Coronavirus: Tempted to panic-buy? Take a deep breath in instead, an expert advises

As Kiwis rush to supermarkets to stock up on goods before the country goes into lockdown on Wednesday evening, people are reminded to take a deep breath in. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday announced that the country's alert level would be raised to level 4 at 11:59pm on Wednesday, meaning that all non-essential businesses will have to close and everyone will have to self-isolate for at least four weeks.

The announcement came after community transmission of COVID-19 was confirmed.

New Zealand currently has 155 confirmed or probable cases of the virus, and although that number is expected to keep rising, it is hoped that the lockdown will stop the virus spreading out of control like it has in Italy. 

Supermarkets will remain open throughout the lockdown and Kiwis have been assured there is no shortage of products. Despite that, there has been a rush to panic-buy in recent days.

Communication consultant and former police negotiator Lance Burdett says people are driven by their "fight or flight" response in anxious times like these.

Burdett says the best thing we can do to calm down and start rationally thinking again is to take a deep breath.

"Breathing is the first thing that we can do in all situations and that's something that most emergency services workers are realising - that when they're going into that panic mode [the best thing to do] is just to stop where you are and take a big breath and sigh. That's the easiest thing to do," Burdett told The AM Show on Wednesday.

"Take a big, deep breath in and [then] just let everything go. When you do that it just brings yourself back to the centre, because breathing is the first thing to go when we go into fight or flight.  

"Our breathing becomes very short and shallow and our heart rate rises to get all that adrenaline and cortisol through the body. So just [take] a big, deep breath to get the oxygen to control our breathing, which will control our thoughts which will give us a sense of calm and bring us back to the moment."

The best way to stay calm and sane during these unprecedented times was by making sure to continue to keep up social contact (though not physical contact), exercise and to sleep well, Burdett said.

Coronavirus: Tempted to panic-buy? Take a deep breath in instead, an expert advises

Chris Quin, chief executive of Foodstuffs North Island, said panic-buying had come "in waves" in recent days.

"By mid-afternoon yesterday I think people started to work out other things in their lives that are important to do," Quin told The Am Show. 

Trade on some days this week was "over double" a normal trading day, he said, adding that workers had an "incredible sense of duty" to keep serving people. 

"They do get what they are doing really does matter to help New Zealanders stay calm."

Although Quin also stressed there was plenty of stock available, the challenge has been to get it to shelves quick enough to keep up with demand, he said.

"At the moment with the rate of buying and shopping that people have been doing it's been really hard to keep up. People will have seen gaps on shelves for a day, [or] half a day - it'll come and go quite quickly because of what's been going on."

As the lockdown becomes the new normal, Quin was optimistic people would soon adapt to the new situation.

"Hopefully with what happens tonight people will settle into a different way of life for four weeks."