Navigating the day-to-day can be difficult when you're freshly out of a long-term relationship. But facing your first single Valentine's Day can bring about a whole new set of emotions, and possibly even the sense that you're taking a few steps backward in getting over your breakup.
"It can be difficult to be single for the first time on Valentine's Day because of the cultural significance it plays in our society," Amanda Stemen, MS, LCSW, a psychotherapist and coach, tells Bustle. "It's traditionally thought to be a day to celebrate our romantic love for another, and particularly if you were expecting to celebrate it with someone special who's no longer a part of your life, that can add an extra layer of disappointment to what's already hard about mourning the loss."
Even if you've begun the process of moving on, you may spend the day thinking about what once was. And that's OK. "It can bring up all kinds of emotions," Stemen says, "[such as] sadness, loneliness, disappointment, anger, anxiety, regret, etc. That can be a lot to process and it isn't easy."
But it may be possible to mange how you feel by trying the tips listed below, which experts say can be helpful when it comes to getting through your first Valentine's Day after a breakup.
"Giving to others can also be extremely helpful in coping with loneliness and other difficult emotions," Stemen says. So don't hesitate to head out into the world and see what you can do.
"That might entail doing something nice for your loved ones," Stemen says. "Perhaps make them homemade Valentine's and/or delicious treats and leave them on their doorstep. Or volunteer."
Look for local nonprofits that might need your help, such as cooking meals for those in need, walking dogs at a shelter, or helping to pick up litter in a nearby park. "Giving allows us to see and feel the love that is everywhere," Stemen says.
Plan "Self-Care" Activities
If you're worried about how you might handle Valentine's Day, go ahead and treat yourself to something nice — like a massage or a dinner — as a way of turning the attention back towards yourself.
"There is no shame taking yourself on a date," Aaliyah Nurideen, MSW, LSW, a licensed psychiatric social worker and community mental health therapist, tells Bustle. "[...] It is important to treat yourself with kindness, compassion."
Make Plans With A Fellow Single Friend
You could also go all out and have a Galentine's Day celebration if you'd prefer to bring friends along.
"When you decide which friend to plan your friend date with, choose someone who is positive and fun," Dr. Seth Meyers, a licensed clinical psychologist and eharmony’s resident relationship expert, tells Bustle. Celebrate your friendship, the food you're about to enjoy, and talk about all the amazing things you have going on in your lives.
Avoid Social Media
If you're dreading seeing your coupled-up friends' Valentine's Day posts on Instagram or Facebook, take a break from your feed.
"If seeing all that will make you sad or jealous, then tune it out," Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. Focus on your Valentine's Day plans instead.
Celebrate What You Have
One way to feel good about where you're at, instead of rehashing what went wrong with your ex, is to go down the list of all the things you're grateful for right now.
"Even if you don’t have a romantic relationship, you certainly know people who love you," Bennett says. "Spend the day with other loved ones, like family and friends, and enjoy their company. Take the time to let them know what they mean to you."
Besides planning a night out with a friend, you could call your mom, visit a favorite neighbor, hug your dog, or travel to see your cousins. Do whatever would connect you to someone important as a way of reminding yourself of what you have.
If you're particularly worried about the holiday, and how it might make you feel, that's your cue to be as busy as possible. "Do things that make you feel good and are centered on you," Dr. Racine Henry, PhD, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. And fill up your calendar.
When you're busy with your hobbies, seeing friends, visiting family and so on, you won't have time to get weighed down by negativity, or overthinking. So make it a priority, starting right now, to come up with plenty of activities to fill the day.
Take A Last-Minute Trip
If you can, consider booking a trip for Valentine's Day weekend, even if it's just to the next town over. "A change of scenery will help you have a fresh perspective," Henry says. "You can meditate, try new foods, explore another culture, and be in a new setting."
While planning ahead for Valentine's Day can help you get through it — and even enjoy it — make sure you're being honest with yourself about how you're feeling.
"You may feel like you’ve been doing good and then this holiday causes you to back slide," Henry says. "Having an off-day doesn’t mean you aren’t making progress. If you find yourself still in a funk come March, [though] then maybe you need to see a therapist and/or do more to get yourself into a healthier, more positive mental space."
Amanda Stemen, MS, LCSW, psychotherapist and coach
Aaliyah Nurideen, MSW, LSW, licensed psychiatric social worker and community mental health therapist
Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor and dating expert at Double Trust Dating
Dr. Racine Henry, PhD, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist