The downpours this week ripped open fresh wounds for many North Islanders, some of whom were still in the process of rebuilding after the January floods and Cyclone Gabrielle.
The tension across Auckland was palpable, with motorways gridlocked as city workers fled to collect their kids from school and get home.
Clinical psychologist Jacqui Maguire tells The Front Page podcast this response was to be expected, given the recent events across the North Island.
“My hunch for those in areas that were significantly impacted in the January floods is that the sound of rain, the smell of mud and the sound of civil emergency warnings will all have been quite triggering,” Maguire says.
Studies have shown that the feeling of anxiety can subside over time, but there is an important caveat.
“[Provided] you are not continually retriggered or continually refacing threat, then the majority of people will, with time, lose those symptoms. They will be less jumpy and less hypervigilant after about four to six weeks.”
The problem with climate change is that we face a future where severe weather events are set to become more regular.
“If you’re living in a region like Auckland or Northland that is continuing to face heavy weather events, then people will continue to feel jumpy until they are removed from that threat.”
The added problem is that this collective anxiety comes at a time when people are already feeling more anxious than they have historically due to increased uncertainty around the world.
“Globally, anxiety has risen 27 per cent through the pandemic,” Maguire says.
“If it’s not the pandemic, it’s economic instability. If it’s not economic instability, it’s global conflict. For three years now, we’ve lived in a world that has not been stable. And that has put people on edge. For many people, there’s a feeling of loss of confidence in terms of what you can trust and rely on. It’s very common that if you’re anxious in one area, that anxiety can spread.”
So, what can people do to counter this anxiety? How do parents stop that stress from affecting their kids? What should you do when feeling anxious? And what is the longer-term impact on a society that endures these traumatic events?
Listen to the full episode of The Front Page to hear more from Maguire.