The Covid has been evolving and with it the containment measures that we have been carrying out for two years. One of the things that I have realized in these years of the pandemic is that our minds quickly get used to changes, even those that we do not like or that are very strange. The use of the mask has been a challenge, especially in summer. Knowing that it is no longer mandatory to wear a mask does not always free us, especially when anxiety accompanies us.
Difficulty leaving the mask
The mask has become a great measure of protection against Covid and we have begun to see it as a sign of safety. Therefore, when abandoning it, we can have different emotional reactions:
Freedom: For many people, stopping wearing the mask is a liberation. We can breathe better, our smiles start to show again and we feel that we connect better with others. This feeling of freedom helps us regain confidence in ourselves.
fear and anxiety: For other people, abandoning the mask makes them afraid of contagion for themselves and other loved ones, especially when they are in crowds. The fear of contagion has been fading over the months, but in those cases in which anxiety has arisen, removing the mask can exacerbate the signs of anxiety. Anxiety, in addition to physical symptoms such as tachycardia, hyperventilation, nervousness, tremors, backaches and headaches. It also causes cognitive symptoms such as catastrophic thoughts. These thoughts anticipate that extremely bad things are going to happen. And in the case of the removal of masks, they can focus on their own and others’ contagion and the consequences of said contagion for our health. In the face of anxiety, the mask continues to be a protective sign that reduces the discomfort of anxiety.
Lack of protection and insecurity: In the worst stage of the pandemic, not wearing a mask exposed us more to the virus. That is why in the mask removal stage, many people feel unprotected and insecure. Covid has always been an “invisible enemy” and that made us afraid to even go out on the street. Our mind adapts to changes, but sometimes it takes time to convince itself that it is safe to not wear this protection.
Distress and emotional discomfort: If we feel fear, anxiety and insecurity, we also experience anguish and emotional discomfort when removing the mask. Anxiety is an internal feeling of overwhelm, for some authors, anguish is synonymous with suffering. Accepting that we feel anguish is the first step to free ourselves from it. Whatever you feel is fine, don’t force yourself.
Guidelines for abandoning the mask
I am in favor of one gradual removal of the mask, especially in those people who feel anxiety and a great lack of protection. I consider that leaving the mask is a process and as such, we must get used to our body and mind to interact without it. Some tips to leave it little by little, are… Start by taking off your mask in places where there are not many people. It can be in a park, in nature or on the street when there are no crowds. Afterwards, you can take off your mask indoors when there are not many people. Take advantage of the supermarket aisle to take it off or the bank when there are few people. At work, try removing your mask every 2 hours and go at least 30 minutes without it. In this way, your mind will get used to the freedom of not wearing anything on your face. If you feel anxiety, in places with many people or where there is not much ventilation, carry the mask in your bag or backpack and when you feel the intensity of your anguish rise, put it on. When you leave that place, take it off again and breathe deeply, feeling the flow of air in your body. And if you get overwhelmed by wearing the mask on public transport (where it is still mandatory), use the sensations of your nose and mouth to connect more deeply with your breath. Explore the sensations when you breathe, the cool air when you breathe in and the hot air when you breathe out. In this way, the mandatory use of the mask will become a means to connect more with yourself. In the removal of the mask, like everything in life, listen to yourself, explore why your anxiety and fear arise. And if you feel that this anxiety has become very intense and makes your life difficult, seek help from a psychologist who will teach you to live with anxiety and regulate it. You can contact me if you decide on online psychology. you can write me from here
Giving up the mask is a process… give yourself time