February 14 is a day that’s positively brimming with expectation. The goal is to have a fun, romantic day full of hearts and chocolate. But if things don’t go as planned, you could potentially feel lonely and sad on Valentine’s Day.
Danielle Massi, LMFT, therapist and owner of The Wellness Collective, a lot of Valentine’s Day sadness stems from comparison. “You may find yourself comparing your situation to those around you, or to the picture-perfect couples on social media,” she tells Bustle. Take one look at a cute photo and it might seem like everyone else has a partner and is having fun... except for you.
The holiday also has the potential to drag up hurt feelings, says therapist
Julie Williamson, LPC, NCC, RPT. “ Valentine's Day can be painful for those who have recently lost romantic love in their lives through a breakup,” she tells Bustle. It practically shines a spotlight on those wounds, making them feel worse than other days of the year. Add in the fact that it’s common to feel bad about being single, and it’s easy to see why this holiday is a tough one.
If your day isn’t shaping up to be all chocolate and roses, you may want to turn things around. Here, therapists share what to do on Valentine’s Day if you’re feeling sad.
1 Take Yourself On A Date Hispanolistic/E+/Getty Images
“Be very intentional about engaging in activities that bring you joy,” says
Shawnessa Devonish LCPC, NCC, a licensed clinical professional counselor. If you like reading, stroll through a bookstore. If you love to get fresh air, go for a walk in the park. You could even take yourself to dinner. It may sound strange at first, Devonish says, but you’ll develop an enhanced sense of self-esteem, confidence, and happiness if you do nice things for yourself. 2 Share The Love
Instead of wishing you had a partner, find someone else to spend time with. "This day is a celebration of love and that doesn't always have to be romantic love,”
Dr. Nikki Goldstein, sexologist and author of Single But Dating, tells Bustle. Call your family, hang out with your bestie, or go out and volunteer. “It's a day to celebrate something positive no matter what your relationship status is,” Goldstein says. 3 Get Moving
If you feel stuck or sad, consider moving around to change the energy. “Movement like
yoga or going for a walk can help calm your body when it is overwhelmed by emotion,” says therapist Jessica McCoy, LMFT. While you can do this alone, consider asking a friend to join in. McCoy says it’s good to seek a healthy, positive connection when you’re feeling sad. 4 Name What You’re Feeling
It’s OK to be sad. But if you want to move past it, try naming how you feel. “When we acknowledge our pain, we are in a mindful place to care for it,” says Williamson. “All humans experience pain, loneliness, loss, etc. Acknowledging our pain reminds us that we are not alone.”
Naming your pain sets you up to cope with it, too. “By saying ‘I feel sad’ you can begin the process of meeting your emotional needs,” says McCoy. Tune into what might make you feel better, then seek it out. Would it help to call a friend? Take a nap? Go on that walk? Do exactly what you need to do.
5 Develop New Traditions VioletaStoimenova/E+/Getty Images
If you used to go out for Valentine’s Day but are single this year, don’t fret — just come up with a new tradition.
Dr. Dawn Michael, a clinical sexologist and relationship expert, suggests spending the day with a friend to help keep your mind off things. Or you might even want to celebrate Galentine’s Day, Parks & Rec style. This is a day meant to celebrate friendships, so plan to do something fun with your pals on Feb. 13. 6 Host A Zoom Meet-Up
If you can’t meet up with friends in person, consider creating an
event on Zoom. “Host a Zoom paint and sip, share laughs, and enjoy the evening,” suggests therapist Kasey Scharnett King, LMFT. Or log on and watch a movie together. Again, that companionship will help you feel better. 7 Aim For A Positive Mental Attitude whitebalance.oatt/E+/Getty Images
If you’re feeling bad, try
replacing the negative tape that’s rolling in your head with words that feel a little more positive. “Mantras can be so useful when coping with stress that seems extreme,” Marni Amsellem, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. “Whether your mantra focuses on hope, acceptance, or another positive feeling, don't underestimate the power of words that we tell ourselves." 8 Jot Down A List Of Plus Sides
If you make a point of writing down the positive things going on in your life, it may help to shift how you view the importance of the holiday — and maybe even dating right now in general. “Try to have a little perspective about relationships and how large they should loom in your life,” says relationship therapist
Aimee Hartstein, LCSW. Lots of people enjoy being single, so remind yourself of all it has to offer. 9 Avoid Social Media yulkapopkova/E+/Getty Images
If you’re feeling sad, the last thing you want to do is scroll through photos of happy couples on social media. “When we see others who have something that we feel we don't, our brains immediately start to go into overdrive, releasing chemicals that actually make us feel down and depressed,” Massi says. “By skipping social media, your brain won't be exposed to the triggers that would normally set it off, which will keep you feeling calm and neutral.”
10 Set Boundaries
If it would hurt to hear about your sister’s perfect date or roommate’s amazing new partner, let them know. “Tell them all that you would prefer not to hear about anything Valentine's Day-related this year, and that you trust them to
respect your boundaries,” Massi says. Doing so will spare you from engaging in painful comparison. 11 Keep Some Perspective Maca and Naca/E+/Getty Images
“Remember that your coupled friends aren't necessarily having the time of their lives either,” Hartstein says. “Valentine's Day carries very high expectations for everyone and unrealistic expectations often bring disappointment." It’s also only one day of the year, so “don’t let society make you feel like you have to be in love,” King adds.
12 Call A Therapist
If your sadness can’t be fixed by taking yourself to dinner or buying a bunch of flowers, consider calling a
therapist for a little extra support. They’ll help you investigate your tough emotions and come up with coping skills, Williamson says. 13 Ignore It!
When all else fails, go about your day just like you would any other, says licensed clinical social worker
Kimberly Perlin, LCSW-C. Go to work, hit the gym, watch your favorite show — or whatever else you might do on a typical Monday night. Before you know it, Valentine’s Day will be over. Experts: Danielle Massi, LMFT, therapist Julie Williamson, LPC, NCC, RPT, therapist Shawnessa Devonish LCPC, NCC, licensed clinical professional counselor Dr. Nikki Goldstein, sexologist and author of Single But Dating Jessica McCoy, LMFT, therapist Dr. Dawn Michael, clinical sexologist and relationship expert Kasey Scharnett King, LMFT, therapist Marni Amsellem, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, relationship therapist Kimberly Perlin, LCSW-C, licensed clinical social worker
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This article was originally published on
Feb. 14, 2017