Masks Off, Anxiety Up: Dealing with No-Mask Anxiety

After more than one year, covering their faces, Americans across the country were told they could breathe freely earlier this year as mask mandates were lifted. 

Unfortunately, the return to “normal” life hasn’t been smooth sailing for everyone. Nearly Half of Americans admit they have concerns about resuming in-person interactions, according to the American Psychological Association.  

It seems as though the Mental health issues brought about by the pandemic aren’t going away anytime soon. 

Indeed, “no-mask anxiety” is real, and folks all over America are worried about life returning to the way it was before the pandemic. 

What Is No-Mask Anxiety? 

No-mask anxiety, as the name suggests is a condition in which people are afraid of the idea of removing their masks in public.  

Those affected by no-mask anxiety feel uneasy when they themselves don’t wear a face covering, and they can also be uncomfortable around others who are not wearing masks. 

All ages can experience no-mask anxiousness including kids who are not yet vaccinated. 

Are you worried that you might be suffering with no-mask anxiety Don’t be. Doctors say it’s Completely normal — and will likely be an Diagnoses are becoming more common as we move further into the post-pandemic world.  

The Why Behind No-Mask Anxiety  

To top it all, general uncertainty about the future, there are a few reasons why folks might develop no-mask Anxiety 

It’s become a habit.  

Imagine Henry, a 45 year-old father of 2 children.  

Henry never wore masks for 44 years. In 2020, Henry began to wear a mask every single day when he left his house.  

Research suggests that it takes an average time of 66 days. Develop a new habit, it comes as no surprise that Henry now feels more or less “naked” without a mask on. 

It feels like a security blanket. 

The first line of defense against the virus during the pandemic was the mask. Although vaccinations have helped the world move on from the pandemic, many people still feel comfortable wearing masks and plan to continue wearing them for the foreseeable. 

Then suddenly, the The guidelines have been updated by the CDC and said that folks who were fully vaccinated could return to pre-pandemic life. It was quite disappointing to be told that the mask was no longer necessary and to expect to wear it for some time. difficult adjustment for many people. 

“The only time I don’t have mine up is when I’m at home or driving my car,” Jenny Krislov, a resident of Madison, Wisconsin, told Spectrum News 1. “It almost feels like my security blanket.”  

Krislov doesn’t only wear the mask to protect herself. It’s also used to protect her family members. 

Unmasking can exacerbate social anxiety. 

Those who have social anxiety live in fear that their peers will judge them for awkward or abnormal behavior in social settings. Simply put, people with social anxiety do everything they can to act “normal” and fit in with the crowd. 

As the pandemic began, these individuals might have been hesitant to put their masks on in the first place out of concern they’d get weird looks. But, masks have been mandatory since then and most people comply with them.  

Social anxiety is a possibility as we transition to a post pandemic world. Higher than the normalAccording to David MoscovitchProfessor at the University of Waterloo. People who were anxious to be out in public might have found some relief in being able hide their faces. But in order to fit in now, they need to reveal their faces — which is causing some people to develop no-mask anxiety.  

“Many people who didn’t struggle with social anxiety before the pandemic may find themselves feeling more anxious than usual as we emerge out of the pandemic and into a more uncertain future — especially within social situations where our social skills are rusty and the new rules for social engagement are yet to be written,” Moscovitch wrote in a recent paper. 

Social anxiety can make you feel isolated, self-critical, and hyper-vigilant. Don’t let anxiety define you. For help, reach out to a therapist in your area today.

Resilience and Growing Through Change: How to Conquer No-Mask Anxiety 

If you’re impacted by no-mask anxiety, you need to remember there’s nothing to be ashamed about. We have all been through a pandemic of the magnitude of COVID-19, so we will all need adapt to different degrees. 

If you’re looking to conquer your no-mask anxiety, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Take your time.

Just because other people aren’t wearing masks doesn’t mean you have to take yours off, too. 

Doctors say there’s nothing wrong with taking your time to ease back into a more open world. 

“You can pick a safe place with safe people, and just gradually go from there,” Dr. Eric Berko of MetroHealth Medical Center told Cleveland’s Fox 8 News. “Keep a mask in your pocket. It’s OK if you feel uncomfortable, just put it on. There’s no harm or shame in any of that. Gradually get yourself out there, and I think you’ll start to feel better and better.”

2. Be social.

Robert Frost once said, “The only way out is through.” 

If you find yourself saying No Try to avoid wearing a face mask at retail shops and supermarkets, or to social events. 

“Catch yourself when you’re choosing to avoid even when you aren’t being forced to do so by pandemic-related restrictions,” Moscovitch said. “Do your very best to summon the courage to push yourself to enter those situations and confront your anxiety.” 

3. Find your resilience.

According to Brené Brown, people who are resilient in the face of trauma tend to practice Three specific acts: 

  • The Reckoning, where they admit that they’re feeling different feelings 
  • The RumbleThey conduct a reality-check on the stories surrounding their struggles 
  • The RevolutionThey will rewrite their stories, and their mindsets on a foundational level. 

If you’re struggling with no-mask anxiety — or any other effect of the pandemic — remember that you don’t have to wrestle the issue entirely on your own. 

Start your search to find a therapistWho can help you get through your struggles and help you live a happier life. 

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