The yearly excitement surrounding Valentine's Day is upon us. Like any holiday, there are many expectations around how Valentine's Day "should" be. It may feel like the whole world is in a relationship and you're the last single person around. If you're not in a romantic relationship, this unmet expectation can cause or worsen feelings of anxiety, frustration and disappointment.
If you're struggling with feelings of disappointment, anxiety or inadequacy this year, it may be helpful to see things from a new perspective. Dr. Heather Fulton, a psychologist with the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, has some advice:
"Ask yourself, 'Where did I learn to feel this way? Who says I should be like this or do this thing on Valentine's Day? Is there another way to look at this situation? What might I tell a friend who was feeling the way I am now?'"
The highlight reel
The modern world has the added pressure of seeing other people's lives through social media. This can give us an exaggerated sense of how perfect other people's lives are, which can compound negative feelings you may be experiencing and contribute to a low mood.
"Remember that social media is just a very small slice of most people's lives," says Dr. Fulton. "Most people don't post about arguments or the mundane events in their lives. So if you are seeing a lot of posts and feeling isolated, remember that one post is not representative of the rest of that person's life. You're only getting the highlight reel."
Losing someone you love
If you've suffered the loss of someone you love recently, it's important to recognize that Valentine's Day may be a very difficult day for you since it can bring up a lot of memories.
"Take it easy on yourself," says Dr. Fulton. "Feel free to celebrate this day however you want. This may be ignoring the day completely. It may mean finding a special way to honour your loved one's memory or reaching out to loved ones for support."
Dr. Fulton believes that it's important to recognize feelings of sadness are often valid. "Don't feel like you can never be sad. Sometimes recognizing that the reasons you might feel low or anxious can be enough to make you feel better."
"Validate and normalize your feelings," she continues. "Valentine's Day can often bring up strong emotions, and often when we try to ignore or push down those feelings, they come back stronger."
What else can help?
Try adding a new spin on Valentine's Day by celebrating other forms of love. Romantic love isn't the only kind. The love between family and friends is also long-lasting and meaningful. Show those folks you value them on Valentine's Day through kind words, spending time with them, or just sending a quick message to let people know that you are thinking of them and appreciate them.
Further help and resources
Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, or find that these feelings are interfering with your day-to-day life. If this is the case, don't be afraid to talk to your doctor or a mental-health professional.
You can also take a look at these online resources: