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Feelings of mask anxiety are normal, doctors say

Whether you're still required to wear a mask or you're adjusting to no longer having to wear one, doctors say it's normal to feel anxious.

TOLEDO, Ohio — As strange as it was for all of us to get used to wearing face masks at the beginning of the pandemic, it may take a little getting used to going back to not wearing one.

The CDC says those who are fully vaccinated no longer have to wear a mask, which may feel strange and provoke some anxiety but, doctors say, this is totally normal. 

We were conditioned to put something over our face everywhere we went for more than a year. So now, conditioning ourselves to take our masks back off is tough but psychiatric nurse practitioner Tiffany Pottkotter with ProMedica says humans are adaptable. 

Pottkotter says it's normal to have some anxiety while re-entering back into the community. We've been relying on people's tone of voice instead of their facial expressions, but with a little effort, we can regain those social skills.

"For people that are hesitant, just take that first step. Instead of staying at home, maybe try to go to the grocery store. Try to go do something social with others," said Pottkotter.

She says if this anxiety doesn't go away after a couple of weeks, you should talk to your doctor. 

While the mask mandate is over for those who are fully vaccinated, those who are not fully vaccinated may feel like they're one of the few wearing a mask in public.

Psychiatry specialist Dr. Rajiv Parinja at Mercy Health said less than 40% of people are vaccinated. However, if you go out and find most people are not wearing masks, those who are vaccinated are still putting themselves and others in danger. 

He also says if people assume because less than 40% of people are vaccinated we can go back to normal, there will be another spike. 

That's why it's important to remember if you want to continue wearing a mask, do it because there is no harm to you. You should also not feel embarrassed or influenced by others if you're not vaccinated.

"You might feel that people judge you for being too scared and that's perfectly fine. Those people have nothing to do with you, you lose nothing, but you keep yourself a little safer and this is something you must do if you have not had a vaccine," said Dr. Parinja.

He also said that it's important to remember we influence other people, even if they don't know us.