While many couples see Valentine's Day as a way to reconnect and reaffirm their love, the holiday can be highly unpleasant if you don't have a special someone in your life.

Between sickly sweet greeting cards, candy heart confessions and lush bouquets of red roses, even the most confident single can become filled with dread about spending the night alone, according to Paddi Rice, the president and CEO of B.C.-based Executive Search Dating, a headhunting service for singles.

"Valentine's Day can actually be a bit stressful for singles," he told ctvbc.ca.

Rice says while it's one thing to be excited about someone you've been seeing for a few weeks or months, you shouldn't have to feel bad if you don't have someone special to share the day with.

"It's a holiday created by marketing forces," he said from his Vancouver office.

The key to surviving Valentine's Day is thinking of the holiday as an opportunity to meet someone new without becoming overly concerned about the "Hallmark Holiday" aspect of the day, Rice said.

Take it easy

So what's the secret to making it through the holiday in one piece? The first step is just taking a deep breath.

"You don't have to feel like you need to have a $200 dinner and a bottle of wine," Rice said. "You can take the pressure off."

If you're single this can mean hosting a dinner or cocktail party with other single friends, or taking advantage of the various ‘Anti-Valentine's Day' parties hosted in most major Canadian cities.

"It's the ultimate celebration of people being single," said Alison Hatton of Doolin's Pub in downtown Vancouver. Their popular pub has hosted an annual anti-Valentine's Day fete every year, although this year it's been preempted for the Olympics.

"It was started because everyone does the lovey-dovey things. We put up black balloons and broken hearts filled with names of famous couples that have broken up. It's fun and a total icebreaker for singles."

One of the pub's most popular breakup hearts of 2009 was that of model Christie Brinkley, who divorced architect husband Peter Cook after learning he slept with an 18-year-old aspiring singer.

Keeping it casual

For couples in the early stages of dating, the unease of Valentine 's Day can sometimes apply as much as for someone single, Rice said.

This uneasiness can be compounded if you're going on a date with someone who may not be "Mr. or Mrs. Right."

Rice says you can keep things light by keeping the date casual. That could mean choosing going to lunch or brunch instead of a romantic candlelight dinner.

"This can send a positive message to your date partner while at the same time avoiding the crush -- and expense -- of trying to get a Valentine's Day dinner reservation," he said.

In Vancouver, the 2010 Games make for perfect low stress first-date fodder. With tons of free concerts happening across B.C.'s Lower Mainland, and complimentary admission to many houses, there's no better time to explore the city with a potential love.

But no matter what city you find yourself in for Valentine's Day, Rice says the most important thing is just to have fun and enjoy yourself.

"You're showing your true self as is the person you're with and that's the best way to find out if you have a real connection."