UNDERSTAND WHY YOU ARE SO SHOCKED
According to resources provided by The New Zealand Psychological Society, it's very important to understand why earthquakes are more stressful than many other types of natural disaster.
Unlike a flood or a tsunami, there is no warning with an earthquake.
Because earthquakes feel unpredictable, you will be feeling like you're out of control, and this will be a key driver in the shock you're experiencing.
PREPARE FOR MORE
Earthquakes are rarely isolated, and you may experience heightened levels of stress if you prematurely tell yourself "it's over now".
Instead, emotionally prepare for another earthquake. Whether it's several aftershocks or another big one, accept the possibility that this experience (and associated feelings) may endure for days or weeks.
"Feeling a degree of stress and fear afterwards motivates us to consider what we can do to be safer if this happens again and helps us to accept risk," says Duncan Thomson, a registered psychologist on the Kapiti Coast.
In accepting that possibility, despite how paradoxical it sounds, you will actually gain some of your control back.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO CARRY ON
If you need to stop what you're doing, stop. You might be trying your hardest to keep calm, but you don't have to carry on.
Don't go to work or school if you feel raw today, even if it's been declared safe. "Everyone copes with these types of traumatic situations in different ways," says Thomson.
Make caring for yourself and your loved ones your priority. All other commitments can wait.
VALIDATE YOUR FEELINGS
When an earthquake happens and you acknowledge the deaths and destruction – but you personally are alive and safe – your natural instinct is to feel fortunate for yourself. Your worries will go out to others more physically affected than you.
However, doing this can be detrimental to your own mental health. So tell yourself this: whatever you're feeling right now is valid.
"I think we can be hard on ourselves sometimes, telling ourselves we shouldn't be upset and being scared is somehow silly," says Thomson.
If you're scared, that's valid. If you're anxious or feeling helpless, that's valid too. Even if your house is undamaged, your family is safe, and you are physically okay, it's important to accept how you're feeling.
According to Victim Support, it's widely accepted that victims of trauma like an earthquake who are not provided with adequate support in the immediate aftermath of that trauma are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
At this time of crisis, provide emotional first aid to everybody around you.
"The most helpful thing is social connection," says Thomson. "People are calmed and reassured by contact with other people so just gently supporting and being around people who are upset should help."
TALK TO YOUR KIDS
It's normal for children and adolescents to have very strong emotional reactions to events like an earthquake.
According to KidsHealth, young people learn from both their parents' responses and what is in the media, and develop coping strategies based on these.
"Limit their access to the media and think carefully about what you are saying in front of them," says Thomson.
"Try to strike a balance between allowing them to talk about what happened, and continuing with routines that signal safety and normality. Kids often blame themselves, so be on the lookout for that and let them know it wasn't because of anything they did."
Where possible, as Thomson advises, keep routines in place for the whole family during this time. This especially includes when meals are served.
This creates a "constant" of stability that will inform one's emotional processing of this event.
The New Zealand Psychological Society's resources advise that you should not relocate unless necessary for safety reasons.
Moving out of your home, even temporarily, is associated with higher levels of stress, isolation, and social disruption than staying put.
ASK FOR HELP
Rebuild Christchurch stresses the importance of asking for help when you need it. If today's feelings do not go away (or they intensify), don't be stoic: reach out to somebody you trust.
That could be a close friend, relative, doctor, or mental health professional.
"I think most people can acknowledge they wouldn't see someone who asked for help as weak," Thomson says. "Quite the opposite in fact."
For advice or help coping with post quake stress visit www.victimsupport.org.nz or call 0800 VICTIM.