When you remove the corporate and social pressures of Valentine’s Day, the core idea is lovely: It’s a day to celebrate the romantic and/or platonic love in your life. But if you’re struggling with feelings of depression or grief on Valentine’s Day, that core idea may be extremely painful.
Your feelings may not even be directly related to Valentine’s Day – maybe you feel lost and alone after a relationship ended, maybe you’re grieving the loss of a partner – and the increased focus on love and relationships makes you feel alienated and sad. While Valentine’s Day isn’t as big as other holidays, it doesn’t make your pain any less real. The good news is there are some excellent self-management techniques that can help you cope and focus on overall happiness.
(As an aside, if you feel stressed about keeping up with the Joneses on V-Day, some of the tips in this post about holiday stress management might be helpful.)
Tips to Manage Depression and Grief on Valentine’s Day and Beyond
Positive psychology is a research-based field of study that focuses on positive thinking and using your strengths, which in turn increases your life satisfaction. These methods can help manage depression and grief on Valentine’s Day or just help you feel better in general any day of the year.
The Free Three
There are three simple things you can do on a daily basis to will improve your spirits and decrease stress.
- Go outside: Get out in nature for at least 15 minutes every day.
- Laughter: Find something that gives you a big belly laugh – watch a funny movie or Youtube video, call a hilarious friend.
- Listen to music: We’d recommend something upbeat but listen to whatever you’re in to, whatever moves you (figuratively or literally) even for just one song.
Three Good Things
Every day at the same time of day, sit down and write out three good things that happened to you that day. Commit to doing it for 30 days and commit to not repeating yourself. This will be tough especially if you’re grieving or feeling depressed, but research consistently shows that expressing gratitude leads to greater happiness. In the first few days, you’ll find list the more obvious things to be grateful for (i.e., I’m grateful to have somewhere to live). But as the days go on, you’ll have to drill down further into your life and start to see positivity where you couldn’t see it before (e.g., I thought I wouldn’t have anyone to talk to today, but I called a friend and had a really nice conversation).
You are not alone in feeling grief and depression on Valentine’s Day or any other day of the year. Find someone to talk to, whether it’s a friend, a therapist, or a support group. Get your thoughts out of your head – you will not get better keeping your thoughts inside.
Make a Plan to Spend the Day
Maybe you want to treat Valentine’s Day like any other day. You don’t have to celebrate it, and it’s an easier holiday to ignore than others. Maybe you want to celebrate friendships instead of romantic love. Planning out how you want to spend the day will help on two fronts: preventing the urge to self-isolate and managing triggers that may worsen your pain.
In Youturn Health’s Mental Health – Depression course, Chief Clinical Officer Richard Jones notes that the most important self-management technique to combat depression is a daily assignment to go outside: make yourself go somewhere, see someone, call someone, re-engage with your friend group, go exercise, or something else that gets out and around people. “You fight hard against the desire to isolate because the isolation actually drives the depression,” says Jones.
Further, developing preventative coping skills helps you prepare for triggers that may bring up painful thoughts and emotions. They help recondition your thinking in a more positive direction, so you’re better prepared to manage a trigger when it happens. For Valentine’s Day, make a list of things that may trigger your depression or grief and plan how to manage them. For example, if love songs are a trigger, make a playlist of songs that make you happy and listen to that instead of the radio or playlist curated by a streaming service.
Find Meaning and Purpose After Loss
“When someone loses a person that they love, how do you hold on to what they’ve given you but continue to move forward?” Lucy Henry, VP of Stakeholder Relations at First Sun, asks this in the Youturn Health Grief course. She explains that finding meaning and purpose in the life and experiences of the person you’ve lost may help you deal with the grief. You have to feel what you’re feeling, but it may help ease your grief to honor the person who died.
Life is different after the loss of a loved one, but it’s still a life worth living. Henry suggests coping methods like:
- Journaling or writing letters to that loved one to have a way to continue to talk to them.
- Self-expression like art, music, or creating something.
- Doing something that you used to do together and finding joy in those experiences.
- Finding joy in the little things in life.
Look at your own strengths and values and how you are living those out. What did the person you lost give you, and how are you living that out? If the person who died was generous, how can you spend Valentine’s Day being generous in their honor?
Supporting Someone with Depression or Grief on Valentine’s Day
If you know someone struggling this Valentine’s Day, the simplest thing to do is be there for them. Listen to them if they need someone to talk to, help them plan the day if they need a distraction. You don’t have to have all of the answers, just listen without judgement. If you feel it’s an emergency or crisis situation, call/text 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Prevention Hotline or dial 911.
For more on grief, please visit our Grief and Trauma resource page.