Advice to help if you are anxious about returning to face-to-face work with your colleagues and other aspects of going back into work.
Changing Faces recommends that you follow the latest Government guidance on staying safe outside your home, including wearing a face covering as required.
However, if you have a visible difference or disfigurement, we know this may be complex and bring mixed feelings or additional challenges for you physically and/or emotionally.
Some people with a visible difference may find wearing a face covering or mask challenging, however others may find it comforting – and some may feel conflicted, experiencing both these feelings at times.
Coverings may be beneficial for some
The ability to wear a face covering or mask may feel equalising and mean you feel less fear or worry in “facing” the world. If staring, comments or questions are something you experience regularly in public, then this may be reduced by wearing a face covering.
Coverings may present challenges for others
However, the need to “hide away” or feeling that this is being imposed upon you may feel negative, especially if you have worked hard on coming to terms with your appearance – and are rightly proud of yourself for this. Wearing a face covering or mask may feel like a loss of your self-identity.
For some, wearing a face covering or mask may revive anxieties about people behaving as though you are contagious or something to shy away from – or take you back to previous times of shielding – feeding into old feelings and worries you have already dealt with or learned to cope with.
Coverings may delay adjustment to “normality”
On the other hand, if you feel safer behind a face covering or mask, you may worry this may delay some of the social anxiety you experience until people stop wearing these in the future, meaning your return to “reality” may be delayed or compromised.
Concerns about stigmatisation
Everyone who can safely wear masks or face coverings should – but the national push to make this the norm may feel stigmatising for people for whom this isn’t an option.
If your condition, mark or scar prevents you from covering your face in the advised way or at all, you may feel anxious that people will notice or comment on this. You may feel worried that people will judge you or feel pressure to explain your reasons for not wearing a face covering or mask.
Exemptions on health grounds
You may also be worried about the physical impact that wearing a mask or face covering has on your condition.
Some people to choose to wear a badge or lanyard explaining that they are exempt from wearing a mask to avoid judgement or stigmatisation. You may choose to do so or, on the other hand, you may decide that this brings you even more unwanted attention. Feel free to experiment with this approach to explore whether or not it helps.
Here are some tips that you might want to think about as you consider the impact of wearing a mask or face covering:
- Speak to someone. If you are feeling worried, anxious or upset, it may be worth explaining this to a friend, family member or colleague you are close to and explaining your feelings. You could also ask them to support you. For example, they could accompany you when you go to shops or on public transport for the first few times, to help you deal with any challenges.
- Prepare yourself. It may help to write down the things that make you feel anxious or upset – and then consider how you have dealt with these things before and remind yourself that you can do this. Think about your inner resources and your positive qualities, and the tips or techniques that have helped you before. You might like to talk all this through with a friend or family member.
- Plan in advance. If you are travelling somewhere, plan your route beforehand and consider what challenges may arise for you. You may find it helpful to look at our guide on improving your conversation skills. Planning ahead may give you a sense of control and increase your confidence. Find some relaxing things to do the night before to help manage any worry and anxiety.