Anxiety Has Always Been Part of the Thanksgiving Holiday
Thanksgiving happens regardless of anyone's physical or mental well-being. That can feel cruel. Anxiety, for example, can be particularly difficult to deal with on a day that can bring such stress. It's a phenomenon that's been occurring for centuries.
Anxiety is a Human Contition
We are, or can easily become, familiar with the political and geographical facts of the feast that transpired in 1621. What is often overlooked, though, is the humanity of the event. This event was gargantuan, lasting three days and involving over one hundred guests and a quantity of food that a food pantry would be hard-pressed to store. The enormity, combined with other stressors, would have been naturally anxiety-provoking. We can imagine how difficult it might have been for our Pilgrim and Wampanoag predecessors with anxiety disorders (and that anxiety wasn't scientifically understood would have made things worse):
Hunter: What am I to do? The others have made their kills. I was asked to kill one stinkin' deer, and I'm failing. I'm ruining the whole feast. Everyone will be angry. I'll be shamed, and my family will be shamed by association. What if I'm banished because of my ineptitude? What will I do then? Where will I go? This is a disaster! (Perhaps generalized anxiety disorder)
Cook: I know I should help with other preparations, but every time I get ten yards from my fire, I worry that I haven't encircled it properly, and I have to return. I add five more stones to the rim, and I think that's enough. But when I walk away, I worry that it's not enough and the fire will escape. So I add five more. And five more again. But still I worry that the fire will spread and burn this beautiful forest to the ground. (A possible sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder)
It's likely, too, that there were Wampanoag and Pilgrims alike hanging back, prevented by social anxiety disorder from fully experiencing this robust social event. Maybe more than one found themselves in the throes of a panic attack.
It's Not Just You
Anxiety is indeed a human condition. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, just over 18% of adults in the U.S. deal with various conditions of anxiety, and of those, almost a quarter are severe.
Anxiety is not a personal shortcoming. Millions experience it, and it's not a new condition to human beings. If holidays such as Thanksiving are particiularly hard on your anxiety, don't beat yourself up for it. You're not alone.
Take advice from the theme of the day. Be thankful for something--something in your life, in nature, or inside of you. No, this won't cure your anxiety. It will, though, shift your thougts away from it just enough to take a bit of its power away.
I'm going to focus on how thankful I am to be here, on HealthyPlace.com, sharing the experience of anxiety with you. Happy Thanksgiving.
Peterson, T. (2013, November 27). Anxiety Has Always Been Part of the Thanksgiving Holiday, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, February 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2013/11/anxiety-has-always-been-part-of-the-thanksgiving-holiday
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS
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