A week out from the fifth anniversary of the deadly 2011 quake, the Valentine's Day aftershock has dealt a psychological blow to Cantabrians.

It was the biggest recorded aftershock in years for Christchurch, but even though no one was injured the psychological impact has hit the city hard.

Becky Gane, who lost her 27-year-old husband, Adam Fisher, in the 2011 quake, said the shake "took me straight back to that day".

"Physically, my heart was racing. I instantly thought of where everyone was and if anything had come down," Gane said.

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This time of the year was always the hardest for Gane and her two young sons, Jack, 8, and Ashton, 4.

"I always get anxious around this time. You're already thinking about the earthquakes more and I just freaked out today," she said.

Maan Alkaisi, who lost his wife, Maysoon Abbas, in 2011, said he was at home and had to rush into the hallway with his daughter.

"You want to forget and then something like this happens and brings everything back," he said.

"It's not out of the blue, but because we are thinking about the fifth anniversary it just makes it a little bit harder."

Canterbury District Health Board chief medical officer Dr Nigel Millar said the Valentine's Day aftershock was "terrible timing" for Cantabrians who were gearing up for the fifth anniversary of the deadly 2011 disaster.

Yesterday's shock would have undoubtedly brought back a lot of memories and emotions but he added that might not necessarily be a bad thing for Christchurch. "You have to remember these things; you have to honour the past," he said.

Glenn Conway, former chief reporter of the Press newspaper who suffered a head injury while working in the newsroom in the 2011 quake, told the Herald yesterday's aftershock made him "freeze up" in terror.

However, University of Canterbury Professor Neville Blampied, who heads the psychology department, said the aftershock would bring back "vigilance and resilience".

Six things Cantabrians should do in the wake of the Valentine's Day quake

1.

Reach out to people: Talk to your family, friends and neighbours.

2.

Don't stop doing normal things like walking in the park, working in the garden and grocery shopping.

3.

Focus on the immediate good things in your life, but at the same time respectfully acknowledge the bad and don't deny the past.

4.

Remember we have gone through this before and survived physically as well as emotionally.

5.

Keep your activity patterns healthy and watch your diet - don't take this as an opportunity to "binge on chocolate or hit the hard stuff."

6.

If you are not coping, go and see your GP.