The coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) has placed a bigger emphasis on hygiene, and the measures we need to take to prevent the spread of infection. We’re all washing our hands regularly and social distancing when out and about, but one of the harder measures of prevention, is resisting the temptation to touch our faces.
As COVID-19 can be transmitted through the nose or mouth, the general advice has been to avoid touching our faces. People touch their faces a lot, in fact, you can touch your face thousands of times a day and most of the time without realising it. This becomes even more difficult for people who wear glasses, who are even more likely to touch their faces to adjust their glasses.
Why do we touch our faces so much?
There are many other reasons we touch our faces. If you have hay fever your nose and eyes may itch more than usual at this time of year, prompting you to touch those areas. If there’s something in your eye you may try to get it out using your fingers. Touching your face can also be a sign of body language attraction. It’s just one of the many ways we show our interest in other people.
Touching our faces is also a way for us to self-soothe. When we feel emotions, whether they be happiness, sadness, surprise, anger or worry, often we touch our faces. When we do this, we tap into pressure points on the face which activates the parasympathetic nervous system, this in turn helps to calm us down. It’s especially difficult to stop touching our faces right now as we navigate a global pandemic, at a time where anxiety may already be higher than usual, our natural instinct is to try and calm down in every method that’s readily available to us, one of the easiest and most unconscious being to touch our face. So, how can we touch our faces less?
Use a tissue instead of your hands
If there’s an itch on your face, or if you need to adjust your glasses, use a tissue instead of your hands directly. Carry tissues with you when you’re out of the house so you can do this on the go too. You could also use a tissue to adjust your glasses throughout the day.
Practice mindfulness and mediation
Finding other ways to self soothe will reduce your instinctive need to touch your face so often. This can be for as little as 5 minutes a day. Mediation can be a little intimidating if you’ve never done it before, there are many guided mediation sessions available for free via apps and websites such as headspace.
Count how many times you touch your face
Using your phone can be helpful for this or keeping a notepad and pen on you at all times if you’re trying to reduce your screen time. Record every single time you touch your face throughout the day. Just being more conscious of the fact that you are doing it is enough to help you reduce the number of times you do it.
This trick is backed by science and research carried out so it’s definitely worth a try! However, the positive effect is lost as soon as you stop counting, so make sure to count every day.
Clean your hands
If there’s something in your eye like a stray eyelash, then make sure your hands are clean before trying to get it out. If you’re at home then water and soap are best, but if you’re out of the house then anti-bacterial gel will do. Make sure you’re also moisturising your hands after every hand wash to prevent dryness and dermatitis developing. If you don’t have a hand cream then body lotion is a good alternative.
If your hands are clean then there’s nothing wrong with touching your face. It’s something we have to be more mindful of when we are out of the house and potentially touching multiple surfaces, in those situations its best to avoid touching your face if you can help it. Always carry hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes when you leave the house, that way you can easily disinfect surfaces or your hands as and when you need to.
Keep your hands busy
A stress ball is one way to keep your hands in use, make sure to regularly disinfect the stress ball. Reading is another way to keep your hands occupied, with the added benefit of relaxing us at the same time. Other activities you could try are painting/drawing, puzzles, cleaning and writing.
Keep up to date
Information is continually changing at this time, for the most up-to-date advice regarding the coronavirus pandemic, please visit the NHS, World Health Organization and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites.