In New Zealand an earthquake can happen at any time and it can be difficult to cope with the way you may feel after them.
Earthquakes are unpredictable, and people of all ages must endure them and cope with their feelings which can include anxiety, fear, anger and frustration and can be difficult to deal with. You may experience all sorts of symptoms in your mind and body, and these can continue after the earthquake and any after-shocks that happen.
These symptoms may be on-going and can include:
- feeling faint/dizzy/nauseous/being sick/upset stomach
- shaking/tingling/feeling clammy/breathless/hard to catch a deep breath
- very tearful or unable to cry at all
- panicky/panic attacks/scared/terrified
- feeling hot and cold/sweating
- feeling like it’s unreal and not really happening/forgetful/can’t focus on anything/unable to take information in/distracted/disorientated
- headaches/chest pain/pre-existing conditions worsen, (e.g. asthma)/body aches/falling ill more often
- jumpy, on alert all the time
- questioning ‘Why?’/replaying of memories/not wanting or unable to remember/flashbacks/vivid memories
- sleeping more/unable to sleep/nightmares
- eating more/eating less,
- feeling unsafe/being afraid to go back where quakes happened or could happen
- feeling unable to cope mood changes/irritable/angry/frustrated/anxious/hysterical/irrational/at times overwhelmed/detached/switched off/survivor guilt
- unable to sit still/ always moving/rapid heart rate/unable to move/wanting to be still,
- have lost interest in anything else/depression
- not wanting to be with others much, wanting to be with others, wanting to be with others a lot
- having suicidal thoughts, or talking about suicide.
An earthquake is a very stressful event. The stress may last for a long time after it. Finding ways every day to decrease your stress levels, can help you feel better.
The challenge might be how to best find a way to live with the ‘new kind of normal’ and create new routines and ways of doing things. You may find yourself doing things you never dreamed you would have to. For some, it’s about just taking one day – or one part of the day – at a time. As you adjust to your new world, there is likely to be a natural process of grieving happening at the same time. It’s a healthy process, so go with it.
Here are some ideas that might help, some will work for you better than others. Do them whenever you can, because they can help make an important difference to your stress levels.
- do what you need to do each day, but then give priority to activities that you find relaxing and enjoyable. This can help your mind and body have some down time
- what relaxes you? What do you enjoy? What could you do today? Think of something simple such as going for a walk, listening to music, meditation, or try a gentle work out
- tell yourself that what you are experiencing, is a normal reaction to extraordinary events
- let yourself go through grief, for the many losses you and others have had due to the earthquakes. The reactions - while they can be very difficult to manage - each play a part in gradually adjusting you to what has happened.
Try to take as much pressure off yourself as possible.
- is there something you can drop from your schedule?
- are you expecting too much of yourself?
- what can make your life simpler?
- what things don’t need to change?
You can always do more later, when you are less stressed. Make sure you sleep, rest, eat well and stay hydrated.
You can use some of these ideas to make your own, personalised 'self-care plan'. Think through the steps to take to look after yourself as well as you can. Write them down and then use this as a check list and a guide, for each day. Some will be part of your daily routine and others will be things to work towards over the next days and weeks, or goals further down the track.
BE VERY KIND TO YOURSELF! Yes. Treat yourself with the same respect and kindness that you would treat someone else who is facing what you are. Go easy on yourself, don’t put extra pressure on yourself.
Suicidal thoughts and feelings are rarely spoken about, but they are not unusual after great grief and trauma. They can be scary and overwhelming for people. For some, they are brief thoughts that come and then pass again straight away. For others, they may become more persistent and stay in their minds most of the time.
Whatever the situation, help is definitely available. If you think that the reactions you are having are too hard to manage, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Seeing your Doctor, a Counsellor or Psychologist as soon as possible, would be a good place to start to find the right help.