Mask Wearing & Anxiety

Does covering your face trigger anxiety for you? You are not alone!

With new laws now in place recommending everyone throughout the United Kingdom to cover their mouth and nose with some kind of face covering in public spaces where social distancing is not always possible, many are experiencing an increase in their anxiety.  Some people are finding that wearing a face covering can trigger panic attacks due to the feeling that their breathing is limited because of restricted airflow which can easily be compared to a sense of suffocation. Also any face covering will automatically make the face warmer and anxiety sufferers could misinterpret the rise in temperature as a trigger for a panic/anxiety attack.   

You may be pleased to know that in certain circumstances you may be exempt. According to the new government regulations you do not need to wear a face covering in England if you have a legitimate reason not to. This may include:

  • not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress

People with the following health conditions are also exempt:

  • breathing difficulties or respiratory disorders
  • conditions affecting dexterity, which means you are unable to put on a mask
  • mental health conditions such as anxiety or panic disorder
  • learning difficulties such as autism
  • cognitive impairments such as dementia which mean patients may not understand or remember the need to wear a mask
  • visual impairments
  • conditions that mean putting a face mask on would be too painful

In these cases you may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign. If you would like to find out more about making your own face covering or how to print out an exemption card you will find more information here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own

Here are a few tips that might help make things a little easier during these unprecedented times:

  • Change your mind set Masks are purposely made for protection. To keep yourself and others safe People in the medical profession have safely been using them for over a hundred years.
  • When wearing a face covering, try to avoid rapid, shallow breathing. Instead, focus on breathing from your diaphragm, check out this short animation: https://nopanic.org.uk/correct-breathing/
  • Try wearing your mask around the house for short periods to get used to how it feels. Maybe while watching a good TV program or while doing a favourite hobby. Start off with just a minute or two and increase the period slowly over time.
  • There are also a huge variety of masks out there, different shapes; fabrics sizes etc. What might suit one person could feel very uncomfortable on someone else, so try a few out before you decide.

If you would like to find out more about the new Face covering regulations you can visit the official UK government’s site here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own

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