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.