Do you (like me) typically turn and run in the other direction when someone brings up a discussion about masks? Typically I avoid the entire topic (come on we all have better things to do). But I get asked a lot about masks and breathing so I thought I would share some thoughts about how they may affect you from a performance and mindset approach.

One of the terms tossed around in these discussions is “Hypercapnia.” The concern is that this hurts those who wear masks for a prolonged time. This condition occurs when excessive carbon dioxide (CO2) builds up in the bloodstream. Typically inadequate respiration causes the build up. When wearing a mask CO2 does not increase as dramatically as it does during hypercapnia. However, the amount of CO2 does increase and this can create feelings of anxiety or panic.

When wearing a mask if you feel anxious or short of breath you are simply not accustomed to the higher amounts of CO2. If this is you you may be more susceptible to anxiety or panic attacks in general. Instead of avoiding the mask you actually could use it as a tool to build your tolerance of Carbon Dioxide.

Use it as a tool and challenge yourself to become more accustomed to these higher levels. Breathe through your nose only and occasionally add in small breath holds. Then, if you want, use a mask to hold in more CO2 to push your body’s ability to tolerate it.

P.S. Last thought on the masks. If you are using a mask for yours and others’ protection make sure you are also nasal breathing. If not, you are canceling out the good you are doing. Breathing in your nose is the best filter you have. Breathing out your mouth disperses many more particulates than breathing out your nose as well. So for yours and others’ benefit use only your nose to breath under the mask.

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