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UW Health: How to cope with anxiety from mask wearing

UW Health expert says almost all of her patients have some anxiety tied to the pandemic
Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 9:03 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A rapid heartbeat, chest tightness and dizziness are just some of the symptoms people have been complaining about since having to wear a mask. Maura Grasshoff, a behavioral health social worker for UW Health, said these are all signs of anxiety.

"I just thought, 'they don't even know what they're feeling is an anxiety attack,'" said Grasshoff. "The good news is you can treat anxiety; there are things we can do to help people feel more comfortable in settings where a mask is mandatory, like the grocery store or public building."

Grasshoff said it’s important to remember that these anxiety attacks usually last about 5 to 10 minutes, but that can vary.

Here are few things she suggests:

  • Call it out and identify your feeling as anxiety
  • Regulate your breathing. She said many times when we feel anxious, we forget to breath. Try taking a few deep, calming breaths.
  • Try wearing the mask at home for periods of time. She said this will allow you to become accustom with the change in an environment that you feel comfortable in.
  • Find a mask that fits you.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, family or medical professionals.

Anxiety in adults may be more obvious. She said though, these symptoms don’t always present the same in children.

“[Sometimes] things like stomach aches or having trouble sleeping, things like that,” said Grasshoff. “If they are asking lots of questions that’s going to be important for parents to pay attention to.”

To help children with the anxiety they may be feeling around wearing a mask, she recommends showing kids pictures of superheroes in masks or maybe putting a mask on one of their favorite toys. Sometimes it’s best if you can explain “why” in the simplest terms.

“It might be hard for them to understand the idea of a global pandemic, so finding a way to bring it closer to home. Like, ‘We’re wearing masks right now for the safety of grandma and grandpa,’” explained Grasshoff.

Another way to help your child ease their anxiety around wearing a mask is giving them some choice in choosing a mask or maybe letting them customize it.

Anxiety is on the rise right now during this pandemic. Grasshoff said almost all of her patients have some anxiety tied to the pandemic.

If you or someone you know is in need of medical help managing anxiety, you can contact the Behavioral Health Access Line at UW Health to schedule with a therapist: (608) 233-3575

Copyright 2020 WMTV. All rights reserved.

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