This is How to Breathe Easier in Your Mask
Love them or hate them, masks are becoming ubiquitous during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite conflicting messages put out by public health officials earlier in 2020, leaders and individuals are quickly recognizing the utility of masks, and more cities, states, and businesses are requiring that masks or other facial coverings be worn. For many, things introduces a huge challenge: the feeling that you can’t breathe. Fortunately, your trusted psychologist in Littleton has some tips to help you breathe easier with tools we use in our everyday practice.
Balance Acceptance and Control
In any situation, we can choose to accept the challenges or try to change them. However, we can only change what we are in control of. What are you in control of when you wear a mask? While it may seem like this choice is “forced” upon you, keep in mind that you still have control of when you go out for recreation and what style of mask or facial covering you wear. Remind yourself that you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it. Explore different types of materials and fastening styles (for example, behind the ears, around the head, wrapped into a creative hair style) and see what feels the least uncomfortable. Increase your feeling of control by choosing a facial covering that suits you.
Practice Deep Breathing
It sounds cliché, but your breathing affects your mood significantly! Just like professional divers train to reduce their oxygen intake by remaining calm, you can learn to feel less out of breath in your mask. Healthy people do not experience significant changes in blood oxygen levels, even while wearing dozens of layers of surgical masks—what most people experience is a perceived change in oxygen, or shortness of breath. A racing heart uses even more oxygen, worsening this feeling! For those who battle panic attacks or anxiety, this can feel similar to the shortness of breath that occurs with anxiety triggers. Familiarize yourself with deep breathing tools, or talk with your couples therapist or psychologist in Littleton to learn breathing techniques to help you stay calm. Practice breathing slowly and deeply when you are relaxed, trying to exhale for twice as long as you inhale, and notice how different your body and brain feel when you take deep, relaxed breaths. This trains your body to fully expand and relax your lungs, bringing more oxygen to your brain.
People who are required to go to work or school in face masks are reporting that they adjust more quickly—some even share stories about forgetting they are wearing a mask! However, if you are staying safer at home and not going out as much, you may only have a facial covering on to visit the pharmacy, or when you come to your couple’s therapist office in Highlands Ranch. Exposing yourself to triggers of stress or anxiety is a time-tested way of reducing those unpleasant feelings. It seems counter-intuitive, but slowly increasing your exposure can help you to feel less uncomfortable. Can you tolerate wearing a mask while sitting in front of a fan at home? (hint: strong airflow gets that “stale” air moving around and cools you off.) What about while reading a book without a fan on? Work your way up to wearing the mask occasionally while performing household chores, or while going out to check the mail. This is also a great time to adjust, fix, or modify your mask, since you are not in contact with anyone else.
As we all adjust to new requirements and recommendations, we need new skills and tools. Deep breathing and relaxation can help with the general sense of anxiety during these challenging times, as well as helping you to breathe easier. If you are struggling with these changes, or if the added stress is taking a toll on your marriage or children, don’t hesitate to contact Steven Lazarus, Psychologist in Littleton.
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