Aaah, February. Mid Winter. Might still be chilly and snowy. Some people may still be enjoying outdoor activities, others may have had enough of the sometimes gloomy days and inches upon inches of snow.

And right in the middle of February, Valentine’s Day. A Day of Love. A day to celebrate romantic love. A day full of meaning, a day that brings up many emotions. For couples, it can be a Day of Angst related to “How do I find the card that’s just right, the gift that will express my love for my husband/wife, and not upset my spouse!” For those who are single, it can be a Day of Longing, a day that can increase a sense of loneliness. And for others who have lost their spouses, it can be a Day of Remembrance, a warm reminder of time together. A day that brings up many emotions, indeed.

In counseling, we often talk about the power of our thoughts, like the old saying, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” Noticing thoughts is the focus of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

(CBT) where the Thinking/Feeling/Behavior chain is key. Our thoughts influence our feelings (emotions), our feelings can affect our behavior. CBT is much more than “just thinking nice thoughts,” it is about identifying thought “distortions,” thoughts that seem true, but are in fact , not true. Common “distortions” include mind reading, black and white thinking, shoulds, judgment focus, negative filter, jumping to conclusions and catastrophising to name a few. Examples of distorted thoughts include, “Nobody likes me,” “I can’t do it right,” “It’ll be horrible if I make a mistake,” or “I won’t get any Valentines.” With thoughts like these, you can imagine the associated feelings. Thought stopping (stopping the distorted

thought) is followed by thought replacement with a more factual, evidence-based thought can change negative emotions and behaviors to more constructive ones. Thoughts that are more evidence-based also can change our perspectives. So “Nobody likes me,” might become, “I have a close friend and I’d like to have more friends,” or “I’ll never find a good woman/good man,” might become, “dating has been disappointing, but I’m going to continue my search!!”

Holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day can bring up additional stress.

Remembering that this holiday too, is just another day can reduce the pressure of doing the “right” thing according to Society’s messages. If it’s just another day, we can focus on the friendships and relationships that we have and enjoy the different connections we have with others. We don’t have to be different than who we really are on a regular day. Even though you many not have romantic love in your life currently, my guess is that all types of love are around you, whether that be for and from a beloved pet or a grandparent or a dear friend.

Of course, self care is especially important during Holidays or at times of increased stress. On Valentine’s Day, how can you show you love yourself? After all, we do need self love in order to love others. How can you notice what you need and meet your need? For couples, maybe it’s a time to just sit together, no tv, no big fancy dinner in a fancy restaurant, time to just “be” together. For singles, maybe it’s sending flowers to yourself or going on a hike you love. Self care is important because it’s a way to recharge, reflect and refocus on what’s important to you. Give yourself the gift that you want, you might really enjoy it. What do you need this February?

As always, the team at Grace Counseling is here for you and your family as you address the stressors of everyday living and loving as well as the big changes in life. Want to change your thinking, feeling or behaving? Give Grace a call.

Liz Weir, LCSW