Masks protected us during the COVID-19 pandemic, but some of us weren’t ready to pull them off when mandates lifted. In this Verywell Mind article, Mindpath Health’s Brandy Porche, LPC, explains why it’s important to prioritize your needs and safety.
COVID-19 has normalized the use of masks as a preventative measure all across the US, but mask mandates are increasingly ending in most states. Your level of comfort and safety may be unique to you, which is totally okay.
Continuing to wear a mask is okay
Matt Glowiak, PhD, LCPC, explains, “The amount of mixed and misinformation in the media has led toward mass confusion and even hysteria. Regionally, where I practice is one where most were on board with mask mandates, especially during the most contagious periods of the virus.”
Glowiak notes that there is relief regarding the end of mask mandates, but it comes with caution. “Many still carry masks but use them with discretion, especially in populated areas indoors,” he says.
Just because “everyone else” is without a mask, Glowiak says that people should think about their individual needs, but he discourages speaking down to or getting into altercations with those who may feel differently.
Glowiak recommends taking deep breaths in a safe area to calm one’s nerves before entering. “If these personal strategies do not feel to be enough, then take additional precautions such as wearing a high-quality N-95 mask, carrying hand sanitizer, and maintaining physical distance,” he says.
Navigating criticism for still masking
Anisha Patel-Dunn, DO, advises making choices to minimize putting oneself into uncomfortable positions, if possible. “It’s important to recognize that there are still many things that will help prevent disease spread,” she says.
While it may be uncomfortable at first, Dr. Patel-Dunn says, “You could try going out for a short time like 15 minutes or be with someone in public who has been vaccinated, boosted, and doesn’t have symptoms.”
“At this time, the CDC still advises that masks can help protect you and others from COVID-19,” says Dr. Patel-Dunn. “I think if someone is being criticized for their choice to wear a mask, they can always fall back on evidence-based scientific data and what experts are saying.”
Declining the invitation to debate
“My clients no longer feel safe with the end of the mask mandate,” says Brandy Porche, LPC, with Mindpath Health.
At this point, all anyone can do is be the best at protecting themselves. “Wear your mask regardless of what everyone else is doing. Double mask if that makes you feel safer,” Porche says.
“Continue to sanitize your hands and various surfaces you may touch. Take care of you and your family by following the same safety precautions,” Porche says. “In public places, don’t be fearful of being the only one with a mask on. Don’t allow anyone to bully your mask off.”
Porche dissuades people from feeling as if they owe anyone an explanation regarding masking.
Prioritizing one’s safety is best
Howard Pratt, DO, explains that some report a sense of relief, while others express doubt about whether they are safe from COVID-19 without masks, so people may feel awkward both about wearing a mask as well as taking it off.
“Firstly, do not take medical advice from politicians,” Dr. Pratt says. “Most of us don’t go to our mechanic when we want legal advice or to an attorney to tell us what’s wrong with our car’s transmission.”
If you are a person who has underlying respiratory disease or anything that would put you at risk of having serious complications due to COVID-19, Dr. Pratt recommends doing what is safest regardless of what others may say.
Dr. Pratt underscores that disagreements can sometimes be strongest within families. “We have to remember that even if it’s our own family members who are criticizing our usage of masks, we really do have to put our health first and act accordingly to ensure our own safety.” he says.
Read the full Verywell Mind article with sources.