5 Steps to Make Birthdays Less Stressful and More Joyful

 I’m a sucker for a new year.


It’s a rare chance to look back at the previous year’s highlights and lowlights and use them to inform what I want more and less of in the coming year.


One of the areas I’ve tried hard to improve in is making celebrations more joyful and less stressful. Though I’ve always loved these special occasions and the related activities, I’d spend so much time and energy preparing, that I barely enjoyed the event itself.


If you’ve ever felt:

  • Frustrated that you didn’t know what to do for an upcoming birthday
  • Exhausted because you stayed up late getting ready for a party
  • Disappointed that a gift you gave was just...okay


Keep reading for the 5-steps YOU can use to make birthdays and holidays less stressful and more joyful.


The 5 Steps to Get More of What You Want and Less of What You Don’t

Getting more of what you want and less of what you don’t want can be broken down into 5 steps---whether it’s celebrating birthdays with less stress and more joy or pretty much anything else.


None of the steps are sexy or high tech, but they do require a level of honesty with yourself that can be uncomfortable. You also have to be willing to try new things, even when they’re hard.  (Especially when they're hard!)


The 5 Steps to Get More of What You Want and Less of What You Don’t

  1. Review past events
  2. Reflect on what did and didn’t work
  3. Recognize reality
  4. Record events, steps, behaviors
  5. Readjust as needed

I used this five-step process to help inject more joy into celebrating birthdays and eject a lot of unwanted stress. I also learned a lot about myself, including some very unflattering traits.


Step 1: Review Past Events

If you’re reading a post on a birthday blog (thank you! 🥰), I’m betting you love birthdays and holidays as much as I do. You probably love to entertain/bake/find that perfect gift as well.


For years, I’d stay up until in the wee hours of the morning making party favors. I’d make trips to store after store until I found The Perfect Gift. I’d literally decorate from floor to ceiling (I love a well-decorated chandelier!). Pushing through to pull off birthday miracles worked for years---until it didn’t.


Not wanting to give up celebrating, I started to review past birthdays---what worked, what didn’t, which ones were the most fun. I did this not only for celebrations, but for gifts I gave and cards I sent.


Step 2: Reflect on What Did and Didn’t Work

It wasn’t until I started reviewing past birthdays that I came to realize that two of my biggest strengths were also my biggest weaknesses.


My creativity made for fun and interesting gifts and celebrations and my problem-solving abilities meant I could figure a way out of unexpected snafus.


Unfortunately, being able to come up with exciting new ideas and knowing I could find a way through also added a great deal of unnecessary stress to the birthdays, which in turn, made them more difficult to enjoy.


Even worse?


I realized that I had repeated the same mistakes again and again when it came to celebrating—trying to include too many details in a party; making things unnecessarily complicated; wasting time evaluating too many options.


Step 3: Recognize Reality

After tracking my past performance, I learned my celebration plans had (almost) always been unrealistic. I had consistently tried to do too many things without getting help. I had hoped that an out-of-stock item would reappear instead of coming up with a substitute.


I also had a serious problem with scope creep. Regardless of what I set out to do, I was always adding more decorations or deciding to bake “just one more” dessert. Inevitably, the last-minute additions were also the items that had the LEAST impact on the outcome and resulted in the most stress.


These were some of the changes I made that helped the most:

  • For each item on my To Do list, I added the expected time to complete the task and the actual time to complete. This additional information helped me better manage my time and understand whether the overall schedule was on track.
  • Creating a rule that I could not start a new/last minute/wouldn’t that be a great idea until all existing items were completed
  • Adding blocks of time to my calendar to accomplish similar tasks
  • Allowing three attempts before settling on the best available option.


Step 4: Record the Event, the Related Prep and the Outcome

One of the biggest changes I made to reduce my stress and increase my joy in celebrating birthdays involved how I managed my calendar.


Instead of just adding someone’s birthday to my calendar, I broke up the associated activity into pieces and scheduled those.


For example, the reminder to “Send birthday gift” turned into individual tasks (identifying birthday gift ideas, searching for gift ideas, purchasing gift, wrapping gift and sending gift) that were scheduled.


After being disappointed too many times by delayed shipments from USPS, UPS and Fed Ex, I also started to plan and shop for items much earlier than ever before.



Step 5: Readjust as Needed

As long as you have people in your life you want to celebrate, you’ll adjust as needed.  As you find what works better, you'll; begin to incorporate that behavior. When the environment changes, you may need to search for a new solution.


Remember, a birthday isn’t truly happy unless it’s enjoyed by the celebrant AND the individual who celebrated them. 🥳

Now, It's Your Turn!

Start digging in to these five steps and make celebrating birthdays in your life less stressful and more joyful.

  1. Review past events
  2. Reflect on what did and didn’t work
  3. Recognize reality
  4. Record events, steps, behaviors
  5. Readjust as needed