Coping With Wearing Masks Mask wearing is going to be a way of life for a while, but it’s not an impossible task and feeling anxious about it does not make you crazy. Remember, you’ve likely overcome many other challenges in your life, and you can overcome this one too. July 10, 2020 Living during a pandemic has not proven to be easy. There have been so many changes in such a little time. We have had to accept swift changes and acknowledge disappointments at an alarming rate. Accepting change is not comfortable for many people; even your dedicated clinicians at LifeWays have struggled with these changes. Perhaps the most concerning change of all is the mandated wearing of masks. LifeWays wants you to know we understand that for some mask wearing is not a political stance or even a health concern. We understand for some of you these masks pose a serious threat in the maintenance of panic and anxiety. Brittney Langridge, an Access Clinician at LifeWays explains, “Panic attacks are often experienced by hyper awareness of physical symptoms such as an increase in heart rate, sweating and rapid breathing. A mask may exacerbate these physical symptoms such as sweating on the upper lip and focus on respirations. It may even feel claustrophobic to some.” The anxiety mask wearing brings is very real and not unusual. Many people may exhibit a range of responses. So, what is one to do in a world where staying safe is correlated to wearing a mask? Those seeing a therapist could consider bringing it up as a topic during session. Our therapists are full of empathy and understanding. They may even be able to relate to mask wearing anxiety. For some maybe this is the time to make that phone call to talk about therapy services. LifeWays access clinicians are ready and willing to help you find the best services for your needs. LifeWays crisis team is also available 24/7 and they are well-versed in the art of coping with panic symptoms. If you’re not ready, that’s okay too. Consider trying it at home and wearing it for short periods of time. Set small goals for mask wearing such as wearing it while completing the dishes or while during television commercials. Give yourself a mantra such as, “Slow breath,” and repeat it while you’re wearing the mask. Be aware of how thinking could impact your ability to cope with wearing it. If your internal thought is, “This mask is suffocating me,” it’s going to be harder to accept. Some of you may be less worried about yourself wearing a mask and more concerned about how your little one may handle it. For some children, sensory issues create daily challenges that families must plan for. LifeWays wants you to know, we are aware of these concerns as well. We reached out to behavioral consultant, Alysia who is experienced in behavioral interventions and works with individuals with autism spectrum disorder. She explains mask wearing should be addressed similarly to other non-preferred tasks such as household chores. Just like with other skills It is something that should be practiced in the home before going out into the community. She explains that exposing children to mask wearing in small increments and slowly increasing duration is helpful. Adding a strong reinforcer, something a child really wants, creates the likelihood he or she will be willing to do it. Alysia goes on to explain that consistency is key. It’s important to keep up the training in the home as well as during therapy. When consistency exists in both environments progress tends to happen quicker. Mask wearing is going to be a way of life for a while, but it’s not an impossible task and feeling anxious about it does not make you crazy. Remember, you’ve likely overcome many other challenges in your life, and you can overcome this one, too.