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Wearing a face mask is required in more and more places. This, on its own, has a psychological effect on people but besides that, it also has a significant impact on breathing.
In this day and age, wearing a face mask to protect you and others around you, is becoming more and more the norm. It is now a social norm to wear a mask in most public spaces, depending on where in the world you live. This impacts us on several levels, for instance, it can cause breathing problems such as dyspnea, stress, and anxiousness.
In countries like Thailand, you can socialize outside without a mask, but as soon as you enter an establishment, such as a shopping mall or grocery store, you are expected to wear a mask. Without one, you will not be allowed entry, while in countries such as Sweden, it is up to the individual to wear a mask or not.
Of course, many of these requirements are dependent on the level of severity of the pandemic at the given time or location. It's always important to check your local health institution's a mask/social distancing recommendations and guidelines in order to understand which steps to take in order to protect both your own health and the health of others.
There is no question that the face masks used today will carry both positive and negative effects. Yes, they will serve as protection for you from your surroundings when it comes to preventing viruses and bacteria from spreading. The downside is that it has a negative effect on your breathing; often giving you a feeling of not being able to breathe properly (feelings of heavy, or labored breathing).
This could then result in what is medically called temporary dyspnea, a feeling that you can’t catch your breath or that you are suffocating. If a person is going through any of these experiences, it can easily make you feel stressed or anxious, further deteriorating the condition.
As mentioned, one of the main symptoms of dyspnea is labored breathing. The root cause behind this could be an underlying medical condition that has been triggered due to the breathing difficulties caused by wearing a face mask, or if you have undertaken a physical activity.
If you feel that you start having trouble breathing, step aside, and remove your mask. Try a method called square breathing, also known as box breathing.
Take a few deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Slow and relaxed breaths. Try the box breathing method, where you inhale to the count of 4, hold to the count of 4, exhale to the count of 4, hold to the count of 4. Then repeat this a couple of times and the effect should be immediate. This will not only help oxygenate the blood but also make you feel more relaxed and calmer. Additional box breathing benefits include increased focus and performance. This is one of many different breathing techniques you could try to help calm you down and calm your breathing.
If stepping aside and doing the breathing exercise does not work, we urge you to seek medical attention as soon as possible or stop and call 911 immediately. The root causes behind your dyspnea could be something you are not able to correct yourself, requiring medical intervention.
If you are afraid of stepping outside due to the current conditions and are unable to wear a face mask as it causes your breathing problems or other issues, then there are plenty of online services that are available for you. You are able to do your shopping online and have it delivered to your home. There are online courses that enable you to exercise doing yoga, pilates, meditation, or practice mindfulness.
Remember, if you elect to stay in, it is important that you keep both your body and mind engaged. A healthy body and mind is the foundation you need. If one of the two is not aligned, it will affect the other.