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How to Celebrate Your Birthday When Depression and Anxiety Show Up Uninvited

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I want to start by mentioning my depression and anxiety are much better than they used to be. Despite this, I realized recently they have left little surprises behind that are going to stick around for a while longer. These packages are emotional, behavioral and physical symptoms and I’m still just learning how to operate with them.

Today is my birthday. I realize now this is one of the days that causes me a lot of dread and stress. I thought I might share some tips that helped me through the day:

1. Set one meeting for friends and family.

Either lunch or dinner is best. Because lunch or dinner can only go on for so many hours, after it’s over, I can have some quiet by myself at home. A defined time frame provides an out when the people and noise get to be too much.

2. Find a place to meet that is “neutral ground.”

I usually choose a favorite cafe or stay at home. The familiarity makes me feel more comfortable.

3. Wear something that makes you feel important.

A new dress or necklace can be a good luck charm – especially when a mother or grandmother worries about your appearance. I don’t need to tell them the necklace I’m wearing comes from my favorite TV show and makes me smile when I look at it!

4. Limit the gathering to just a few people.

I prefer quality over quantity and I want to share this day with people who make me smile.

5. Make plans for gifts.

It may sound strange, but the gift giving process can be a trigger for my anxiety. Sometimes I’m worried I won’t be happy enough. Sometimes I get a little present for myself and think of it when I open other presents. Or I ask people not to do presents at all. If worst comes to worst, I ask the family (really really nicely) to give gift cards. Gift cards make things easier as I can buy things from the comfort of my own home.

6. Prepare for phone calls.

Phone calls can be the worst and on my birthday, it feels like the phone doesn’t stop ringing. If I’m having a hard time answering the phone, I have a close friend or family member answer it first to help my anxiety a bit.

7. Take a break when you need some space.

Pretending to take a phone call is an old trick, but can really be a life saver if need be! I need to work on not feeling guilty if I need a little break.

8. Pass on these tips to a loved one.

The most important thing is to find someone in your family or a friend who can help pass on these tips to those people coming. Having someone close by during a party when things get overwhelming to can change the subject or fake a phone call so you can have a break makes such a big difference.

I really hope this was helpful. Happy birthday to those January babies out there!

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Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: January 30, 2017
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