One of the country's most famous former All Blacks turned mental health advocate is telling quake-battered Kaikoura people to enjoy the little things to get through the worst days.

After spending a day in the ravaged region Sir John Kirwan praised the strength and resilience of the residents, saying everyone was showing incredible courage since their lives were turned upside down in last Monday's quake.

He told NewstalkZB's Mike Hosking show it had been a really tough time for them and the idea of a visit was to give them permission and understanding that anxiety and fear was a normal reaction to the abnormal situation they found themselves in.

"So I really just wanted to give them permission to be okay about what's going on," he said.


He said everyone had been through a major traumatic event where buildings shook and people were forced to leave their homes.

"It's an abnormal situation. If you have anxiety and fear don't worry too much about that. You'll get through it, you'll come right and it's important to keep hanging onto hope and helping each other."

He advised people not to worry too much about how they were faring because everyone appeared to be coping incredibly well.

Sir John also said it was important people took time for themselves.

"Look after yourself every day. Stop and have that cup of tea if you get a moment and just pat yourselves on the back on how incredibly resilient you've been.

"Enjoy the little things, just try and get through each day."

He said what had been accomplished was incredible and it was humbling visiting the community.