Getting Through Together / Having a hard time getting through? / Managing manawa pā / triggered thoughts and emotions

Right now, we’re living in a strange and unpredictable Aotearoa. Managing this sudden change and uncertainty can trigger new and old distressing thoughts or manawa pā and trauma, and remind us of situations where we’ve felt trapped, helpless or afraid.

Managing these thoughts and emotions can be really hard. To help, we’ve asked a registered psychologist and tangata/people who’ve been through traumatic experiences in the past to give us some quick tips on how they would manage, and are managing, the big emotions that many of us are feeling right now.

Feeling mānukanuka or anxious is a common reaction to stressful situations like the one we’re all in right now; for example, most people are feeling lonely.  It’s our body’s way of telling us that we are threatened, and it can leave us feeling pōuri/upset and exhausted.

You can manage mānukanuka/worries by:

  • Setting an intention or goal for each day. Your intention might be to call a friend or whānau member, to cook kai or simply to show yourself more aroha or kindness. When things feel overwhelming, returning to this intention can make things feel more manageable.
  • Rating worries or mānukanuka on a scale between one and 10. Your worries might be really insistent and make you feel as if you have to act on them all right away, but have a think about how urgent they really are. Try writing them down and giving each a number, where one is not important and 10 is very important. This will help things feel more manageable and give some perspective.
  • Writing worries down. Writing or drawing can help you get out of the rabbit hole of negativity and helps us to work through how we’re feeling. Writing down what we’re grateful for gives some balance and perspective. Write with aroha and kindness to your mānukanuka/worries and aim to accept all your feelings as valid.
  • Trying your best to eat and sleep well. Eating healthy kai and sleeping well are easier said than done right now, but they can make a big difference. Try this guide on sleeping and this guide on eating on for size.
  • Practising mindfulness or reciting karakia/prayer. Mindfulness can really help us to let go of troubling thoughts and ground us in the here and now! You could try the free app Headspace, which offers free mindfulness and meditation videos, watch this guide to mindfulness resources or try to start and end each day with a karakia/prayer that speaks to you in a soothing way

Feeling mataku/afraid is completely understandable. You might be feeling afraid of factors related to COVID-19, such as losing your job, facing problems in your relationship or getting sick, or you may be re-experiencing past traumas as a result of spending more time in your mirumiru/bubble.

If you’re feeling fear as a result of tūkino/violence, click here for support.

You can manage your mataku/fears by:

  • Staying connected with whānau and friends. Loneliness can feed fear and drive negative thinking, so having a phone or video call with someone you trust or a local community group can really help. Although we can’t hongi, harirū/shake hands or be together physically with most people right now, there are new guides to tikanga that could help here.
  • Creating a safe space just for yourself. Having a space of your own can help to regain balance and distract you from mataku/fear. Your safe space could be a cosy corner of a room with all your favourite things; a quiet, uninterrupted place to reflect; or, if short on space, simply a container holding things you enjoy the feel, smell, sight and sound of, such as aromatherapy oil for a mirimiri/massage. See more self-soothing ideas you can use to ignite your senses.
  • Watch a movie or video that makes you katakata/laugh – a comedy, recordings of Billy T James’ old stand-ups or old videos of the whānau. Laughing can dispel fear quickly, especially if we can share our laughter with others.

Obsessive thoughts and compulsions can be really tricky to manage, especially in our mirumiru/bubble. Some of us will see the compulsions we are trying to fight reflected in government advice to frequently wash our hands, or our obsessions playing out repetitively in the media.

You can manage your obsessions and compulsions by:

  • Limiting the amount of news/pūrongo and social media we consume. By picking one source you trust (like the Ministry of Health’s website or Te Ao) and checking it once a day at most, you can feel on top of the news without feeling overwhelmed by it.
  • Trying to sit with mānukanuka/anxious feelings that would normally lead to a compulsive action, without taking that kōkiritanga/action. This exercise aims to make your uncomfortable thoughts and feelings more comfortable and helps you to gain power over them in the future. This can be done with the help of a psychologist over video call, or alongside a friend or whānau member who has helped you with something similar in the past.
  • Creating a routine that takes your mind off obsessive thoughts and includes activities you enjoy. You could include new things that you’re interested in, such as learning Te Reo Māori or taking free Les Mills classes online, or focus on the little things like brushing your teeth and washing your hair.

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.

“Let yourself feel sad about the fact you’ve have had to postpone some stuff. Anchor into the word “postpone”, meaning it will still happen, but later.”

“Be honest with others if you’re struggling, rather than just deflecting their enquiry with a stock answer like 'fine.'”

“The hard times pass... the feelings pass... new growth is just around the corner.”

Hurihia tō aroaro ki te rā, tukuna tō ātārangi kia taka ki muri i a koe 
Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.

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 mānukanuka/anxious feelings
  • Call 0800 POUNAMU (768 626) to talk to someone about your 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
  • See our helplines resource for more numbers

Apps and websites

Supporting whānau and loved ones: