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Critical Incident Stress

What is Critical Incident Stress? 

Critical Incidents are events outside the normal range of a person's experiences. They are usually unexpected and so powerful that an individual is unable to cope following the event and involve strong emotional reactions, which potentially interfere with the ability to return to "normal" daily living.

Ways to respond to the stress reaction

· WITHIN THE FIRST 24 - 48 HOURS, periods of appropriate physical exercise, alternated with relaxation will alleviate some of the physical reactions.

· Structure your time - keep busy.

· You are normal and having normal reactions - don't label yourself crazy.

· Talk to people - talk is the most healing medicine.

· Be aware of numbing the pain with overuse of drugs or alcohol; you don't need to complicate matters with a substance abuse problem.

· Reach out - people do care.

· Maintain as normal a schedule as possible.

· Spend time with others.

· Help your co-workers as much as possible by sharing feelings and checking out how they are doing.

· Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feelings with others.

· Keep a journal. Write your way through those sleepless hours.

· Do things that feel good to you.

· Realize that those around you are under stress also.

· Don't make any big life changes.

· Do make as many daily decisions as possible which will give you a feeling of control over your life, i.e., if someone asks you what you want to eat - answer them even if you are not sure.

· Get plenty of rest.

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

· Eat well balanced and regular meals (even if you don't feel like it).

Ways for family members and friends to respond to your stress reaction.

· Listen carefully.

· Spend time with the traumatized person.

· Offer your assistance and listening ear 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 take their anger or other feelings personally.

· Don't tell them they are "lucky it wasn't worse" - traumatized people are not consoled by those statements. Instead tell them that you are sorry that such an incident occurred and you want to understand and assist them.

The above information has been used with the permission of the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. The ICISF is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that consults with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

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