Why It’s So Damn Difficult To Wear A Mask (And How To Do It Anyway)

Wear Mask How To Do It

Strap 2: Embrace the Uncomfortable Feeling

Eventually, you will have to swallow the bitter pill and take action. This means putting on the mask, and wearing it for however long necessary. Chances are, you are not working in the ICU, which means instead of having to wear it for hours on end, you will only have to wear it for the duration of your current shopping spree. How lucky and fortunate you are.

But instead of forcing the mask on yourself, and merely tolerating it, see if you can open up it. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, and, in case you are wearing glasses, you can even expect foggy eyesight. And the longer you wear it, the more your nose may start itching, your ears may start hurting, and the stupider you may seem to yourself. And yet, aim to open up to it.

There are still many mysteries in the field of psychology, but after decades as a scientist and therapist, I can assure you: The more you allow yourself to feel uncomfortable in the service of what is important to you, the better your quality of life will be. In other words, by allowing yourself to feel the discomfort of wearing a mask, the more you empower yourself to do what matters to you, and the easier you will be wearing this mask.

It wasn’t so long ago that it was considered good training in self-control to deliberately experience small bits of discomfort in the service of something bigger than yourself. Our spiritual and religious institutions all encouraged it. Don’t eat meat on Friday. Give up something for Lent. Stay on your knees even if you don’t feel like it. Our cultural heroes encouraged it too, from Ben Franklin to FDR. 

Much of that has fallen away as modern forms of self-indulgence took center stage, but this pandemic is asking every one of us to pivot back toward this rich cultural source of growth and psychological health. If we get this right the benefits of this challenging time will be long lasting.

Related: How to Stop Touching Your Face

The deliberate combination of emotional openness and values-based behavioral persistence has been shown to reduce the linkage between stress and mental health problems. It is a key element of psychological flexibility, and it is a fundamental skill in any area of life. Life asks us to learn not to turn away from what is painful or difficult, and to instead turn toward our fears, doubts, and discomfort in order to live a life full of meaning and purpose. And you can practice this skill right here and right now, just by covering your face with a small piece of fabric.

Not a bad deal.

Written by: Steve Hayes

Originally appeared on: Stevenchayes.com

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Why It’s So Damn Difficult To Wear A Mask (And How To Do It Anyway)
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Dr. Steven C. Hayes

Steven C. Hayes is Nevada Foundation Professor in the Behavior Analysis program at the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada. An author of 44 books and nearly 600 scientific articles, his career has focused on an analysis of the nature of human language and cognition and the application of this to the understanding and alleviation of human suffering. He is the developer of Relational Frame Theory, an account of human higher cognition, and has guided its extension to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a popular evidence-based form of psychotherapy that uses mindfulness, acceptance, and values-based methods.View Author posts