Halloween is right around the corner, and it can be a terrifying time for people who suffer from anxiety. During this time the abundancy of triggers that can cause anxiety attacks seem to increase ten-fold. People with anxiety may experience Halloween differently. We are all individuals and can experience and tolerate different types of stimuli. For example, the clown epidemic scare can be too much stimuli for a person with anxiety. Adults and children alike can be affected by Halloween displays, practical jokes or costumes that are just too realistic. Anxiety attacks can happen at any time and place such as; during trick or treating, watching scary movies or attending parties at homes or at school. If you celebrate, there are ways to have a cheerful and fun Halloween.
Halloween as a Parent: If you are a parent, then you know that there are many programs designed for children that are actually very scary. Many “kid friendly” shows and movies can present concepts that may be difficult to understand such as kidnapping, death, illness, witchcraft, and ghosts. To protect your child with anxiety you need to be aware of how these programs or movies can emotionally affect your child and take the necessary precautions. Now, let’s not be confused with exposure treatment for anxiety.
Generally the common response: is that when we avoid something we are anxious about, it reinforces our anxiety, making it more difficult to face that situation in the future. This is true. Within the context of Halloween, however, I believe it is OK to avoid certain stimuli that are not needed for healthy development or functioning. If your child cannot attend school during the season because he/she is afraid of the parties, decorations, or costumes, it is important for him/her to attend school anyway.
This would be a case when anxiety can be inadvertently reinforced if the child is permitted to stay home. A talk with the teacher may help to modify classroom stimuli to make it safer for your child to be there. Working with your child on coping skills can also help him/her feel safe in school. If your child wants to avoid scary movies, let them, do NOT force them.
For adults who enjoy horror films and Halloween parties, go ahead and have fun! For those of you who want to crawl into a hole instead of watching the “however many nights of Halloween” specials on TV, then read on. It is okay that you do not like this material. We all have different tastes, interests, and levels of tolerance!
Trick or treating: is another interesting activity for people with anxiety. Think about it. Dressing up in a costume, walk up to a stranger’s door can be troubling, but if you go to neighborhoods that you are familiar with and homes that you regard as “safe zones” it can take the extra worry off. Think of Trick or treating as a great way to practice social skills, follow a routine, and be exposed to new and unpredictable situations.
This is important to remember: as you decide how you will celebrate. If you are a parent and your child suffers from anxiety, you know your child best. If you are an adult, you know yourself best. It is OK and healthy to decide which festive activities to participate in..
Feeling anxious or worried can cause stress that can make the day feel harder to get through. However, there are quite a few things that you can do to help alleviate your anxiety.
Here are some strategies that might help:
- Take a break – Listen to music, go for a walk, or try a breathing exercise.
- Talk to someone – Talk to a friend or family member about what’s worrying you.
- Keep a balanced diet – Have a healthy snack and try to limit caffeine intake.
- Maintain a sleep routine – Fatigue can often increase feelings of stress and anxiety. Make an effort to be well rested so you can tackle the day.
- Identify and manage what’s causing your anxiety – Be mindful of what’s upsetting you. You might be better at coping with the problem than you think.
- Exercise – Regular exercise can help you feel better, reduce anxiety, and improve health.
Please stay safe and have fun!