Birmingham therapist discusses ways to overcome mask-related anxiety – The Oakland Press

Posted: August 27, 2020 at 12:00 pm

While Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has required people to wear face masks in public places to prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus, for some people face coverings can provoke anxiety.

Anything covering your nose and mouth sometimes can trick your body into feeling that the flow of oxygen to your brain is impeded, as if you might drown. That feeling can increase your bodys production of cortisol, the so-called fight or flight hormone, which raises your blood pressure and increases your breathing, heart rate, perspiration and anxiety level to prepare you to take action.

In a situation of real danger, this hormone response can save your life. But in chronic anxiety, it takes a toll on your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that follows can disrupt almost all your body's processes. This puts you at increased risk of many health problems, including:



Digestive problems


Heart disease

Sleep problems

Weight gain

Memory and concentration impairment.

Therapists at the Birmingham Maple Clinic in Troy, who are seeing mask-related anxiety in some patients, have developed steps to help people cope with this anxiety and to feel more comfortable wearing masks. Carrie Krawiec is one of more than 30 therapists and psychiatrists who treat a variety of mental health issues at the clinic. She specializes in couples therapy, fertility and family issues.

Krawiec explains that during this coronavirus pandemic, most people feel a heightened sense of uncertainty and general anxiety, which means their bodies are a little tense, and they may be more prone to feeling panicky. The area of the face covered by masks is sensitive to heat, and those who suffer from anxiety may take a facial temperature increase as a threat.

Our bodies respond to cues like excess heat, shortness of breath or a change in heart rate as signs of possible danger, triggering the fight-or-flight response, which can cause us to hyperventilate or panic.

Dont panic!

The first step to overcoming anxiety, Krawiec suggests, is to understand that anxiety is normal right now, and theres nothing wrong with feeling anxious. Remind yourself that youre OK that theres nothing actually physically wrong with you.

Additionally, she says, predict circumstances that might make you anxious before you go out, then plan solutions for those situations before you get stressed out.

If wearing a mask in public is emotionally difficult for you, Krawiec says, try doing shorter errands to reduce the time you must spend wearing a mask. Prepare with a list and plan your trips to the grocery store so you dont have to search the aisles for things you need, further increasing anxiety.

If you're prone to panic, do errands early in the morning when its cooler, or later in the evening, so you wont feel overheated.

If youre out somewhere wearing your mask and you begin to feel uncomfortable, remember that its OK to leave the event or take a break away from other people to spend some time out of your mask.

Allow yourself permission to say, If I go and I become uncomfortable, I'm going to duck out, and have that be OK, Krawiec says.

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Birmingham therapist discusses ways to overcome mask-related anxiety - The Oakland Press

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