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No valentine? No problem. How to combat loneliness and practice self-love


With Valentine's Day around the corner, many are excited to bask in the chocolates, flowers and romance of the holiday. But that's not the reality for everyone.

According to Katie Yesis, supervisor of community support at UnityPoint Health-UnityPlace and a licensed clinical professional counselor, the holiday can be triggering for people who may not have a romantic relationship in their lives.

“I think really Valentine's Day is triggering for people because of the way it's presented in the media, the way it's presented when you go to the grocery store, and you see all the hearts and the love and romance and and that's what it's supposed to mean…it just seems to be a very romanticized holiday,” Yesis explained.

While it can be easy to feel isolated during the holiday that makes it seem like everyone else has a special someone, Yesis assures that many people feel very lonely during this time, even if they do perhaps have many loved ones and friends around them.

“Individuals, when they start to feel like I have lots of people around me, but they don't understand me. Or, I don't really feel connected to people even though there's lots of people in the room with me. That can make me feel isolated. It can make me feel misunderstood. It can make me feel very lonely,” said Yesis.

Being able to understand yourself better and why these connections aren’t being made is one step toward alleviating some of these feelings, said Yesis. And if you do have someone in your life who is making an attempt to be there for you, she said verbalizing some of these needs is key.

 Katie Yesis is a licensed counselor and supervisor of community support at UnityPoint Health -- UnityPlace
Jody Holtz
Katie Yesis is a licensed counselor and supervisor of community support at UnityPoint Health -- UnityPlace

“This is what I'm needing to feel important or to feel loved and to feel valued in a relationship, whether it's friendship or romantic,” she said.

Regardless of the reason you’re feeling a bit lonely on Valentine’s Day, Yesis noted there are a few things that can help. Focusing on your friendships and planning a day out with your best friend, making a dinner date with someone who might be in the same boat as you, and reaching out and talking about how you’re feeling with a loved one are all places to start.

“I like to think of it more as what's the most important relationship in our lives other than ourselves, you know, and really try to focus more on how can I help myself feel a little bit better instead of a significant other? What are friendships that I have? What are family members that might also be in the same boat as me if I'm single,” Yesis said.

And if you’re struggling to pinpoint people that you could potentially spend some time with on Feb. 14, perhaps it’s time to shift your focus inward.

“Self-love is something that's incredibly important,” said Yesis. “It's important to the way we view ourselves, it's important to the way we allow other people to view us. A lot of it has to do with the thoughts we have about ourselves. And Valentine's Day, I think triggers some of the negative thoughts, especially if you're not in a relationship of…why am I not good enough? Why does this person not love me? And it's very, very easy to go down that rabbit hole.”

So how do you practice self-love? Yesis said it’s all about the scripts inside of our heads, and reflecting on what you do have instead of what you don’t.

“What are some good things that are going on right now? Maybe you've had a really good vacation with a friend over the weekend, maybe you have met somebody that you're really building a new friendship with,” Yesis suggested. “So really being able to change the way we're thinking, change the way we're talking to ourselves can make a big impact on how we feel. Just making adjustments to that script every day telling yourself positive things, instead of the negatives.”

She added treating yourself to that massage or spa day or something else that you've wanted for a while is another way to practice self-love and celebrate yourself.

And if you really still can’t shake those negative feelings, Yesis said to remember that one day or holiday doesn’t define a person.

“I think it's important to just be nice to yourself, and give yourself some grace and some credit for the things that you are capable of doing,” said Yesis. “Anyone is capable of being successful and being happy. Sometimes, it takes a little extra work for others. But it's absolutely doable for anyone.”

For information on mental health resources offered at UnityPoint Health-UnityPlace, visit their website.

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Jody Holtz is WCBU's assistant program director, host of WCBU's newsmagazine All Things Peoria and producer of WCBU’s arts and culture podcast Out and About.