Beating the Birthday Blues

by Gabrielle Salomone, LCSW

The author discussing milestone birthdays and anxiety around them.

Another year around the sun, my birthday is quickly approaching and this is a “milestone” birthday. I will be the first to admit that I have good years and bad years when it comes to my day of birth!

What do I mean when I say good years and bad years?! Well sometimes I’m really excited for my birthday and want to celebrate. Other years I have panic attacks the days leading up to and including my birthday. I’ve denied how old I am for a number of years (cough cough I’m 29… again) and I get sad/depressed. Ten years ago, I had a complete meltdown, cried, thought I was “old” and just utterly felt lost. For a number of reasons, none having to do with my age, it was one of the hardest years of my life.

So as the countdown begins to my birthday it caused me to do a little thinking, and some research into why I get like this. And drumroll please… ANXIETY!! Ahh anxiety… cue “Hello darkness, my old friend!”.

So here are a few reason why we get anxious… our mortality, we are afraid of getting old and death. We question if we are important to people and worry “will they remember it’s MY birthday”, this leads to negative internal conversations which usually go something like; “if they don’t remember, does that mean they don’t really like/care about me?!”, no, people are busy and forget dates often. Other reasons we freak out are heightened expectations, feelings of lack of accomplishments, social pressures, “milestone” birthdays, social media and overall less excitement as we get older.

Here are 5 quick things to do to help with your Birthday Anxiety and Blues…

1. Lower your expectations.

If you build something up in your head and it doesn’t go exactly as planned you will feel disappointed and focus on what didn’t go right versus what you did do and what went well. Humans are negative and we focus on the negative, especially when we have one idea in our head and it does not happen. So lower your expectations, less is more!

2. Reflect on your accomplishments from the past year.

Write down the things you have done this year. They can be big or small, if you remember them they count and mean something to you!

3. Reflect about where you want to go within the next year

Write a list of 5-10 things you want to accomplish this year, personally, and professionally. Once you have written them down you can start planning out what steps you will take to accomplish these goals! To figure out what steps you need to take, trying using SMART goals,, because they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/relevant and Time-bound.

4. Let people know you want to celebrate (if you do).

Your friends and family can meet your needs if you do not tell them!! They are not mind readers, so they won’t know if you want to do something or not unless you speak up. Also, it is annoying when people start to ask you what you want to do and you’re like “IDK”, but we all know we have some idea about what we do or don’t want to do for our birthdays!!

5. Do something fun/special for yourself & be easy with yourself.

Take the day off, get a mani/pedi, treat yourself to breakfast, buy the flowers, etc. Don’t wait for others to plan something, or suggest something! Speak up!! It is your birthday after all, and it’s a great day to be nice to yourself and to treat yourself!

Remember, there are a lot of people who feel the birthday blues. You are not alone. But it is up to you to cherish it and spend your birthday however you want, with whomever you want! Also, don’t forget age is just a number, you’re as young as you feel on any given day!!

Gabrielle is Therapy for Women’s Clinical Director and specializes in anxiety, depression, eating disorders, health anxiety, and OCD. To learn more about Gabrielle, read her bio here.

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