Annie Lane

Annie Lane

Dear Annie. It will soon be my 40th birthday, and I’m feeling a tremendous amount of anxiety with this pending milestone event. Intuitively, I understand that it is an arbitrary number.

My body feels the same as it did yesterday, and nothing appears to be changing. However, emotionally, it feels like everything is changing. And I feel that when I wake up on my birthday, all will change, suddenly.

I also know that when I crossed these milestones previously, nothing was different. Yet, even as I recognize these realities, I can’t stop fretting over the aging process. I’m losing sleep worrying about it, and it occupies my thoughts constantly. This has been ongoing for a few months now.

What can I do to settle my mind? How can I become confident as I age? I need your help!

— Fretting the Next Day

Dear Fretting: First, and most importantly, happy birthday! As we age, most people become anxious about adding one more year to our age rather than enjoying the day as a way to celebrate what we’ve accomplished and what’s still ahead.

No one can avoid aging, but it’s important to remember that each new year enables us to experience life in new ways and to grow. Aging gives us opportunities to spend with family and friends, to meet friends, see new places, taste new foods and on and on. Rather than looking anxiously toward the day, look excitedly toward the next experience and appreciate every little moment. The summation of these memories will create a rich and well-lived life.

Also, remember that your birthday is a very special day that your parents want to celebrate. Your birth marked an extraordinary experience in their lives.

Dear Annie: A few weeks ago, a letter ran from a person who seems to have tried “everything” from gym memberships to personal trainers and asked, “How do people stick with it?”

I don’t know how others do, but I’m willing to share how I have. I graduated from high school nearly 50 years ago at 98 pounds. I now weigh 127 pounds. Yes, I’ve had a baby in those years, too. So, how have I managed to only gain 29 pounds in 49 years?

Lots of tiny small things: Walk for a mile every night after dinner (it’s good for your waistline and your marriage); park toward the back of the parking lot and walk all the way in; “dance” (think the Twist) while watching an entire 30-minute television program (it’s hard to eat while doing this, and it burns a lot more calories than just sitting there); think “just five minutes” of exercise.

Do situps, jumping jacks, pushups, toe touches or skip rope for just five minutes. It’s not a major commitment. Think of it as, “I deserve this five-minute break for a tiny bit of exercise.”

At a restaurant, ask for a box when your food first comes. Put half of your meal in right then. Once it’s in the box, even if you’re tempted to “clean your plate,” you will have only eaten a healthy portion. Get a watch that gives you “stickers.” Yes, I know, it sounds silly, but I really wanted those stickers on my paper as a child and I still enjoy earning stickers on my watch now.

None of these are “big” things. But lots of small things add up.

— Still Slender 50 Years Later

Dear Slender 50 Years Later: Congratulations on keeping such a healthy weight all these years. Your suggestions are fantastic, and most of them also involve a component — besides diet and exercise — that lead to good health; namely, being with your husband or friends.

Having a strong relationship and sense of community makes life much more joyful.

Annie Lane, a graduate of New York Law School and New York University, writes this column for Creators Syndicate. Email questions to dearannie@creators.com.

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