How to Breathe through a Face Mask

woman wearing face mask

The following article was written by Anne Menik for CEO in Her.

As states reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing a face mask may become a more regular part of your daily, regular lives. Unfortunately, even though we seem to be getting “back to normal,” wearing a face mask will be part of the new normal, so learning how to wear one comfortably can make a huge difference to your well-being.

As a Buteyko breathing practitioner, I hear a common complaint from mask-wearing people – they are struggling to breathe with a face mask on, and it can make them feel anxious or stressed. In this article, I’m going to cover some top tips for efficient breathing while wearing a face mask to protect you against COVID-19 without sacrificing your happiness.

Why Wearing a Face Mask Is Important

This isn’t an article about the need for face masks, but to give you a brief insight – research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that face masks were effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19. Based on this research, experts have recommended the public use masks while the virus is still spreading.

Issues with Wearing Face Masks

If we’re honest, no one enjoys wearing a face mask. It can impact your ability to perform everyday tasks by fogging up your glasses, restricting your mobility or vision, block your breathing, and cause maskne (mask acne).

When your breathing is blocked, it can lead to health and wellness issues like anxiety and stress or exacerbate certain respiratory conditions like asthma. The mask creates a physical barrier that makes it harder to take in air. This barrier also traps a portion of exhaled carbon dioxide. This means that you end up breathing warm and moist air, which can contribute to a feeling of suffocation.

How to Breathe with a Face Mask

Based on this information, I’ve put together some tips to help you breathe more efficiently while wearing a face mask.

1. Breathe through your nose.

Your nose is the first line of defense for your lungs and provides protection against airborne viruses. Special cells line and protect the nose, and particles deposited on the airway and alveolar surface are cleaned and removed efficiently by the cilia to prevent the spread of infection.

2. Control your breathing.

Panic and anxiety begins with dysfunctional breathing – hyperventilation. While it may be difficult if you are feeling anxious, consciously controlling your breathing helps slow down your nervous system, allowing you to take in more oxygen with each breath.

3. Try breathing techniques.

Certain breathing techniques can alleviate anxiety and increase breathing efficiency. For example, the four-six technique. This involves inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for six seconds, taking slow diaphragmatic breaths. Your parasympathetic nervous system calms your body.

4. Wear a light cotton mask.

Wearing a light cotton mask is significantly easier to breathe in, so if you can, making this switch is a good idea. According to the CDC, “The filtration effectiveness of cloth masks is generally lower than that of medical masks and respirators; however, cloth masks may provide some protection if well designed and used correctly.” Unless you are working in a high-risk environment, wearing a cotton mask is generally acceptable.

I hope this has given you some insight into breathing best practices while wearing a face mask. For personal advice or Buteyko breathing sessions, please contact me.


Article written by Anne Menik. Follow Essential Anne at for more on looking, loving, and living healthier. Learn more about her story on our blog, or reach out to her at or on social media by clicking here.

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