No, I’m not about to start a mask debate. I’m not going to make assumptions. But what I am going to do is ask you to think about something lovely.
Just for a moment, take off the mask. Whether that’s physical or an imaginary front that holds others away. And think about what brings you joy. Close your eyes and breathe. Become one with the memory, wish or dream.
Check in with your jaw. Did it soften? If not, wiggle a bit and un-clench those teeth. Allow a smile to appear. Nothing too difficult about this exercise is there?
When I was young I read about ‘softening’ the face. It’s something I do often. Both consciously and unconsciously. Because I’ve been doing it so long. It’s worth forming a new habit.
When the mask comes off
When the mask comes off, I’m being me. You know that one.
And now I’m expected to wear a real, physical one. I went to get my groceries with my face covered. And I found I was getting anxious. Clenching my jaw. Becoming hyper-vigilant as I look around at the other masked faces. My body was signalling danger, danger!
So, I’m consciously ‘softening’ my face. Allowing my eyes to relax. My jaw to relax. My breath to come deeper. And of course, my shoulders drop away from my ears.
The breath goes from a panicky ‘argh, I can’t get enough oxygen’ to dropping into a softened chest. My belly drops, and I’m breathing. Not just normally, but better!
Did you know you could consciously change your breath? Now, you do. Practice and you’ll see how natural it becomes to take a few deep breaths and soften your face. (Message me if you’d like a private Facial Yoga session on-line.)
Communication behind the Mask
Masked self-expression isn’t really new. It’s been part of life for most of us since we were small. We learned to hide our feelings with a smile. Hold people at bay with a snarl. We all have our imaginary mask on. At one time or another.
Now, it’s happening with a physical mask. How do we continue to communicate?
It’s time to down out the noise and get clear in our communication.
When we are physically masked, we’re simply harder to understand. Muffled speech. So, when you talk, make it crystal clear.
Don’t give mixed messages. Like ‘yes, but’. Avoid yes and no at the same time. Cut out the clutter words.
Avoid making assumptions. Like ‘I know what you’re thinking…’ Pause. Listen carefully.
And most importantly, whatever you do, don’t pressure people into agreeing with you. You know, when we start with questions like ‘Aren’t you uncomfortable in your mask?’
As a Holistic Practitioner and Teacher for coming close to 30 years now, I’m very aware of the present moment. The mask gives us an opportunity to become more clear in our speech. More present in our listening skills.
The person behind the mask
Don’t talk to the mask. Talk to the person behind the mask.
Look at them. Maybe even lean in a little, so your body language is indicating you are connecting! (I know anti-social distancing. Even 6 feet away, you can use your body to communicate without noise. Lean forward a little.)
Keep eye contact. (Not in a weird, creepy way. It’s natural for us to look away. Just be hyper-aware of making sure you are connecting with your eyes.)
Nod your head.
Look, if you’re anything like me, you express yourself not just with your eyes and words. I’m a hand-waver and I use my whole face expressively. When I first went out in a mask I felt I’d been turned off. Like a switch. No. More. Expression.
When I change my breathing. Become aware of connection. And carry-on. I’m more comfortable than when I’m fighting the mask. Fighting to breathe. And getting anxious about not being seen, heard or even hearing others.
Be present. Wear the Mask if you must. Wear the Mask if your local laws require it. But use the tips above to make it a more comfortable experience.
And, at the end of the day, Be Kind. Whether you are for or against the mask. Be kind. Turn down the noise. Look. Listen. Get clear.
Got feedback? Drop a comment below.