Over the last two years we have all had to adapt to the new reality of wearing face masks to protect ourselves and those around us from Covid-19. Now that we have taken it off, or are approaching the time when we will be taking it off, people are reacting with mixed feelings. In fact, many people struggling with social anxiety have now realised that over the last two years the face mask has become something of a crutch for them.
In this blog post I will look at the impact of the face mask on our mental health and tips on how to transition back to a bare-faced world.
The mask as a protective device
For many people struggling with social anxiety, the mask has acted as a protective device. It covers up the signs of their reactions, such as blushing when they’re feeling anxious. And it’s not just the physical signs that the mask hides – it can also help people to keep their thoughts and emotions in check. If you’re not worried about what other people can see, then it’s easier to pretend like everything is okay.
The mask has also been useful for those who feel self-conscious about their appearance. Teenagers struggling with acne, for example, were able to cover it up, which boosted their self-confidence. The same applies to people who are unhappy with features such as their nose or lips – covering them up helped them overcome their anxiety about their looks.
Finally, of course, there are also those who have come to associate the mask with safety from Covid. For them, taking it off will be a big step and one that is likely to cause some anxiety.
Tips to reduce your anxiety when taking off the mask
So, what can we do to ease the transition back to a bare-faced world? Here are some tips:
- Talk to someone you trust about your anxiety and how you’re feeling about taking the mask off. This could be a friend, family member, therapist or counsellor.
- Write down your worries about taking the mask off and try to challenge them. For example, if you’re worried about people seeing your acne, remind yourself that most people are not judging you as harshly as you think they are. Many people have had acne and lived perfectly happy lives – you are probably more aware of each and every blemish on your face than anyone else is.
- Practice wearing your mask less and less. Start by wearing it for shorter periods of time, or in less crowded places. You will gradually start feeling less anxious when you take it off. After all, we lived mask-less for years without even thinking about it.
Remember that you can always put the mask back on if you’re feeling anxious. The important thing is to take things at your own pace.
Covid has been a traumatic experience for many of us and it’s natural to feel anxious about taking the mask off. But try to remember that the face mask is not a crutch – it’s just a piece of cloth. It’s not going to protect you from your fears, but you can protect yourself by facing them head on.
Do you have any other tips for overcoming anxiety about taking the mask off? Share them in the comments below.