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How to Prevent Birthday Depression

Updated on December 29, 2012

Happy Birthday...or not.


Chances are that if you're reading this, you want to know how to prevent birthday depression in yourself or in a loved one.

Birthdays and holidays (especially Christmas) can be the most depressing times of the year. With a little foresight and self-consideration, you can make it past the doldrums without going too crazy.

Birthday Depression is not the same as Clinical Depression.

Fortunately, the temporary sorrow and/or regret you might experience on your birthday is not the same as diagnosable, treatable clinical depression. One is short-term whereas the other is much more chronic.

In some ways, that's good! Instead of worrying about this sadness lingering for days, weeks, or months, it should clear up pretty quickly on it's own. In fact, many people feel better as soon as it is the next morning.

If you're experiencing symptoms of depression for two weeks or more, contact a medical professional for assistance.

Reasons for Birthday Depression

Oh, anything can cause birthday depression. Here's a long list of things that might provoke that sense of ennui, sorrow, doldrums, or despair.

  • Getting older
  • Loneliness
  • Regret
  • Missing someone
  • Fear about the future
  • Fear of death
  • Feeling of failure
  • Confusion over life's purpose
  • Existential or spiritual crisis
  • A sense of emptiness
  • Illness

On which side of this hill are you?

We tend to describe age and life experience in relation to our position on a hill. Regardless of where you are, enjoy the time outside!
We tend to describe age and life experience in relation to our position on a hill. Regardless of where you are, enjoy the time outside! | Source

Milestones: Time for Reflection

Some of the most difficult birthdays to accept are milestone years. These vary depending on the individual. For example, US society tends to consider 16, 18, 21, 25, 30, 40, 50 and other tens as significant.

Many individuals will say, "I never expect to live past 35," or "All of the men in my family die in their 60s. I won't make it to 70." Imagine the discomfort those people experience when they do, in fact, make it to those numbers.

But, then they may feel inadequate or bad for somewhat mourning the fact they continue to live. This indicates an unhealthy relationship and lack of desire for life, which makes sense with the way we tend to think and live these days.

Either way, recognize the place that milestone birthdays have in your life, and allow yourself to ponder what they might mean.

Practical Tips for Avoiding Birthday Depression

So, let's come up with a game plan for those impending days of despair. With these practical tips, you can fine-tune your specific approach so as to avoid falling in too deep.

Hopefully, you'll be able to learn more about yourself, what you want in life, and what you must change to make it happen!

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1. Plan the event.

Do you like celebrations? Maybe you did in the past, but just don't feel it this year. Well, don't push yourself completely out of your comfort zone. Respect that people change. Maybe you should have a quiet get-together this year, or just spend the night by yourself.

You should come up with an idea or a plan so you aren't reminded of the big day while microwaving some frozen mac & cheese for dinner.

If you want an event but feel uncomfortable inviting people, spill the beans to the gossip in your social circle or mention to a friend that you're feeling down. They might be able to help!

2. Keep it light and bright.

Whether your birthday is in the middle of summer or dead of winter, focus on upbeat and bright sounds, flavors, colors, and clothing. Surround yourself with life so that it may bleed over into your mood.

One of my favorite ways to stay cheery is to play my favorite music (lots of 60s pop), bake up a storm, and watch some fun movies.

Go towards the light.

Bask in the sunlight!
Bask in the sunlight! | Source

3. Remember the value of catharsis.

Have you ever had the experience where you feel better after watching a sad movie, reading an upsetting book, or listening to heartbreaking music? It's like you go through the feelings in the story, and come out somewhat happier on the other side.

This is an overly simplistic explanation of catharsis, but it works. You feel the pain through the work, so that, when it is over, you release some of your own pain.

Although it might not be good to drop yourself in the middle of a sob fest, crying through someone else's feelings (and at the same time, your own) can really help. *Hold on to this idea for those tough moments.*

4. Avoid booze or drugs.

As enticing as it may be to "leave yourself" in tough times, that's not a very good idea if you're struggling on your birthday. Instead of helping, these substances can make your night way worse. Plus, they often results in regrettable behaviors and actions.

If you want to have a small drink or other indulgence, be sure to do it responsibly and legally.

The Story of Amy Purdy: Coming Back from Devastation

Need a new direction in life?

Not everyone who experiences birthday depression will feel bad or even a little bit down by the next morning. It's a temporary, fleeting thing.

Then, there are those of us who experience those pains for a little longer. It might be just a few days, or it may be more chronic. However long it lasts, you can learn from this discomfort.

Here are some tips on how to achieve a better direction in life according to your own values and desires:

1. Sit with the discomfort.

Identify the pointed edge of why you feel this pain. Consider the list above, but reflect on your own. What are you really feeling? Write down 5 or more thoughts, perceptions, feelings, and sensations.

Whoa, buddy! Pause a moment. Think it's cheesy to write it out? Think you can get away with not writing? No, you can't. Seriously. Go grab a piece of paper and a writing implement of your choice. List out 1-5 (or leave it open-ended if you're really feeling messed up).

2. Once you have your list in front of you, look for overlapping issues.

Maybe you feel lonely, unattractive, and out-of-shape because you are avoiding dealing with food insecurity issues that contribute to your poor health.

"Your life is unlike that of anyone else in the world. You are unique. No one person looks, talks, thinks, acts, walks, or eats exactly like you. The mere fact that you exist and are taking up the space you're in right now is a miracle. From the day you graduated kindergarten to the last time you bought bananas at the grocery store, you have lived a life that others could not."

Oh yeah, and your issues, feelings, and pains matter. But sometimes, we hold ourselves up with other thoughts and issues. That's what I want you to consider when you reflect on your list of issues. Look for overlapping, cyclical behaviors.

3. Next to each, write what would have to happen to undo that situation.

Then consider whether or not those actions are viable or possible. If so, what's holding you back? If they are not possible, why? Nothing is not possible. What have you placed before these other issues that makes them seem unachievable?

4. When you identify what's holding you back, you learn your values.

Hypothetical situation: Maybe you want to go to college and feel bad about yourself because you don't want to leave your mother home alone. But, you end up resenting and fighting with your mother because you feel frustrated.

In that situation, you put your own happiness behind the potential unhappiness with your mother. Because you won't do something for yourself, you now both suffer.

That scenario makes no sense, which means your pain and frustration is redundant. Then, you must dig in and find the practical steps required to make a change.

The person avoiding college could consider taking classes online from home or discussing the potential of attending a college with their mother. Whatever it takes to make the switch, it's worth it.

I know this is a long, somewhat drawn out explanation, but very few people feel able to remedy these long lists of issues that have. Plus, it feels so much better to make a positive change in your life on your own accord. You begin to see the value of self-care, and how very possible it is.

Do something you really want to do!

Fly in a hot air balloon, take a road trip by yourself, learn how to cook: these are all things you can, should, and will do if you want to!
Fly in a hot air balloon, take a road trip by yourself, learn how to cook: these are all things you can, should, and will do if you want to! | Source

Gift Yourself.

What's a better birthday present: a nice bottle of your favorite beverage or perfume or increased self-awareness?

If you use your birthday as a benchmark for introspection and self-fulfillment, your birthdays can become amazing, celebratory, life-affirming events!

In Conclusion

The very best ways to avoid the birthday blues is to take active measures to change your life in the direction you want. Surround yourself with who or what you love, focus on the positive, and make at least one life change.

By the next birthday, you'll be an entirely different person, and one who's on their life's path. That's amazing!


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    • Louisa Rogers profile image

      Louisa Rogers 5 years ago from Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico

      I often go through a 10-minute cry on my birthday, but since I've been doing this for years, I don't think it has to do with age. Maybe over-excitement leading to exhaustion. Which is why I've stopped making THAT big a deal over my birthday. Just enjoy it, have fun, see a few friends. But a huge crowd, no thanks. It's good to know this is common, though!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Get to be my age and you give up being depressed over it. :) Soon I'll forget how old I am and then start reversing back to childhood and think I'm ten. LOL No worries here!