Tips for coping with masks and face coverings
Wearing a mask/face covering is a new experience for many; you may not ever feel totally comfortable with wearing one. However, current evidence indicates that masks/face coverings are instrumental in preventing and controlling onward transmission of the covid-19 virus. Mind charity for mental health has put together some tips for coping with masks and face coverings.
Anxiety, panic and breathing issues
If wearing a mask makes you feel panicky or you feel like it’s harder to breathe:
- Get some fresh air outside before and after you wear your mask.
- Do something to relax you before and after you wear a mask (e.g. a short breathing exercise; see tips on relaxation exercises here).
- Choose a face covering that hangs down your neck, rather than fitting around your jaw. This type of covering is called a ‘neck gaiter’ and may feel less restrictive and more comfortable.
- Keep your body as cool as possible (e.g. by wearing loose-fitting clothes or sitting by an open window).
- Some people add a comforting scent to their face covering (e.g. a few drops of an essential oil, your own perfume/ aftershave).
- Reduce the time you spend having to wear your mask. Planning your shopping in advance will help you keep browsing time down in shops.
If wearing a mask/face covering made of a particular material creates sensory overload:
- Experiment with different fabric types and try making one from an old t-shirt that doesn’t bother you to touch. You can search for mask-making tutorials online, or read more here.
- Experiment with different ways to secure your mask. Some fit round the ears, some tie behind your head. You could also try attaching buttons to a hat or hairband, so the mask does not irritate your skin.
- Choose another type of face covering that does not touch your face in the same way, like a neck gaiter.
If wearing a mask steams up your glasses and makes it hard to see
- Wash your glasses with soapy water, and polish them with a tissue (A thin layer of soapy film may make it harder for the lenses to steam up).
- Sit your glasses on top of the fabric by raising the top of your mask up onto your nose.
- Line your mask with a tissue so it absorbs some of the moisture.
Body and identity issues
If covering a part of your face makes you feel uncomfortable in your identity or body image:
- Think of your mask as a fashion accessory and search for a mask/ face covering with a design or pattern that expresses who you are. You could try using a selection of colours that match your outfits.
- Choose a transparent or see-through mask/ face covering, so it does not obscure your face.
Anxiety around other people wearing masks
If seeing other people in masks make you feel uneasy or afraid:
- Shift your focus away from someone’s face when communicating with them. Try switching the way your body is facing so that you are side-by-side with the person you are talking to, and both looking in the same direction.
- Pay extra attention to your non-human surroundings; this might be trees, traffic, shop window displays, or the sounds and smells you notice. It is not always possible to avoid looking at people entirely, but by balancing it with other things that feel more usual, you might feel more calm.
- Take some form of distraction out with you (e.g. listen to music or podcasts through headphones, or call someone you enjoy chatting to).
- If someone you have to see often (e.g. a friend or housemate) wears a mask that you find very scary, you could gently let them know how you feel. They might be able to change it or cover it up in your presence.