Your question: Why do I get anxiety on my birthday?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. Through this blog I will explain why it is common to feel anxious and depressed during your birthday, delving into the origin of this birthday melancholy and suggesting solutions to deal with this problem and not ruin your celebrations.

Birthday rituals vary according to time and culture, but in general, they are recognized as a celebration of another year of life, which is associated with maturity, wisdom and the passage to a new stage of life. Although eating cake, getting together with friends and doing karaoke may be fun on your birthday, you may feel a worry that you struggle to name on your birthday.

A study done on children(1) showed the positive impact that celebrating birthdays, with all the rituals involved, has on the overall emotional and physical health of infants. However, another study(2) conducted in adults showed that on the dates close to the birthday there is a 27% higher probability of suffering a cardiovascular problem, compared to any other date of the year, related to the feeling of anxiety and depression that occurs on the occasion of the birthday.

So what changes as we become adults and why do birthdays become more stressful than satisfying? The answer is complex, and that is that the transition to adulthood means new ways of experiencing anxiety and worry about life. Birthdays tend to be periods of melancholy because for many it means being closer to death, death being the most common and definitive fear of human beings.

Also because it represents the confirmation of the passage of time or because it implies, in many cases, a high level of planning of aspects related to the birthday party. Either way, birthday anxiety or “birthday blues” is a recognized phenomenon.

You should not worry or pay too much attention to people who tell you “you should feel happy, it’s your birthday”. Your emotions are worthy and valid of recognition, and the first step to control them is to identify them, know them and accept them.

So yes, anxiety during your birthday is normal, and there are solutions so that you can deal with it and avoid it ruining your celebration. But first, it is necessary to know its origin.

Why do you feel anxious on your birthday?

Birthday anxiety is quite unique, as it is often intertwined with deep sadness and despondency rather than with the tension and agitation characteristic of anxiety. However, several symptoms can occur when you experience anxiety on your birthday, and these symptoms relate to why you feel anxious on that particular day that everyone else celebrates, but you suffer in silence.

Frustration with life

Birthday anxiety tends to occur when people feel dissatisfied with one or more areas of their life. Your birthday means that time is passing you by, too fast for some people’s liking, and this can make you feel that there are so many things you want to change or improve about your life but you feel stuck because of the same sense of anxiety and fear of change.

Fear of death

Birthdays are the universal reminders that we are aging in real time. Many people don’t think about it until that date arrives when they put their new age on a cake. The fear of death is related to birthday anxiety as many people feel that time is running out for them. Regardless of their age, anxiety appears on this day because the reminder that we are mortal beings is overwhelming and uncomfortable.

Excessive planning

Many people are quite ritualistic about their birthday, which is fine, as long as it doesn’t become a period of more stress than celebration. Your birthday anxiety is probably due to the fact that you want to perfectly control everything that will happen on your special day, and any minor unforeseen event generates intense anxiety as it slips out of your birthday plans.

Other reasons

Some other causes that can generate anxiety on your birthday are family reunions (for many people reuniting with certain family members they don’t get along with is a stressful and anxious experience), feelings of loneliness (especially in older adults who see their birthday as a period of sadness and loneliness when they are not visited by their loved ones) or grief reminders (feeling sad and anxious thinking about loved ones who are not around to celebrate your birthday).

How to deal with birthday anxiety?

There are strategies you can implement to cope with birthday anxiety. First and foremost, you need to accept this feeling as part of your life, and that the changes you will make will be for you and your well-being, not to please others.

Plan simple activities

Birthdays should be what the birthday person wants them to be, so if you are in control of organizing your own birthday, one strategy to avoid anxiety is to plan simple activities that don’t require lengthy guidelines. It is also useful to have a plan B, for example, if rain ruins your birthday at the pool, you have the alternative of spending your birthday inside doing karaoke with your friends.

The idea is to avoid that your birthday day is full of stress and frustrations, because at the end of the day, the most important thing is that you enjoy yourself as much as possible.

Breathe gently

Inhaling for three seconds and exhaling for another three seconds is a simple breathing exercise that you can do with your eyes closed for about 5 to 10 minutes. If during your birthday you feel that anxiety is taking over you, you can take a moment alone and simply breathe, while repeating to yourself phrases that help you calm down. For example “everything will be fine today, just try to enjoy yourself as much as you can”.

Make yourself a priority and acknowledge your feelings

Birthdays can sometimes become a time of indulgence for others rather than for the birthday boy or girl. If your anxiety originates because you simply don’t want to do anything, or your idea of celebration is much more intimate and calm than other people’s, it is important to be honest and firm with those who will be with you during your birthday, explaining that you want to do things your way and that they should respect that.

In my experience…

Birthday anxiety is common because fear and general worry about life are condensed on that day. Culturally we learned that it should be a day of celebration and energy, so it is frustrating when our body and mind are not congruent with that idea of celebration.

Therefore, it is important to unlearn many ideas associated with birthdays, and learn to see them as just another day in which the most important thing is to try to have a good time with the people who are important to you and above all, to be at peace with yourself.

I believe you have the ability to improve and heal these feelings of discomfort you are experiencing now. The fact that you are seeking professional help through this message proves it to me, and I applaud you for making that decision and being on track to improve your mental health and overall, your physical health

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