Sign up for CNN’s Stress, But Less newsletter. Our six-part mindfulness guide will inform and inspire you to reduce stress while learning how to harness it.
Hold the flowers and the chocolates and the sappy love poems. Forget Valentine’s Day and Galentine’s Day and the pressure to make plans and buy things and give unto others.
This year, celebrate Solotine’s Day on February 15. Ditch the obligations and the loved ones surrounding you 24/7 and practice some much-deserved and likely much-needed self-care. The designation has floated around on social media in dribs and drabs. This year, it’s time to make Solotine’s Day official.
“Self‐care is about making yourself a priority so you can better tackle the challenges that life presents,” said CJ Bathgate, a clinical psychologist at National Jewish Health in Denver, where she specializes in stress management.
“Prioritizing self-care can be tricky when we’re stressed. When it seems like there are a million things to do and not enough time, self-care tends to get put on the back burner,” she said.
Here’s how create the mindset and the time to properly honor yourself during this season of love.
Love the person in the mirror
Solotine’s Day is a chance to turn inward. It’s about embracing solitude and giving permission to love oneself. Solitude, distinct from loneliness, is ameliorative. It can even increase creativity and clarity of thought and have a calming effect, according to multiple studies, including a 2017 study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
“Think about this like a cup of water,” Bathgate said. “If the cup is empty, how can you drink from it? How can you offer water from an empty cup to anyone else? In order to drink or offer the water, you have to find ways to refill your cup. Similarly, you have to invest in your well‐being to be most helpful to yourself and others, especially during busy or stressful times,” she said.
For those who are around others all the time – colleagues, spouses, kids, pets, friends or others – Solotine’s Day is the perfect time to step away from it. Put down the laundry and the dishes, and let go of managing others’ emotions and those mundane daily tasks. Take a break from stressing about everybody else’s needs and wants and focus on just one person – the one in the mirror.
How to love thyself
Those who are typically alone can turn to Solotine’s Day as an opportunity to embrace and celebrate the self, rather than merely going through the motions and routines. Regardless of whether solo living is an everyday reality or just a far-flung fantasy, self-love and care should be a deliberate process, according to Dr. Maria Sophocles, an OB/GYN and medical director of Women’s Healthcare of Princeton, New Jersey.
“Whether the pandemic has brought a lot of solo time into your life or brought you a lack thereof due to quarantine or cooped up with your nuclear family, it is important not just to have alone time but to have valuable and purposeful alone time,” she said.
Purposeful alone time can mean many things. It can start with owning the essence and spirit of Solotine’s Day.
How to put self-care into practice
There is no wrong way to go solo so long as guilt, obligation and self-deprecation are left at the door.
Book a night away at a romantic hotel, and go alone. Or take a mental health day from work when everyone is out of the house and take a luxurious daytime nap, read a fiction book, get an at-home massage, or park it on the couch with streaming services and full control of the remote.
It helps to remember that being alone can make interactions with loved ones better upon returning, so solitude, or embracing the full spirit of Solotine’s Day, isn’t a selfish act.
Manhattan-based transformational coach Nicola Fernandes, who runs a mentorship program that teaches self-love, suggests simple acts like “writing 10 things you love about yourself” or taking a bath or meditating can help you “find happiness and satisfaction within, so that you can be more connected to the people in your life.”
“Self-care can mean a lot of things depending on the person,” said Bathgate, who relayed that the activity matters less than the intended effect. But if you need any guidance, she suggested choosing activities to improve your sleep, how you eat, exercise and hygiene, and asking for help, if needed.
“Self-care is not about perfection or being stress-free,” she said. “It’s about finding a way to refill your cup amidst chaos and prioritizing yourself so you can be your best version when feeling pressed and stressed.”
In a year (or two) in which stress has been a constant – as have the kids and the in-laws and the spouse and the dog – carving out time to practice self-care feels more than a nice-to-have. Solotine’s Day is the ideal time to sprinkle some love on the one person who never gets it from you. You.
Allison Hope is a writer whose work has been featured by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Slate and elsewhere.