Health Wise: To Judge or to Be Kind, That is the Question


So, here we are. Michigan has pulled all COVID restrictions and mandates. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for, right? We thought when this day finally came, we would tear our masks off and throw them in the air, rejoicing in freedom. And while there are a good number of people who did exactly that, a large number of others did not share in this excitement. For many, the change brought everything from mild hesitation to extreme panic and everything in between.

What are we to make of these mixed reactions? We could attribute it to political divisiveness and which news source you ascribe to; however, in our observation the bodies and brains do not know which side of the political aisle we are on when it comes to masking or not masking. The way our brains are wired, we react quickly to threats, having feelings of fear and anxiety that are biologically instilled in us to help us survive. We take much longer to trust in safety than to react in fear. Hesitations and worries about dropping our masks are completely understandable, as are responses that read the data (or their own systems) and quickly translate it into “there’s no threat” or “I can protect myself from this threat without a mask.”

Every State in the United States and every country is going at a different pace and utilizing different sources of data. It makes complete sense for us as individuals to all go at a different pace as we work to sort out what we feel comfortable with! We encounter happy and concerned individuals either way. However, it appears that many of us are judging others, including businesses, who are choosing to work this out differently than ourselves.

Here are some views we’ve encountered from people who feel good not wearing a mask: I feel free, I can breathe better, my immune system is strong and I don’t want to live life fearing a virus, I am vaccinated therefore immune to all forms of this virus.

Here are some views we’ve encountered from people who wish to continue wearing masks at this time: I’m protecting my family who is not vaccinated, my immune system is compromised and needs protecting, I can’t get vaccinated and must protect myself in a different way, I don’t wish to spread anything I might have to others, I can protect myself from other airborne diseases like the flu and cold viruses if I continue wearing a mask.

To judge or to be kind? That is the question. What do you think after reading views that may be different than yours?

The pandemic has been difficult for most of us, as clearly seen in the significant increase in the number of individuals seeking mental health care in the past year. Do we really need to add to anyone’s distress by judging them for their actions? Showing kindness does not cost us anything. We are all doing our best to balance our personal beliefs, current research, and local mandates and requirements. As we do so, let’s be mindful and honest about our feelings, and validate the feelings of those around us.

A caveat here. If you fall on the side of not wanting to wear a mask any more in any situation, please consider showing respect to others who have made a different decision in the following situations:

1. You are having symptoms that could spread to others

2. In situations where individual businesses choose to keep mask requirements and guidelines

    These actions do not take away from your beliefs, but they could help others feel safer. Remember, we are still in this together!

    * This blog was written with special contribution by Smita Nagpal, PhD, owner of Still Waters Counseling.

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