For those of you who don’t live locally and don’t know what Gasparilla is, as there’s no way you live here and don’t know what Gasparilla is. It’s a magical day where everyone dresses up like a pirate and starts drinking at about 7am. You can scream for beads as the parade passes or if you’re a women show a little skin and you may just get those shiny beads that you don’t care about any other day, but today of course!
The theme of the festivities is the legend of José Gaspar (also known as Gasparilla), a mythical Spanish Pirate who is a legend to date back to about 200 years ago. This celebration actually dates back to 1904, which at least then they didn’t have social media (am I right or am I right?). The pictures can get a little rough into the evening hours.
According to Wikipedia, “On Gasparilla Day, “pirates invade” downtown Tampa aboard their large “pirate ship” and celebrate their “conquest” of the city by staging what has become the third largest parade in the United States. with a local economic impact of over $20 million and an average attendance of about 300,000.” That’s a whole lot of money and people.
Growing up in this area and going to college in Tampa, I’ve definitely had my fair share of welcoming the pirates and inevitability dealing with the chaotic aftermath of the “fun.” To now getting older and watching friends leave town to get away to myself planning to skip Gasparilla for the first time since I’ve been old enough to attend!
Events like Gasparilla with large crowds and lots of noise can be stressful environments and very intense experiences even for the most seasoned Gasparilla goer. The sensory overload alone can be a trigger for our mental health. This could result in an array of mental health issues to include, anxiety and panic attacks.
If you’re already struggling with mental health problems or just have stress from life situations that you thought you could leave behind for the day, the extreme disruption from our normal routine that an event like Gasparilla can bring is the perfect environment for those feelings and stressors to rise to the surface.
An almost ingrained aspect of festival and parade experiences include poor diet and lack of sleep, which are key for supporting good mental health. Just because we are at an event where everyone is doing it, it doesn’t take away the negative consequences that can happen when these areas are neglected.
Being prepared is vital. It can be helpful to have everything organized a few days or even weeks before. Set a plan for who you’re going with, where you are going, what you’re wearing and anything else that will be helpful in decreasing reasons for your stress level to rise or depressive feelings to seep in.
There are some simple self-care techniques you can use to care for your mental health, however, this does require some preparation.
Ensuring you are healthy and ready for an event like this is the first step. Once you determine if and that you are, you’ll then want to ensure that you get plenty of sleep, nutrition and exercise leading up to the event.
Also, in prep for the event ensure that you go with someone you trust and who is able to support you, especially if you do struggle with your mental health. Making sure you’re never alone is also really important for both your mental health and physical safety. Having a wireless charger with you can also be helpful to make sure you’re not stranded without a phone.
Another aspect that is almost always ingrained into festivals and parades is substance use. The most common substance used and sold is alcohol. It’s important to remember that alcohol not only dehydrates you, but is also a depressant and can leave you feeling down while you drink and after.
Don’t forget to eat and drink water throughout the day, ensuring you equally level it out with whatever your alcoholic beverage is.
Most importantly, look after your basic needs, specifically eat, sleep, safety and drink lots of water!
If you do struggle with your mental health, just because you have anxiety, depression or any other mental health issue does not mean you aren’t allowed to be happy and enjoy yourself.
It’s really easy for us to get so stressed out about enjoying an event like this that we forget to actually enjoy ourselves.
Be present, enjoy the moment and take lots of photos to look back on the fun memories you made.