It was the Halloween of 1996 (long before I wrote fun Halloween self care articles). Between the hours of six and seven pm, one would have found seven-year-old me plastered against a locked front door screaming next to a close friend and fellow fourth grader as a monstrous, foreboding figure closely resembling Jason Voorhees headed our way.
Lights flashed, thunder rumbled as I continued shrieking. My heart lodged uncomfortably in my throat. Even after the haunted house troupe stopped to let us out, my friend continued to claw and push at the very locked door. It’s no wonder I have refused to step into a haunted house ever since.
The Strong, Yet Easily Startled Me Today
This is a far cry from the Halloween enthusiast I am today. While there is a dark and, at times, an unfavorable perspective of the holiday, I see it as the marker of changing seasons. The time before winter comes and I shift into hibernation. Also, the air becomes crisp, and the weather suits a pale-pallored lady such as myself.
History of Halloween: In All it’s Dark, Frightening Gory…Erm, Glory
The history of Halloween can be traced back to Ireland. By the 19th century, Irish and Scottish immigrants brought the traditions we associate with the holiday to our shores.
What originated as the observance of a time when the veil between the living and dead was thin eventually took root in the US as a commercially attractive, social extravaganza.
Mental health conditions can be exacerbated this time of year by unexpected scares, unsettling gory depictions, and the uncanny experience of witnessing one’s neighbors take to the streets en masse masked. (Can you say The Purge, anyone?)
The most effective forms of self care for me integrate nostalgia, mindfulness, and hope. Check out my recent post on the subject here. So it’s no surprise these activities check these boxes. Halloween also has the added benefit of fostering creativity, adrenaline rushes, and socialization. Halloween self care is essential just as it is any other time of the year!
I’ve known my share of horror film aficionados and haunted house organizers. While I think these can be entertaining for some, I’m often left wondering, “What about the scaredy cats like me?”
5 Halloween Self Care Activities for Scaredy Cats
Here are my top Halloween self care activities that can put you in the holiday spirit without sending you racing to the little girls’ room in fear you may have peed your pants.
I’m a convert from fall décor. Where there once were plush pumpkins and “hello autumn” signs are now skeletons and spotlights. So by mid-September this year, I had unearthed my outdoor Halloween props just in time to welcome the chill in the air.
I look forward to seasonal decorating every year. It allows me to get creative and practice mindfulness. Through this transformation from inside and outside my home, I feel lighter. With the limited duration of the Halloween season, I keep it simple, minding a low budget and making the most out of a few things.
So this Halloween, tap into your creative side: putting up an entire graveyard on your front lawn or just using your favorite candy dish as a centerpiece in your dining room or kitchen.
Bake to a Spooky Playlist
Eyeball cake and dirt brownies with worms, anyone? Nothing helps me unwind quite the same as baking. Couple that with the creativity that comes with decorating it, and it’s a fun-filled time for me.
Autumn baking transports me back to times in the kitchen with my grandma (who is a formidable force professionally and domestically). It also is a laid-back alternative to cooking. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a comforting home-cooked meal, but I also don’t find it remotely relaxing.
I also like to set the mood with music, especially now that I have a daughter who frequently sings throughout the day.
Instead of playing the Monster Mash on repeat (and trust me, if you ask your Alexa device to play Halloween music, she will put this on…), opt for something that gets you in the season’s spirit. For me, it’s primarily eerie instrumentals, but you know what brings out your spooky side best. And if you don’t, keep looking for future posts when I give some ideas!
Whether in a book or out loud, scary stories are a Halloween tradition and highly American: the Wild West was home to many ghost stories while huddled around a campfire.
So, dig out your copy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – since my 90’s childhood, it has been made into a movie, which is also worth a watch. Read something by Edgar Allen Poe (the Tell Tale Heart is a favorite of mine). Or, look out your blinds at 11PM and ask your husband why a guy is standing on your front lawn staring at your house (my husband was not a fan of this one for some reason).
If scary stories are a bit much for you, try a Halloween children’s book as a form of Halloween self-care. Goosebumps is always a great read, no matter how old or young you are!
Halloween-Themed Movies & TV
When discussing Halloween movies, many titles come to mind: Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and of course, the actual Halloween. While I enjoy the edited for TV versions or looking away from scenes I came prepared for, I’m a lover of suspense and thrills; hold the gore, please. Who doesn’t remember the ABC Family marathon “31 Nights of Halloween?” It may, in fact, be one of my most treasured times from childhood. A dreaded cliched but super readable list article will be coming soon with Halloween movies and television episodes for you to watch this spooky season. Stay tuned!
Plan an Unspooky Trip
Apart from my experience in a haunted house, I’ve tried the alternative haunted trail over the years. And I can safely say, even though I am free to roam, I did not enjoy being in the dark woods guided by a dimly lit flashlight that I gripped so tightly one would’ve figured I was teeing up to bat a homerun. Like if I had been squeezing a pigeon, it would’ve been crushed instantly.
So I figured a haunted hayride could be better, right? Not so much. I was left wondering what I could indulge in and realized there are quite a few places I’ve been that foster the bare socialization I crave for the Halloween season. Whether it’s making a weekend trip to Sleepy Hollow or Salem, these places have non-scary options.
1. Sleepy Hollow, New York
I’ve been to Sleepy Hollow twice. The first time when I was 8 and while on a group tour, my older sister, who was only 12 at the time, asked the college-aged tour guide if Washington Irving had any illicit affairs. That guy was as taken aback as much as he couldn’t care less. Equally shocked and disengaged. But for any literature buffs, Sleepy Hollow is a must-see!
2. Salem, Massachusetts
Salem is home to lots of witchy fun! However, a word of caution, it is overrun during the weekends in October with minimal available accommodations. So, you’ll need to book this trip well in advance (I’m talking like a year out). I did not think that far ahead and decided to book a hotel half an hour away. If you choose that approach, be prepared to fall on your sword to get a parking spot, as those are also highly coveted.
Those are a few ideas to get your Halloween off to a nostalgic yet non-horrifying start. While haunted houses will likely always be a hard pass for me, in recounting my childhood haunted house story, I realize that the front door wasn’t locked.
My friend and I were pushing very hard–against a pull door…
Happy Halloween, friends, and may your season be safely spooky.