How to cope with Face Mask Anxiety - 9 Ways
For many people that have gone through trauma either as a child or an adult, the thought of wearing a mask due to recent events, can feel like it is adding to your trauma. There is no getting away from it. It is here at the moment and we don't know how long we will be required to wear them. What do you do and how do you cope if you have mask anxiety during these difficult times?
The very fact that you are reading this article, you are very conscientious about things and don’t want to harm others or yourself. I really do hope I can help you with my suggestions.
1. Don’t feel bad, it’s a normal reaction to stress and trauma
You might feel guilty, bad or worried about not wearing one. Also for having the feelings that you do have and feeling that you just can’t cope with wearing one. it’s just too much.
Before we go any further, it is important remember, your response to trauma is learned. You learned how to react a certain way to survive what you went through. The good news about this is that what is learned can be unlearned.
You just need to give yourself time and speak kindly to yourself. Also remember trying something new that is difficult, change doesn’t happen overnight.
If you have tried a few times and it hasn’t worked, it is just that you need to find a new way that benefits you. There will always be a way that will work well for you.
2. What do you say to yourself?
A lot of our anxiety is triggered by what we say to ourselves. Our thoughts trigger our feelings which in turn affects our behaviours.
I understand that underlying all of this could be trauma and or difficult experiences but in the here and now we can cope with situations short term by changing our thoughts.
I can’t breathe:
Remind yourself of the facts that you are fine, that your health is fine -You can breathe. Physically you can cope with it. Harming yourself with the facts may help:
Remind yourself that it is an act of kindness and love for yourself and other. Remember things like “I’m just taking precautions to protect myself and others just like being careful driving, putting suncream on”.
Try other encouraging words such as “I can cope with this”; “I am safe and all is well”; “I am doing the best that I can and it is fine”
3. Creative Visualisation
Creative visualisation is basically what it says: we create in our minds what we want to see.
There is so much research that confirms that we are affected more by what we see in our minds than anything. So if we purposely try to make ourselves see that we can cope wearing a mask and that we would be alright and safe, it would be more helpful for us.
It is best to practice creative visualisation before you need to wear a mask. Try this: you breathe-in think, “I am in control”, as you breathe-out think ” I am fully relaxed”. Keep this thought pattern going for several minutes.
Then create in your mind’s eye a picture of something you would like to achieve, when wearing your mask.
You might want to visualise you coping going shopping or standing in the queue at the bank then feeling fine. Try to imagine also how happy you will feel when you have done something you originally found difficult.
4. Breathing techniques
It would benefit you to practice breathing techniques before you need to go out and wear a mask. It would be difficult trying something new when you are that highly stressed. I have some breathing techniques here that you can take a look at.
5. Grounding Techniques
Remembering that you are in the present moment and that you are safe, will help.
Grounding techniques are great distractions to help redirect your thoughts away from distressing feelings, back to the present.
Here is a link that lists 30 different ones
6. Practice at home
Try practising when you are in a safe environment and under no pressure. Consider putting a timer on your phone for no more than 5 minutes to begin with.
Try to have no distractions from anyone that would annoy you. It is OK to have someone there who will support you but they just need to remain quiet whilst you do this. They will just be there to support you, congratulate and encourage you when you finish (This is important).
It is not essential to have someone there but if you have someone, make sure that they are understanding and supportive.
During this time you can practice some of the techniques I suggested above including, the breathing techniques, creative visualisation, the words that you say to yourself.
Or you could just sit there with it while you are watching a bit of telly or listening to some music. (Distractions help, as I will explain later).
The whole point here is to set aside time to get used to it more and more. That’s why I’m suggesting doing this daily for just a few minutes at a time. As you feel more comfortable, you can increase the time from 5 minutes.
7. Other types of Masks
Just remember the guidelines says face coverings which does not necessarily mean masks. Also there are different types of masks where some are more snug on your face than others.
Some people find wearing a face covering bandana less constricting, also face shields. I have put some pictures down below and as you can get them from Amazon.
You can also consider making your own facemask. You can make it to a design that suits you. I don’t think there are any rules to the design, as long as it is covering your nose and mouth.
If you want to make it yourself, here is some support here:
A videos on what materials you can use
8. Essential oils
Try adding a few drops of essential oils to your mask. Please ensure that it is not undiluted against your skin. You can try essential oils such as Lavender, Sweet Orange, Frankincense, Bergamot.
You can also add it if it is mixed with a carrier oil onto the pulse on your wrists if you like as well.
9. Remember the Acronym A.C.E. – Avoid Control Escape
Remembering this Acronym will help you feel more in control. Feeling that you ‘have to’ wear a mask as it is mandatory in public places may in some ways make you feel powerless. Know that you have choices and that you can make them will help. It is just how you see them in your mind.
A.C.E. as I said means Avoid Control and Escape. You can apply this to a lot of situations that you could be struggling with.
You can choose to avoid going out if this is what you wish to do. That’s fine, if you feel that it is far too much of a struggle to leave your home. This is what you are choosing for yourself. Or you could avoid going out at certain times when it is busy. Or avoid going out when you already feel stressed and tired, going out would just add to it.
Control: You could decide to bring a supportive friend, adopt some of the strategies that I have listed above. You could also take breaks whilst you are out. Find somewhere where it is safe to take your mask off for a few minutes at a time.
Escape: If you are finding it is too much, knowing that you can leave would help. Maybe plan before you go out how you can leave where you are going. Think of some excuses to give, ensure you have money to get home.
Types of Face Coverings
I am a Therapist based in Sutton Coldfield, UK also available online.
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