TROUBLED times and periods of uncertainty can understandably knock investors’ confidence.

This has come to the fore in recent weeks as the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has become a global concern. The financial markets have reacted to the headlines, with stock markets across the developed world dropping sharply as investors move to safer assets such as US bonds.

It goes without saying that our thoughts are with the victims of the virus and those suffering from it. However, our role as investment professionals is to remain rational and impartial to both defend the real value of our clients’ assets and grow that real value over time. This does not mean we ignore our species’ emotional nature, far from it. It is our insights into the mechanics that drive our behaviour which allow us to help clients achieve their investment goals.

Investments are, by definition, long term in nature. Therefore, any short-term market movements shouldn’t derail you from longer term plans. Speculation on COVID-19, the next recession or Brexit negotiations are all fine fodder for the pub but of little use to serious long-term investors as you can neither control, nor predict these topics.

You’ve got to be able to tune this noise out. Developing the stores of composure to weather short-term threats is vital. The less you monitor your portfolio during these periods, the better. Often, it is the fear of markets falling which is more threatening to returns than market volatility itself.

However, thanks to the constant news cycle providing a minute-by-minute update of every new case of coronavirus and how it is developing globally, it is near impossible to avoid. In this situation, concern can quickly escalate to panic thanks to the unavoidable headlines which are omnipresent across all the channels we consume. Refer to sources such as the World Health Organisation if you want an impartial and accurate snapshot of the current situation rather than getting caught up in headlines and hysteria.

Coupled with this, it’s worth keeping in mind that the most significant falls and gains in markets over the years have been magnified by overreaction. As investors it is important to take a step back before making an investment decision, taking time to deliberate as to why you are making this decision and if it makes sense given your goals for being invested in the first place. Avoiding knee-jerk reactions is key, there will be lots of ups and downs which are hard to anticipate which lead to sizeable drawdowns or euphoria. It is important to go against the herd mentality and stay put rather than heading for the exits as loss induced panic sets in.

Ensuring you have invested in a diversified mix of assets will allow you to benefit from ongoing global growth. Even during what has been a tumultuous economic cycle, the world economy has increased in size by a third from its peak at the end of the last economic cycle. This is largely thanks to humankind becoming more efficient and productive than ever before, aided significantly by new and emerging technology. In short, diversify your assets and spread your risk.

Investing is not, and cannot, be about reliably avoiding recessions, investing is in some part about taking a leap of faith in order to potentially access future global growth. Invest what you are comfortable investing and play the long game. No one could have predicted COVID-19 and its knock-on effect to the economic cycle this year. However, in situations like these investment professionals come to the fore, as they use the best of their knowledge to position portfolios to tactically navigate these stormy waters. The full impact of COVID-19 is yet to be felt but its ripple effects are far-reaching.

Craig Jamieson is regional director of Barclays Wealth Management in Scotland and Northern Ireland