If you have just participated in a critical incident, you have been exposed to sights, sounds, smells, thoughts, or work demands that exceed normal working conditions or life experiences. Even though the event is over, you may find yourself continuing to experience reactions for several days. Some normal reactions include:
PHYSICAL THINKING EMOTIONAL SPIRITUAL
Adrenalin rush In a fog All stirred up Loss of innocence
Rapid Breathing Indecision Numb Loss of meaning
Tremors Memory Loss Anxiety/Fear Loss of direction
Upset stomach Difficulty concentrating Sadness/depression Thoughts of mortality
Sweating/Chills Confusion Embarrassed Emptiness, doubt, apathy
Cardiac symptoms Difficulty problem solving Isolated, alienated Cynicism, unforgiving
Head and muscle aches Distressing dreams Guilt Feelings the you don't belong
Dizziness Images you cant forget "Shoulda, Coulda" Casting Blame
Sleep disturbance Disorientation Anger, Irritability Feeling Abandoned
Sexual Dysfunction Hyper-vigilance Hopelessness Loss of faith
These signs and symptoms are normal and although painful, are part of the normal healing process and will usually disappear within a few days. Less often, such incidents may cause a more prolonged stress reaction. Research suggests that this occurs about 19% of the time in emergency service personnel, depending on certain variables in the incident. On the back of the page, there is a list of things that you can do to help minimize the symptoms. If stress symptoms last more than four weeks, contact EAP, a mental health professional or an advocate for referral.
JEFFERSON CENTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH: 303.425.0300
COLORADO CRISIS SERVICES: 1.844.493.TALK (8255)
CLEAR CREEK COUNTY ADVOCATES: 303.569.3126 (24 HOUR HOTLINE)
TECHNIQUES FOR HANDLING STRESS REACTIONS
1. Handle the adrenaline rush symptoms:
a.Consciously relax muscles in shoulders, arms, legs and gut hourly over the next 12 hours.
b.Consciously breathe deeply (diaphragmatic breathing), making your exhalation longer than your inhalation, each hour for the next 12 hours.
c.Aerobic activity is helpful.
d.Eat small, frequent meals, high in protein.
e.Excessive caffeine, excessive sugar or alcohol will worsen the feeling of agitation and lead to a crash. Alcohol will worsen any depressed feelings in the long run. Abstain from using these, at least for the next several days.
2.Return to your routine schedule as soon as you can. A familiar routine helps anchor you while your thoughts and emotions are settling down.
3.Rest a bit more. If you find that you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep (and you didn’t previously have this trouble) take note: worrying about it won’t help you sleep! If you can’t sleep after 15 minutes, get out of bed and do something quiet and boring until you are sleepy. If sleep disruption remains a problem four weeks after the incident, or if it worsens, seek help (See below).
4.Talk to family, friends, a chaplain or minister or to co-workers you trust; the more you talk about the incident the sooner it will be over in your mind and body.
PLEASE TAKE NOTE:
•Reoccurring thoughts, dreams or flashbacks are not necessarily abnormal. They can be your minds way of incorporating what has happened. Try to relax through them and allow them to pass without fighting them. They should decrease over several weeks. If not, seek help.
•If you were feeling stressed or had difficult worries before the incident, your feelings about these and your attempts to cope with them may worsen with the effects of the incident. Now would be a good time to talk with someone about these stresses.
If any of the symptoms on the other side of this page are very bothersome, worsen or do not improve in four weeks, seek additional assistance by contacting your Employee Assistance Provider, a mental health professional or an advocate at 303.679.2426.