How Birthdays Can Make Us Anxious
A quick but candid birthday post.
Two years ago, I experienced a phenomenon I'd never had before.
Months before my birthday, I started to get panic attacks. They were intense, visceral and the first thing I'd feel when I woke up in the morning.
At first, I didn't know what this meant. There was no logical reason for me to be anxious. I didn't even tie it into my approaching birthday because it was still about 6 months away!
But as my birthday got closer in weeks, this feeling intensified.
And I finally realised what it was.
Birthday Blues or...
Although not a condition recognised by DSM-5 (the statistical manual for mental health disorders), birthday blues can be quite common. It can range from a phobia of getting old to anxiety to downright depression.
In this oldie-but-goldie study, there was an increase in the self-inflicted death in the elderly around the time their birthdays rolled around. I found that interesting.
But I also found this counter-study that was sceptical. Maybe there is no association at all.
Whatever the case might be, birthdays can be a lot.
Especially for over-thinkers, there's a sense of reflection that comes with it.
There's a huge expectation we put on ourselves, subconsciously. And there's no better time of the year to mope than the one that literally reminds you of the time passing by.
Or maybe it's the attention the day brings. Some people live for it while others can't stand it. It can feel like being centre-stage but you forgot to rehearse your lines or even write a speech!
But you know what the bigger truth is?
A lot of us don't feel like we're where we're supposed to be.
When we envisioned our lives, especially as wide-eyed adolescents, we thought we'd be more than we are. We were sold a dream of hard work, lofty goals and the Universe's perfect timing.
Time anxiety is a fairly new concept where there is a "fear of wasting your time. It’s an obsession about spending your time in the most meaningful way possible".
Simply put, it's wondering if we'd have any regrets on our dying bed.
"Will I have spent 35% of my time on TikTok?"
Maybe it's time we re-orient ourselves.
I haven't felt that intense level of birthday anxiety in a while but the only thing I can attribute it to seems to be replacing it with gratitude. When I wake up in the morning, what I feel is intense gratitude to be here. It's better than feeling anxious that each day brings me closer to mortality. And then I go on to write a To-Do list for the day.
At least that's what has helped me.
There are two harsh realities I've realised about becoming an adult. The first is that there's a lot that's not within our immediate control. The second? We need to be okay with that.
I realise this week's letter is short but my birthday cake won't eat itself ;)
See you next week.
🧠 In case you missed last week’s post on The Psychology Behind a Buyer’s Mind, click here.