Pins and needles creeping your skin, the sweats, a big case of the heebeegeebees.
The experts would say don’t self-medicate but sometimes that’s what we do.
These quakes do not belong to Christchurch but they still affect many of us here because we have muscle memory. Down here, unfortunately, we know that just because you survived a big one, doesn’t mean a bigger one isn’t around the corner.
That’s not scaremongering, that is simply what happened here and nobody expected it.
Anyway, with yesterday’s A+ anxiety, I walked into the dairy and my brain went “what if I pulled a can of lemonade out of the fridge and threw it at the owner?’.
That’s not normal right? Especially because he’s a really lovely man and doesn’t deserve a lemonade to the noggin.
But I recognise this as anxiety and went home for an early (but still sleepless night).
So, what can I do for you if you are suffering anxiety in uncertain times? Not heaps but I can share a bit. Some stuff from experience and some from reporting for years post-quake.
Maybe I’ll do a listicle. They’re so hot right now.
- Anxiety is pure physiology. It’s not just you. They say one in four people have it at some time in their lives. There is power in numbers. I don’t know how to make that better but you are unlikely suffer anxiety during a tremor. That’s a plus. That’s just Naughty Science. Adrenaline is good science. It will keep you going through the aftershocks but once that wears of you have to use other methods.
- You actually know what works for you. Listen to your inner doctor. If that’s not working, try social media connection. Other people will be there for you, even if you just want to look and not be involved.
- If looking at news is driving you mad. Stop. You don’t need to know what is happening at every minute. However, if you are in the news industry, this is most certainly not easy. I hope you have an understanding boss who is a good leader and can keep the morale strong. Treats and genuine emails are a good tip. If you are a boss and you don’t know who is feeling what, find a colleague who does have that skill (and it IS a skill, and put them in charge of morale and keeping watch, yes, that’s right. Employ a mole).
- You are allowed to laugh and have a wild giggle with friends even though other people are suffering. You must. You can help no one by taking on the world’s worries.
- Anxiety is more likely to come between those shaky shits. In between times is when you need to make decisions. You could do practical things like synchronising your breath with this, Googling anxiety tips from professionals, download apps like Headspace or Smiling Mind. Listen to podcasts such as Anxiety Slayer or just search for words like ‘guided sleep’ or ‘meditation’. Put some light music or white noise on so you don’t hear the earth grinding. Picture Brian Tamaki writhing nude in a big gay orgy.
- Put any energy you have into helping other people. Make ‘em a lasagne? Knead some scones for yourself, all that pushing is therapeutic.
- Again, I turn to science that tells me patting a companion animal can bring down your blood pressure. Don’t have a pet? Think seriously about getting one. Even planning it might make you feel nice. Perhaps it is our jobs to make other animals on this earth have the best life possible. Maybe you need a pet more than it needs you?
- Actually be prepared. If you do a supermarket trip and stash a packet of Smash, some lollies and six cans of tuna plus some water into a secret box, you might feel as if you are in the best possible position. There are plenty of sites to tell you what goes in an emergency kit.
9. Recognise change is difficult. This is some actual sciencey stuff. We do not enjoy change when it is predictable and we dislike it more when it is unpredictable, like when the next shake might occur. An environmental professor of psychology I spoke to after our quakes told me humans are reactive animals.
We are unconsciously, but constantly assessing whether we have the resources to survive. These are resources that are cognitive, such as planning and decision-making abilities but also environmental resources like money, familiar surroundings or a car/bike.
Even space and territory can be considered a resource.
If you have what you need, you are more relaxed so you can more easily meet the demands of your life or job.
You might be living or working somewhere more cramped, which gives rise to feelings like lack or privacy or territoriality.
Or you might be working from home which brings isolation. If you consider your peers a resource, then their loss makes an impact.
Even the simple act of maintaining self-control takes mental effort, so if part of your mental capacity is reduced you might not be as efficient and may snap more easily.
If you can no longer rely on autopilot, then you need to use extra brain power to concentrate and that’s when stress tries to take control. Try to reduce your cognitive load by creating familiarity.
10. I am a real whitey so you may recognise this as a bit of kōrero out of my korotore. But there may be a deeper cultural belonging that you need to connect with. This must be true for Pasifika, Asian, Muslim or whatever culture that might soothe your soul a little more. Look into that. You don’t need to be a staunch warrior all day every day. Asking for help is the strong thing to do. Maybe there’s a saying? “A waka don’t row alone”. I don’t know.
11. Again, I am reaching here because I don’t have children. But if you do, you will feel extra worried because you are taking care of more lives than your own. You must care for yourself but also look for resources online about stress and children.Make them a hut under the kitchen table, have it there for the next few weeks and make it luxurious. Then they might play in it, or it might feel less alien when you chuck them under it. Talk to them. You will know how much they can take in depending on their age. This is a good book.
12. Get existential on it. What will be, will be.
13. Drugs. Go to your doctor.
14. Helplines. The 0800 779 997 number will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice.I am happy to add or edit anything here. It’s just a pile of stuff I threw together. Be kind to yourself.
15. You will not know where you have parked your car or put your keys for about three years. Sorry about that. But you could take photos on your phone and that might help. That's part of the Naughty Science.