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How to Be Mentally Healthy & Have Fun This Halloween

How to Be Mentally Healthy & Have Fun This Halloween

This material has been reviewed for accuracy by: Renee Albers, PhD

For many revelers, Salem, Mass. is the epicenter of America’s Halloween celebrations. Every October, hundreds of thousands of visitors enjoy the many events and venues in the Witch City, so named because of the Salem Witch Trials.

Not this year though. Haunted Happenings, the organizer of the Halloween-related events in Salem, posted to Instagram that “many events will not be able to happen as they have in the past.”

“We are as disappointed as you are to know that many of our favorite events cannot take place this year, but we are committed to doing our part to help protect residents, employees, and visitors and staff and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Salem,” Haunted Happenings said in its statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance stating that traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating is considered a high-risk activity during the pandemic.

“Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses,” the CDC said. “There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween.”

The CDC has broken down Halloween activities into risk categories, including:

  • Low risk – pumpkin carving and decorating with family members, decorating your home, virtual Halloween costume contests
  • Medium risk – participating in a “grab and go” trick-or-treat while social distancing (like leaving treats outside a closed door) or costume parties outdoors where participants are wearing masks and standing at least 6 feet apart
  • High risk – traditional trick-or-treating (accepting treats from someone unmasked in close proximity), attending crowded indoor costume parties or going on hayrides with people outside your household

With the added anxiety about how to celebrate safely and the cancellation of events that typically bring us joy, our mental health might be taking a bit of a hit this Halloween. And this is all before having to deal with the November time change, seasonal affective disorder, and grappling with how to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas during a pandemic.

How to Have a Fun Halloween & Be Kind to Your Mental Health

Connecticut Children’s Health System’s (CCHS) Halloween-focused page states, “Yes, Halloween this year will be different. But even if your family is in quarantine, there are lots of creative and safe ways to celebrate right at home.”

The CCHS offers more than a dozen ideas, including a scary movie night, making Halloween treats together – and camping.

“In case you hadn’t heard, there will be a full moon on Oct. 31, 2020 – something that happens just once every 18 or 19 years,” writes CCHS. “It’s also a ‘blue moon,’ aka the second full moon of the month. So set up a tent and enjoy the show. Howl if you want to.”

The CCHS suggests going big on decorations. Scary Mommy blog Elizabeth Broadbent writer echoes this suggestion:

“To make the most of our pandemic Halloween, we’re pulling out all the stops on decorations. I’ll drape the house in fake spiderwebs. I’ll haul out all the yard decorations. I’ll stick pumpkins in every freaking corner, inside and out. We’ll carve them at least twice: once in the beginning of October, and once near the end. The more Halloween-y it looks, the more my kids will understand that yes, the holiday is coming; no, it’s hasn’t been canceled like so much else.”

Jack o Lantern with a facemask indicating Halloween during the pandemic

Broadbent shared additional ideas to make Halloween special:

  • Spooky-Themed Food – Make a dinner or snack that incorporates a fun Halloween theme.
  • Pandemic Halloween Baskets – Instead of going house-to-house to pick up treats, create a Halloween-themed basket for the kids on Halloween morning. They could have Halloween toys, candy and Halloween-themed crafts.

“The only way we are going to get through this and prevent further spread is to actually take the recommendations from experts on how to be as safe as possible,” writes Julie Scagell in another Scary Mommy Halloween post. “Perhaps spending time this Halloween planning an epic bash for next Halloween is time well spent.”

Keep Emotions and Expectations in Check for Mental Health this Halloween

One of the most important things parents can do is to not overreact or project their own disappointment onto their children.

“My kids will have a Halloween this year,” Broadbent concludes in her Scary Mommy post. “Yes, there’s a global pandemic going on, and this Halloween will be different from others, but it’ll still be Halloween – even if it’s a weird pandemic Halloween. My kids love the holiday too much to miss it, and they’ve sacrificed so much these past few months. I’m determined to give them this, even if it looks a little bit different than usual.”

Mother and child in costume celebrating Halloween safely at home.

Children tend to adapt to change, according to Emily Oster in an opinion piece for the Washington Post. Oster is a professor of economics at Brown University, an author and a co-founder of the website COVID-Explained.

“In the case of Halloween, this year will be different – but that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun,” writes Oster in the Washington Post. “There is nothing that says the only good Halloween requires jamming your hand into a bucket of candy.”

For more information about how mental health is being impacted by the coronavirus, read:

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