Valentine’s Day will look different for many people this year. With the ongoing pandemic, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of another holiday – especially during a period of loneliness.
Dr. Jessica Rohr, a clinical psychologist at Baylor College of Medicine, shares ways to practice self-care and connection this Valentine’s Day in the following Q&A.
Q: What are some self-care tips for Valentine’s Day this year?
A: I think at this point, people are so used to being home that they have already gone through the cycle of increasing self-care, then going back to just trying to get through the days. I would really encourage people to think about ways to make their routines a little special. For instance, if you normally wash your face at night, think about getting a nice face mask, turning on some meditation music and sitting for a little while.
If you’ve gotten into the habit of having the same thing for dinner every night, consider ordering a slightly nicer version of the food you normally get and enjoying it.
I also encourage everybody, single or not, to reconnect with friends. Social support, whether it’s a romantic partner or friendship, is the number one source of resilience. We need to be using it as much as we can. Many people are experiencing what I’ve heard called “Zoom fatigue,” where they are so used to video conferencing all day at work, that they don’t have the slightest interest in calling up friends when they get home.
This year, I’m going to get some cheesy valentine’s cards and mail them to my friends, maybe with a silly picture of myself. That way I know that I’m connecting with them, but I don’t have to look at the screen for another minute.
Q: Why is self-care so important?
A: We all have our own “cups of energy.” Self-care helps to replenish that energy, and if we have nothing in there, we can’t give anything to our kids, partners, work, or pets. Self-care is what fills that cup up.
And we really need to get pickier about what we call self-care. I have recently heard that people are considering self-care to be time to go take a shower by themselves, or time to sit and make the grocery list without being distracted. This is not self-care – this is engaging in normal activities that we need to maintain our hygiene and home. Self-care is time spent especially on something that replenishes you and rejuvenates you.
Q: How can people cope with feeling lonely on Valentine’s Day?
A: Loneliness is common this time of year, and it’s especially amplified by the weight of the pandemic. Remember that dealing with this pandemic is like walking around trying to live your normal life with a backpack full of bricks. It may no longer feel acutely painful, but it’s definitely still exhausting. I have seen Valentine’s Day shifting a bit to mean more about showing love to anybody in your life, not necessarily just romantic partners.
I would take the opportunity to notice the things that you love and admire about yourself, and if you can’t think of any, make that a priority! This isn’t to erase loneliness, just to provide balance to a valid experience.
Q: How can people enjoy Valentine’s Day in a distanced setting?
A: I love the idea of going old school by writing letters or sending cards to friends and family. This has the added benefit of something physical and creative that can be a form of self-care for people. If you are not too burned out on Zoom, I would definitely set up a time with loved ones to have a meal together.
Q: Why is it so important to maintain social interaction?
A: Social support is the number one way of increasing resilience to trauma, depression and general distress. Even with increased comfort with connecting electronically, people are getting burned out on not seeing each other in person. Many aren’t keeping up with friends the way they would like to because they miss in-person interaction so much. This contributes to a sense of loneliness, because a lot of people have social support, but they aren’t activating it or using it.
Social support allows us to normalize our experiences, find humor and ways to differently interpret our experiences, and helps us to feel loved and like we belong. It’s incredibly important to continue working to cultivate it.
Dr. Rohr is an assistant professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor. Learn more about the Baylor Psychiatry Clinic or call 713–798–4857.
-By Homa Shalchi