Are you struggling with wearing a mask due to panic or anxiety? Having a traumatic event or anxiety trigger related to having your mouth covered or feeling like your breathing is constricted can be extremely difficult. Especially, when you want to wear a mask to keep those around you safe. Reducing panic and anxiety with a mask is do-able! Especially, when we feel motivated to keep others safe by wearing one.
Gradual Exposure: Start small with wearing the mask. Even if it is 5 seconds. Getting yourself used to the mask slowly can help you reduce the amount of time your panic response kicks in. Gradually increase the amount of time you wear the mask, as you feel comfortable. Start by wearing the mask in a safe space before wearing it in public to help you feel more comfortable as well.
Find other sensory things to check in with: Focusing on the discomfort around the mouth and mask area will only increase the panic response. Instead, focus on other sensory inputs. Touch a comforting fabric with your hands, focus on sight by looking around you at other coping resources (phone to check in with a safe person or play a game, stretch your muscles, run cold water on your wrists, use lotion).
Find affirmations that work for you: Finding an affirmation to keep you motivated to use the mask can help you stay grounded while wearing the mask. “I am working through my anxiety to keep my loved ones safe”, “I am safe with this mask”, “This mask is meant to protect me and keep me safe”, “Wearing this mask is temporary until I am back home”. It is important to find an affirmation that helps you feel safe and keeps you grounded to the present moment.
Check the facts: A mask is not going to hurt you if worn properly.
Many people have to wear masks on a daily basis for their job or their health and they are safe.
Wearing a mask is temporary. You will return home and not have to wear the mask for the rest of your day.
Other people are wearing a mask and they are safe, too. Focus on the sense of community that wearing a mask creates. We are all in this together!
Have fun with the mask: Find a mask that expresses your personality. Support your favorite charity, sports team or a local business by finding a mask that makes you feel good. Play around with masks, find one that feels the most comfortable for you and focus on having control over that choice.
Wearing a mask can be challenging, triggering and anxiety provoking. But you can do it. We can get through this together.
Written by: Mackenzie Kerber, MA, LPCC