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‘Princesses and superheroes like me are Muslim too’ banner at Auckland Aotea square vigil (Photo: Sean Stapleton)
‘Princesses and superheroes like me are Muslim too’ banner at Auckland Aotea square vigil (Photo: Sean Stapleton)

SocietyMarch 19, 2019

Take care of yourself too: some expert advice on feeling a little less terrible

‘Princesses and superheroes like me are Muslim too’ banner at Auckland Aotea square vigil (Photo: Sean Stapleton)
‘Princesses and superheroes like me are Muslim too’ banner at Auckland Aotea square vigil (Photo: Sean Stapleton)

If you’re still feeling down in the wake of the horrific events of Friday, you’re not alone. Here are some simple ways to care for yourself and others. 

It’s been a horrific few days in New Zealand. People have been affected in different ways, but for many of us, our reaction to the events of 15/3/19 has manifested as waves of sadness, rage, despair, hopelessness, or often a mixture of all of them. “Even if you’re not directly affected, it’s normal to feel anger, grief, maybe even a desire for revenge,” says clinical psychologist Sam Farmer.

“Those emotions should be recognised and accepted as a part of your response, but be careful not to act on them in a violent or abusive way,” he advises. “Instead, listen to them as drivers to do something more positive.” Taking positive steps to help Muslim communities in New Zealand is a proactive way to heal yourself as well as support others: check out our regularly updated post for information on donations, vigils, volunteering and more.

“It’s not unusual to feel affected because this is a unprecedented event and we are a tiny country,” says psychotherapist and journalist Rebekah Holt. “It’s also not selfish to feel sad and like you want to take care of yourself.” But self-care can be hard when you are struggling to tear yourself away from your many screens. “Put boundaries in place,” says Farmer. “Tell yourself you’ll just watch the 6pm news and swipe away anything that pops up on your mobile phone.”

Messages of support at a vigil at Tempelhof Field in Berlin (Photo: Sophie Turner)

It’s also important to begin to go about your normal, everyday routine, says Farmer, a task that will be easier for some than others. “People in the Muslim community are going to be feeling very nervous about returning to those places of worship – it’s expected that a human being would be a bit cautious re-entering a space like that. Check with the Imam and take it easy, it’s natural that it will take some time to return to a place that feels no longer safe.”

On the ground in her hometown of Christchurch this week, Holt notes that many locals who experienced the earthquakes might feel retraumatised by “unconscious signals” associated with the disaster. For example, it’s normal to feel distressed and upset by the increased presence of police, sirens, ambulances and media. “Cognitively, your brain doesn’t know the difference, so those things can be a real trigger,” she says. “Even if there is no threat, you can’t tell your fight or flight response that.”

The thing to keep an eye on in your close circles, says Farmer, is changes in behaviour. “Changes in sleep patterns, excessive drinking, suddenly eating more or eating less – watch out for those. Don’t be an island. If you’re noticing you or someone you know is not behaving like normal, talk to someone. Check in with a friend and do something nice. If need be, tap into those community resources, visit your GP or a psychologist.”

“On the one hand, you need to keep track of the news, on the other hand, you need to remember what life is about – try to enjoy yourself, have fun with your friends and family. Remember what life is about and what keeps you going.”

Beyond that sound professional advice, there’s also nothing wrong with taking an internet break every now and again to let a ray of light in. Here are some of The Spinoff’s offerings.

Remind yourself of the good in the world

On Friday, just hours before being overshadowed by the horrific events in Christchurch, thousands of young people around the world rallied to demand action on climate change. Check out Sonya Nagels’ photo essay from the Auckland strike.


On a similar note, the outpouring of support around the world for the victims of the attacks is a clear sign that there is whole lot of kindness, love and compassion out there. Here’s a selection of photos from vigils in New Zealand and abroad.

Wellington Vigil held at the Basin Reserve (Photo: Elias Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Look for the helpers. Consider that New Zealanders have raised well over $6 million for the families of victims. Read the stories of heroism and selflessness from Friday, like Abdul Aziz who threw an Eftpos machine at the attacker, the bystander Jacob Murray who helped the wounded into his car amid the chaos and Naeem Rashid, who tackled the gunman down inside the mosque.

Try and have a lol

Many of us have got a lot of joy out of the newfound fame of egg boy, aka Australian teenager Will Connolly, who cracked an egg on Australian senator Fraser Anning’s head in response to his odious comments about the terror attacks in Christchurch, and was then punched by Anning and tackled by his nasty henchmen.

And in the midst of the egg boy excitement, a new hero(ine) has emerged: egg girl, who nailed Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro with her ovoid weapon of choice back in 2017, before he came to power. Respect.

Enjoy some wholesome content

Engaging with wholesome content of all forms can help. You might want to watch the entire new season of Queer Eye, like The Spinoff’s Alex Casey and Jihee Junn did this weekend. Or it might be as simple as checking out this baby pūkeko that a police dog team took to South Island Wildlife Hospital, wrapped in navy police overalls, after they sadly ran over its mum during the response to the attacks on Friday.

Or read about this 8-year-old Nigerian boy who recently became a chess champion – he arrived in New York as a refugee and lives in a homeless shelter. Or this stray dog who climbed a mountain in the Himalayas. Or this famous cat who held a book signing. Or check out these pooches watching the Crufts dog show on TV.

Or behold the glory that is Kratu, an extremely good boy doing his very best in the agility course at Crufts:

Or how about this photo of a cat snugly ensconced in a blanket that Jihee Junn stumbled across while searching Getty Images for photos from vigils following the attacks (it was from a blessing of the animals in New York in 2017).

So wholesome (Photo: Getty Images)

Or bask in the pure joy that is Alex Casey’s 16-year-old dog Pat getting a McDonald’s hamburger for his birthday.

He gets one every year.

For more support:

Free call or text 1737 any time to talk to a trained counsellor and download resources about coping with traumatic events here.

The Aotearoa Resettled Community Coalition has set up a number of support lines run by multilingual volunteers here.

Healthline – 0800 611 116

The Aotearoa Resettled Community Coalition has set up a number of support lines run by multilingual volunteers here.

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or 09 5222 999 within Auckland.

Depression Helpline  – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202. This service is staffed 24/7 by trained counsellors

Counselling for children and young people

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email or online chat. Open 24/7. – or email or free text 5626

What’s Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, midday–11pm and weekends, 3pm–11pm. Online chat is available 3pm–10pm daily.

Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age. Open 24/7.

Keep going!