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Singles: Valentine’s Day Doesn’t Have To Be Lonely

February 5, 2009

Does the sight of heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and cuddly teddy bears make you cringe at the idea of spending another Valentine’s Day alone? The over-hyped holiday can be hard on singles, said a behavioral sciences expert at Baylor College of Medicine, but there are plenty of ways to channel negative emotions.

“If people are fairly content not being in a relationship, then they’re not going to be quite as affected by the Valentine’s Day hype, but it can be very difficult for single people who want to be in a relationship,” said Dr. Catherine Romero, assistant professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at BCM.

The first thing singles should do, Romero recommended, is to make sure they’re taking care of themselves by getting enough sleep, staying physically active, eating right and avoiding excessive alcohol use.

“If you’re already not taking care of yourself, you’re going to be a lot more vulnerable to extreme feelings of sadness or loneliness during this time,” she said.

Distraction is also a good strategy, Romero said. Surrounding yourself with friends and family or volunteering, for example, can make you feel good about yourself and take your mind off the Valentine’s Day hype.

“I also think it’s important to do something that sort of celebrates you on Valentine’s Day,” she said. “Treat yourself to something fun ““ a pedicure or something a little indulgent without going way overboard.”

Some of Romero’s other tips for singles on Valentine’s Day include:

-Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if you’re not in a relationship now, you never will be.

-For those who attend a singles event on Valentine’s Day, have fun and keep an open mind, but don’t have the expectation that you must meet somebody. You may be setting yourself up for disappointment.

-Remember that Valentine’s Day does not just celebrate romantic love, but also the love between parents and children, siblings and even friends.

Romero cautioned that the holiday may cause some single people to start thinking about the reasons why they can’t find a relationship or make one work. Valentine’s Day may not be the right time to deal with this, however.

“It will probably be easier and more productive to focus your time on problem solving and identifying reasons why you’re not in a relationship and things that you might need to do to find a healthy relationship when you’re past this period of hype and increased emotion and vulnerability,” she said.

If feelings of loneliness and sadness don’t go away when Valentine’s Day is over, this could signify a deeper depression. Warning signs of depression include changes in sleeping patterns and appetite, trouble concentrating, sad moods that last all day, crying spells and thoughts of death or suicide. If these symptoms or behaviors last for more than two weeks, consult a physician or mental health specialist.

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