By. Rachel Troob, Psychology Intern
Halloween is meant to be an exciting holiday where we dress up and gather with friends. However, Halloween can also be an overwhelming holiday that brings up feelings of anxiety and fear. There’s the anxiety around the actual event of Halloween: the frightening costumes, haunted houses, and big gatherings. And, there’s the aspect of social anxiety. What costume do I wear? What if I am around alcohol? What if I am left out of a group costume? What if my child is not included in a plan? As Halloween is right around the corner, let’s take a second to examine our level anxiety around the holiday and locate ways to ease our fears.
- When you think about Halloween, where do you feel the tension? Do you feel a pit in your stomach? Are your shoulders tense? Does your face feel hot? Locate where these tense feelings are coming up.
- Calculate how strong the feeling is on a scale from 1 to 10.
- Intervene: intervene by taking three deep breaths.
- Recalculate: how strong is the feeling now on a scale from 1 to 10?
Did you notice any changes? The goal of this activity is not to solve or get rid of our anxiety: it is to control it. Anxiety is a natural part of being human. By being aware of the messages our body sends us, we can intervene as necessary. We can intervene by implementing breathing exercises and positive self-talk that help our bodies re-center before the anxiety takes over. This will bring us to a place where we can think more rationally and locate the core fear. We can then take action rather than ruminating in our thoughts. For example, when I think about Halloween coming up, I notice my hands getting tense. On a scale from one to ten, I would score the tension at a six. My hands are feeling hot but they do not feel sweaty. To intervene, I shook out my hands and took three deep breaths. As I calculate my feelings again, the tension in my hands are at a two out of ten. My hands are still hot, but they are less tense. With a clear head, I notice that my core fear is that I will be left out of plans on Halloween. I can now make a rational decision about how I want to move forward. By the end of the day I will push myself to text or call three friends to inquire about their possible plans.
By focusing on the feelings in our body, we give less power to our racing thoughts and fears. I will implement this technique during the days leading up to and on Halloween. I encourage you to try it too! When I notice my hands heating up, I will calculate how I feel, take a deep breath, and then recalculate how I feel. With a clear head, I can then make a rational and workable action plan.