Getting Through Together / Having a hard time getting through? / Managing mixed emotions through the levels

Going down the alert levels can bring up mixed emotions. You might be excited to get back to your routines and see whānau or loved ones, but also have manawa pā/anxious feelings around going back to a loud, busy world of mahi/work and social expectations. It’s perfectly understandable to have these mixed feelings and to feel tāmomi/overwhelmed by them. Even changes for the better can be disruptive to our oranga/wellbeing and can feel whakamataku/scary at times.

To help, we’ve sourced some guidance from tāngata/people who’ve lived through and managed manawa pā/anxious thoughts and emotions before, and a registered psychologist. Together with your own instincts, their mātauranga/wisdom can help to find a way through.

It’s not unusual to feel uncomfortable being tūmatanui after such a long time living inside. It can take a bit of wā/time to adjust to being out in public again.

You can manage being in tūmatanui/in public spaces by:

  • Identifying your triggers. Think about what triggers your manawa pā/anxious thoughts and emotions when you’re tūmatanui. Is your manawa pā triggered by being in crowds outdoors or having to touch the rails on the train? Knowing your triggers will help you to address any mataku/fears you might have around them.
  • Planning ahead for what you can control. Once you know your triggers, you can start to plan for ways to manage them when you are ki waho/outside. If you are triggered by crowds, perhaps meeting a hoa/friend at a local cafe or park would suit you better than meeting at a mall right now? Planning ahead until you are more comfortable being ki waho can help to give you a sense of control.
  • Practising mindfulness, especially when you’re ki waho/outside. Being in the moment can reduce stress and help to take your mind off manawa pā/anxious feelings. When you’re out for a hīkoi/walk, what can you see, hear, smell, taste and touch? At your local café, do you notice any additional thoughts or emotions you’re experiencing? If you do, try to simply notice your thoughts as they enter your mind rather than judging them as wrong or invalid.
  • Journaling your thoughts and feelings afterwards. After you’ve been i waho/outside, consider tuhituhinga/writing down what senses, thoughts and emotions you’ve experienced. This can help you to recognise recurring manawa pā/anxious feelings and keep track of what eases or triggers them for the future. Apps like Just a Thought can also be helpful to practice cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and note any progress that you’ve made.

Returning to the wāhi mahi/workplace after months away can be tāmomi/overwhelming. Although you may have worked remotely through COVID-19 and may also feel whakawhetai/grateful to have mahi to return to, going back to a physical wāhi mahi with other tāngata/people can still feel daunting.

You can manage tāmomi/overwhelming thoughts and feelings by:

  • Asking what concessions your wāhi mahi/workplace can offer. If you’ve worked well at home and your employer is okay with it, you might not have to spend all of your working time at your wāhi mahi. Consider which options would work best for you. Could you spend mornings at your wāhi mahi and afternoons at your kāinga/home? Could some nga rā/days be spent in your wāhi mahi, and others working remotely? Splitting your wā/time between your kāinga and wāhi mahi could help you to reduce your tāmomi.
  • Taking some aspects of your kāinga/home with you. Being back at your wāhi mahi is a good opportunity to introduce the things you’ve enjoyed in your kāinga into your working day. If you’ve enjoyed the quiet at your kāinga, try bringing in some noise-cancelling headphones. If you’ve found that taking a hīkoi/walk has been good for your oranga/wellbeing, take a hīkoi with colleagues at lunch.
  • Looking for ways to lower your stress. Stress at your wāhi mahi might seem inevitable, but there are some tools you can put in place to avoid it tāmomi/overwhelming you. Being able to recognise tohu/signs that you are stressed and knowing what calms you down really can help. Read pages 5-7 of our guide to reducing stress in the workplace for some top tips.
  • Finding new ways to travel to your wāhi mahi. The daily commute can be a big strain, especially if you haven’t done it in a while. Could you replace the way you travel to your wāhi mahi with something that enhances your oranga/wellbeing, too, such as taking the ferry, train or bus? Perhaps you could cycle or hīkoi part of the way? If your wāhi mahi is offering flexible hours, you could try starting before or after rush hour too for a smoother journey.

As Aotearoa recovers, you may have to face some mataku/fears that you were able to avoid before, such as socialising with others or being exposed to situations which might trigger trauma. Starting to face your mataku again can feel tāmomi/overwhelming especially if you’ve spent a long time away from social spaces.

You can manage māharahara/worries around socialising by:

  • Accepting your feelings as valid.It’s not your fault that you are feeling māharahara/worried about socialising with others right now, or at any time in the past or future. Try not to judge your māharahara as good or bad, and simply acknowledge your thoughts and emotions as they pass through your mind.
  • Reducing your self-expectations. Many tāngata/people find socialising awkward, so you won’t be alone if you do. Try to socialise when you feel up to it and analyse things you’ve said and done as little as possible afterwards. If you feel uneasy after a social interaction, try tuhituhinga/writing your thoughts and feelings down to give them some perspective.
  • Having a kōrero with someone you trust. One of the best ways to counteract feelings of social anxiety is to socialise more often. Start with talking to tāngata/people you trust first and share your manawa pā/anxious thoughts and feelings with them. They might be feeling something similar too! Talking it over might also help you to feel less alone and more confident in the strengths and social skills that they see in you. You are not the only one feeling like this, and there are other tāngata that can help. If you’re not sure where to start or who to talk to, try free-calling or texting 1737.
  • Avoiding drugs or alcohol. When we are experiencing manawa pā around socialising, it can be all too easy to want to take the edge off. If you know you’re prone to excess or reliance on them, try to avoid taking drugs or alcohol at this wā/time. If you have relied on drugs or alcohol recently and need some help or guidance, please call 0800 787 797 or visit this website.

These sage pieces of advice or mātauranga are from people who’ve “been there, done that” – people who have lived and are successfully managing their way through mental distress and trauma.

“Within our team of five million there will be many people who are having a tough time. You may not see them in your whānau, workplace or other settings, but they do exist. You are not alone.”

“You do what you need to do and don't worry if you think others disapprove. Everyone has something that they are struggling with, we just don't always see/know it.”

“Those of us who live with ongoing times of mental despair are the resilient ones in our society. We already know what hardship, anxiety and uncertainty feel like. We have the tools to be the most well-equipped to cope in this COVID-19 crisis.”

Titiro whakamuri, kokiri whakamua.
Look back and reflect, so you can move forward.

Phone numbers

  • Text or call 1737 for a team of free, trained counsellors who are available 24/7
  • Call 0800 ANXIETY (269 4389) for specific questions around your or your loved ones’ manawa pā/anxious feelings
  • Call or visit Supporting Families New Zealand’s website for support for the whole whānau 
  • Call 0800 POUNAMU (768 626) to talk to someone about you or your loved ones’ hauora hinengāro/mental health or join an online hui
  • Call Asian Family Services on 0800 862 342 if you are looking to reach out to someone from a similar culture or are not fluent in English
  • Call Vaka Tautua on 0800 825 282 to have a phone talanoa/conversation about what you or your loved are going through from a Pasifika perspective
  • If you or your loved one are also living with addictions, call 0800 787 797 for more support
  • See our helplines resource for more numbers.

Websites, apps and resources

Supporting whānau and loved ones: