It’s OK to be scared, its OK to be confused – this is not a normal situation.

I worked in emergency management for a significant number of years – through those years I learned so much about people, behaviour and reactions to disruption and how important planning and response approaches are. Emergency services plan for events, they prepare for the worst case but sometimes there are events where the desktop exercises, the planning and the worst-case scenarios surpass anything we could ever consider.

Often the big events are bushfires, floods or droughts – things we can tangibly see happening, they are visible, the impact is strewn across the media. But Coronavirus is invisible until it is too late, we can’t see it and we don’t have visibility of those currently in the hospitals or isolating at home. You don’t know you have it until you show symptoms and who knows by then you may have already transmitted it to someone else or multiple others.

This isn’t something that our emergency and health responders have tackled before – it is worldwide, there is no ‘how to’ guide and each country’s response will be different.

Each day brings something different, something unexpected and many of us are feeling a level of anxiousness that we have never experienced before.

This is not a normal situation – every day we are being thrown more unknowns and it is difficult to keep track, keep balanced and maintain composure.

We all wonder why everyone is rushing to get toilet paper – but it’s something people can tangibly focus on – it’s a physical object that if you have it, you feel you might be OK. As humans we need something to hold onto or to do that we can visibly see and practicably do. Shopping is something we can practically do, it’s a known routine in an irregular world right now.

The reality is, we can’t possibly keep our full composure – this is not a normal situation, we have never needed to prepare for it and now we all feel an enormous sense of responsibility on our shoulders.

In the past week we have seen businesses close and many friends lose their jobs – and amongst all this there is the unknown answer to the question ‘how long?’.

Amongst this we have seen racism and discrimination – people fighting in the shopping aisles, disrespect to our elderly and vulnerable people, some treating others with contempt and racial abuse.

Now is not the time to be discriminating. We must bond together and include everyone – when we band together, we create a strength that we can each rely on in difficult times, and these are difficult times. We are a diverse society – we need to remember that and show compassion and support to each other and be inclusive of our differences.

We’ve also seen some great examples of people offering to help, neighbourhood groups forming to help less mobile people with shopping and meal preparation. This is a better response and can offer practical help to those who need it most.

For some workers, they are being asked to work remotely – it might seem small but it’s a big upheaval for some people who struggle being alone. Silence can be deafening when working alone and some people simply enjoy physically travelling to work simply for the commute and the conversations and connection. For others, this might be the best opportunity they have had to work flexibly and enjoy some quiet space. When we come out the other side of this disruption (and we will) we will have experienced flexible working at its max – many may never wish to return back to the old way of working. Use our checklist to help guide you through working remotely.

For other workers they are essential to keeping things going – the nurses, the doctors, our emergency services, our teachers and school staff, the shop assistants, the petrol stations and garages, the truck drivers – this is not something they ever signed up for and the risks to them are huge. We all have a responsibility to support them and minimise their risk by our everyday activities.

This situation is disruptive – both physically and mentally and it is tiring.

Its OK to feel anxiousness and fear –the situation is not normal and your feelings about this are perfectly understandable. Amongst the angst of trying to do the right thing, we still are trying for some sense of normalcy.

Chat to friends and family – we are all experiencing this together – don’t bottle it up. Seek help if you need to.

Look out for each other and connect – we are lucky to live in a world where we can connect remotely without physical contact. Use technology to have face to face time with family, friends and loved ones. Put a note through elderly neighbours’ doors – see if you can help them. This might possibly be our biggest opportunity to create caring communities around us and get to know each other a little better.

And above all else remain human – be kind, be compassionate – it’s OK to not be OK.