Coping with a disaster

Adrenaline, and looking after ourselves

Going through a disaster or a big shock takes a toll on all of us and coping is not always easy. Good mental health helps us carry on and deal with all that life throws at us.

During earthquakes and other scary or surprising events, our brains react chemically – releasing adrenaline. 

This response is our natural alarm system – our body telling us to be alert and ready for action. It's there to help us, but afterwards we can feel shaky, queasy or on-edge, and it can make it hard for us to concentrate. It can also result in strong emotional responses such as anger or crying.

This is normal and we can help ease these affects to settle by doing some light physical activity, taking up a small chore or task and by focusing on some calm breathing for 10 seconds. It's ok to take a break from the news and social media so you can focus on other things - doing so doesn't belittle the event but it can help you to calm your nerves. It's also a great idea to connect with friends and loved ones.

Supporting our kids and whānau

Parents, kids will cue off you — so if you’re okay, they’ll be okay too...

  • Be mindful how much ‘worry’ you’re displaying, just be as cool as you can!
  • Keep them away from the media.
  • Answer their questions pretty matter of factly and in very ‘general’ terms. Drama it down. You don’t have to get the answers exactly right here. Ensure you talk too about the police and how they did a really good job of keeping us safe. Keep the reassurance low key too — over-reassuring can make us think we need to be worrying more than we are!
  • Let them talk about it, but don’t let it ‘take over’ - use distraction to keep their mind off it - we’ve got the board games out!
  • If your children (or you!) are a bit panicky, take those long deep breaths or see our parenting guide on worry. In the words of our good friends at The Worry Bug: "Reassure them that the world hasn't changed, this is an unusual situation and things will go back to normal soon. When you listen you don't need to solve, you just need to listen and be empathic. Feelings usually retreat after a short while if they are listened to and acknowledged."

For parents of teens...

  • Try and keep them off or away from the social media as much as you can, but it’s okay if they need to have it on tap right now - it’s a great way for them to be checking in with friends and supporting each other.
  • Let them know there’s a lot of hype out there.
  • Say that you’re sticking with credible sources of information as they report only the things released by the police and people actually ‘in the know’. If they are really affected by this ‘hype’ tell them it’s time to put the phone down or away. Keep the reassurance low key too.
  • Stick to your normal routines as much as you can.

You've got this!

Practical tips from Cantabrians

Going through a disaster takes a toll on all of us and coping is not always easy.

Below are some practical tips to help you look after yourself and those around you.

We all need a bit of support from time-to-time and if you or someone you know is struggling, there is free help available. Free call or text 1737 any time, 24 hours a day. You can also call Lifeline on 0800 543354 or text HELP – 4357.

Natural disaster information and support is also detailed: