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Five tips for the tired heart to make connections this Valentine’s Day

By Dr. Kara Fletcher Posted: February 12, 2021 6:00 a.m.

Valentine’s Day can serve as a painful reminder to many of what they do not have, but Kara Fletcher believes the day can serve as an opportunity to connect and do kind things for others.
Valentine’s Day can serve as a painful reminder to many of what they do not have, but Kara Fletcher believes the day can serve as an opportunity to connect and do kind things for others. Photo: Pixabay

Kara Fletcher is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the Saskatoon campus of the University of Regina, the Director of the Social Policy Research Centre, a registered social worker, and an accredited couples and family therapist. Her research interests include couple and family relationships.

As a therapist, I often hear from clients that they dread Valentine’s Day because it serves as a reminder of what they don’t have, what they’ve lost, what they’re yearning for, or what they have been told they’re supposed to want. Many describe feeling that a holiday devoted to romantic love does not fit their life experiences, goals, or needs as a person. Romantic love is one of many types of love, but too often prioritized over other, equally important love experiences. 

Dr. Kara Fletcher

This year, I am also hearing from clients that they are tired as they continue to navigate the global pandemic in their day-to-day lives. For some this means increased pressures at home with their children learning online, their partner out of work, or the inability to visit their parents or chosen family. Anecdotally, the collective stressors of COVID-19, social isolation, and cold weather, appear to be diminishing resolve and energy.  

This Valentine’s Day I will be thinking of tender hearts everywhere, who may be feeling lonely – missing friends, families, romantic partners, or the possibility of new social connections. COVID-19 has caused a particular increase in social isolation for university students, with stay-at-home orders, the move to virtual learning, and the cessation of many in-person activities. Young adults (age 18-30) are already at increased risk for loneliness, and COVID-19 has exacerbated this risk. Loneliness has also been seen to stress our immune systems.  

With the cumulative risks of loneliness in mind, this Valentine’s Day, I offer five tips for every tired heart to feel a bit more connected:

1. Celebrate love worth celebrating

Ask yourself about what and who you love and put some energy into that. Send your friend a card in the mail, drop off some homemade cookies on your grandma’s porch, or send an email to a co-worker or classmate to let them know you appreciate them. Research has demonstrated that acts of kindness towards others can lower blood pressure and contribute to better overall health. Putting a bit of energy into your appreciation of someone else can help you feel amazing and will boost their morale as well.

2. Connect with your favourite person or pet

Instead of Valentine’s Day reminding you of what you don’t have, let it be an opportunity to connect with those you do have. Set up a WhatApp date with a family member, prepare a fancy meal for your cat, or surprise your roommate with a delicious treat. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but reaching out can help to alleviate loneliness, and make you feel more connected to those you love.

3. Take your love offline

Zoom fatigue is real. If you’re feeling tired of virtual connections, try other ways of expressing your love. Write someone a letter, arrange a socially distanced walk or surprise a friend with a phone call (how early 2000’s of you!) Doing something different can energize you and make the next Zoom meeting (that could have been an email) feel less tiresome. Research demonstrates the importance of disconnecting to better social connections, improve sleep, and enhance mindfulness.

4. Take a risk

If romantic love is what you seek, don’t let old stories of what once was define what will be. While it may feel challenging, people are finding all kinds of creative ways to continue to date and keep the potential for romance alive during the pandemic. Sign up for an online profile on a dating site that aligns with who you are and what you’re looking for. As a friend of mine recently did, set up a virtual date. If it becomes uncomfortable, you can always log off. Alternatively, plan a date where you can easily socially distance but still meet face-to-face. Meeting new people and having new experiences does not have to wait until the pandemic is over.  

5. Self-love is sensual all year long

Ask yourself, what are my love languages? How do I want to be treated? Do you prefer acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, receiving gifts? Show yourself how you want to be loved and appreciated. Small acts of self-love can be radical, gratifying, and empowering. Perhaps you take yourself on a date or invest time in something you care about (e.g., reading a good book, getting outside, cooking meals that you’re excited about, booking a counselling appointment). Putting time and energy into yourself, and your own well-being is a loving gift that keeps on giving.

As COVID-19 continues to restrict our ability to connect with others, why not let Valentine’s Day be an opportunity to nurture your tired heart, and participate in self-love, and love for those near and far. These small acts of relating can be healing and perhaps inspire future connections.  

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