A lot of health information surrounding COVID-19 has remained dynamic, changing many times since the onset of this novel coronavirus. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have remained adamant about wearing masks, especially in public places. While some research suggests that COVID-19 protection masks reduce the chance of transmission, this seemingly necessary health measure is beginning to take a toll on me mentally.
At times, disposable COVID-19 face masks have caused me to feel claustrophobic and anxious. With no end in sight, I’m learning how to channel that anxiety and better cope with this government mandate. Here are some ways I’m dealing with my anxiety face mask drama and some tips for what makes a good face mask for an anxious person.
Does a Mask Prevent COVID-19?
As an anxious person, I tend to overthink every situation. This sentiment is especially true when I consider what I feel might be irrational feelings.
To me, my anxiety over a face mask errs on the side of irrational. For me to overcome those feelings, I needed to see the greater good of everyone donning reusable or disposable COVID-19 masks. Once I can comprehend the severity of this situation, I can wrap my head around my own mental health ticks.
So, does a mask prevent COVID-19? Technically, no. Nothing has proven to be 100% effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
However, wearing a disposable or washable face mask has proven to be effective in slowing down the spread. It’s become a staple alongside washing your hands, using hand sanitizer, and maintaining six feet.
A recent NPR face mask analysis found that:
- N95 Masks Stop 95% of Airborne Particles
- Surgical Masks Stop 75% of Airborne Particles
- Cloth Masks Stop 50% of Airborne Particles
I’ve learned that donning a face mask might reduce the chances of me giving a friend the virus, who might then pass COVID-19 to an elderly family member. Putting a tangible onto this issue made it easier for me to address my anxiety.
I was able to see that if wearing a mask was for the greater good, I must do everything in my power to get over my anxiety.
Why Am I Experiencing Anxiety Face Mask Issues?
I’ve learned that realizing your anxiety triggers is essential for reclaiming your mental space. Once you know why you’re showing anxiety symptoms, you’ll be able to combat these issues as they arise.
Noticing these symptoms is essential for preventing a full-blown panic attack underneath the mask. So, let’s get to the core of my mask anxiety. These realizations might help you, too!
It’s natural for a person who is anxious to experience claustrophobia. Our nose and mouth cover about 60% of our faces. That’s a lot of real estate being shielded by a face mask.
I noticed that my claustrophobic tendencies amped up while wearing a mask. I tend to use breathing to calm down my claustrophobic attacks.
However, deep inhales and exhales caused the mask to breathe in and out with me. That only drew more conscious attention to the fact that I was bugging out.
In these moments, I’ve learned that talking to myself should come before breathing. The minute I notice the breaths amping up, I start giving myself an internal pep talk. It really helps to come up with a mantra that is easy to repeat.
“This too shall pass” is my go-to. If that’s too cheesy, a simple “I’m fine” over and over again will suffice. Then, you can start deep-breathing techniques, which we’ll get to in a bit!
Many of our anxiety triggers are deeply entwined with our traumas. For anyone who has been in a physically or verbally abusive relationship, a mask can bring up some bad memories. Anyone who has ever been held captive in a basement or had their mouths covered during a sexual assault might find wearing a mask difficult.
Those who are experiencing trauma-related anxiety while wearing a face mask should seek mental help. While these feelings are natural, they also imply that you’re not fully healed. This is okay. Recovery is a work in progress.
Others might have issues with wearing a mask due to subconscious symbolism. I have a history of poor communication skills and tend not to stick up for myself.
Now, it’s even more challenging to communicate my feelings. Having a mask makes my voice muffled and hides half of my facial expressions.
At first, I found myself just saying “nevermind” any time someone asked, “what?” Eventually, I stopped talking to people as much. This type of withdrawal was not good for my mental state.
I’ve learned to project my voice without sounding aggressive. Also, maintaining eye contact is the key to effective communication. I’m practicing this technique more than ever. Now, I’m less timid to tell someone they cut me in line or to ask a waitress for a different seat.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself while wearing a face mask, it’s that my breath isn’t always minty fresh. Not only is that a blow on my self-esteem, but it pokes the obsessive-compulsive side of me.
I am a self-proclaimed germophobe. When COVID-19 first hit, it checked off all of my OCD tendencies.
Excessive handwashing? Check! Hand sanitizer? You got it! COVID-19 protection masks? Well, that’s where I went from OCD to downright anxiety.
The mask not only causes me to feel claustrophobic, but it also makes me cognizant of my own germs. So, now I’m trapped with my own CO2, viruses, and coffee breath!
This unpleasant side effect of masks caused me to develop a hygiene face mask routine that works for me. We’ll go over that in a few.
Much like everything else in this world, the mask has become highly politicized. We have people picketing that the mask is an infringement on our rights. Others are taking social media by storm, declaring that “masks save lives.”
Perhaps they are both right? Anxious people don’t have to wear a tin hat to overthink a situation. While masks may save lives, we are still in unprecedented waters. Maybe this “new normal” is just a ploy to make us complicit?
What I do know is that I know nothing. I can’t predict the future because otherwise, I would’ve seen this coronavirus coming. Instead, I can just learn to work on myself and adapt to the environment around me.
Truth is, nobody has an answer. We can’t look into our crystal ball and see when or if this virus will go away.
Instead of dwelling in the hypotheticals, I’m living in reality. I’m taking things day-by-day and trying to find the right balance by wearing a mask where required while maintaining six feet distance in wide-open, outdoor spots.
My main goal is to stay healthy and keep my neighbors and loved ones safe. I’ll work on my own mental state and let everyone else argue about the unknown.
Loss of Control
Putting a mask on also closes off our identity. We can no longer share smiles with people or mouth something across the room to somebody. Naturally, I felt like I lost a bit of control of my life.
First I couldn’t go to the gym or restaurants. Then I was forced to socially distance from loved ones. Once I reemerged, I was told to wear a mask.
All of these extreme changes caused me to feel like I had no control in my life. In turn, I started to feel depressed. The mask became a symbol of oppression in my mind. It was a reminder that I was vulnerable, had no control over this virus and how to conduct myself in society going forward.
Once I let go of the idea of “control”, I felt better. I can’t control this mask situation just like I couldn’t control the last presidential election. Yet, I was still able to coexist with society and live a relatively happy and healthy life. Why can’t I do it again?
How to Deal with Face Mask Anxiety
Once I confronted all of the reasons that COVID-19 protection masks make me uncomfortable, it became time to do something about them. Sure, I still get bouts of anxiety when I put on a mask. However, they’re fewer and farther in between.
My mental health will always be an ongoing journey with roadblocks along the way. I just need to find the right path to ensure I’m always going forward. Here’s what I’m doing to help with anxiety face mask issues. Hopefully, they can help you out, too!
Make Your Own Face Mask
At first, I thought making my own face mask was “giving in” to COVID-19. Now, I look at it as reclaiming my sanity. Making your own face mask is the perfect way to put your own twist on a situation you have no control over.
Once you create your face mask, add your personality to it. Iron on patches of your favorite band or have your child write an inspiring message in permanent marker. You can say a whole lot while you’re covering your face with the right mask!
What Makes a Good Face Mask?
Making a face mask that doesn’t protect you would be counterproductive. Not only can a non-effective homemade mask cause more anxiety, but it can also make you sick.
According to the CDC, you will need two pieces of fabric to overlap with one another. Fabric is porous. So, particles can come in and out. By layering the fabric, one piece might cover any gaps created by the other piece.
How to Make a Washable Face Mask By Sewing
- (2) 10”x6” Rectangles of Cotton Fabric
- (2) 6” pieces of Elastic (Rubber Bands, String, Cloth Strips, or Hair Ties)
- Needle and thread
- Sewing Machine
- Sew the two pieces of fabric together.
- Fold over all four sides about ¼ an inch and hem.
- Run the elastic through both short ends of the mask.
- Tie a knot at the end of the elastic and tuck the knot in between the hems. These loops will become your earpieces.
How to Make a Washable Face Mask Without Sewing
- 20”x20” Fabric
- Fold fabric in half.
- Fold the top down and bottom up.
- Place a rubber band about ⅓ from each end.
- Fold around the head and secure with rubber bands around the ears.
Which Fabric Should You Use to Make a COVID-19 Face Mask?
If you have anxiety, you want the fabric to be as breathable as possible. CBD recommends 100% woven cotton. Unfortunately, cotton can be quite heavy, making it challenging to breathe. Try opting for a lightweight version of cotton, such as poplin.
I’ve also made some face masks with bamboo material. Bamboo doesn’t hold heat, which makes wearing a mask more comfortable. Plus, bamboo doesn’t hold odors. I feel more confident wearing this fabric post-latte!
In a pinch? You can always make a mask out of an old T-shirt. The T-shirt will offer more wiggle room as you move your head about. However, T-shirt fibers decline with time, making it easier for particles to penetrate.
While the CDC recommends two pieces of cloth, you can put three or four. In some cases, you might want to mix and match fabric options to meet your unique preferences.
Test your face mask effectiveness by placing your hand and blowing as hard as you can.. The goal is to not feel your breath.
Hygiene Face Mask Tips
My germaphobe tendencies are a lot to bear. So, I’ve paid particular attention to hygiene face mask procedures. As per the CDC, I wash my mask after every use.
In a rush, I will just handwash the mask with soap and water, allowing the COVID-19 protection masks to air dry. Otherwise, I throw them in the washing machine with everything else.
Bring a paper bag with you to place the mask into until you are ready to wash it. Throw this bag away after removing the mask.
When I can’t wash my mask, I alternate it with a replacement. I learned the hard way that forgetting a mask can give me anxiety. So, I keep extras in my bag, car, and coat pocket.
Switching my mask ensures the health and safety of myself and those around me. Plus, sometimes, it’s nice to switch up the mask to accessorize your outfit!
Also, storing the face mask is essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Make sure the outer surface is folded inward to avoid cross-contamination.
To avoid cross-contamination of clean masks, make sure they are stored in an airtight bag or container. Try not to touch any clean masks with your bare hands other than the ones you intend to use for the day.
Deep Breathing Techniques
Deep breathing has always been my number one for handling in-the-moment anxiety. A COVID-19 face mask makes the experience different, but no less effective.
The key to curbing anxiety is to get control of your breath. Short, rapid breaths will only cause the face mask to pulsate in and out with each inhale and exhale. Seeing and experiencing this sensation will only worsen your anxiety.
Try to elongate your breaths to shorten the length between each inhale and exhale. Each breath should go down into your diaphragm. Hold for a second. Then, breathe out.
Diaphragmatic breathing sometimes takes a bit of practice. Condition your body to default to these relaxing breaths. Spend 20 minutes per day working on diaphragmatic breathing.
First, lie down. Place one hand on your chest and another on your stomach. As you inhale, your chest should push back into your hand. Breathe in as much as you can.
Hold your breath, and then slowly exhale. As you exhale, your belly should push against your other hand. Easily incorporate some guided meditations into this practice for further stress-busting relief!
Stay Away from the News
There’s such a glaring link between anxiety and the media. Seeing people fight over masks and watching the death toll isn’t going to make this virus go away. It’s also not going to do much for my mental state.
While I am remaining up-to-date on local COVID-19 protocols, I’m no longer refreshing my news feeds. Whatever I read in the morning will be the news I carry with me throughout the day.
Instead, I’m focusing on my anxiety and health. These are the only scenarios where I have some semblance of control. So, they deserve the bulk of my attention!
Going out in public is a necessity. Therefore, wearing a mask is also. So, I’m doing everything to make wearing a mask as stress-free as possible.
Donning a mask automatically causes my neck hairs to stand and heartbeat to amplify. So, I’ve become proactive with my mental health by using all-natural supplements. One of the most effective supplements for my anxiety has been Tranquility Labs’ Tranquilene.
Tranquilene is enriched with botanicals, vitamins, and minerals proven to boost GABA and serotonin. GABA is our inhibitory neurotransmitter. Its presence helps lower our stress levels naturally, by counteracting the overproduction of our stress hormone cortisol.
Meanwhile, serotonin helps regulate our moods. With more serotonin readily available, I am less likely to dread going out in public in a mask.
I’ve also found myself more likely to look others in the eyes and smize with Tranquilene. This supplement has helped me see past my insecurities and embrace this new normal for the foreseeable future.
Don’t Let COVID-19 Protection Masks Cause Anxiety
COVID-19 is making the world anxious enough. We don’t need preventative measures to add to the anxiety.
The first step of getting over anxiety over face masks is to recognize your triggers. Determine why the face mask is making you uncomfortable. Then, you can work on remedying the situation.
Take matters into your own hands. Make the best out of a negative situation. Create a mask that shows off your personality.
This type of activity can also make you feel comfortable and secure in the efficacy of your mask. You can dictate the fabric, tightness, and hygiene!
Lastly, continue working on your mental health like you would if COVID-19 weren’t a thing. We’re all a work in progress, and this virus may have stalled us but it hasn’t stopped our forward momentum. Incorporate deep breathing techniques, use all-natural supplements, and limit the news to maintain peace of mind during this pandemic.
- Reusable and disposable COVID-19 masks are effective in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
- Putting on a one-time use or washable face mask can cause bouts of claustrophobia and bring up traumatic memories.
- Learning your anxiety triggers is essential for overcoming anxiety face mask issues.