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Is Valentine’s Day Toxic and Hazardous for Your Mental Health?

Updated: Mar 27

Chicago therapist’s advice on how to survive Valentine's Day and stay positive. 

Many mental health professionals, including our Chicago therapist Todd Nelson agree that Valentine's Day may be troublesome for some people's wellbeing irrespective of whether they are single or not. 

The scope of Valentine's Day, an annual celebration on February 14th honoring the Christian martyr Saint Valentine, continues to expand each year. In fact, the tradition of celebrating love has transcended a single day, now encompassing an entire week known for its series of events including Rose Day, Propose Day, Hug Day, and Kiss Day leading up to Valentine's Day, all marked with significant enthusiasm. However, the heightened emphasis on Valentine's Day festivities may inadvertently impact individuals' mental well-being. Those in relationships may feel pressured to indulge in lavish gifts and extravagant gestures, while individuals who are single might experience feelings of incompleteness without a romantic partner. Consequently, the day can become emotionally challenging for many, highlighting the potential negative effects on mental health.

Certain individuals draw parallels between their relationships and the enchanting narratives portrayed in Hollywood films, while others find themselves overwhelmed by the pressures stemming from targeted advertisements and societal expectations. Moreover, the detrimental impact of idealized depictions on social media cannot be overlooked. Traditionally, Valentine's Day advertising has predominantly targeted people in relationships, portraying the holiday as an occasion where they are expected to go above and beyond to purchase extravagant gifts, typically for their mates. This dynamic fosters an imbalance of emotional stress, disproportionately affecting individuals. Whereas others face the message from the media that it’s almost like their life is incomplete without a partner.

Why is Valentine's Day toxic?

  • Valentine’s Day Lies About Love

  • High cultural pressure to impress your mate and Skewed Notions of Love on Valentine’s Day

  • Commodification of Love

Valentine’s Day gift-giving - Festival of love and gratification or a significant pressure for shopping?

The cultural pressure to celebrate and impress one's partner on Valentine's Day, popularized in the United States and now permeating global communities is undeniably tangible due to commercial reinforcement. Specifically, Valentine's Day intensifies the societal expectation of being coupled up (or at least having a date – singledom is discouraged!), splurging on expensive gifts, and demonstrating unwavering affection in romantic ways. According to studies conducted on singles, 51 percent felt pressured to be romantic, 43 percent to be in a relationship, 42 percent to go on a date, and 41 percent to view the holiday as significant. Moreover, 43 percent of respondents perceived it as the most pressure-filled holiday, with one-in-five expressing a wish for its cancellation altogether. These cultural messages significantly influence behavior, as evidenced by research conducted in 2022 indicating a staggering $23.9 billion spent on Valentine's Day gifts in the United States, with candy, greeting cards, and flowers ranking as the most popular items. Furthermore, there is a pervasive encouragement to convey highly idealized notions of love to our partners.

Cultural pressure often leads us to make overly idealized, untrue statements expressing our love to our mates.

The cultural pressure of Valentine's Day frequently prompts individuals to make overly idealized and sometimes untrue declarations of love to their partners. These exaggerated statements may include promises of eternal devotion, grand gestures of affection, or unrealistic portrayals of the relationship. Introducing such false statements into our everyday lives can be challenging because they create a stark contrast with the realities of our relationships. Maintaining these idealized notions requires continuous effort and can lead to feelings of inadequacy or disappointment when reality inevitably falls short. Moreover, making overly idealized statements and promises can be hazardous for relationships as they set unrealistic expectations and may foster a sense of distrust if they are not fulfilled. When the exaggerated expressions of love fail to align with actions or behaviors, it can erode trust and undermine the foundation of the relationship, ultimately leading to disillusionment and dissatisfaction. Therefore, it is essential to cultivate authenticity and honesty in expressions of love to foster healthy and sustainable relationships.

Valentine’s Day Blues - Chicago Therapist emphasizes the key causes of sadness, feeling of loneliness and emotional distress due to Valentine’s Day.

"Valentine’s Day Blues" encapsulates a range of adverse emotions such as sadness, loneliness, or anxiety that certain individuals encounter in connection with Valentine’s Day, a holiday conventionally devoted to commemorating love and romantic partnerships. A study conducted by psychologists affirmed that these "blues" constitute a genuine psychological phenomenon, representing a form of situational depression manifesting in the weeks following February 14th. Moreover, these sentiments can be triggered in anticipation of the holiday itself. The study delineates three primary reasons why Valentine’s Day proves to be a challenging occasion for numerous individuals.

  1. Increased feeling of loneliness 

As per a study conducted by psychiatrists, loneliness poses a serious threat to health and can be even fatal. Particularly during a holiday centered on love and connection, the absence of a romantic partner may exacerbate feelings of isolation. Social isolation and a dearth of social support markedly affect mental health and overall well-being. Furthermore, studies suggest that individuals who are single may endure heightened levels of loneliness compared to those in relationships. Additionally, individuals may experience feelings of loneliness even within romantic relationships or following a recent breakup, with Valentine’s Day serving as a poignant reminder of these sentiments.

  1. Comparison to others

Studies indicate that comparing oneself to others on social media correlates with feelings of social anxiety. Particularly around Valentine’s Day, individuals are bombarded with images and narratives portraying seemingly flawless romantic relationships online. This inundation with curated displays of love can trigger feelings of envy and a sense of being "forever alone," especially for those who are single or facing relationship difficulties.

The idealized portrayal of romance, whether on social media or in real life, often results in diminished self-esteem and a negative self-perception. Individuals may assess their worth based on their relationship status or the perceived success of their romantic endeavors. Recognizing that these social comparisons fail to accurately depict the complexities of real relationships is vital in breaking free from this cycle of negativity.

  1. Commodification of Love

The commodification of love poses a significant hazard to our mental wellbeing on Valentine's Day by perpetuating unrealistic standards and expectations. In this consumer-driven celebration, love becomes reduced to material exchanges, extravagant gestures, and superficial displays of affection, often equated with monetary value. This commercialization fosters feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness among individuals who may not be able to participate in such extravagant displays or receive them in return. Moreover, it reinforces the notion that one's value and worth are contingent upon their ability to conform to these commercialized ideals of love, leading to heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and diminished self-esteem. As individuals compare their own experiences to the idealized portrayals presented by media and advertising, feelings of loneliness, disappointment, and self-doubt can intensify, exacerbating existing mental health issues and contributing to a sense of alienation. Thus, the commodification of love on Valentine's Day not only distorts the true essence of love but also poses a significant threat to our mental health and overall wellbeing.

  1. Exacerbated fear of singlehood - Because you are never more aware you’re single than this time of a year

During the period of Valentine's Day, the exacerbated fear of singlehood is amplified as societal pressure to be in a romantic relationship intensifies. This pressure is fueled by pervasive cultural narratives that equate happiness and fulfillment with being part of a couple, particularly during this holiday dedicated to celebrating romantic love. As a result, individuals who are single may experience heightened feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and self-doubt, as they internalize the belief that their worth and happiness are contingent upon being in a romantic partnership. The constant bombardment of images and messages portraying idealized romantic relationships during this time can exacerbate these feelings, leading to increased anxiety, depression, and diminished self-esteem among single individuals. Moreover, the fear of being judged or stigmatized for being single can further compound these negative emotions, creating a cycle of distress and dissatisfaction. In essence, the exacerbated fear of singlehood during Valentine's Day threatens our mental wellbeing by magnifying feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, and self-doubt, while reinforcing societal norms that prioritize romantic relationships as the primary source of fulfillment and happiness.

How to Take Stress and Pressure out of Your Valentine’s Day 2024 and Fight the Valentine’s Day Blues?

Here are several strategies to navigate through the emotional challenges often associated with Valentine’s Day blues:

  • Practice self-compassion: Show yourself kindness and understanding during difficult times, enhancing your mental well-being. Adopt compassionate self-talk and replace unrealistic or overly negative thoughts about your love life with more balanced and constructive perspectives. Prioritize self-care activities that bring joy and relaxation, such as mindfulness practices to manage stress and anxiety. Take time to reflect on and appreciate the positive aspects of your life, relationships, and personal achievements.

  • Strengthen social connections: Cultivate strong social support networks, which are closely linked to better mental health. Plan social activities that focus on shared interests and positive interactions to reinforce a sense of belonging. For example, organizing a "Galentine's celebration" emphasizes important social connections in your life and transforms Valentine’s Day into a celebration of familial and platonic love. Research also indicates that single individuals excel at maintaining social connections.

  • Perform acts of kindness: Engage in acts of kindness and altruism, which are associated with enhanced well-being. Consider volunteering or performing random acts of kindness to shift the focus from personal concerns to positively impacting others’ lives.

  • Plan ahead: If Valentine’s Day tends to trigger negative emotions, prepare activities or distractions in advance. Whether it’s a movie night with friends, a solo adventure, or a creative project, having a plan can help alleviate the anticipation of negative feelings.

  • Seek professional support: If Valentine’s Day blues become overwhelming or persistent, consider seeking support from a Chicago therapist. Dedicated and experienced therapists can provide valuable guidance and assistance in navigating through challenging emotions.

Valentine’s Day blues, although common, can be managed with proactive steps and self-awareness. By recognizing and understanding the psychological factors involved, individuals can effectively cope with the emotional intensity of this holiday. Our Chicago therapist can provide valuable support and guidance in this challenging period. 

How to stay healthy and positive on Valentine’s Day when you are in a relationship?

Honestly communicating is key to establishing trustworthy relationships and fighting unrealistic cultural ideals.

Valentine’s Day perpetuates deeply unrealistic messages about romantic love, fostering significant pressure to present oneself as flawless, make sweeping promises for the future, and assert that one's partner is unequivocally the most significant person in their life. Instead of succumbing to these unrealistic expectations, it's crucial to express love to your partner this year with a focus on honest communication. Embracing honesty in our expressions of love not only contributes to a more authentic understanding of romantic relationships within our cultural community but also enhances trustworthiness over time. By refraining from spreading overly idealized messages about love, we can foster healthier and more genuine connections with our partners. Moreover, express your feelings in your own way, practice your own love language. Do not succumb to the social p[ressure of shopping on Valentine’s Day. Ask yourself and your mate about what you truly desire and want from yourselves. If you still have trouble communicating in a relationship, you may take advantage of Valentine’s Day to consider the idea of couple therapy. Couple therapy serves as a valuable resource for couples grappling with social pressure, commitment fears, anxiety, insecurity, and the looming threat of a breakup. It provides a safe and supportive environment where partners can openly express their concerns, fears, and uncertainties without judgment. Through structured sessions led by a skilled Chicago therapist, couples can explore the root causes of their individual and relational challenges, gaining insights into their behaviors, communication patterns, and emotional needs. Chicago therapists equipped with evidence-based techniques can facilitate constructive dialogue, foster empathy and understanding between partners, and teach practical coping strategies to manage stressors and conflicts. By addressing underlying issues collaboratively, couples can strengthen their bond, rebuild trust, and develop healthier relationship dynamics. Importantly, therapists serve as impartial guides, offering guidance and support during difficult moments and providing tools to navigate through doubts and uncertainties, ultimately empowering couples to foster resilience and cultivate a more fulfilling and enduring partnership.

6 Alternative Holidays to Valentine’s Day - Celebrate Powerful Holidays Good for Your Mental Health!

There are a lot of holidays for causes associated with love, friendship, kindness and positive enforcement that are not linked with spending unnecessarily money or social pressure. Considere celebrating those powerful and innocent observances instead of adding yourself to unnecessary stress and overwhelming pressure associated with Valentine’s Day. 

  1. International Day of Friendship: Observed on July 30th, this day highlights the importance of friendship in promoting peace and understanding among individuals and communities worldwide.

  2. Random Acts of Kindness Day: Celebrated on February 17th, this day encourages people to spread love and positivity by performing small acts of kindness for others, such as complimenting strangers or volunteering.

  3. National Hug Day: Held on January 21st, this day encourages people to embrace the healing power of hugs and to share warmth and affection with loved ones and strangers alike.

  4. World Kindness Day: Observed on November 13th, this day promotes kindness and compassion towards others, inspiring individuals to make a positive difference in the lives of those around them.

  5. National Compliment Day: Celebrated on January 24th, this day encourages people to uplift and affirm others by offering sincere compliments and expressions of appreciation.

  6. Love Your Pet Day: Held on February 20th, this day encourages pet owners to show extra love and care to their furry companions, recognizing the joy and companionship they bring into our lives.

Do you want to track more powerful positive awareness days and events associated with mental health? Take a look at our comprehensive list of Mental Health-themed awareness events 2024 in a previous article on our blog!

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