You’re used to wearing a mask – to the grocery store, to the gas station, maybe even while enjoying the great outdoors. At some point, it becomes less of a nuisance and more like a security blanket.

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However, now, many places no longer require masks. And if you’re one of the many people who still feel most comfortable being covered up, you may be concerned about other people’s judgments.

Psychologist Dawn Potter, PsyD says: “You have a choice about your body. But since you might feel uncomfortable having to cover your face alone in the room, she offers tips to help ease your anxiety, answer curious questions, and seek help if you need it.

Difficulty in expressing emotions

As the saying goes, “Old habits are hard to die.” So even if you never wanted to wear a mask in the first place, you can feel most comfortable wearing one now, even in small gatherings with fully vaccinated people. is different.

“When people have a habit of doing something, it is very difficult to break the habit,” says Dr. Potter. “That even applies to things they don’t want to do at first, like putting on a mask.”

If you live in a place that doesn’t need a mask but you want to keep wearing one, you may feel like a different person. But Dr Potter says it’s natural to feel awkward acting differently from others in a social setting.

“Humans are a social species, so we have a natural desire to conform,” she explains. “Doing something that is obviously different from everyone else – like wearing a mask when no one else is – feels like showing up to a classy wedding in jeans and a t-shirt. It just doesn’t feel right.”

Reasons to still wear a mask

Even if you feel comfortable not wearing a mask, try to empathize with the fact that other people’s lives are different from your own. We all live with different circumstances, health problems, and risk tolerance levels.

There are lots of reasons people might want to keep wearing a mask.

  • Breakthrough cases: No vaccine is 100% effective, so there is still some risk of getting the disease. While the COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective in providing immunity, there is still the potential for breakthrough cases – and the delta variant is much more transmissible than previous variants that of the COVID-19 virus.
  • Health problems: Some people are in a vulnerable group where contracting COVID-19 may pose additional health risks, or they live with people who have it. Whether or not these people are vaccinated, they may feel safer continuing to cover their faces.
  • Caring for an unvaccinated loved one: Children under 12 years of age are still not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Because vaccinated people can still transmit the disease, many parents and other caregivers are uncomfortable with the risk of exposure, fearing they could bring the virus home to their children.
  • Other diseases: COVID-19 isn’t the only bug that needs protection, especially in winter. Wearing a mask can also protect you from the spread of flu and other viruses.

And honestly, after more than a year of believing that wearing a mask is an important health and safety measure, it may feel too uncomfortable not to wear it, even in situations where it’s considered safe. whole.

Dr Potter said: “Wearing masks gives us a feeling of safety and security, and we’ve gotten so used to them that it can now feel weird being in a public place without a mask. “It’s only natural that wanting to avoid discomfort, a lot of people – even and possibly especially those who believe in the effectiveness of vaccines – may feel more secure by continuing to cover their faces.”

Remember: Most people don’t notice you (in a good way)

If you live in a place where most other people don’t wear masks, you may feel like everyone in the room is looking at you – and judging you. But try to remind yourself that noticing doesn’t have to be the same as criticizing.

Dr Potter said: “People notice the highlights, but that doesn’t mean they’re all judging you.”

Think of it like wearing a light-colored garment or having a pimple on your chin: While it may feel like everyone is staring at you, the reality is that most people will simply is to memorize and continue.

“Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what the complete stranger is doing,” says Dr. Potter. “If you feel judged by others, remember that for the most part, you are the only one experiencing that discomfort.”

How to Respond to Inquiring Minds

Good news? Maybe no one will say anything. “A lot of times we have internal monologues about how things are going to be worse than they really are,” says Dr. Potter.

But if you’re worried about what people might say, make some answers available. Dr. Potter suggests answers to keep it simple:

  • “You may not agree with it, but that’s what I want to do right now.”
  • “This is my choice. I just feel more comfortable this way.”
  • “What I choose to do for my own health is not a criticism of you.”
  • “This is about my comfort level. You make your own choices, and I’m making mine. ”

And remember: You don’t owe anyone your health history or an explanation for your choice to continue wearing a mask.

Help yourself to express yourself carefully

Doctors and scientists recommend that we continue to maintain social distance and continue to wear masks in groups and when indoors. But if you’re still experiencing a lot of anxiety related to masks – and continue to wear masks during activities that are considered safe, like talking and walking outdoors – then it may be a good time to try. Try to take small steps to loosen your personal restrictions.

Dr. Potter suggests: “Try it out or take it easy in places where there aren’t many people. You only need to bring a mask to prevent emergency situations.

“Keep it in your pocket,” says Dr. Potter, “You can practice storing it if you feel safe and not socially distanced. But if there are people around, just wear them again.”

Be kind to yourself – and get help if you need it

While it is normal to expect some anxiety and suspense as guidelines continue to change, Dr Potter says to watch out for signs of mental and emotional distress related to wearing a mask. Signs that you’re having a problem include:

  • Anxiety persists after 15 minutes in public.
  • Continued feelings of fear and anxiety around others, even in situations deemed safe by doctors and scientists.
  • Continuing to avoid public places, even when wearing a mask and being fully vaccinated.

“It’s normal to feel anxious,” says Dr. Potter, “but if that anxiety doesn’t go away, it may be time to seek help to treat your anxiety disorder.” A mental health professional can work with you on your discomfort and help prepare you to safely regain some of your pre-pandemic life.

And finally, if you start to feel frustrated by your constant discomfort, do your best to show your compassion and patience, says Dr. Potter. “Change is hard enough without putting too much pressure on yourself.”

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