It’s almost that time of year again, and I’m not talking about spring break or tax season. That’s right, Valentine’s Day, the designated day of love, is right around the corner. Whether you feel excitement or sincerely dread the date of February 14th, Valentine’s Day is more than just an event to treat your romantic partner or to indulge in the oversized chocolate hearts at your local grocery store. In fact, what if we reframe the way we view Valentine’s Day? What if I told you that Valentine’s Day could be defined as a time for Self Care? A time to show yourself some extra love this year?
In our society, we are engrained to believe that we need to take care of others before we take care of ourselves. In fact, we tend to feel selfish when we choose to indulge ourselves in activities that bring us pure joy and fulfillment rather than focus on the needs of others. The caveat of this thought process is that we cannot exert more love, service and energy than we actually obtain. If you do not have the capacity to love and care for yourself, then how can you give to those around you? We need to remind ourselves of the importance of practicing self-care, which refers to “activities and practices that we can engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and maintain and enhance our short- and longer-term health and well-being” (University at Buffalo, 2017).
The act of self-care is different for each of us in that what may work for one person, may not work for another person. For example, I have a dear friend that actually feels stressed out by the thought of taking a lavender bubble bath despite the fact that bubble baths are viewed as the quintessential form of self-care. It is important to understand what your form of self-care looks like, and furthermore, what thought, activity or interaction brings you joy. While some of us may have officially mastered this skill of self-care, this not-so-simple act is a work in progress for the rest of us.
Whether you’re single or in a relationship, my encouragement for you this Valentine’s Day is to take the opportunity to step away from stress, slow down, and focus on your mental health by discovering what self-care means to you. This year, celebrate your Valentine’s Day by setting individualized goals for yourself to learn to care for you in order to show care for others. To get started, I have listed five simple steps to start the meaningful journey toward a more positive mental health.
1. Explore: Get to know yourself and brainstorm what brings you joy each day. Inspire yourself to explore new ways of thinking, different activities, and things that challenge you out of your comfort zone.
2. Treat Yourself: Plan at least one day to indulge in your preferred relaxation, plan a fun activity, and pamper yourself.
3. Get active: Did you know that the winter blues is a common struggle? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that affects individual around the same time per year, typically in the winter season. Conquer these blues by connecting with a friend, getting outdoors by going for a walk, or exposing yourself to fresh air and sunlight.
4. Create connection: Small gestures can create valuable impact. Did you know that February 12th-18th is Random Acts of Kindness Week? Try creating connection with those around by participating in a random act of kindness in your local community.
5. Rest: At the end of your busy and exciting day of self-care, make sure to get the sleep that your mind and body deserves. Even if you treat yourself to an extra hour of sleep, you owe it to yourself!
Jennnifer “Diane” Boehm, LPC Intern is a family therapist with CCD’s Family Tree Program which provides family counseling at no cost to families.