Shaken Awake! 4 Year Later

Trauma Triggers Change in Canterbury

As a species, for the most part, we are naturally inclined toward achieving equilibrium, a sense of calmness and composure, of control and balance. In our home and work lives we tend to appreciate some routine and familiarity. We find comfort in knowing where we stand, what we can generally expect from those around us, the knowledge that we can manage the routines and familiar demands of our daily lives. We unconsciously appreciate the consistency that a familiar life brings to us.

Of course once in a while we might crave excitement, a break from routine, increased adrenaline, a reminder that we are alive! This need can be met in a variety of healthy or less healthy ways. Generally an increase in excitement in our lives is triggered by us, consciously or unconsciously, and we maintain a sense (or sometimes the illusion!) of control.

What is stress…

Stress tends to occur when our illusions of control are shattered, when we feel stretched tight and less able to influence the world around us. When we struggle to cope with or manage the demands made on us by people, work or environment. When our routines and equilibrium are disrupted and the consistency of familiarity is removed, when we are faced with unexpected trauma or change.

Four years ago the whole Canterbury region experienced a sudden and unexpected trauma and, now, at the anniversary of this event, it is interesting to ask the question of what the longer term after effects of the earthquake have been? Recent reports show that the use of prescription anti-depressants is at an all-time high with almost twice the number of prescriptions issues in Christchurch as compared to Auckland, despite the difference in population.

After effects

One of the side effects of a sudden and significant change in circumstances or routine is that it ‘shakes us awake’ and can be a trigger for us to look at our lives from a different frame of reference. Our routine has already been shattered – are there any other changes we should think about making given that we’re in flux anyway?

I have personally been witness to a number of friends, family, clients and candidates who have made significant changes in recent post-earthquake times. Relationships have ended, jobs, location and lifestyles have been changed, sometimes quite drastically. Whilst anti-depressants can help alleviate the symptoms for those experiencing more acute issues, what other options exist to support us through change?

Is it fair to say that now we have been ‘shaken awake’ we are looking at our lives with a new perspective and asking ourselves what we want and need? What is important to us? Are we in the right job? Are we with the right person? Has our previous sense of equilibrium been a comfortable torpor that hasn’t really met our needs and provided happiness? What is our personal ‘vision’ for us and our future?

For many the awakening has reminded us of the value of family, friends and healthy supportive relationships. We appreciate the sense of solidarity and pulling together during and after the earthquake; it has reinforced the good things and reminded us how lucky we are at work and at home. For others though there is an impending sense of the need for further change.

Coaching for change

Whether change relates to our personal or professional lives it can be exceptionally helpful to talk things through with an unbiased and non-judgemental third party. Someone who will ask pointed questions and encourage you to think about how your work and family choices might impact on you and those around you.

Coaching can help empower people to come up with their own solutions and have a greater level of commitment to the action plan they shape. Clearly they will need support and at the same time be challenged – the skill of the coach is to work out what is needed at a given time. Coaching is also a great tool in helping an individual take time out to look at themselves in the context of working ‘on’ their lives rather than being distracted by the day to day noise, routine and demands ‘in’ their lives.

As John Whitmore said, “the coach is not a problem solver, a teacher, an advisor, an instructor or even an expert; he or she is a sounding board, facilitator… who raises awareness and responsibility”.

So, now that you’re ‘awake’, if you are thinking that it’s time something changed, perhaps it is time to reach out and talk with someone who can help with the journey….?