Need to Talk White Island

Understanding How We're Feeling

A lot has happened after the terrible events of Monday 9 December. People have done, and are doing amazing work but these have been extraordinary and very tough times which will be affecting us in different ways.

We know that after events like this people feel a range of emotions. These can include feeling angry, irritable, guilty, helpless, sad, fearful or overwhelmed. These emotions seem to swing around and change over the course of the day.

You may find yourself having repeated thoughts about the event, and be worrying about what could have happened or what could have been done differently. It's very common to feel overloaded, to feel on high alert and jumpy, to have problems concentrating and for sleep to be disturbed (with difficulty getting off to sleep, waking often and sometimes having nightmares).

It's also common to experience physical symptoms, such as fatigue and exhaustion, feeling on edge and jumpy, and feeling tense in our muscles.

It's important to understand that although these are often new and unpleasant experiences, they are normal reactions to the very abnormal events we have been through. They will usually lessen and settle over the following weeks. But people react in different ways; there is no "right way" and no set time-frame for this.


Practical things that can help, that can make a real difference for you and your whānau ....

1. Rest and breaks

Try and take a break during the day such as getting outside for five minutes of sunshine or sitting down to eat your lunch (not at your desk). Have some down-time before trying to sleep. Make sure when you have time-off that it's really that and work doesn't creep in (perhaps put your phone on silent or off!). Your body needs time to recover - make time to allow it to do so.

2. Do what makes you feel good

During difficult times, it's easy to feel there is no time to do the things that make you feel happy or connected. But it's more important than ever to get back to doing these. They will reset your brain and body.

3. Talk if you want to

Talk to family, friends and colleagues if you want to - it can often be helpful. But don't insist people talk about how they are feeling - we all do this in different ways.

4. Managing demands

It's very easy to feel overwhelmed. Try not to get everything done at once. Manage your work and home priorities and break tasks into manageable chunks. Try and hold off on making big decisions - delay what you can until you're feeling better and you're in the right head space.

5. Get back to routines

Routines are incredibly important in helping us to feel in control and free up our brains to focus on more complex tasks. Everyday routines of eating, sleeping and exercise and are good to maintain.

6. Be kind to yourself and others

We know that for most people having the support of others is a key factor in recovery. So try to avoid isolating yourself and spending too much time alone, and prioritise spending time with people you care about and who care about you. Ask for help if you need it. Try and be kind and compassionate to yourself and others. We often have very high expectations of ourselves - cut yourself and others some slack - emotions are very much to the fore at the moment.

7. Exercise and getting outside

Being physically active helps to reduce muscle tension and anxiety. So do anything that does this - could be a walk, a bike ride, a swim - anything that you want to do. Think about what you could do outside - we know that connecting with nature is good for us.

8. Take a break from news and social media

Limit the amount of news you watch. While it's tempting to keep the news on it can often be overwhelming to consume too much negative news. Turn it off when you can and limit how much time you spend on social media.

9. Don't use substances to manage how you're feeling

Don't use alcohol or recreational drugs as a way of getting quick relaxation. Avoid drinking too much coffee as a way of boosting your energy - we know that too much coffee increases anxiety and disturbs sleep. Remember that eating regularly and healthily really helps with mood and anxiety. As tempting as it may be to reach for treats | takeaways, try to focus on healthier options.


Getting more mental health support

For most people things will start to improve over the next few weeks. But if the symptoms described above are not lessening, distress is increasing and you feel you are not coping it is important to get help.

Options for accessing help include:

  1. Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor, any time. It's free and confidential. If you choose to text, a trained counsellor will have a text conversation with you, or if you want to talk to someone over the phone call 1737 directly.
  2. Consult your GP. Your doctor is there to help you with your mental health as well as your physical health. They know you and can provide advice on what may be helpful for you and refer you onto counselling if needed.


Click here for a printable version of the above






Last updated: January 28, 2020