Do you feel like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) just ripped the rug out from under you with their new mask recommendations? Logically we understand that good honest Americans are wearing masks to protect both themselves and others from COVID-19, and to slow its spread. Yet, despite the CDC’s recommendations and the fact that many municipalities are enforcing new regulations requiring people to don masks in public, you may feel a familiar sense of panic and doom when you see masked parties.
#METOO, you are not alone. Many, especially #VictimsOfCrime, feel their heart racing and find themselves short of breath when approached by masked individuals. Suddenly, anxiety can flood their bodies and memories of past crimes and traumas can overwhelm them. If you are a victim of #SexualAssault, #ChildAbuse, or other crimes, COVID-19 can be especially painful and make doing normal activities challenging due to the changes COVID-19 regulations have caused in society. It can also be life-changing to those with conditions such as Asperger’s, #Anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders, or other mental health conditions. They too can feel themselves consumed by terror when they go out into the newly masked world. Even those with no past traumas or medical conditions can find that masks trigger a sense of panic within them. This is because, ever since we were children, many have been almost conditioned to be wary of anyone wearing a mask, after all many bank robbers and criminals on television tend to don masks right before committing a crime. A recent McKinsey survey found that 64% of those responding reported feeling anxious or depressed for reasons related to COVID-19.
Regardless of if you have experienced sexual assault, robbery, trauma, depression or another condition that has left you with a need to feel in control of your surroundings, or simply feel anxious when you see masks, now is a great time to address our phobias, fears, mental conditions, and emotional baggage left from life experiences. By addressing these now, you can prepare yourself to thrive once the COVID restrictions are lifted. Here are some things you can do to help navigate the new norm:
1. Acknowledge that the emotions you feel are a normal response caused by a thought or external threat
2. Engage in positive self-though when you experience negative emotions or thoughts
3. Carry water to sip whenever symptoms arise to help you tap into a mindfulness activity and mentally reconnect with your body and environment
4. Try to wear a mask 10-15 minutes, or as long as you comfortably can, daily to train your mind that you can be safe, even while masked
5. Identify professionals to help you process your experiences and provide you with interventions to help you feel safe in this world where, in the name of public safety, faces are concealed and people isolated
6. Follow guidelines that apply to you and mask-wearing during this pandemic
7. Try to stay busy with hobbies, such as reading to help keep your mind occupied on things other than your fears, anxieties, past traumas, and worries
8. Establish a routine to help normalize these new norms in your mind and help you find a sense of safety in a routine
The world is dealing with an acute crisis and we are here to help. Contact us if you would like professional help to assist you in processing your experiences and navigating this new masked world.
You can also find help online at the COVID-19 Mental Health Resource Hub: pyschhub.com/covid-19 and on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Mental Health and COVID-19 page at afsp.org/campaigns.covid-19.