Birthday Blues: How Milestones Affect Mental Health

Birthday BluesDo you suffer from birthday blues? You’re not alone. Many individuals find themselves feeling low around the date of their birthday every year without a clear reason. The truth is that birthdays (and other significant celebrations such as Christmas) can sometimes leave us feeling disappointed and depressed. Many people may choose not to celebrate or avoid telling others when their birthday comes around for this reason.

Why are birthdays hard to cope with?

Birthdays are typically times of celebration where the day is shared with friends and family and a big fuss is made of the occasion. A birthday is a day when an individual can look back over their life, think about their achievements and consider where they want to go next. But what if the individual is not feeling happy with their life? A birthday may then feel hard to cope with as it signifies an unwelcome milestone and draws attention to negative feelings.

Some of the reasons we might feel the birthday blues include –

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Age

As we get older, we become more sensitive about our age and the time we have left to accomplish our goals. We may not feel ready to acknowledge our new age and feel scared about time passing us by. A fear of our own mortality may become more obvious and difficult to cope with.

Achievements

Birthdays are a time where we can take stock of our lives and how things are going. If a person is experiencing negative life events or feeling unhappy in general, they may not want the opportunity to examine this in more detail.

Expectations

If we have not achieved our goals, a birthday can bring this into sharp focus. We might use a birthday to compare ourselves to our peers or feel inadequate about how much we have accomplished.

Fears

If our parents passed away or became ill at around our age, we may fear the same thing happening to us even if we are in relatively good health. This is normal even if there is very little chance of us suffering the same afflictions as our parents.

Pressure

Birthday celebrations often require organisation and planning. If things don’t quite come together, we might feel that we’ve let ourselves down or disappointed our friends. The added pressure can mean the day becomes impossible to enjoy.

How can we make birthdays easier?

It might be tempting to take the phone off the hook and pretend the day just isn’t happening, but this can be difficult for those of us who genuinely want to find a way to celebrate without feeling anxious. Here are some ways to have a good birthday.

Lower your expectations

People often feel that they must spend time and effort planning a big birthday celebration even if they’re not really in the mood to celebrate. In actual fact, it might make things easier to scale down your plans so that it’ll be easier for you to relax. Do you need a big birthday party or would you rather have dinner with a few friends? As long as you’re happy with your choice, it doesn’t matter what other people think.

Keep busy

Make sure you have some plans for your birthday, even if they’re quite laid-back. Sometimes people feel they absolutely must take the day off work for their birthday even if they’ve not planned to do anything. Having nothing to do can exacerbate negative feelings so make a few plans with close friends or a partner to distract yourself.

Remind yourself of positive events

Your achievements matter and you are bound to have plenty of positive memories to look back on no matter where you are in your life. Instead of thinking about what you haven’t done, try to focus more on what you have achieved over the years.

Make plans for the future

Sometimes feeling low on a birthday can be a good thing as it can spur you into making the coming year even better. If you’re feeling like you don’t have much to look forward to, think about planning a holiday, taking a course or doing something you haven’t quite got around to yet.

Consider counselling

Everyone deserves to have a good birthday. If you’ve been feeling low around your birthday on several consecutive years or struggling with your mood in general, counselling or CBT could help. A qualified counsellor will be able to explore any troubling issues with you and uncover the root of your low feelings. They will also be able to help you with coping strategies and offer regular emotional support. Remember: If you are feeling distressed, you can phone The Samaritans twenty-four hours a day on 08457 909090.

 

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