For many people, Valentine's Day is all about spending time with your significant other, maybe going out for a nice meal, exchanging cards or presents, perhaps even using the romance of the day to propose or marry your loved one! Whatever Valentine's Day is for you, for most it’s about celebrating togetherness and the love that people have for one another. However, for some, Valentine's Day is a stark reminder of their own feelings of loneliness, or lack of connection with others - even if they are in a relationship.
Many of us struggle to live up to what we see on TV or social media, often forgetting that a lot of what we see isn't real. So, we decided to look at some of the negative feelings surrounding Valentine's Day. If you recognise any of the following in yourself then remember, you’re not alone.
Mental Health when you're in a relationship
Just because you’re in a relationship on Valentine's Day doesn't mean that you’re immune to loneliness. It’s often easier when you have someone there to support you, even making your relationship stronger. But, sometimes, poor Mental Health can put a strain on both you and your partner, causing conflict, stress, and a persistent need to outwardly appear happy.
But it’s not just about the person struggling with mental ill-health, we should also spare a thought for their partner. It’s difficult watching the person you love (or like a lot, not everyone has said the big L.O.V.E. to their partner yet) struggling with their mental health, especially if they don’t understand it.
Whether it’s you who suffers with poor mental health, or it’s your partner, it can be very hard. However, it’s important to remember that there are resources and help available to you both.
Loneliness isn't itself a mental health problem but it can be the cause of a lot of mental health problems. Feeling lonely doesn't always mean that you are physically alone, you can have someone around and still not feel connected. Valentine's Day can be a trigger for both kinds of loneliness.
Social media can often be to blame for making people feel lonely. If all you ever see are pictures of happy couples, with their happy smiles, doing happy things in happy places with other happy people, then you can begin to feel that what you have is inadequate.
However, social media can have a positive effect. Many celebrities and other famous people are taking to various platforms to talk about their own mental health and, hopefully, destroy the stigma which still sadly surrounds it.
Mind.org refers to treating loneliness as like treating hunger. Your body tells you that you need food when you are hungry, loneliness is your body telling you that you need more social contact. Not that it's as easy as that, but you might try to make more connections online or go to classes or special interest groups, for example. Volunteering is also a good way of meeting new people, as well as being a rewarding chance to help others!
It’s also important to make sure that you’re getting the right amount of food, sleep and exercise.
If you have tried some of these but you are still feeling lonely, don't be afraid to speak to someone else about it, there are many helplines you can contact. In fact, sometimes it can be easier speaking to someone you don't know.
How we see ourselves and what value we attach to our own worth is what’s called “self-esteem”. Low self-esteem can be defined as a disliking of yourself or belief that others dislike you. It’s not a mental health problem in itself, but it’s closely linked and can lead to mental health problems like anxiety or depression.
Valentine's Day can sometimes bombard us with unrealistic and idealised ideas of what a relationship is and it’s only to be expected that we constantly try to measure ourselves up to this false idea of perfection. As a result, we can end up feeling inadequate - despite our own lives and relationships being perfectly fine.
It's a well known saying that we’re 'too hard on ourselves' and the things that we would say about ourselves we would never say about anyone else. So why do we think that it’s acceptable to say it to ourselves? Or that others are saying it about us?
Low self-esteem might also be caused by other people inflicting negative experiences on us - for example, bullying, discrimination, problems at work, stress, physical/mental health problems, and worries about our appearance. These outside opinions may then affect our internal opinions about ourselves.
Whether you choose to be alone or whether you’re actively seeking a partner, Valentine's Day doesn't always have to be about celebrating a relationship with another person. You can celebrate it with the group of friends that are always there for you, your family who are always by your side, or even by yourself celebrating the point that you’re at in your life. There are many things you can do on Valentine’s Day, you might want to:
- Go out with your partner! Why not?
- Have a cosy night in together
- You could go out with your mates - who knows, you might meet someone?
- You can stay in with friends, or
- You could forget about the whole damn thing and treat it like any other day of your life!
Whatever it is that you choose to do, just know that your mental health should not be ignored and you are not alone. If you need to talk to someone, and you don't feel comfortable doing it with someone you know, there are endless kind and friendly strangers waiting at the end of the phone or sat at a laptop...
What to do
Poor mental health affects 1 in 4 people - so, if you need someone to talk to this Valentine's Day (or any other day for that matter!), then there are lots of options:
- Mind.org offer Elefriends - this is an online support community that is a 'safe place to listen, share and be heard'.
- They also offer different options for if you are seeking help for a mental health problem and a contact page.
- The Samaritans are there through various forms of communication to help you through 'whatever you are going through'.
- Talk to your GP if you have been concerned about your (or someone you know’s) mental health.
- Rethink also offer an information and advice service and online web chats.
- Online Mental Health Awareness Courses