Why Debra Messing was 'freaked out' about turning 50: 'I had to make adjustments' (Exclusive)

Debra Messing just turned 50, and it's already her favorite age.

The "Will & Grace" star recently sat down with AOL to discuss her partnership with Colgate Optic White, where she explained that, despite apprehension she felt about hitting the milestone birthday, it brought about an important realization that has made her more appreciative for where she is in her life right now.

"I was really freaked out approaching 50," she told AOL exclusively. "I had this preconceived idea about what 50 would feel like and what it would mean, and I just had my birthday last month and realized that I had all of these beautiful people in my life celebrating with me. I felt an enormous amount of gratitude. I realized that it was only by living 50 years on this earth that I was able to accrue these people. It’s bountiful."

"I feel feisty and fifty," she added with a laugh.

Getting to a point in her life where she feels at ease, though, didn't come without struggle. During the height of "Will & Grace," Messing explained, she felt overshadowed by the character of Grace Adler. People expected her to always be "on" and exhibit the same high-energy personality that Messing imbued into her character, and Messing had a hard time living up to that expectation.

"When I was younger, I felt a lot more pressure to be on and to be entertaining to fans who came up to me," Messing explained. "Part of that is because I didn’t believe deep down that Debra as herself and with her energy was going to be interesting enough, and I just didn’t want to disappoint people. And then I burnt out. I realized that I had to make adjustments and a lot of that was just about self-care."

A lot of those changes actually came ten years ago when Messing turned 40. It was a decade ago that she cut out dairy, gluten, grains, coffee and alcohol from her diet. Or, in her words, "everything that gives you joy." And by cutting out those things that delivered her joy on a surface level, the actress was able to find joy of a deeper, more lasting level.

"The fact that I’m still here is amazing and I’m actually happier," she said with a smile. "I have more energy and I just feel better in every way. Mentally, I can also feel it. I just feel more stable and sharper and better."

And with that sharpness -- with that clearer, more self-aware outlook -- came a willingness to pass on projects and a realization that there are better uses of her time than to cram her schedule full of work without making sure she has time for her son, Roman, 14, and her friends.

"I’ve learned how to say 'no,'" she went on. "I used to say 'yes' to everything. I’m a single mom and work full time, so my time is precious. If I can, I want to be with my son, I want to be a good employee, I want to do whatever I need to do to be supportive of the job I’m doing, but what do I do with that extra time?" she explained. "I’m spending more time now with my close girlfriends than I did 15 years ago, because I was always working and I didn’t make the time. That’s what I’ve learned -- you can’t underestimate the soothing impact of just being in a small space with people who you know have your back."