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Mental health expert explains psychology behind coronavirus fear

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Posted at 5:17 PM, Mar 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-06 18:49:39-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Since the spike in coronavirus, more people have turned to stocking up on food and supplies.

Mental health experts say fear can be a natural instinct when it comes to viral outbreaks, but it's important to remember not to panic.

University of Kansas Health System psychologist Gregory Nawalanic said a little preparation isn't going to hurt anybody, but it's simply not necessary to buy an entire shelf of hand sanitizer.

"If you're finding yourself having obsessive thoughts, really afraid, worried about completely changing your life in reaction to this, that's going a bridge too far," Nawalanic said.

Nawalanic said most people aren't letting the coronavirus disrupt their daily lives, which is important.

"The more anxious you are, the more cortisol gets produced in your bloodstream and then it actually can weaken your immune response," Nawalanic said. "Anxiety eventually kind of works against you."

Nawalanic said a few ways to help anxiety are deep breathing, physical exercise and getting good sleep, all of which also help boost your immune system.

"The reality is as long as you're vigilant and listening to experts, you have to expect that infectious disease experts are going to coordinate with local government and different agencies to try to keep you as safe as they can," Nawalanic said.

Kansas City resident Jerry White said he feels things have been a bit overblown.

"As long as you're in good health, you shouldn't worry about it," White said. "You get sick, you feel like you're getting sick, go to the doctor and have yourself checked."