Critical Incident Stress Management

 

You have experienced a traumatic or significant event, which may also be described as a critical incident (any incident that causes someone to experience unusually strong emotional reactions which have the potential to interfere with their ability to function either at the scene or later). Even though the event may be over, you might experience (now or later) some strong emotional or physical reactions. It is very common, in fact quite normal, for people to experience emotional aftershocks when they have experienced a horrible event.

 

 

 

Sometimes the emotional aftershocks (or stress reactions) appear immediately after the traumatic event. Sometimes they appear in a few hours or a few days. And in some cases, weeks or months may pass before the stress reactions appear. Keep in mind if you are not having a reaction, that’s good. You have effective coping skills.

 

 

 

The signs and symptoms of a stress reaction may last a few days, or weeks or even a few months and occasionally longer depending on the severity of the traumatic event. With understanding and support, the stress reactions usually pass more quickly. Occasionally the traumatic event is so painful that professional assistance from a counsellor may be necessary. This does not imply craziness or weakness. It simply indicates that the particular traumatic event was too powerful for the person to manage by themselves.

 

 

 

Here are some very common signs & symptoms of a stress reaction in a traumatized person. These are common reactions of normal people to abnormal events.

 

 

 

Physical*

Thinking

Emotional

Behavioural

Nausea

Slowed thinking

Anxiety

Withdrawal

Stomach upset

Difficulty with decisions

Fear

Antisocial acts

Tremors, hands, lips

Difficult problem solving

Guilt

Inability to rest

Diarrhea

Confusion

Grief

Intensified pacing

Sweating

Disorientation

Depression

Change in speech

Chills

Difficulty calculating

Sadness

Change in appetite

Muscle aches

Difficulty concentrating

Feeling lost

Hyper alert

Dizziness

Memory problems

Anger

Increased alcohol use

Chest pain/SOB

Reliving event

Irritability

Erratic movements

Tachycardia

Dreams/nightmares

Feeling numb

Change in usual

Rapid breathing

Poor attention span

Easily startled

communication

Hypertension

Suspiciousness

Shocked

etc…

Headaches

Blaming others

Denial

 

Uncoordinated

Intrusive images

Emotional response

 

Fatigue

etc…

Apprehension

 

Grinding teeth

 

etc…

 

etc…

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Helpful Hints

 

 

 

Trying some of the following hints may help to alleviate the emotional pain associated with a traumatic/significant event.

 

 

 

 

 

For Yourself

For Family Members & Friends

-       try to rest a bit more

-       contact friends, reach out

-       have someone stay with you at least a few hours or periods for a day or so

-       reoccurring thoughts, dreams, or flashbacks are normal - don't try to fight them - they'll decrease over time and become less painful

-       maintain as normal a schedule as possible

-       give yourself permission to feel the loss, sad & rotten. Share your feelings

-       eat well-balanced and regular meals (even when you don't feel like it)

-       try to keep a reasonable level of activity

-       fight against boredom

-       physical activity is often helpful within the first 24/48 hours

-       re-establish a normal schedule as soon as possible

-       express your feelings as they arise

-       talk to people who ‘genuinely’ care

-       find a good counsellor if the feelings become prolonged or too intense

-       listen carefully

-       spend time with the traumatized person

-       offer your assistance and a listening ear even if they have not asked for help

-       reassure them that they are safe

-       help them with everyday tasks like cleaning, cooking, caring for the family, minding children

-       give them some private time

-       don't tell them that they are "lucky it wasn't worse" - traumatized people are not consoled by those statements Instead, tell them that you are sorry such an event has occurred and you want to understand and assist them

 

If the symptoms described above are severe or if they last longer than six weeks, the traumatized person may need professional counselling.

 

*Any of these symptoms may indicate the need for medical attention.