How can I cope with face mask anxiety?

Focus on your breathing

Breathing exercises can help you to trick your body into a state of relaxation when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Psychotherapist Anne-Marie Alger from Counselling Directory shares five common breathing exercises that you can try right now to help you manage physiological sensations and emotional feelings of anxiety, to find your focus, and relax.

Positive affirmation and deep breathing. This technique is easy to achieve in 60 seconds. It uses deep breathing and a positive affirmation to aid relaxation and reduce anxiety within the mind and body.

Choose your own affirmation to use such as ‘I am at peace’, ‘I am relaxed’ or ‘I am in control. Take a few slow, deep breaths. As you breathe in, quietly say the first part of your affirmation to yourself. Pause for three seconds. As you breathe out, quietly say the second part of your affirmation. Repeat this cycle three times, and gradually relax your body, releasing tension.

As with many skills, breathing techniques can take some practice to allow you to most effectively see the benefits of them, so keep trying.

Increase your knowledge and exposure to decrease your fear

The better we understand something, the less mystery surrounds it. By removing that sense of the unknown, it can help to lessen our fear and anxiety. As explained by the Mental Health Foundation, when we begin to avoid situations or things that scare us, we aren’t able to experience situations where things aren’t as bad (or scary) as we expect them to be. This means we miss opportunities to work out how we can manage our fears and anxiety. Over time, this can lead to unhealthy patterns, and can even worsen how we feel about something.

Keeping a record of how you are feeling, and any specific instances which have triggered feelings of greater (or lesser) anxiety can help you to track any specific causes.

Talk it through with someone

Whether that’s someone you are close to and care about, or it’s an outsider who can help you subjectively work through your worries and fears, speaking about your anxiety can help you to overcome it. Working with a qualified therapist or counsellor can help you to assess how you are feeling, recognise any symptoms, and find ways you can reduce these.

Methods to reduce anxiety, such as cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness exercises can help you to gain clarity, recognise triggers, and learn new ways of coping.

Knowing how to wear your mask safely and correctly.

By learning more you can begin to regain a sense of control.

Try to create consistent habits

Counselling Directory member and Lead Partner at The Practice, Beverley Hills, explains how consistency can help both adults and children to feel less anxious and form positive habits.

Getting a child to put on their shoes can sometimes be a battle let alone a face mask, but consistency helps form good habits so with children you might want to think about offering them an incentive like a sticker or more screen time. You can let them decorate their masks or decorate yours, it won’t be long before superhero masks hit the stores!

For adults, it’s less exciting but once again consistency forms good habits and reminding the adult that there was a time when s/he didn’t like wearing clothes but those are the rules, they soon got used to it! Like with anything new to us, time is the saving grace here.

When you worry, you probably think of worst-case scenarios. We call this catastrophic. Instead, try thinking of what actually happens most of the time. Explore your anxiety by asking what’s the worst that could happen, what’s the best that could happen and what’s the most likely thing to happen if you do or don’t wear a mask.

Above all else, Beverley reminds us that wearing a mask could possibly save your life.

It’s important to remember that anxieties and fear aren’t always logical. There may not be a clear reason why we are feeling anxiety – but that doesn’t make it any less real, or any easier for us to cope with. By recognising you are feeling anxious, and looking for a way to tackle that anxiety, you’re already making the first step to changing how you react to that automatic feeling.

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