mask anxiety

Mask anxiety is a very real thing right now and it’s something we need to take seriously.

Wearing masks is something that most of us are being asked to do at the moment, especially if we’re in a public place. Some people are fine with that, but not everyone.

Some are not happy to wear a mask as a matter of principle; they don’t agree with the reasons we’re being told why we need to wear a mask.

But there are many for whom wearing a mask is a source of anxiety. For them, the thought of actually wearing a mask can cause a great deal of stress or even panic. There is research that shows that wearing a mask can increase psychological stress, so this is something that is worth taking seriously.

Thankfully, the situation is not entirely hopeless and if you suffer from mask anxiety there is something that you can do about it.

It’s important to separate your emotional response to wearing masks to your belief or opinion on wearing them. You might disagree with the reasoning around wearing masks but not be that bothered about actually wearing them. Or you could emphatically agree with the idea of mask-wearing, but find the experience of wearing them very stressful.

This post isn’t to discuss the rationale and reasons for wearing masks, but simply to help you to lose the stress or anxiety that wearing masks could be bringing up for you. It doesn’t actually matter whether you’re pro or against them. What matters is your emotional response, and if your emotional response isn’t helpful to you, then it’s worth exploring and doing something about.

The different aspects of mask anxiety

As with most anxieties, there are different aspects that are contributing. It will vary by person because our own life experiences and emotional make-up will be contributory factor too, But there are some common themes that are worth looking at;

The experience of wearing a mask

Putting on a face mask will undoubtedly bring up feelings for you. These might be negative or positive, but you will feel something. It may be that at first you feel OK wearing a mask, but after an hour or more, it starts to become more difficult.

If you wear glasses then this experience could be a lot more frustrating as your glasses steam up and your vision becomes affected. Some people fin that their skin develops a rash from having a mask on.

Associations of wearing a mask

This is when the mask reminding them of previous experiences. Perhaps there was a time when they recovered from being ill when they had to wear a mask, or a family member was really sick and wore one, or they’ve had a trauma where their mouth was covered.

Any one of these could trigger anxiety because when they put on the mask, it reminds them of their worry or fear. For these people the mask is acting as a trigger; they don’t fear the mask itself, but the feelings associated with wearing one.


Wearing a mask affects our breathing, there’s no denying it. If you have breathing problems or suffer with asthma then wearing a mask could be adding a significant emotional component that could exacerbate your breathing.

I’m asthmatic and when I’ve had attacks or moments of breathlessness, it’s been very stressful. Not being able to draw a deep breath is very unsettling and can quickly make you feel panicky. For me I totally understand how wearing a mask can bring up those panicky feelings.

Communication stress

When we communicate with each other, the hearing voice is only a small part of it. Facial expressions and body language play a huge part, even though we might not be fully conscious of it. Many of us assume that lip reading is reserved for the hard of hearing, but we all use it on some level.

When we lose many of the key ingredients of what makes good communication possible, it goes without saying that communication will suffer. This could mean that we don’t understand what’s being said, or the subtle nuances are missed.

How to overcome mask anxiety

Using the Head Trash Clearance method can help you to lose the anxiety you feel around wearing masks.

You can get hold of the Head Trash Clearance Method in my book Clear Your Head Trash. You can get hold of an easy-to-follow one pager of the method here, but I would recommend buying the book if you’re keen to have a better understanding of it. Especially if you want to overcome your mask anxiety (or indeed any other anxieties).

Our online course Clear Your Head Trash walks you through how to use Head Trash clearance in tackling things like anxiety. So if you want more guidance on using head trash clearance, this is a good place to start.

How you go about doing this will be depend on the nature of your anxieties and how you’re experiencing it.

As with any type of anxiety, the best thing to do is to unravel it and figure out what all the various aspects are. Once you’ve done that, you simply need to clear each thing in turn [using the Head Trash Clearance Method]. The unravelling isn’t alway easy or obvious – at least when you’re doing it yourself. When it comes to our head trash, other people can often spot it more readily than we can.

Here are some pointers to help you get started.

The mask as a trigger

An important first step is to explore the idea of wearing the mask and what feelings that brings up. Here the mask is acting as a trigger for the feelings that come up. This is down to the associations that you have around wearing a mask and may be because of previous experiences.

If these previous experiences were traumatic in nature, then I would recommend working with a trauma specialist to help you to let go of the trauma. Trauma tends to feeds anxiety and it can be harder to shed anxiety while there is still trauma there feeding it.

What feelings are being brought up?

When you are faced with having to wear a mask, what feelings come up for you? Do you feel anger at the thought of having to wear it? Do you like it because it brings about feelings of safety or being protected? Whatever comes up is worth adding

When you’re wearing your mask, how do you feel?

Do you feel restricted or like you’re suffocating? Do you feel annoyed?

When you’re faced with people not wearing a mask, how do you feel?

Do you get stressed or angry because they’re breaking the rules? Do you feel like they’re not being respectful? Are you happy to find someone who agrees with you?

Head Trash Clearance Tips

These are some questions to get you started. The important thing is to simply give some thought to how you feel about wearing masks and to jot down all those feelings. This is the beginning of your head trash clearance to-do list.

You Head Trash Clearance to-do list for overcoming mask anxiety might look something like this:

  • wearing masks

This is one that I would recommend everyone clearing. This is because it acts as a nice catch-all for the other things you might have identified, but also because it’s good to start a general level before getting specific.

This is why I’ve created a Head Trash Clearance track for Wearing Masks. You can find that here.

Once you’ve cleared ‘wearing masks’ you will need to follow-up with the other aspects of your mask anxiety. This might include things like;

  • breathing
  • feeling restricted
  • being misunderstood
  • not being heard
  • safety, feeling safe
  • being told what to do
  • protection, being protected
  • breaking the rules
  • respect, being respectful

You will be surprised how quickly you can start to shift how you feel around wearing masks.

Alexia Leachman
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