Yes, it’s a thing.
The sudden introduction of face masks into our lives due to COVID-19 can bring up anxiety in many ways!
1. Just the topic itself has emotions running high. We’re faced with a big debate, lots of opposing opinions, and a lot of conflict and judgment. The political situation itself (surrounding face masks) can create anxiety!
2. Face masks are a constant visual reminder of the “crazy” situation we have been in for months. It’s a reminder of how much our lives have changed, as well as the continued uncertainty, and our own vulnerability.
3. People with a history of anxiety, PTSD, or panic attacks may be triggered by wearing a face mask.
4. Face mask anxiety can feel like claustrophobia. Although you are not in a closed space, wearing a face mask can make it feel that way.
5. Face masks can make it harder to breathe. Those with any pre-existing breathing conditions can become anxious. Or, anxiety can arise from the fear/worry: “will I be able to breathe?”
6. While we try hard not to worry about actually getting COVID-19, face masks are a reminder that there could be danger around the corner (which can trigger a fight-or-flight response).
7. Anxiety can arise when others don’t wear masks and you feel they should.
8. Face masks prevent us from seeing one another’s faces, which can create anxiety because you can’t “read” or interpret other peoples’ moods or reactions. This also creates a sense of disconnection.
9. Similarly, face masks make communication difficult. It changes one’s tone of voice, makes it harder to hear, and makes it harder to be heard.
10. Changing government advise (or lack thereof) about face masks can increase fear and uncertainty.
11. The “never leave home without it” mentality is stressful. Your mind can’t be at rest.
12. Face masks increase the temperature of your facial skin which affects thermal sensations in the entire body. Overheating or a “hot flash” can create anxiety.
Yikes! What can we do?
There are many ways to reduce anxious feelings. My whole BLOG is full of tools to manage anxiety.
Here’s some Go To strategies:
- Take breaks. If you must be in public for a long period of time, go somewhere secluded to take off your mask for a few minutes.
- Desensitize. Practice wearing your mask at home for short periods of time and taking breaks if you feel anxious. Try building up to longer periods of time. This is good for practicing with kids as well.
- Fight fear with facts. There is no evidence that face masks are dangerous. They do allow for adequate airflow around the mouth and nose even though we are not used to the feelings of wearing masks. Studies have shown that their use results in no clinically significant changes in oxygen or carbon dioxide levels (Roberge, 2012). Health care providers have worn masks since the 1920s, with no evidence of danger.
- Diaphragmatic breathing or Soft Breathing where the focus is on breathing into your belly area instead of your lung area.
- Even better is Mindful Belly Breathing – practice this regularly and it will be incredibly helpful in the very moment of face mask anxiety. Click HERE for the instructions and my free guided Mindful Belly Breathing meditation.
- Create an easy mantra or affirmation for yourself that helps you focus on peace or reassurance. This helps calm both your mind and the physical symptoms of anxiety.
- Practice Mindfulness to help you stay centered and calm in the moment.
- Try this 2-minute Mind-Body meditation.