Coping after the earthquake

Friday 10 September 2010, 9:57AM
By Robyn M Speed


Five days after the devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake, we are facing new problems here in Christchurch. 

Imagine how absolutely stressing a 30-45 second, violent,7.1 magnitude earthquake would be? Now add in five nights of insufficient sleep?

Over 270 aftershocks have hit since the big one, and no one is getting a descent stretch of sleep. Every nights sleep is interrupted by aftershocks. What does this mean? It means that the stress of the big earthquake has not lessened, and is not being released. 

The earthquake itself was a frightening experience, and was almost immediately followed by a strong aftershock. The aftershock, so close behind the main event, set in place the fear of aftershocks. Each time a reasonably big one hits, that fear surges. And when it is a big aftershock we can hear it coming.

Just when things seem to have settled, and people begin to feel secure, suddenly there is another big aftershock. When, for example, a 5.2 magnitude aftershock hits, it does so with what feels like the start of a really big hit. The adrenalin pumps, the heart thumps harder and faster, the nerves tighten, the stomach twists, and people wait to see if it will stop…or if it is another really big earthquake. 

Logic might tell us that the big one has hit and the aftershocks will all be much less powerful, but fear, stress and worry tell us we cannot trust in anything right now. The world itself seems unstable. 

People are stressed, nervous and very tired, and the prospect of a solid nights sleep to recover, is just not something we can realistically expect to happen at this stage. After four days things are not going to suddenly go all quiet and still. This is a reality we have to accept. 

As difficult as the situation is, we are still responsible for our own behaviour. It just takes what feels like a lot more effort to be calm and patient. We may struggle to be tolerant, but tolerant we must be.

We survived the earthquake…surely we can survive stress, weariness, and cracks in our walls!