Coping with Stress After a Critical Incident
When you experience a traumatic event or a critical incident, you may experience strong emotional or physical reactions. It is quite normal for people to experience emotional aftershocks hours, days or even months after a horrible event. Below are suggestions for coping with these stress reactions. Remember that occasionally the traumatic event is so painful that professional assistance from a counselor may be necessary. This is not a sign of weakness but indicates that the event was too powerful for you to manage by yourself.
Self Care after a Critical Incident
- Talk to people—talk is the most healing medicine.
- Alternate periods of relaxation with appropriate physical exercise.
- Structure your time—keep busy.
- Remember that you are normal and having normal reactions to an abnormal event.
- Don’t try to numb the pain with alcohol and drugs; it will only complicate problems.
- Reach out—people do care.
- Maintain as normal a schedule as possible.
- Spend time with others.
- Check on others who shared your experience and see how they are doing.
- Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feelings with others.
- Keep a journal—write away those sleepless hours.
- Do things that feel good to you.
- Realize that those around you are under stress.
- Don’t make any big life changes.
- Get plenty of rest and eat regular, well-balanced meals.
- Make small daily decisions that will give you a feeling of control in your life.
- Understand that recurring thoughts, dreams or flashbacks are normal. Don’t fight them—they will decrease over time and become less painful.
When Friends or Family Members Experience a Critical Incident
- Listen carefully; offer assistance and a listening ear if they have not asked for help.
- Spend time with the traumatized person, but be sensitive to needs for private time.
- Reassure them that they are safe.
- Help with everyday tasks like cleaning, cooking, minding the children.
- Don’t take their anger or other feelings personally.
- Don’t say, “You’re lucky it wasn’t worse.” Instead, say that you are sorry such an event has occurred and that you want to understand and assist them.