The power of Valentine’s Day is undeniable. If you are in a healthy, loving relationship and feel that you and your partner are connecting well, this day can be a wonderful chance to express your love for your partner and affirm your relationship. Research shows that for these couples Valentine’s day can boost feelings of relationship satisfaction and reassurance and help couples to feel closer to each other.
However, we also know that Valentine’s Day can have the opposite effect for everyone else. The research shows that people who are less comfortable expressing their emotions and those with a tendency towards avoidance, do not experience a boost in feelings of relationship satisfaction. The expectation to display your love in an overt and explicit way, can be very hard for some people. It can lead to feelings that there is something wrong with you or that you are letting your partner down.
We also know that if a couple is going through a difficult patch, they can be more likely to break up on Valentine’s Day. The Valentine’s Day rituals can feel insincere and obligatory for couple who have been arguing recently, struggling to connect or managing difficult life events, such as caring for elderly parents or unwell children. The public nature of this day, prominent in most shop windows, social media posts and adverts, means we see idealised examples of other people celebrating love and this can give the false impression that others are more in love than we are. We start to doubt and question ourselves, our partners, our relationships and our love.
That’s before we consider people in unhappy, abusive or controlling relationships. People who are grieving the death of a partner. People struggling with a difficult breakup. People who are isolated from family and friends.
For many people, Valentine’s Day can seem to be more about unrealistic expectation setting than a celebration of love. Whatever your thoughts on Valentine’s Day or your relationship status, we can all benefit from spending some time on loving ourselves.
It is as important to give yourself love and compassion, as it is to give your partner and loved ones. We know that people who are taking care of themselves have more emotional energy to give to others, which means that caring for yourself will also be a way to care for your partner and relationship. We can imagine our emotional energy reserves as a cup of water. If you are able to show yourself compassion and self-care, you will be resourcing yourself and adding to your cup. This in turn will mean you have enough reserves to give support to the people you love; you can’t pour from an empty cup. Self-care makes you a better partner, friend, parent, child and sibling.
7 Tips for Self-Care
1). Give yourself encouragement. What would you say to your best friend if they were in your situation? Imagine how you would support them and try to direct that compassion towards yourself.
2). Check in with yourself. Ask yourself ‘what do I need right now?’. Maybe you need to take a break by yourself for a while, go for a walk and get some fresh air or reach out to a friend for support and reassurance. An important part of self-compassion is listening to your needs and then finding ways to meet them.
3). Forgive yourself for your mistakes. None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes and we all fail. Try to remember and accept this and try not beat yourself up. You are not alone!
4). Unplug. Put your phone on do not disturb, silence notifications, delete social media apps, set time limits to certain apps. Reducing your contact with social media will help you to feel less self-critical and more positive about yourself and your relationships.
5). Take care of your mind and body. Are you sleeping enough? Are you eating well? Are you moving your body? Are you getting some time outside? The basics are important and prioritising these things can have a huge impact on your mood.
6). Use affirmations. Daily affirmations can help us to practice talking to ourselves in a positive way. This will in turn lead to more positive beliefs about who we are and what we can achieve.
7). Try mindfulness. Mindfulness is an important part of self-compassion. Find ways to focus on the present moment. Take a moment to take 5 deep breaths. Focus on your surroundings; what are you seeing, hearing, touching? There are lots of videos on YouTube with guided meditations and apps such as Headspace and Calm can support you with mindfulness exercises.
Love isn’t about one day, it’s about every day. Love doesn’t belong to one set of people or one type of relationship, it is universal and belongs to us all. Whoever you are and however you choose to spend Valentine’s Day, show yourself some love. You deserve it.