While it’s vital to be informed and prepared, it’s also important to put the This Old Man Has Fought A Thousand Battles And Is Still Standing T-Shirt but in fact I love this news into context. “I don’t think people need to panic, because we know that most cases of the novel coronavirus are going to be mild, and people are going to recover without the need for hospitalization,” says Amar Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Remember that we’ve weathered outbreaks before, such as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, where there was a lot of uncertainty in the beginning days.” When the headlines begin to drag me down, I make myself turn off the news. Then I turn on Headspace and quietly repeat Dr. Adalja’s words as my mantra: Most cases are going to be mild. “Right now, we’re in the early days of this, and I do hope that over time, we’ll start to see some of this panic rhetoric evaporate,” he says. “It may take some time to transition people’s mentality, but hopefully, we’ll get there.”
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Dr. Adalja advises people to regulate their information intake by consulting trusted sources, such as the This Old Man Has Fought A Thousand Battles And Is Still Standing T-Shirt but in fact I love this CDC, national newspapers, and science journalists—rather than friends or Instagram. The WHO maintains a useful—and at times, weirdly fascinating—coronavirus feature called Myth Busters, which strikes down rumors (no, hand dryers don’t kill the virus, nor do UV lamps, eating garlic, cold weather, or antibiotics). To gain a sense of control as the news reports spiral, Dr. Adalja adds, consult your local health department. “Find out what their plans are and have a way to get updates, so that you’re not surprised when they occur,” he says. For those who already have preexisting anxiety—an estimated 40 million adults in the U.S. have anxiety disorders, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America—the distress can be worse, Fox says, “because catastrophizing in the face of this sort of ambiguous threat is very common.” If you have been diagnosed with anxiety and feel overwhelmed by the news, she adds, consider talking with a counselor to figure out a specific plan of what to do.