I WAS reluctant to write about the coronavirus crisis. The dread and fear that has accompanied the rolling news coverage this week has, at times, felt impossible to escape. It’s on every news channel and on the front page of every newspaper. At the school gates, in taxis, on social media – it’s all anybody is talking about.

This crisis is all-consuming and for many people, it is already affecting their mental health.

I wanted to write about something – anything – else. But every idea I had led back to the virus and the impact it is already having on our way of life. To try and squeeze a column out of a more light-hearted news story would have felt trite in this moment.

As we wait for the storm we know is coming, we have an overload of information to make sense of and to try and come to terms with.

Some people have described feeling dazed and disorientated. Others, petrified. Along with that comes questions about whether this mass dread and panic is healthy or sustainable. As we settle into our new normal, will those negative feelings dissipate, or worsen?

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The truth is, none of us really know how we should be feeling in this moment. We know how we need to behave. We need altruism and community organising.

We need to wash our hands and keep our distance. But is there a way to prepare ourselves mentally for the months ahead?

Nicola Sturgeon and other leaders have been candid with us. This virus will bring widespread disruption and heartbreak. Life as we know it will change and it will do so for a considerable period time.

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That’s a lot to come to terms with. It’s no wonder that there’s an atmosphere of complete discombobulation across the country. We’re worried about our jobs, paying our bills, our families and our friends. Some are worried about how they will cope with self-isolation with all the logistical challenges that will entail.

I’ve spent the last week worrying about people that I love. I’ve got a morbid – but inescapable – list in my head of family and friends and neighbours and colleagues that fall into the “vulnerable” category in relation to the virus.

As the days have gone on, I’ve found myself checking in – almost obsessively – to ask them if they are showing any symptoms.

The slightest cough during a phone call has sent a wave of panic through me. I’ve waited each day for the latest statistics to be released, knowing that the act of doing so is only exacerbating my fears.

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It was my daughter’s birthday on Tuesday, so I was forced to switch off for the day. I’d had to cancel the party we had planned for her and to spend the day distractedly checking my phone for the latest bad news wouldn’t have been fair.

The break was welcome and, I quickly realised, completely necessary. There is no right way for anybody to cope with their feelings about coronavirus. But I’ve concluded that I can’t dedicate so much energy to worst-case scenarios or catastrophising. I’ve got to find wee moments of joy and cheerfulness wherever I can find them.

While there is no silver lining in this crisis, there have been things that have helped enormously in distracting from the gloom.

I could have written a whole column about the incredible acts of kindness that we’ve seen over the last week. From people like my friend Fraser Stewart, who started a foodbank collection in his close and inspired others to do the same.

The shopkeepers who are giving out supplies to the elderly. The countless examples of love and care in neighbourhoods across the country – where strangers have become friends, and folk are looking out for one another.

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We know this moment calls for selflessness. Most of us will shake off the virus when it comes. We must behave responsibly not for ourselves, but for others. I genuinely believe we will rise to the challenge. For every viral photograph of a trolley full of stockpiling that circulates on social media, there many more quiet heroes who are doing everything they can to help others in their community.

For every new statistic that brings fear, there are still plenty of reasons to feel hopeful.

We know that we will need to be kind and patient with one another in the months ahead. We should also remember to be kind and patient with ourselves. There is no right or wrong way to process the information we have been given this week. It’s okay to switch off the news for a bit to do something you love.

That we are all in this crisis together may not bring much relief, but at least those of us feeling overwhelmed can be reassured that they aren’t alone.