Reduce Anxiety/Panic While Wearing a Mask
We are obviously living in a strange time right now.
If anxiety wasn’t prevalent before, it sure seems to be now. I have people telling me they have anxiety even though they’ve never experienced it before.
The unknown and so many changes in our lives is creating chaos in our minds.
Then add having to wear a mask when you’re already experiencing anxiety or panic attacks can feel overwhelming. There is nothing natural about wearing a mask, so it can trigger various physical and emotional reactions. Do not judge yourself! There is nothing wrong with you if this is happening.
I have personally struggled with severe anxiety, panic attacks and claustrophobia, so I understand why some people are struggling with the mask mandates.
I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips that could help reduce anxiety while having to wear a mask, especially if you have a job that requires it for long hours.
1. Breathe first
Before you put on the mask, make sure to relax your nervous system. Breathwork can be a simple and quick way to reduce anxiety.
Try alternate nostril breathing:
Close right nostril with right thumb. Inhale through left nostril then close left nostril with right ring finger. Exhale out of right nostril. Repeat.
Take deep inhales and exhales without the mask on as much as possible. Preferably outdoors.
If you find lavender to be a relaxing scent, maybe apply a drop near your mask so you can breathe it in. Using your sense of smell allows you a chance to take slower, deep breaths. You can also carry essential oils (or HOPE spray) with you to smell during the day when you take breaks from wearing your mask.
3. Mammalian dive reflex
I have shared this effective technique in the past. When I had a panic attack my first time snorkeling, my boyfriend splashed me multiple times in a row, which snapped me out of it. We later learned why:
When you really feel panic coming on and can’t seem to escape it, you are sending your nervous system into “fight or flight response”. This releases stress hormones and speeds up your heartrate. To slow this down, go into the restroom, remove your mask and splash your face with cold water three times! It may seem a bit extreme, but it’s meant to kick in the “mammalian diving reflex”, which happens when cold water touches a mammal’s face. It activates receptors within the nasal and sinus cavities as well as areas in the face connected to the trigeminal nerve. This activation lets the brain and nervous system know, which results in closure of the airway as well as other physiological changes in order to slow down the heartrate and conserve energy in the body.
4. 5-4-3-2-1 Senses
One of my favorite tools for anxiety is to go back to your five senses:
Find five things you can see
Find four things you can touch
Find three things you can hear
Find two things can you smell
And find one thing you can taste.
Have you ever tried Emotional Freedom Technique/tapping before? It’s helped me with anxiety in the past. This video is an easier way to explain it and gives you a chance to practice:
6. Don’t Wear One
If you are unable to wear a mask due to physical and/or emotional reasons, you are exempt from wearing one in public. You are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and do not need to disclose your medical conditions. The Department of Justice ADA Violation Reporting Number is 1-800-514-0301.
I hope you find these tips helpful! I am sending lots of love to you during this strange time.
Remember, masks cannot protect our minds. They can't protect us from emotions...
Try your best to stay positive and hopeful, as well as take the best care of yourself physically and emotionally.
May is Mental Health Awareness month and it seems more important than ever!
So please take care of your mental health the best way possible so that you can feel less anxious throughout the day. If you are struggling, please find positive support.