Do you look forward to a holiday like Valentine’s Day? Or is it yet another reminder of all the things you’d love to do but can’t because of ME/CFS? Living with pain, exhaustion and numerous other ME/CFS symptoms is difficult enough on an average day. But a holiday like Valentine’s Day brings additional pressure to do what is “expected.” It also brings additional frustration and disappointment when you’re not able to live up to those expectations –– whether they’re your expectations or those of your loved one.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The trick is learning to “reframe” your expectations –– of yourself and your Valentine’s Day celebration. Reframing allows you to look at something from a different perspective. Instead of focusing on all the things you won’t be able to do, spend a little time thinking about what you enjoy. Then choose activities you CAN do that will bring you joy. It really is possible to have a good holiday experience despite the limitations of ME/CFS.
For instance, you know your pain level may keep you from dressing up in your fanciest clothes and going out with your sweetheart to a beautiful restaurant for a long, deliciously drawn-out meal. But by changing your expectations and planning something you can do that you know will be enjoyable for both of you, you are setting yourself up for a successful celebration. Rather than being depressed about what you can’t do or pushing yourself to live up to unrealistic expectations, choose something you’re capable of doing that will bring you joy.
14 Valentine’s Day Ideas You Can Enjoy Despite ME/CFS
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Here are 14 ideas for possible Valentine’s Day activities. Choose something from this list, or just use it as inspiration to plan your own special celebration. (Note that the list includes some activities you can do with or without a partner. Even if you don’t have a special love interest in your life right now, you can be your own Valentine and plan an evening of pampering yourself.)
- Get take-out from your favorite restaurant (yes, you can get filet mignon as take-out!) and have a picnic on the bed. Enjoy some wine or whatever your favorite beverage is. Try something fun, like feeding each other, which could lead to other fun activities that I’m sure you can think of on your own.
- If you want to go out to eat, and can enjoy that without too much pain, come back home to warm blankets and watch your favorite romantic movie. Pop some popcorn, and try throwing popcorn into each other’s mouths for some impromptu fun.
- If you don’t have a sweetheart, that’s okay. Spend the day (or evening) snuggled in warm blankets, and have a movie marathon of your own. Treat yourself with some cheese and wine. Invite a friend to enjoy it with you.
- Spending Valentine’s Day without a sweetheart can cause some serious discouragement, so purpose to think of others instead of yourself on this day. Send some e-cards to others that you know who might also be having a hard day. Call a friend you haven’t heard from in a while who may be having a difficult time. Cheering someone else up will go a long way towards cheering you up, too.
- If you have children, hide some Valentine’s treats all over the house for them to find. For added fun, map out a treasure hunt with clues that will lead them to the next goodie. (You can also do this for your sweetheart!)
- Develop a new habit of practicing gratitude. Get a journal and write down things that you’re thankful for. If you keep doing this every day before going to bed, you just might find yourself focusing more on your blessings instead of your pain.
- Write letters to friends for whom you are especially thankful. Include candy hearts as a fun Valentine treat.
- Buy a “Why I Love You” journal (or create your own), and write down your thoughts about why you love your sweetheart. Include pictures of fun memories from your past.
- Develop a self-care plan to practice showing love to yourself. Write down ways you can take care of yourself, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Write down activities that always cheer you up that you can do when you aren’t feeling well. Include things you want to do on an ongoing basis that will contribute to your health.
- Make a self-affirmation jar. Write down positive affirmations on cards that you can pull from the jar when you need encouragement. Examples of things you could write down include:
• Failing doesn’t make me a failure. It just helps me know what doesn’t work so I know what to try next.
• If trials are an opportunity to grow stronger, I am going to be invincible.
• I am worth the time and energy it takes to invest in my health.
• I will not quit even though it is hard. Everything worth doing is hard.
- Take a long, hot bath surrounded by candles. Dim the lights, and play some relaxing music.
- If weather permits, take a walk (or a wheel-chair ride) with your sweetheart and notice the things that bring you joy. Notice the fresh-air smell, beautiful cloud formations, and strong trees that wave at you with each breeze. Bring a picnic basket with wine, fruit and cheese and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
- Watch old seasons of your favorite TV show. Take turns picking episodes with your sweetheart or a good friend.
- Get lost in a book you have wanted to read for a while. If you don’t have one, take a quick trip to the bookstore with your sweetheart. For fun, read to each other as you enjoy some coffee or hot chocolate.
Enjoy your Valentine’s Day as you choose activities that you CAN accomplish and know you will enjoy!
This article, originally published on February 14, 2016, was updated on February 3, 2020.
Laurie Miller is an author wife, mom, registered nurse, and patient with chronic illness. She enjoys spending time with family, reading, and blogging at godlivingwithchronicillness.com. You can also find her at www.facebook.com/godlivinggirls