We’re living in unprecedented times, when a face mask has become part of our daily wardrobe. None of us particularly enjoys wearing a mask all day, but we do so to keep ourselves and others safe from a virus notorious for going undetected. With all the mask-wearing, it can feel challenging to breathe deeply or fully. There’s been a lot of talk lately about masks and breathing but rest assured: wearing a mask does not increase your chances of inhaling carbon dioxide. We promise.

That said, wearing a mask isn’t entirely comfortable for those of us not used to wearing one all day. It can force you to breathe differently, which may lead to headaches or feeling light-headed. The main concern is that you’re taking short, shallow breaths and wearing a mask will potentially exacerbate the issue. What can you do about it so you can literally breathe easier?

  1. Take breaks from wearing the mask. We say this a lot, “take breaks,” but it’s true! Whenever you use the restroom or step outside, take the opportunity to remove the mask.

  • Take three deep breaths, in through the nose and out through your mouth.

  • Focus on expanding your ribcage and filling your lungs entirely with air before exhaling.

  1. Breathe through your nose. The nose is designed to catch small particles from entering the trachea and lungs. Our bodies have great systems to help filter the environment around us, including filtering carbon dioxide.

  2. Take longer, slower breaths. Think about breathing through a snorkel. If you take short, shallow breaths in a snorkel, you’re only breathing the air that’s left in the tube, rather than getting fresh air. Take a similar approach when wearing a mask: if you take short, shallow breaths, you’re likely not getting a lot of fresh air. Breathe slowly and intentionally.

  3. Practice deep breathing in the morning and evening. Take time out of your morning and evening to simply breathe.

  • Lay down or sit comfortably.

  • Place a hand on your stomach and one on your chest and take a deep breath.

  • Focus on expanding your belly (your diaphragm) before your chest, hold for one second at the top, then release.

  • Perform three to five times and you’ll find that not only can you breathe easier, you’ll feel calmer.

In a society where we run from one thing to the next, taking a few moments to breathe is good for the brain and the body.

We know wearing a mask can be challenging, but for the time being, it’s part of our new normal. Beyond that, focusing on breathing deeper and slower has other health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety. So why not? If you need expert help for breathing exercises or have compromised lungs, we are here to provide the guidance you need.