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Mask-wearing can cause feelings of anxiety, experts say

Experts say its normal to experience emotions during times of change.
Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 12:04 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 20, 2021 at 6:43 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As Dane County returns to an indoor mask mandate, some people may be feeling frustrated or anxious about having to wear masks again.

Madison College psychology instructor Dr. Jenna Behm-Lawton says its normal to experience these feelings during times of change.

“It feels wrong to go backwards and to undo something we already did,” said Behm-Lawton. “There’s kind of this idea that we’re backtracking or back sliding and we have to do this all again.”

Behm-Lawton says it’s not surprising people may be refusing to participate in wearing face masks. Often times, when someone is anxious, they may tend to avoid the action altogether.

“Folks will try to avoid the stimulus that’s making them anxious,” she explained. “They’ll want to try to avoid wearing masks or going to places where masks would be necessary.”

Another common emotion is anger directed toward people who are not complying with mask mandates or vaccinations.

“There’s this level of frustration that they did what they were supposed to do in terms of cooperating and following guidelines,” said Behm-Lawton. “They feel like they’re being taken advantage of and that this is falling back on them.”

The length of the pandemic is a contributing factor to these heightened emotions.

Behm-Lawton says most people handle stress well in short-term situations, not long-term ones.

“We’re fatigued. Our psychological reserves start to get used up,” said Behm-Lawton. “That can lead to those emotions, especially negative emotions that people are feeling to spill over into a lot of different aspects of life.”

Behm-Lawton does have recommendations for how to handle this range of feeling.

She says its important to look about what we have learned about the pandemic so far.

“Looking at how resilient we actually have been instead of how fatigued we are can kind of balance that,” said Behm-Lawton.

The simplest way to get over wearing masks is to practice the habit once again.

“The more you do it the easier it gets,” she said.

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