Be Safe: Don’t Touch Your Face
As architects, we collaborate with our clients to create environments that are supportive of their mission, which always includes the need for safety and security. In this time of crisis, with school and library closings, and non-essential businesses shut down, everyday life has been upended. In order to get through this, we need to collaborate as we continue to create safe environments for each other, but now by practicing social distancing, working remotely, and, most importantly, staying healthy.
The message is abundantly clear. In order minimize the spread of the coronavirus wash your hands and don’t touch your face because your eyes, nose, and mouth are a portal for infectious disease. And yet studies show nearly everyone touches their face an average of 15-20 times an hour. We’re our own worst enemy as we potentially contaminate ourselves.
Not touching your face is easier said than done. Look at this montage put together by the Washington Post where officials advising people to not touch their face to prevent getting coronavirus do just that.
So how do you stop?
First, don’t obsess over it, because stress can weaken the immune system. It’s the old mind-body connection. These are challenging times and we all need to relax. It’s a subconscious behavior so the best thing you can do is become more mindful. Pay attention to when you touch your face. Notice how you touched your face. What preceded it? What you were doing? How were you feeling?
When I began to self-monitor, I noticed that I often put my chin in my palm when I’m trying to stay focused. I also frequently adjust my eyeglasses. And then there are all those random itches that seem to worsen when I’m trying to not touch my face.
Once you have a better understanding of when you do it, you’ll need to find something to replace it. Recommendations include touching another part of your body (like your arm), squeezing a stress ball, or using a fidget spinner or a beaded bracelet. These items will of course need to be sanitized regularly.
I employ a tissue or handkerchief to scratch my itches or blot my allergy watery eyes. Another suggestion is to scratch with a pen but for me that’s a bad idea because I’d end up looking like a Jackson Pollock painting.
Recently I broke the nervous habit of picking at my lips (gross) by using super fragrant hand cream. As my hand came up to my face, I’d smell the clementine and honey and stop myself. This might work for nail biters as well. The scent may make you more aware of your actions. Very good information for nail biters can be found at the American Academy of Dermatology website.
When trying to break a habit it’s also helpful to have reminders. Put sticky notes around your home office or on your refrigerator. Change the wallpaper on your screens to something like this.
Have someone that you’re social distancing with alert you with a code word when you’re touching your face. This could be especially fun for children in the home. Kids love to tell on each other. Just be sure to use a fun word.
Technology to the Rescue
The Guardian recently had a story about a website that monitors you and flashes up warning messages if you start reaching for your face. There’s also a Fitbit app named jalapeNO designed by a University of Hawaii professor that helps people remember to stop touching their faces, as reported by Hawaii News Now.
The bottom line is to become more aware of your face touching habits and make changes that work for you. It takes time and effort but it’s worth it.
If you’d like more information about the science behind the spread of germs I highly recommend this educational video from former NASA engineer Mark Rober. At the 3-minute mark he discusses touching your face and references Star Wars. Bonus points for that.
Item of note. I had this song in my head as I wrote this – Chicago’s Grammy award winning hit “Hard Habit to Break.” A lovely earworm for you while you socially distance yourself.