Year after year many wrestle with the need to celebrate Thanksgiving with extended family or Friendsgiving with our collected significant tribe and the need to minimize the anxiety of it all. This year that balance is complicated by concerns of a rising uptick in the COVID cases and hospitalizations. CDC is strongly advising the US to stay home this year, do not travel and to not generate even small groups indoors. Millions are still traveling as the anxiety of staying home, of missing family and of needing to celebrate something rise exponentially.
Anxiety has long been associated with holidays. Thanksgiving gets built up by visions of Norman Rockwell families gathered around a brimming table of traditional favorites, but that vision eludes most. In this year, when food insecurity is on the rise, economic hardship has endured and tested millions and fear of the pandemic ratcheting it all to the highest levels of anxiety even for those not accustomed to dealing with anxiety. Many Americans are waiting in endless lines for food donations and while charities are trying to reduce hunger for them, the holidays underscore that deficit.
Prioritizing the Present and Future
It becomes necessary in times like these to rethink the role of Thanksgiving in the life of your family, reimagine ways to show gratitude and appreciation and to grace the higher powers in your world with humble thankfulness. While turkey, cranberries and pumpkins have historically marked this day for many Americans; would you be less thankful over a steaming pot of soup or a big plate of pasta. Celebrating and celebrations differ in the meaning, the symbols, and the traditions. More than a quarter of a million people are not sitting at the table this year or again, families have been impacted by the nearly 12 million cases of COVID. Millions have been laid off, are fighting to prevent or forestall eviction and are hungry more than ever. Will our gratitude be lessened if there are 2 people at the table and 10 more on video chat? Will we not be as grateful for healthy and roof if we aren’t loading up on pies and family side dishes?
We are here. 2020 has been a challenging and trying year with more than its fair share of twists and turns. We need to rethink the approach. Revel in the health of those who remain negative and asymptomatic. Cherish the roof over your head if it remains. Know that better times lie ahead. As Americans we have found the grit and internal fortitude to rise from the ashes over and over again.
Manage the unknown as best you can
There are things we can control in this mess. We can manage our reaction; we can manage our expectations and we can manage our response. Thanksgiving anxiety about the timing of the turkey and the mashed potatoes or whether your Aunt Jane will like your take on her side dish pales in comparison to the world of anxiety we are collectively feeling. But you can change the menu, pull back on in person visitors, add time online with far away relatives and friends and still focus on the bounty of blessings, the deep gratitude for tradition, family, and friends. Try curling up on the couch to binge-watch old movies, new movies or a thoughtful documentary. Pull out the board games, make lists of things you are thankful for and stop stressing over a 3000-calorie feast, grab a turkey burger and call it a day. If we are careful, all the people at the table in your home and online with you will be there for next Thanksgiving. Control what you can, manage expectations and your scope of activity. Communicate, share, and connect in whatever means are safe. Focus on family and feelings. There will be time for turkey and pie. Find a supportive counselor on demand to support your strength.
“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” ~Charles Spurgeon