by Karen Cassiday, PhD

What comes to your mind when you think of Valentine’s Day? If you suffer from anxiety and worry, then there is a good chance that you are concerned about being disappointed or about disappointing someone. If you do not have a romantic partner then your anxiety might be focusing your worry on never having a partner or never finding a great love. If you are depressed, then you might be experiencing more cynical thoughts about the commercialization of the holiday, the futility of romantic relationships or your own unworthiness for a fulfilling romance. No wonder so many people who share your suffering come into their therapist’s office dreading Valentine’s Day.

You do have a choice, however, to do things that overcome the unhelpful ideas generated by your anxiety or depression.  You can do things today that help to build joy, love and worthiness that make Valentine’s Day what it was meant to be, a holiday that celebrates love.  Here are some hot tips that will help you redeem this day.

1. Set helpful expectations. If you are in a romantic relationship, then you need to accept that both you and your partner are flawed human beings who cannot possibly create a perfect day of celebration just because it is Valentine’s Day. Our Western culture myth of two people who perfectly understand each other without having to be told what to do and who perfectly support one another at all times without generating conflict is unattainable. When you accidentally believe in a false ideal and compare yourself to this false ideal then your relationship will always come up as a failure. Instead, think of creating a time to be yourselves with each other, your way.  Talk to each other about what you think would feel special. You might also need to celebrate at a more convenient time when work or school schedules are more convenient.

2. If you are single, do something that expresses love and appreciation for yourself. You know about Friendsgiving, the dinner you hold after Thanksgiving with your close friends. Why not do the same for Valentine’s Day? Set up a meal with a close friend, or a video conference dine and chat?  Do something indulgent and that shows the love that you wish to receive from others.  Mentally healthy people do not wait for others to give them compassion, gratitude or pleasant experiences. They realize that they can do this for themselves.  

3. If you feel particularly lonely or unloved, take the time to write down a list of the people who have loved you in your life and have shown you care and compassion.  Focus upon your gratitude for their influence on your life. This could be a past teacher, coach, tutor, aunt, grandparent, therapist or friend. This will remind you that you are indeed connected to the human community.

4. If you are having conflict with your romantic partner, write a letter of gratitude to them. This will help you refocus upon what brought you together in the first place. Couples with successful relationships focus upon the good things in each other and they tell their partner’s about these things.

5. If you are alone, write yourself a letter of gratitude about your ability to persevere, to give to others, to be a good friend or a good worker. Give yourself the words of affirmation that you need to hear. If you are brave enough, call a friend and ask them to tell you what they like and admire about you. Dare to listen to their words and write them down so you can savor them.

6. If you and your partner are feeling burned out from life, then download the list of questions from Greater Good In Action and use these to have a conversation so you can break out of the rut of talking about work, children or other stressors. I guarantee that this will be fun and bring you closer. Here is a hot tip for singles-these are great questions to ask on dates and with your friends too!

About the Author

Karen Cassiday headshot (2)_0.jpgKaren Cassiday, PhD, ADAA's past board president. Dr. Cassiday is the Clinical Director and Owner, The Anxiety Treatment Center, Deerfield & Chicago, Illinois and
Clinical Assistant Professor, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Sciences. Dr. Cassiday’s areas of interest are anxiety disorders in children and teens, social anxiety disorder, treatment-refractory OCD, and working with children and teens who suffer from both developmental concerns and anxiety disorders. Her research has focused on information processing in posttraumatic stress disorder and cognitive-behavioral treatment of anxiety disorders in children, teens, and adults.