We’re in the midst of times unlike any we’ve seen before.

Amid the physical threat of the coronavirus, the greater threat is emotional - of being overcome by fear and over-reaction. We’re seeing this now in panic-purchasing, which is making it hard for stores to keep their shelves stocked with items everyone needs.

We’re being told to engage in social distancing, but there’s a difference between social distancing and disconnection. While using good judgment in maintaining physical distance, we can still check on others and communicate.

It’s more important than ever to maintain relationships, especially with the more vulnerable ones among us.

Mental health experts say that taking care of yourself, your friends and your family is an effective way of coping with any kind of stress. Helping others cope with stress also makes the community stronger.

They also emphasize the importance of staying informed through the media without overdoing it. Try to recognize when you’ve gleaned the information you need and then leave whatever news sources you’re using and do something more relaxing. Get some exercise. Turn off the 24-hour news channel.

We can’t control the risks faced in normal times, let alone a pandemic, but we can attempt to assert control of our fears and avoid overreacting and contributing to public panic. That’s part of a method of dealing with post-traumatic stress called Control Focused Behavioral Treatment (CFBT), born out of the observation that exposure to stress can result in a sense of control over whatever is causing stress.

“Extensive, unrealistic avoidance is not compatible with survival,” said Dr. Metin Basoglu, a professor of psychiatry who led in development of CFBT.

Basoglu also said that letting panic take over our decision-making and rational thought processes can cause harm much greater than the threat the virus poses.

We need to avoid letting that happen.

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