The idea of wearing a face covering has become intensely polarised, bringing yet more fractured arguing and dissension into a situation where frankly, there’s already enough.

The science around mask wearing shows that it reduces a person’s risk of transmitting Covid-19, and that it may reduce their risk of contracting it.  The World Health Organisation and other credible scientific organisations say report that wearing a face mask is totally safe. Contrary to the meme’s circulating around Facebook, there’s no evidence a face mask will cause either a drop in blood oxygen or an increase in blood carbon dioxide levels for normal everyday activities.

“…The public health rationale for wearing a mask is to protect others from your respiratory droplets which might be carrying the COVID-19 virus if you are infected but not showing symptoms,” – Dr Scott Segal, Wake Forest Baptist Health, USA.

Face coverings are mandatory in the UK now on public transport, in shops and when attending any medical appointments unless you have an exemption. These rules are likely to be in effect for the rest of the year, if not longer, so it’s time for us to get comfortable with wearing face coverings so we can continue on with our lives with as little disruption as possible.

However, while face masks and face covering are a way to protect ourselves and others around us, they’re not always the most comfortable things to be wearing.  The amount of effort it takes to breath increases enough that it can trigger feelings of claustrophobia and panic in some people. Some of you might know that I used to struggle with anxiety and panic, so I get it.  There’s things which trigger us that can feel outside of our control.  The good news is, there’s effective therapy and resources that can help.

There are many resources which give great advice on how to select an appropriate and comfortable face covering for yourself.

What these guides don’t do is help you learn how to become relaxed and confident while wearing a mask – and while it might sound impossible, it’s just the same as any other skill that we learn.  Once we probably thought that riding a bike was impossible, or mastering using our new phone.

Often it’s the fear of not managing to achieve something that causes us to fail.  What if instead of approaching wearing a face covering with fear and trepidation, you were able to approach it as though it was a new skill to be learned?

Humans are resourceful and adaptable and our bodies have evolved specifically so we can survive and thrive in a wide range of different conditions.  If Eskimos can happily survive in what’s considered the harshest environment on earth, then you can adapt to breathing through a face covering if you give yourself some time and patience and compassion throughout the process.

Like any other skill, it can take a bit of practise to master wearing a face covering and feeling comfortable. The best thing you can do is grab a couple of different styles and sizes and try them out at home, where you’re feeling calm and relaxed and you know that if it’s not working for you, you’ve got the freedom to simply take it off. While you’re wearing the mask, make a mental note to breath slowly and deeply, giving yourself a longer time for the inhale and exhale than you usually might. Let yourself focus on the fact that you are breathing, calmly and safely while wearing the covering.

It may take a few attempts to get used to wearing a mask, and that’s okay. If you think of it as a skill to be learned, you’ll stop a lot of the self-defeating head talk that goes along with wearing a face covering. As you start to feel more comfortable, tell yourself that you’re doing a great job! It might feel a little cheesy, but I bet it also feels kinda good.

To help you adjust and feel calm and confident while wearing a face covering, I’ve made a special hypnotherapy recording that you can listen to.  Give it a listem, or many listens and see how you go. I’d love to know if you’ve found it helpful!

Face coverings are mandatory in the UK.

Feel calm, confident and relaxed while wearing them.

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