Story by Alycia Burant, LPC, Healthy Minds Therapy
Personal protective masks have become an everyday accessory for us all. They are an important part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic because they protect us from air-borne droplets containing the virus and protect others from our own droplets. Face masks and social distancing are likely to be an important part of our defense for months to come. They are required by many states, including Virginia, when we are in public places.
But what about those who can't wear masks? People suffering from PTSD or anxiety disorders may find themselves having trouble breathing or feeling claustrophobic when wearing a mask.
Why Do Face Masks Bother Us?
When wearing a mask, we almost immediately begin to feel an increase in heat on our face. As we continue to breathe our exhaust air become restricted and we begin to feel our body temperature rise as a result. Some of us may even begin to sweat. This sensation and the increased heat causes us to breathe faster and our heart to beat faster.
For some of us, these physical changes quickly translate to psychological effects. We become more claustrophobic, and have feelings of vulnerability and fear. These effects can remind us of the coronavirus pandemic we are trying to avoid and the fine line between good health and death. All of this adds to the feelings connected to wearing that mask.
If you are someone who is feeling this way and having trouble 'masking up,' the good news is: You're not alone and there are ways to cope.
How to Cope?
If staying home for a bit longer is not an options for you, either due to social necessity or work requirements, these are a few tips that may help you cope while wearing a face mask.
Orient yourself to positive sensations in your body – what feels good? Relax your jaw, soften your eyes, drop your shoulders. Shift the focus away from the mask.
Try inhaling essential oils that have proven to reduce one's level of anxiety. Try Frankincense, Orange or Lavender.
Reach out to a professional therapist for a more personalized approach to managing your anxiety.
We are being asked to make moral and ethical decisions every day now more than ever. If going out and wearing a mask is going to exacerbate your symptoms and make you feel worse, consider waiting a bit longer until you feel comfortable. Just because things are opening up doesn’t mean you have to jump in. Listen to your body and be gentle with yourself. - Alycia Burant, LPC, Healthy Minds Therapy
Professionals such as Alycia Burant, LPC recommend sensorimotor psychotherapy. This incorporates body work into therapy. This type of approach is helpful when there is a major emphasis on the physical things that are happening to your body (e.g. panic while wearing a mask) and it is impacting you cognitively.
To schedule an appointment with Alycia or a member of her team,, please visit www.healthyminds-therapy.blog