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Coronavirus outbreak and other uncertainties: Why we're prone to panic

A Meridian psychiatrist discusses effective ways to take control when it feels as if things are out of control.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — Shelves left empty by a run on things like toilet paper raise a big question: why, in uncertain times, do we create more uncertainty with things we usually take for granted?

For some insights on our tendency toward trepidation, we asked Dr. Scott Hoopes of Live Well Psychiatry in Meridian.

"We panic and run as a tribe ten times when there's nothing to run away from because, one time, there was," Hoopes said. "And if we hadn't, now we're all toast."

Hoopes said uncertainty is, by nature, very distressing, and exerting some form of control is very helpful.

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"An effective way to take control with the coronavirus ... is to be aware of where your risks are," Hoopes said. "If you're young, if you're a healthy adult, if you're under 80, your risks are fairly limited.

"If I'm at little risk for getting sick or dying because I'm healthy, I don't have lung disease, I don't have diabetes and all that kind of stuff, there are other people in my life who may be at risk. Well, now I can take responsibility and control, and tell my family, who's planning a surprise birthday party for my 86-year-old father in Phoenix that that's just not going to happen."

Hoopes said our brains are wired in such a way that when we are active, that part of the brain keeps us from focusing on the negative, which tends to happen when we are doing nothing and just living inside our own heads.

He suggested being active by getting informed, making a plan, and following through.

Also, choose to spent time with people who are calming and positive influences.

Prepare if you feel the need, Hoopes said, but remember to do right by others.

More is in the video at the top of this page.

In Idaho, the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low, according to officials. At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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