We are facing an unprecedented and life-changing event with the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who choose to listen have heard most all the info that is out there at the moment. Staying in is the order of the season, as is social distancing, but I wanted to offer a few pointers to help if things are emotionally difficult for you.

First, it’s perfectly normal to feel upset right now. If you aren’t a little worried, then you are out of touch with reality—and please don’t shake hands with me. We must all be vigilant and try to stay healthy, and if that means isolation, social distancing, and constant handwashing, so be it. That’s a lot better than sickness or death.

We are going through a collective grieving process, not just for the lives lost but for our way of life that is now forever changed. A big part of what we are experiencing is sadness. Again, this is perfectly normal and even to be expected.

For those who have been depressed before the pandemic started, staying in and isolating should be familiar to you. You may even find this situation comforting, because you can now legitimately shut the world out, but  I want to caution you not to do that. Loneliness is in itself a killer. Shutting others out only makes depression worse.

If you only talk on the phone to one person a day, that can help validate your life and make the time you have to spend wondering “what if” easier to cope with—and we are all doing it. Again, under the circumstances, this is perfectly normal. So send a text and make a call, please.

People react to crises in different ways. Leaders will emerge, some heroes will die, and a great many of us will look to those we love and trust for comfort and direction. There isn’t a script for this, but there are common principles and values that will make us all a lot more comfortable if we follow them.

Please listen to what the CDC and WHO are saying and follow their advice. A few of the celebrity shrinks and doctors thought we were making way too big a deal about this and posted their inaccurate views all over social media causing more confusion. I guess they are isolating now. Folk remedies and ignorance are the wrong way to proceed; science and research, not celebrities, will find the answers that we need, and we have to support the science.

I’m a psychotherapist and a drug counselor, and I know some facts about disease, but I am no expert in pandemics. I am only sharing how I am getting through this challenge in the hope that it may help you and those you love, and anyone I can reach, cope with this life-altering and very scary disease.

Yes, we are all scared (or should be), and maybe that will help us end this before it becomes the doomsday pandemic of our century. It has happened before. The 1918 flu pandemic infected one-third of the world’s population and killed an estimated 50 million people. Medical science today has advanced far from where it was then, and we need to use what we’ve learned to minimize loss of life.

Whatever we have to endure so we can continue to live, we must do. There is now some support in place for those who have lost jobs, so they won’t also lose their homes, but right now, just work to stay healthy. We can and will rebuild after this is over.