While loved up couples are sipping on champers and feeding each other choc-covered strawberries, come Valentine’s Day, even the most empowered single females among us may understandably feel a little left out. So how can we best avoid the V-Day blues?
If you are flying solo, you’re certainly not alone. Turns out, the number of people living on their own is on the rise in Oz, with lone person households projected to make up a whopping 30.2 per cent of all households by 2026, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Despite this stat, February 14 can still be a tough time for some.
‘Valentine’s Day can amplify thoughts and feelings we may already be experiencing, such as loneliness, inadequacy, grief, loss and memories of heartbreak,’ explains STRONG Australia Psychologist Sarah McMahon.
Medical Doctor and Psychiatry Resident Dr Kieran Kennedy agrees, noting that Valentine’s Day can be a reminder that you haven’t found that special someone to share your life with, or that you’re feeling less than loved up in your current relationship.
Many women – particularly those of a certain age – feel societal pressures to have settled down, and be living the ‘Australian dream’ complete with the doting husband and 2.5 kids. But that’s simply not a reality for many.
‘Anxious thoughts about if and when you’ll find someone and why you’re ‘still single’ surface, particularly when messages around love and relationships are highly idealised through clever marketing and social undercurrents during this time,’ says Dr Kennedy.
‘You might find yourself questioning and critiquing parts of yourself and feeling responsible for not having a special someone in your life. Feeling low, lonely, anxious, and even embarrassed, can really intensify around Valentine’s Day.
Surveys show that fears and anxieties around finding a partner, keeping a partner, or issues that arise from romantic relationships, form one of the largest triggers for people’s struggles with mental health.’
So what can you do to feel the love?
Our experts provide their top tips for avoiding the V-Day tears:
1. Focus on what you do have: A lot of the angst around being single is a result of your thoughts being centred around what you don’t have, says Dr Kennedy. Focus your mind around who you are and what you have – including career, friends and family.
2. Pay close attention to your thoughts: ‘Anxiety will stem from overly self-critical and untrue ‘automatic’ thoughts. Call these thoughts out,’ says Dr Kennedy.
‘Being single isn’t a reflection of you or your worth. The reason why your last relationship didn’t work out isn’t because of something that you’re lacking. And there’s zero truth to that niggling thought that because you’re not with someone on Valentine’s Day, you’ll be alone forever.’
3. Treat yourself: McMahon suggests giving yourself a gift. That might mean a trip to the day spa, or it might be about acknowledging and owning the pain you’re feeling, accepting these feelings and working through them.
Self-care strategies are also important, reminds Dr Kennedy. Make time to exercise, get your eight hours of snooze time and maintain social connections. Plan a date night with the girls, for example.
4. Do simple breathing exercises: Remain still, slow your breath and focus on the feeling of each breath moving in, then out through your nose or lips. This will help you feel more relaxed and calm.
5. Talk to someone: Don’t suffer in silence if you’re feeling anxious. Sharing your fears and worries with someone close to you can help diffuse the feelings.
6. Practise gratitude: Keep a diary and regularly jot down the things you’re thankful for and the reasons you feel proud of yourself (successfully cooked a delicious roast without burning the chicken to a crisp – tick).
Final words of advice
Research closely links the pressures women feel to be in a relationship with mental wellbeing. But we’re much harder on ourselves than we should be, according to science. Studies show that most of our self-critical thoughts and questions about our self worth are far removed from reality, says Dr Kennedy.
‘Remind yourself that your worth and your happiness doesn’t stem from the person you’re dating (or not dating). Being single offers no bearing on you or your worth,’ he says.