A New York Psychologist Shares 18 Ways to Overcome Mask Anxiety
During this unique time we’ve had to adjust to life behind a face mask. The world outside your window has changed, which necessitates a shift in the way you protect our physical and mental health.
While casual use of a mask in open spaces is generally easier to manage, many of us are experiencing uncomfortable levels of anxiety, even panic, while wearing a mask around others, especially as we transition toward slightly increased exposure to more people and places.
Uncertain times like these demand increased confidence in our physical and psychological protection as we encounter real or imagined danger. Below you’ll find 18 great tips for overcoming mask anxiety.
18 Ways to Reduce Mask Anxiety
1. Take your self-talk to the next level.
Remind yourself 20 times during each outdoor journey that you’re going to be ok. Literally, say to yourself. “No matter what happens, I’m going to be ok.” This self-talk may boost your immune system by giving you an enhanced sense of control during this strange time.
2. Wear your mask at home for short periods of time.
Let the mask feel like it can be a part of you. Dance with your mask. Listen to music. Take selfies. Do whatever makes the mask feel like your mask is a part of you.
3. Remind yourself of your free will to choose.
If your anxiety spikes during a mask-wearing outing, keep telling yourself different choices you’re making in real time. Say, “I choose to…” For example, if you’re about to turn right on as you approach a perpendicular street, tell yourself, “I choose to turn right.” Repeat this for the smallest of choices. Consciously exercising your free will to make choices reduces a perception of powerlessness and increases a sense of personal agency.
4. Strive to better understand your triggers.
Pay attention to the situations that trigger your anxiety. Keep a log of each bout of mask anxiety. A note on your phone will suffice. For each occurrence, write down where it occurred, what you were thinking at the time, rate your anxiety from 1-10 and remind yourself of what you did to calm down. Read over your notes. Talk through your triggers with trusted loved ones and a mental health professional.
5. Practice breathing techniques with and without your mask on.
The more you practice bringing your breathing under control, the easier it will be to self-soothe when you’re feeling anxious with a mask on. Do relaxation exercises at home with your mask on. Here’s an example of a anxiety-reducing relaxation exercise you can try.
6. Practice visualization exercises to simulate wearing a mask in real life.
Picture yourself wearing a mask in different environments that represent varying levels of stress. Begin with the least stressful environment you can imagine encountering and rehearse relaxation exercises to calm your breath. See yourself as relaxed in your mind’s eye. Then move on to visualize more stressful places where a mask may be a challenge.
7. Give your mask a name.
Build a nice relationship with your mask by naming it. Talk to it. Reason with it. Laugh at it and with it. Relate to it as a friend. “Buddy, I gotta loosen you. You’re too uptight.”
8. Consciously send healing vibes to people you see.
Focus your thoughts on how your mask is protecting the people around you. Wish each person well as they pass you by. Transmit thoughts of love and healing. We’re all struggling these days. Bringing your attention to other people’s well-being can get you outside of your own anxiety. Tell them in your mind that you’re protecting them. The world desperately needs your good vibes and sense of social responsibility to heal.
9. Think of the children.
Remind yourself of the children you’re potentially saving by wearing a mask. Imagine kids thanking you in their cute little voices. Step outside of your suffering by picturing their smiles of gratitude. You’re making a sacrifice by being so uncomfortable.
10. Embrace the anonymity.
Your mask offers you a level of public anonymity that you’ve probably never experienced before. A teenager told me he likes to think of himself as a ninja when he wears his mask. Find a fascinating angle on mask anonymity. Embrace temporary hiding out. Enlist your imagination.
11. Get angry at your anxiety.
This is not my first choice compared to the other anxiety reduction techniques, but some people find it effective. Anger is the flip side of anxiety. You can’t feel both at the same time. Focus on how annoying your anxiety can be. Talk back to your anxiety. Yell at it in your mind. Tell it that it can’t control you.
12. Try name calling. That is, give your anxiety a name.
Naming your anxiety reminds you that anxiety is not all of you: rather, it’s a part of you. This anxiety reduction technique represents another way to increase your sense of control in the face of uncertainty, similar to my recommendation to get angry about your anxiety. Call your anxiety a person’s name and let it know how you feel. There’s something comical in this, but it can work if you buy into this technique. “Herbert, you suck! Go away!”
13. Find the humor in your situation.
I know that there’s nothing funny about all of the tragedy that the Covid-19 virus has inflicted on the world, but for survival’s sake, look for what funny about a given situation. Laughter can be neutralizer of mask anxiety. I think about the inevitably awkward moments that this pandemic has created. How would Larry David respond to a scenario you find yourself in? George Costanza? Kramer? The Modern Family characters? What about your favorite comedic characters?
14. Wear a funny, protective mask.
There are plenty of masks for sale with slogans that will give you and strangers a good chuckle. Knowing that you’re delivering humor to the world may help you feel less anxious with your mask on.
15. Make your mask a fashion statement.
If a humorous mask isn’t your thing, then can you make it about fashion? A few masks that match your clothing can go a long way. I wouldn’t make this recommendation if we weren’t in the midst of a global pandemic, but a little style can go a long way for easing your mask anxiety.
16. Online therapy = an anxiety game changer.
Seeking out an online therapist in a global pandemic is a sign of massive strength. Work on lowering your anxiety from the comfort of your own home with an online therapist. This experience can improve more than mask anxiety. Online therapy for anxiety with the right mental health professional can give you the perspective you need to understand and control your triggers, as well as the less obvious influences on your anxiety.
17. Imagine a light around you that protects you.
Imagine a blue light protecting you from all danger. Focus your energy on this force field. Picture a round aura protecting you. Send love to it. Repeat to yourself in a loving and confident voice, “I am protected.” This exercise is no joke. Creating a reminder of your safety can reduce your anxiety.
18. Start a creative, mask-related phone or video project.
Talk to yourself on camera about what you’re going through. Document this time in your life so that future generations can see what you endured. Share your wisdom from lessons learned. Creative projects lower anxiety.Learn More
Online Therapy with an Experienced Cognitive Behavioral (CBT) Psychologist
There are many great benefits of Telehealth, but it’s important to choose the right CBT psychologist for online therapy. The key to caring for your mental health via a video screen is to choose a therapist who has the experience to create a similar therapeutic benefit online as you would receive in person.
This is not an easy accomplishment. It takes the right therapist to build a strong therapeutic relationship via online therapy. People underestimate this skill’s importance in creating change.
I have sincerely enjoyed providing telehealth services to clients as we all adjust to life under quarantined conditions.
The Benefits of Telehealth Services
The Covid-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for everyone. I am currently working with clients to reduce coronavirus anxiety, improve relationships and marriages, process depression, grief and loss, manage new rules and conditions created by confined conditions, develop new habits, explore career changes, eliminate panic attacks, improve sleep and many more challenges.
Online therapy can be a powerful experience, especially when the timing is just right. That is, you’re ready to make changes.
Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Online?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy online will give you practical tools to get through the quarantine and beyond. I offer Enhanced CBT to my clients, which is a unique version of online therapy involving altering unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior, enhancing mindfulness skills and preparing you with concrete strategies to use in the face of emotional challenges.
CBT is more suitable for online therapy than many other forms of therapy because it is collaborative, practical and directly applicable. While other psychologists may focus on overanalyzing your past and the therapeutic relationship, I am in the present with you as a collaborator for personal change.
The Quarantine as an Opportunity to Care for Your Mental Health on a New Level
Given how life has temporarily changed for all of us, the quarantine represents a unique time to create new habits and patterns of thinking. I can help you to jumpstart a mental health initiative. Many things are hard to start under quarantine. Most of us have found that our expectations for personal change have been met with disappointment during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s very hard to cope, let alone make dramatic changes. Many people report feeling shame and self-critical thinking given how hard it is to begin a new habit while under quarantine.
This is where therapy online can help. We can work together to clear obstacles preventing you from beginning new personal initiatives. We can help you to reduce anxiety, stress, shame and more.
Please reach out if you have any questions.
Stay safe and healthy!
Dr. KLearn More
Essential Mental Health Tips for Managing Coronavirus Anxiety
Social distance and food storage are occupying much of our headspace these days, but it is just as important to prepare for the mental health challenges that are likely to arise in the coming weeks.
The way I see it, we have no choice but to allocate some of our inner resources toward making smart mental adjustments that complement temporary but necessary lifestyle changes.
In this post, I will cover a few essential, actionable steps you can take to bolster your emotional well-being. These tips represent a starting point for managing your mental health during this strange chapter in our lives.
You Need A Strong Emotional Immune System
First, consider that you have an emotional immune system designed to help you deal with emotional distress, including anxiety, stress and depression.
What is an emotional immune system? It is the part of you that manages your mental response when when potential threat is introduced. Currently, the most common threat to our mind is the fear of us or the people we care about contracting COVID-19. I will assume that you are taking the appropriate preventative steps.
The next threat would be your news consumption. Constant exposure to breaking news about COVID-19 will overwork your emotional immune system, leaving you anxious, even panicked, at random moments. You may justify your constant news exposure by thinking that being informed gives you a greater sense of control, but this is simply untrue.
My concern is that the constant flow of troubling information available on our screens functions like a virus of the mind.
Your cortisol levels are likely to skyrocket, and this is not healthy. Your body does what the mind tells it to do. Sounding the alarm in your body with messages of fear and helplessness may impact your body’s immune system.
This is why it is so important to restrict your exposure to social media and news sites since they bombard you with mostly bad news.
Chatrooms are the less obvious offender. I recommend that you propose to a ban on introducing any breaking news while you are supporting one another in chatrooms and group messages. Any emotional gains from virtual support usually get cancelled out when one of your introduces more bad news.
Consider the following: Most self-care activities, including meditation, journaling, sitting with feelings and other behaviors meant to give you the feeling of control will be less effective if do not reduce your intake of news that usually tells you what to worry about.
Life is harder to manage with so many cues to worry and this is just not healthy for you. I recommend limiting social media and news intake to 2-3 times a day at most, and none before bed.
Cognitive Strategies Go Nicely with Less News Consumption
Once the news floodgates are well managed, you can do more effective inner work. This brings us to a cognitive strategy that can strengthen your emotional immune system. It all comes down to what you tell yourself. As I said, your body is listening very carefully to the messages.
Start paying greater attention to how you talk to yourself when you think about the virus. If you find that you are frequently telling yourself sound something like, “I can’t handle this,” or “this is too much,” then you need to adjust this self-talk.
When you are tell yourself that you cannot handle something, you are telling your body what to do. Sound the alarm! Fire up the fight-or-flight response.
The good news is that your mental habits can be altered by actively substituting alarming messages with self-talk that promotes resilience and hardiness.
Even if you first feel anxious and tell yourself you cannot handle something, you still have the opportunity to say to yourself, “That reminds me of the opposite….” and then state something positive.
I like to say to myself, “No matter what happens I will be ok.”
A variation on this is “I can handle this” or “we will get though this” or “this this hard but we can do it.” Come up with affirmations that work for you. It might sound simplistic but it can be very effective over time. Just stick with it.
Say these messages to yourself at least 50 times a day, including in response to noticing negativity.
Take this self-soothing method seriously even if you only connect with the messages on an intellectual level. Over time your emotional side will join the resistance.
You have the power to alter your mind and body’s response to new information. Use that power and you will increase your faith in your ability to cope, which reduces the frequency of anxious moments.
Refuse to be a passive recipient of bad news. Fight any helpless state with this mental exercise. If you need to vent your anxiety, which is a valid reaction to some of the news we are learning, then call a friend or chat with another adult at home. In addition, you can do things that make you feel in control. Worry about any new onset of OCD later.
It must be said that sometimes the feeling may be so strong that all you can do is sit with it, engage in distracting behaviors or find a way to self-express.
In addition, try one or more meditative approach, even if it means enlisting one of the meditation apps like Calm or Headspace, the latter of which is free right now. Of course, it is normal to feel nervous. We all do to some extent, but you have a choice to turn states of helplessness and stress into empowerment and strength.
Get used to conducting check-ins with your body as you read the news when disturbing thoughts pop into mind. Look for bodily signs of tenseness, stress and anxiety. If you they are present, begin to parent yourself through negative mental states with messages of being able to handle this temporary phase in life. The more you experience yourself bringing negative states into the positive range, the more prepared you’ll be for life’s challenges.
Journaling can also be quite helpful when you are feeling nervous. Write down everything that you are worried about in a given moment. It truly helps you to gain perspective and calmness. One further journaling option is to keep rereading your entry containing all of your worries until the words have less emotional power over you.
And remember, do not underestimate your mind’s contribution to your body’s ability to fend off foreign germs.
Check in soon for more tips on managing your anxiety in the time of adjustment.
(Disclaimer: The information shared in this blog post is for informational and educational purposes only. Reading this post does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with the author.)