media apps that cause you the most bother. If you’re sick of seeing those you know parading on Instagram or Facebook, then avoid them. If you’re not feeling up to seeing a huge selection of rom-coms, then perhaps Netflix or Prime isn’t the best call. It’s down to you though, and what boundaries you need to set. Just do whatever is in your best interest and what will make you happier in the long run.
- Talk About It
If you thought I would make it through this post without specifically recommending this as one of my tips, you would be wrong. Opening up and discussing how we’re feeling is one of the core ways we can begin to address our issues and start our journey to making them better. This doesn’t have to be with a GP or counsellor as I mentioned earlier in the post, but can be as simple as sending a close friend or family member a message to ask if they are free for a chat.
Despite what your self-esteem tells you, other people inherently care and will most likely make the time to be there for you if you’re honest and tell them you need to talk. You don’t have to tell them everything as, realistically, there are some limitations to discussing mental health with a friend and not a trained professional, but even just opening up and expressing yourself can help you feel like a weight has been lifted.
So that’s it, my tips for getting through the holiday. Just remember, if all goes wrong, it’s not the end of the world and you can recover. Also, it’s Pancake Tuesday next week so like, at least there is that.
If you enjoyed this post and want to learn more about mental health awareness and training, be sure to follow my blog. How are you spending Valentine’s Day this year? Do you feel worse around this holiday? Do you have any other tips for coping that I forgot to mention? Let me know down below. If you’re experiencing any of the feelings described in this post, or know somebody who is, then there are many things you can do to help. Talking to somebody about how you or they are feeling can be very beneficial. If you’re not sure what to do but need urgent help, there are many emergency hotlines that provide support and encouragement such as Mind.org and Samaritans.org. You’re not alone in feeling this way, others are there to help.