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How Do I Stop Touching My Face?

By Master Trainer Sev Baron

Help! I don’t want to get sick but I just can’t stop touching my face.

Has some semblance of this thought crossed your mind lately? If so, you’re not alone. With everything going on in the world right now, some degree of hygiene hyper-vigilance is totally understandable.

To mitigate the spread of a virus like COVID-19, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that we avoid touching our eyes, nose, and mouth (i.e., facial region) with unwashed hands. Sounds simple enough, right? Ummm… not quite!

Have you ever counted how many times your hands make contact with your face during the day? We do it a lot more often than we realize. In fact, there’s research out there that suggests humans touch their faces about 23 times an hour (on average). I’m not a math major but assuming you’re awake for 16 hours a day, 16 x 23 = a whole-lotta’ face touching! So, unless you’re washing your hands just as often as you’re touching your face, the risk for acquiring and/or spreading germs via this pathway is very real.

Picture of hands being washed before touching their face to prevent spread of disease.

How to Stop Touching Your Face

Thankfully, the behavioral science community has come together and compiled a fairly cogent set of evidence-based recommendations to help minimize face touching. So, what can you start doing right now to minimize touching your face with your hands?  

Increase Awareness

Increase your awareness of your own face touching – perhaps you don’t touch your face 23 times per hour. Maybe you touch your face 35 times per hour! Or more! Ahh! Whatever the number is, you want to get it as close to zero as possible. Some ways to accomplish this:

Be Mindful

Be mindful that by reducing face touching and mitigating the spread of coronavirus, you are in fact helping others. How can you accomplish this level of mindfulness throughout your day?

  • Remind yourself of the people whom you are trying to protect (e.g., significant other, children, elderly or immune-compromised family members / friends, coworkers, customers, etc.) by mitigating the spread of germs.
  • Kindly remind others should you notice them touching their face.
Keep Your Hands Busy

Do other things with your hands; ideally, things that are mutually exclusive with touching your face. You can do these things proactively (i.e., to avoid touching your face in the first place) and/or reactively (i.e., as a result of recognizing that you just touched your face). The logic here is pretty simple – if your hands are busy doing something, they’re less likely to migrate to your facial area. Some examples of things to do with your hands include:

  • Put hands in your pockets.
  • Hold something in your hands (e.g., stress ball, fidget spinner, etc.).
  • Make fists with your hands. 
Change Postures

Change postures, if you find it difficult to stop touching your face given your current postural arrangement. The idea here is to augment your position such that touching your face is less conveniently accomplished. For example:

  • Keep your elbows off the table.
  • Sit in chairs without armrests.
  • Sit in the middle of the couch.
Find Stress-Relief

Perhaps face touching is partially fueled by stress and, make no mistake, these are extra-stressful times. Regardless of whether you feel stress is a contributing factor to face touching, practicing relaxation techniques can be beneficial to your overall well-being. Some easy to implement and often effective relaxation techniques include:

  • Focus on taking long, slow, deep breaths and relaxing any muscles that feel tense.
  • Find a quiet place to sit and focus on the present moment rather than on the past or the future.
  • Spend time in nature (whilst maintaining a safe distance from others).  

Click here to watch a quick video on this topic. Also, the fine folks over at the Psychonomic Society have created this infographic for the public, which sums up their recommendations to reduce face touching. Click here for access to the infographic in multiple languages. They also have some handy-dandy recommendations to increase social-distancing, if you’re into that kind of thing. Hopefully, we can all help reduce the further spread of COVID-19 (and other communicable diseases) by putting these recommendations into practice and encouraging others to do so as well!

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