Halloween, with its costumes, parties, and gatherings, can be an exciting and enjoyable time for many. However, for those dealing with social anxiety, it can be a season filled with trepidation and stress. The fear of judgment, crowded spaces, and the pressure to socialize can trigger social anxiety in even the most sociable individuals. Learning how to manage your social anxiety during Halloween can bring back the fun in this season!
Whether you have fond childhood memories of Halloween that you want to relive or not-so-fond ones that you would like to move on from, you may feel the pressure to enjoy Halloween wholeheartedly. You may also feel that this task is impossible to take on, though you may not be able to put your finger on exactly why. You might be someone who enjoys trick-or-treating (with your children, your friends’ children, or nieces and nephews) but finds “adult” Halloween activities too scary and upsetting. It is, after all, a spooky occasion. Several things may be causing fear to hijack your joy, and one or all of them might apply to you.
Things That Can Trigger Your Social Anxiety During Halloween
- Costume Expectations: The fear of standing out or not fitting in can be paralyzing. Additionally, the pressure to have a creative or perfect costume can be overwhelming.
- Crowded Parties and Gatherings: Halloween parties are known for their lively, often crowded atmospheres.
- Judgment and Scrutiny: On Halloween, people tend to be more outspoken about their opinions, which can be intimidating for those struggling with self-esteem.
- Small Talk and Mingling: The fear of running out of things to say or saying something awkward can be paralyzing.
- Haunted Houses and Frightful Attractions: Jump scares and unsettling scenarios can exacerbate their anxiety symptoms.
5 Ways to Manage Your Social Anxiety During Halloween
1) Plan Ahead:
Our brains crave predictability. This doesn’t mean that we spend our lives never trying something new; it is good to try new activities, go to new places, eat new dishes, and so on. However, those experiences are only fun if our nervous system can tolerate them, and our nervous system tolerates unpredictability better when it isn’t dealing with it most of the time. In our day-to-day lives, we seek a routine that helps us feel stable enough to handle the surprises that come our way.
It helps to take a similar approach for a night out. Decide where you want to go and what you want to do, and communicate your plans with someone you trust. If you are going to a location you’ve never visited before, map it out to see where you’ll be. Do you know any landmarks nearby? Do you know how you will get to and from the event? If you are driving yourself, what is the parking situation like? Determine who you are going to be out with; hopefully, this person is relatively familiar to you.
Begin your plan at the beginning of the day. Include as much of your normal routine as you can to create an overall sense of predictability for the day. Grounding yourself in your usual habits will stabilize you so you can be ready to take on something new and exciting! If you spend all day running around, trying new things, and then attending your event, you might find that you are already fatigued of new experiences before you even begin.
There is something about holidays and events that can ramp up existing anxiety. Pressure to show up, produce crafts or snacks, host people, be “on the theme,” socialize more, and support others’ holiday-themed endeavors can all add up. Holiday-based anxiety is a real thing that you can help yourself out by planning for.
2) Choose a Comfortable Costume:
Prioritize your comfort over conforming to societal expectations. If you choose a costume that you feel you constantly have to tug at, that you can’t sit down in, that shows more skin than you want to, that won’t keep you warm, or any other discomfort, it will take away from your fun. Most of these issues aren’t improved over a night of running about; by the fiftieth tug at your hemline, you’ll likely be wondering why you went out for Halloween at all. If your costume is part of a theme or a group, make sure that it is still first and foremost for you. Yes, it’s fun to be a part of something. But it’s also fun to be able to relax and be present in the moment when you’re out socializing.
Comfort doesn’t only mean that your costume fits and keeps you warm but that it has a safe space for your phone, your keys, and anything else you want to have with you. These are important items for safety and for capturing memories, so planning how to secure them without having to check for them often will free up some mental space and allow you to have a better time.
If you are a person who lives in a bigger body, you may experience Halloween very differently than your loved ones who live in smaller bodies. It is harder for you to “just go to a thrift shop” or find affordable clothing that can be converted. You may be confident in your body, but ever-vigilant about the response you might get from others who don’t feel your costume is “appropriate” or “flattering”; harassment and threats are likely not foreign ideas to you. You may also be less confident in your body and asked to participate in a group costume that you feel will highlight your insecurities. One of the hardest things about group costumes, or being advised to thrift your costume, is the isolation of realizing that your loved ones don’t see the obstacles you face in your daily life. They don’t realize how hard it is to find clothing that fits, that you feel good in, and that doesn’t cost you a large financial investment. They don’t understand that you may be harassed for wearing certain things. Always remember that how you clothe yourself is your business. If and how you communicate with your friends about the challenges you’re up against is your business. Hopefully, the people around you will have compassion and understanding and want to make sure you feel safe, protected, happy, and confident when you’re out on Halloween!
3) Practice Mindfulness:
Before attending any event, practice mindfulness techniques. Entering into any situation as emotionally-regulated as possible will always benefit you. It will also help you connect with yourself to feel strong and confident. When we are attuned to our senses and focused on the present, we know we are much more capable of listening to our intuition and looking out for ourselves.
Mindfulness allows us to observe thoughts and feelings without judgment. If you experience discomfort about something, mindfulness lets you be aware of it. If you try to ignore how you feel, you might miss important cues.
Social anxiety therapy can utilize mindfulness techniques that help you face groups, crowds, and intimate social events. If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed by a lot of people, you may want to bring your attention to your breathing or to your senses to feel grounded. You might wear an article of clothing that comforts you and feels soft to the touch or a fragrance that soothes you. You might choose to chew a certain flavor of gum. Walking yourself through your sensory experience or focusing on your breathing helps to bring your awareness back to the basics of your existence in the space, as opposed to thinking about how many people are around you or the size of the room you are in.
4) Practice Assertiveness:
Halloween has a bit of mischief built in; being subjected to a “trick” if you don’t give a “treat” is such a staple that folks who go door to door to collect candy are called “trick-or-treaters.” Halloween can also come with fireworks, mazes, and haunted houses. Strangers who are out and about might be dressed up as scary characters and be more enthusiastic about their “role” than you might like. The spooky theme, the raucousness of the usual activities, and the assumed permission to be who you aren’t can all create a chaotic environment.
Being assertive can help you regain a sense of control. If you aren’t comfortable in a location, you have the right to leave it. If someone you are with is pushing boundaries, you have the right to set yours. If you aren’t being listened to, if your concerns are being dismissed or brushed aside, you have the right to exit that situation. Fun is only fun if people don’t feel at genuine risk of harm and/or embarrassment. Some folks don’t share that philosophy, don’t respect that others have different standards than they do, and don’t care to try to adjust their thinking. The only thing you can control is your own response to situations.
When you have determined what your boundaries are, come up with the words and phrases you will use to enforce them. You might set a code word with another friend, and if one of you says you, you politely yet firmly excuse yourselves. You might want to try some farewell phrases, such as, “That makes me uncomfortable, so maybe I’ll catch up with you all later,” or, “This isn’t my idea of fun. I’m going to head home.” If you want to stay out and about, you might say, “I’m not excited about this idea; can we do something else?” or, “What about x – I thought that sounded like a good plan!” When push comes to shove, remember that “No” is a full sentence. You are the boss of yourself. If you have to practice saying “No” or “No, thank you” before you head out for the night, go for it.
You can also practice being assertive to advocate for what you do like. Give yourself permission to be enthusiastic and speak up for yourself if one idea has more appeal than the other. Remember, it’s your night out, too! Everyone you’re with can and should have a turn at being heard out and supported.
5) Focus on the Fun:
Halloween has the potential to be truly and genuinely fun. Try to focus on the aspects you genuinely enjoy, such as the creativity of costumes, the spooky decorations, or the thrill of scary movies. You are not obligated to participate in the aspects that don’t work for you; no one should criticize you for what you prefer, just as you shouldn’t criticize others whose idea of fun differs from your own.
You might want to use this as an opportunity to be social, or you may want to do the opposite. For example, if a costume party isn’t really your scene, you might want to have a scary movie marathon with just a close friend. If you’re child-free and don’t have little ones in your life, you might want to take this opportunity to have a Halloween date night with your partner. Corn mazes and theme park attractions pop up around this time of year; you can really make the most of their limited run by participating. It might become a tradition, or it might not.
If you attend therapy for social anxiety, you may have spent time considering your limits and creating boundaries around them. Being in your comfort zone gives you a good chance at having a good time. Yes, it is important to try new things and be open to new experiences, but that doesn’t mean that you have an obligation to put those experiences ahead of your own fun evening. Stay attuned to what excites you and what you think will make you happy. You may have a lot of experience with people pressuring you to do things you don’t want to do because they think it will be fun; this might come up a lot in your social anxiety counseling, as I see it a lot as a therapist in Woodland Hills. Unlearning people-pleasing, especially around holiday events, can take a lot of time and practice and might not always go smoothly. Keep revisiting your parameters for a good time.
Halloween happens once a year; it’s the October event before Thanksgiving in November and the celebrations of several religions in December. You may feel the impending series of events and social gatherings coming, and Halloween may trigger that for you. Stay present so that you aren’t experiencing future anxiety while you’re trying to have a good time in the current festivities. Experience Halloween for what it is, which is whatever you make it! Create new traditions, honor old ones, do something new and different every year. Give yourself permission to have fun, to go home, to stay longer. Support yourself by eating enough throughout the day, drinking enough water, and participating in your usual self-care routine. Eat the candy, watch the scary movie, go to the dance; whatever you’re doing, give yourself full permission to enjoy it.
Social Anxiety Therapy in Woodland Hills
Social situations can be a major trigger for anxiety. It is more than just being shy or nervous. It is an overwhelming fear of judgment that comes with catastrophic thinking. When struggling with Social Anxiety, you may have seen your life get smaller and smaller. Because social anxiety can lead to many last-minute cancellations, rejection of invitations, and overall isolation. To understand the cycle of Social Anxiety and how to manage it better, you need to work with our CBT specialist here in Woodland Hills or virtually, who utilizes ERP, CBT, ACT, and mindfulness techniques.
Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Admin Team today!