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Whether you’re single, distance dating, or living with your partner in quarantine, experts say there are several ways you can shake up expectations and safely celebrate the holiday of love. Oscar Wong/Getty Images
  • Valentine’s Day may look different during COVID-19.
  • There are still ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day safely despite the pandemic.
  • Decorating your space or taking a walk are festive ways to honor the day.

Chocolates, flowers, dinner, and dancing bring about memories of Valentine’s Days from the past.

But this year, the day of love may look different.

“Couples and singles are generally feeling overwhelmed, so V-day seems to be the farthest thing from their minds in many cases,” Jess O’Reilly, PhD, host of the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast, told Healthline.

The stress of online fatigue, work, unemployment, managing homeschoolers, fear of getting sick, and more can do more than keep romance at a great distance.

Prolonged stress can also take a toll on your mental and physical health.

“If prolonged, chronic stress can impair communication between the immune system and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal access, which can adversely affect mood, mental health, energy levels (as well as metabolism),” said O’Reilly.

“This wear on our bodies affects our moods and relationships. This doesn’t mean that relationships are suffering, but we may not be as focused on romance or sex, the themes we tend to associate with V-day.”

In addition, restrictions on indoor dining and other forms of entertainment can make the holiday challenging.

Still, Lawrence Lovell, mental health counselor and founder of Breakthrough Solutions, says there’s good reason to celebrate.

“Holidays and traditions provide joy and instill a sense of positive anticipation. This anticipation fosters excitement and eagerness. It really helps our mood and attitude during times when we have to navigate the challenge and difficulties of the here and now,” Lovell told Healthline.

Experts suggest considering the six following ideas and alternatives to celebrate Valentine’s Day safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If planning something for Valentine’s Day actual day adds more stress to your life, O’Reilly says unfix your attention on February 14.

“You don’t have to celebrate love, romance or sex today. Instead, think about ways to invest in the relationship on a daily basis. What can you do to surprise your love tomorrow and the next day?” she said.

She emphasized focusing on smaller gestures such as rubbing their shoulders if they’re on a stressful call or bringing them coffee or tea before they get up in the morning.

“Daily investment is more important than a single celebration in February,” she said.

If you’d rather celebrate on a day before or after Valentine’s Day, that can help relieve pressure, too.

“[You] can surprise your partner. Order in and treat yourselves or try a new recipe together. If you’re not into food, sign up for an online wine or beer tasting. Or take a class together — painting, sketching, yoga, or anything else that strikes your fancy,” said O’Reilly.

Focus on breaking from your routine with your partner when celebrating Valentine’s day, says Lovell.

“It does not have to be drastic for it to be special,” he said.

For example, if you typically have dinner and go to a movie with your partner, switch it up by:

  • Having a dance party
  • Writing a sentimental note
  • Ordering flowers or chocolates
  • Playing a game
  • Preparing a bath for or with your partner
  • Decorating your space with balloons or streamers

“The most important part of Valentine’s day and other holidays is to give your undivided attention to the moment — i.e., more eye contact, express appreciation, extend gratitude, and show love,” said Lovell.

Over the past year, it’s likely that your space has acted as an office, school, bedroom, and more.

“Can you rearrange the furniture or order something new — a colored light bulb or new sheets — just to change things up?” said O’Reilly.

When all else is shut down, taking a walk together is an active way to “have a meaningful conversation without the pressure to spark romance,” said O’Reilly.

In her book, “The Ultimate Guide to Seduction and Foreplay,” O’Reilly provides hundreds of prompts to spark intimate conversations, including the following intended to encourage reflection on the past:

  • What was the first thing you noticed about your lover?
  • What first attracted you to your lover?
  • On your first date, what excited you most?
  • On your first date, what made you nervous?
  • Do you remember the first time you kissed? What was it like?
  • Do you remember the first time you slept together? What was it like?
  • What is one awkward intimate moment you wouldn’t want to relive, but are able to laugh about now?
  • Can you remember the wildest/hottest encounter you ever had? What made it so memorable?
  • How has your partner changed for the better since you first met?

Teralyn Sell, PhD, psychotherapist and brain health expert, said stress contributes to decreased sex drive.

“Cortisol is your stress hormone and over time (and with chronic stress) it can flatten out. Some symptoms that your cortisol needs attending to is fatigue, feeling tired and wired, overwhelmed, low libido, weight gain, and more,” Sell told Healthline.

Because the body thrives on creating homeostasis — the state of steady internal, physical, and chemical conditions — when cortisol is imbalanced, it will steal from sex hormones to make up for the slack, Sell said.

“Now you have sexual lethargy,” said Sell.

To feel sexier on Valentine’s Day, she says think of the time of day you are at your best and capitalize on that for Valentine’s Day intimacy.

“Most people think of Valentine’s Day as date night. But if you run out of energy after 5 p.m. (or earlier), that would not be a great time for you to feel your sexiest. Instead, opt in for when your energy level is at its best and go from there,” she said.

For instance, if you wake up feeling your best, she suggests having a breakfast date in bed followed by a couple’s shower.

“Set your intention early and make a commitment to yourself because you deserve pleasure,” said Sell.

Rather than focusing on romantic love, O’Reilly suggests celebrating other types of love, such as that with your parents, an older neighbor, a single friend, or another couple.

“Depending on local restrictions (and weather), you may be able to meet outside or plan something virtual,” she said.