The government have recently announced their roadmap out of lockdown, but it seems that masks might be here to stay. Some people find wearing a mask difficult as it can heighten anxiety and cause feelings of claustrophobia. Luckily, we have a few tips and exercises you can try to help ease your mind about face coverings.
Focus on breathing
Practising your breathing is a great way to help calm yourself and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Remember to inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, and exhale slowly through your mouth. It may help to do this before you put your mask on but also while you’re wearing it. You can find some good breathing exercises here. Try to make sure you’re as relaxed as possible before putting the mask on, as it will help keep you in a calm state of mind.
Switch it up
It may make you feel more comfortable if you have a mask you prefer wearing. If you don’t like masks that cling to your throat, a neck gaiter might be a good idea. Try out different types of masks and fabrics, as you may find that some are more comfortable than others. Creating your own face mask out of a t-shirt or familiar material and spraying some nice perfume or scent onto the mask can also help ground you.
Practice wearing the mask
Wearing a face covering is a new experience for many, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a bad one. It can be daunting to get used to something so different, which is why practising wearing your face mask at home is a great way to help make it feel normal.
Wearing a mask at home will help desensitise yourself to the feeling, and building up your tolerance slowly will definitely help you in the long run. To begin, hold the mask in front of your face but do not put it on your face. Breathe slowly and deeply for five minutes, or until you do not feel anxious anymore. You can then set the mask aside. Every time you repeat this process bring the mask slowly closer until you feel you are able to put it on.
Minimise the time you’re wearing the mask
If you’re going shopping, be sure to write a list to speed up the process. Try to avoid the busiest hours, and go to any shops you know are quieter. If you have to travel, see if there’s any part of the journey that you can do on foot so there is less need for a mask.
See it as a fashion accessory
You can buy face masks in almost every colour, pattern and fabric under the sun. Try to think of your face mask as something to enhance or compliment your outfit, like a funky hat or a scarf. Buying or creating a face mask that looks nice should help you feel a little more relaxed and less self-conscious. Whether it’s the design of the fabric or the type of face mask, there are countless ways in which you can make it personal to you.
Anxiety around other people wearing masks
It can be overwhelming and stressful to see others wearing masks. It’s a very physical reminder of the pandemic, and can cause some to feel anxious. If you find yourself feeling uneasy around people wearing masks then try shifting your focus away from their face. It may feel better if you’re not directly opposite them. Standing next to them and facing in the same direction may make conversation more comfortable. Pay attention to your surroundings, focus on things that will calm you, such as nature or comforting sounds. It may help to listen to music or podcasts while you’re out and about, or talking to a friend on the phone.
There are many ways in which you can improve your relationship with masks. Be open and talk to someone you can trust. Repeat to yourself that you are not suffocating and not in danger, and breathe slowly and deeply. If your anxiety or panic gets too much to handle, don’t hesitate to seek mental health support.