Tell me if this sounds familiar? For this day on my birthday, want to eat at Don Coqui's ( or other fill in the blank restaurant). I want to go away somewhere exotic like Italy or Spain. Maybe we can all go dancing to a club or go to a festival. Screech! Halt! Wait! What about COVID? And there we go another birthday maybe not feeling accomplished, feeling anxious and this time we have to do it under Quarantine so there are no distractions. It's you, your birthday and a million other thoughts.
So let's validate our feelings first. Yes birthdays are a fun occasion for you to celebrate and get together with the gang. It's supposed to be a time of gratitude for making it to another year and some of us don't need another reason to party right? The truth is that some of us feel sad, are triggered by memories, feel the absence of people who have passed on. During Quarantine you have the added pressure of staying indoors, remaining safe, social distancing so there goes that dancing idea. Quarantine and Birthdays force you to sit an face those feelings a little more intensely. The opportunity to get together with a gang has kind of been stripped, so what do you do now?
First, let's talk about why birthdays suck
Stop comparing yourself to all of the things you should have done by now. You are thinking: Have I done enough? I didn't accomplish this by ___ years old. I'm so behind. Believe me, I'm a therapist and I specialize in the comparison of older me and future me models. I pull out my timeline, remember those self help worksheets? Stop! Just Stop! There is a time for everything. I am a coach, timelines and time management are my business for work projects. For us humans, not so much. We need to practice with a little more leniency, a little more compassion, a little more empathy. Does it mean abandon goals? No. It means revisiting them and assessing if it's something we really want to do. If it is, expand the timeline.
Loss, Grief, Absence, Loneliness
Birthdays bring up the reality that some of our loved ones have passed on. They made birthdays fun and safe. For some of us, they bring up past trauma. There is a gap, a hole, despair and this lurking feeling of being incomplete. It's okay. Notice your body, do you feel achy, feel disconnected, feel pain? If so, where. Hold yourself in that part of your body and say, "You're ok" " You can cry"
Quarantine life has exacerbated that feeling of loneliness because significant dates have a different meaning. It's almost like a celebration is censored and definitely altered. That loneliness is magnified and that despair is real. Nurture your sad feelings for they give foundation to a stronger self not now but later. Too often times we are in such a rush to feel better and fail to acknowledge that every experience has the potential to teach us something about ourselves and out mental fortitude.
I wish I could coin this in the DSM 5! It's real, I guess a real diagnosis would be Episodic Mood Disorder, Single Episode, Recurrent ( around birthdays). I know I am making light of it and that statement might trigger other therapists. Depression is not a joke. I know this from experience. However, there is a clear mild to severe birthday blues phenomenon that we feel when we are around that time. We become lethargic, we isolate, we experience some symptoms of depression: crying outbursts, lack of sleep, loss of interest in pleasurable things, feeling anxious, irritable, lack of appetite, irritability and even some ideas of suicidal ideation.
Let's be clear, you are not alone. Birthday blues have been written about in countless blogs and articles. Knowing that you are not alone can give you some comfort. Also, let's name the feeling and write the thoughts down. For example:
Thought: It's my milestone birthday and I'm already feeling bad I can't be around friends but now I'm also on lock down.
Feeling: Sadness, Anger, Frustration
Action: Turn off phone, reject calls, isolate
More Helpful Thought
Thought: It's my milestone birthday and COVID has put a damper on things. How can I celebrate?
Feeling: Sadness, Curious
Action: Look for out of the box ways to celebrate that may not be traditional.
In essence guys, we strive for our birthdays to be EPIC and when it falls short of that we struggle with those feelings. COVID 19 has made your birthday epic already, so how can you share that memory with others?
Quarantine Blues and Birthday Blues Ideas
Have a big enough outdoor space?
1. Movie Night Get one of those movie projector things and host an outdoor movie night. There will be food, fun, movies and measure 6 feet distance apart for chairs.
People can bring their own chairs.
2. Karaoke Outdoors- With the same projector outdoors , you can choose a song and people can sing outside. However, this must be done with masks. The CDC states that tiny exhaled particles can be transmitted when singing. We want to have fun but do this safely.
No, I'd rather be at home...
3. Make a gratitude list- There is always something to be grateful for. So write a list that reflects your Bday #. So if you are turning 36 today than write 36 things for which you are grateful. You can ask your friends to join in and you can all share your lists together in an Abundance and Thanksgiving spirit.
4- Host a Virtual Party-Recently me and my friends did this get together where we had drinks and played Jeopardy. The Jeopardy game can be tweaked to your own needs and subjects. One category had old school dances and finish famous song lyrics. Whoever answered a question incorrectly, had to take a sip of whatever their beverage of choice was. It was fun, we created memories and it was shared celebration. I will post a link of the one we participated in.
On the other hand, maybe this Quarantine birthday is a day of reflection solo
5. Journal, Write it Down- There will be a moment when we are looking back on this time and saying to ourselves 2020 was wild. What better way to capture it then to write it down. Write about your feelings, latest Netflix series, favorite mask color, where you shopped for hand sanitizer and how you celebrated. You can this at home or travel to a local park, beach or in my case trail. Pick a rock, sit and write. I can offer you a Writing Prompt. On this Quarantine birthday, my most valuable possessions are
6- Order yourself a cake, flowers, balloons, take out food- Well if you can't get to the party then have the party come to you. This is the time to treat yourself, make your home a party space, set up a little cake, order some flowers. It does only come once a year and contrary to social pressure, it does not have to be EPIC. However, you take back that meaning by doing things for yourself. If you already pamper yourself, well then good. Do something extra today.
7-Create a safe physical space in your home-Some people call this a meditation room, a prayer room, a yoga room, a creative room, a zen room, a studio and some of us call it a corner. Take time today to honor all of those feelings in your body, the happiness and despair, the highs and the lows, the peace and the anxiety and channel it into a space in your house that you can come to for affirmation. The biggest gift you can give yourself on your birthday is validation and acknowledgement. Who cares if you didn't write that bestseller yet or finished that degree. Honor yourself because in all its complexity, you are here.