Valentine’s Day has traditionally been a time for celebrating romantic love: for giving and receiving chocolates and flowers and teddy bears wearing t-shirts with cheesy slogans. But what if this year it wasn’t about chintzy tokens and stuffed animals declaring their “wuv” for you? Life can be stressful and whether you have (or want) a partner or not, February 14 is the perfect time to show yourself a little love – and boost your mental health.
Here are our top suggestions for looking after your mind this Valentine’s…
Easier said than done, perhaps, but it’s still the best way to give your mind and body a break. Progressive muscle relaxation, where you focus on relaxing each part of your body in turn, is a classic tension-reliever that’s been found to reduce insomnia, headaches, and IBS. You might also want to avoid your inbox, hide from anyone you find stress-inducing, and watch the gentlest British detective series Netflix has to offer.
If you’ve been feeling low, have a recurring issue in your personal relationships, or just feel in need of a mental tune-up, therapy can help. And you can go anytime – you don’t need to be experiencing a crisis (in fact, it might prevent you spiralling into one). If it’s out of your price range right now, try a support group in your area, or consider an online therapist who works via video chat or messaging service.
It’s all too easy to berate ourselves for forgetting birthdays, messing up in meetings, or being a few minutes late for work, but we don’t give ourselves enough credit for making it through most weeks without causing a major international incident. Take the time to sit down, enjoy a hot drink, and write a list of everything you’re proud of (lately or in general). You’re the only one who’ll se it, so be as immodest as you like – then save it as a reminder for next time you’re feeling down.
Sleep deprivation is associated with not only tiredness but increased inflammation and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. It’s also a common cause of grumpiness. If you’re not a morning person, you might never leap out of bed with a spring in your step, but you’re more likely to be in a good mood if you get a good night’s sleep – most adults need at least seven hours.
No one’s suggesting that you step away from the glazed donuts and caramel lattes entirely, especially at this time of year, but sugary foods and drinks will give you a quick mood boost and then a blood sugar crash that could leave you in tears. A healthy meal with a balance of complex carbs, protein, and veg (a roast chicken with sweet potatoes and green beans, for example) will fill you for hours and help to keep your mood in balance.
Talk to a friend
It’s easy to think that looking after your mental health means holing up at home in fuzzy socks and a onesie, and it can mean that, at least for a little while. But at some point, you’re going to need some human contact. And no, texting doesn’t count. Call up a friend for an actual conversation or even better, arrange to talk face-to-face. It gets you out of your own head, reminds you people do care about you and helps you feel part of the world again. Win-win-win.
There’s a proven link between exercise and reduced levels of anxiety and depression, and it doesn’t have to be excessive: your mood can lift after just five minutes of moderate exercise. It also doesn’t have to be expensive: running or walking are easy and free. Plus, they can help you sleep better, give you a way to spend time with friends, and encourage you to relax.