Currently, I am traveling back to America from my four-month trip to Europe so I am constantly required to wear a face mask. When I wear the mask, the hot air I exhale becomes the air I inhale. Over and over again.
Over and over again.
With time, the hot air I breathe starts to feel impossible to inhale. I start feeling desperate for fresh air. This feeling catapults me into a tsunami of anxiety, and if not controlled, a panic attack.
If you have or know someone who suffers from panic attacks, you understand the sheer feeling of helplessness you get. Although I understand completely why I am required to wear the mask, I also need to find ways to control the anxiety I get when I wear my mask for too long.
Here are some ways I have learned to cope.
1. Going to the bathroom
I know, that sounds really strange. But ever since I started developing feelings of anxiety when I was a child, the bathroom ended up being my safe haven.
In the stall, I take deep breaths and calm myself down. It is not the perfect solution, but it works when you are in a place where a mask is required at all times.
2. Put something heavy on your lap
This is something that one of my high school friends does, and it really works. I am not sure of the exact science behind it, but when I have a backpack or a suitcase in my lap I feel grounded. I take deep breaths and focus on calming down.
If you have been to therapy for anxiety ever in your life, this is a classic coping mechanism. This trick always helps me get back to the present. This trick works by focusing on your senses — sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.
You start by picking out five things that you can see around you, followed by finding four things you can hear, then three things you can touch, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
4. Listen to music
I have noticed that listening to music when I feel anxious helps me. I usually listen to something calming — such as worship music or something with a low and slow beat to it.
I have not, by any means, figured out the perfect solution to prevent my mask anxiety. Every time I wear a mask, I have an extreme urge to pull it off of my face. I use these four coping mechanisms on repeat until I am able to find a place where I do not have to wear a mask anymore.
One day, we will all be able to go back to normal. Until then, I cope with my anxiety in a different, more visible way.