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Managing anxiety surrounding COVID-19 in a healthier way

While the coronavirus is serious, there is such a thing as over-panicking or being too anxious.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The coronavirus COVID-19 is new. It's not like the flu that's been around for a long time. So the unknowns can be especially scary for people.

While it is serious, there is such a thing as over-panicking or being too anxious.

Dr. Lauren Frank, an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Portland State University, specializes in health communication and studies how people make decisions and respond in health crises. 

Frank talked about how to keep anxiety at more healthy levels. She said often the level of fear or anxiety people have is associated with their perception of the risk.

“We tend to feel like oh this is even riskier than it really is,” said Frank.

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She said often there are a couple ways people tend to try to control their fear. Either we do something to make us feel safer or we downplay the seriousness of the situation altogether. 

“We're trying to balance it. We don't want to overreact but we simultaneously want to be doing what we can in order to make sure we're keeping those we love and ourselves as safe as possible,” she said.

But Frank said it is possible to become overly panicked. Examples are the pictures we've seen on social media showing store shelves cleared out of stuff like hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

Frank said this happens when people try to take control of the situation, which can be detrimental.

“So, if we're clearing out all of the stockpiles of a store, then we're probably not leaving enough hand sanitizer for other folks and that actually can make it harder and make the community more at risk,” said Frank.

Bottom line, she said there are a couple ways people can keep their anxiety at healthier levels. The first is one we've been hearing: wash your hands. Secondly, she said keep tabs on information coming out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other credible health organizations.

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