Expert tips on coping with mask challenges

Dr Glen Hosking, Clinical Psychologist at Victoria University

Benjamin Millar

As the second wave of coronavirus sweeps across Victoria and mandatory mask use is enforced across the state, a Victoria University psychology expert is warning of the challenges these changes can trigger.

Melbourne and Mitchell Shire residents have lived with compulsory face covering laws since July 22, while the rest of the state has now been ordered to follow suit as part of desperate measures to slow the spread of the deadly pandemic.

VU clinical psychologist Dr Glen Hosking said while the laws are well intentioned they can also present people with some unexpected psychologist hurdles.

“This pandemic continues to impact every area of our lives; physically, socially, economically and psychologically, so it’s okay to take some time to adjust while complying with this new stage – that is a completely normal response,” he said.

Dr Hosking said wearing masks during social exchanges can be challenging for people, given how much we use our face to convey emotions and to reciprocate a smile, so people now need to find new ways to interact and respond.

“Maybe we need to perfect a friendly nod or a wave, just a small gesture to acknowledge each other,” he said.

“I also think we have to remember that anyone with a hearing or vision disability will find wearing a mask especially difficult; being mindful of this is beneficial for the whole community.”

Dr Hosking noted that some children might be feeling unnerved by seeing adults wear masks, so it is helpful to encourage candid conversations about how children are coping.

“Check in with them, get a sense of how they feel about it, and share the facts so you can correct any misconceptions.”

One way of helping to adjust to challenging changes, according to Dr Hosking, is to keep up or adopt healthy routines such as regular exercise.

“Due to the new rules, there might a tendency to stop exercising, but I’d encourage everyone to keep up your fitness routines,” he said.

“There is scientific proof that regular physical activity has a positive impact on our mental well-being, so in times like this, it’s even more important that we keep moving.”