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Critical Incidents: What To Do

During an event

  • Breathe slowly and deeply
  • Calm yourself through mental exercise
  • Connect with others
  • Observe your surroundings
  • Get yourself to safety

Immediately after an event

  • Make sure you are with people. Don’t go home to an empty house. 
  • Talk about the incident with others. Discuss your feelings and reactions.
  • Remind yourself that the event is over and that you are now safe.
  • If possible, get some physical exercise to burn off some of your tension and anxiety.
  • Restrict caffeine and other stimulants. 
  • Try to eat something, even if you do not feel like eating. 
  • Avoid dependency on prescription or other substances. 
  • Sleep disturbance is normal. Do your best to get back to a normal sleep routine.

How to handle the next few days.

  • Do not be afraid of your feelings.
  • Remind yourself that your reactions are a normal result of trauma and will pass in time. 
  • Try to get back into your normal routine as soon as possible; you may need to gradually introduce yourself to tasks that seem difficult. 
  • If you feel uncomfortable, scared or anxious, take some deep breaths and remind yourself that you are safe. 
  • Be kind and patient with yourself; engage in enjoyable and relaxing activities. 
  • Continue to talk to your family, friends and colleagues about the trauma.
  • Even if you feel a bit distant from other people, do not reject genuine support. 
  • Work on your general stress levels; make sure that you have adequate sleep, a good diet and regular exercise. 
  • Practice relaxation techniques to help reduce nervous tension and insomnia.
  • Remember that accidents are more common after severe stress; be more cautious in your activities. 
  • Allow yourself time to deal with the memories. There may be some aspects of the experience that will be difficult, if not impossible, to forget. 
  • If your reaction(s) continues to seriously disrupt your life, seek appropriate help.

When to seek additional help.

  • You are uncomfortable in your own skin, chronically afraid and/or hypervigilant and are restricting your actions because you don’t want to leave your safety zone. 
  • Obsessive thoughts and compulsions to act on them. 
  • Profoundly depressed, hopeless, helpless, guilty, or have considered suicide. You have persistent negative, even fatalistic, thoughts about the future. 
  • Your behavior has changed; argumentative, engaging in fights, abusing alcohol or medication, or are taking increased unnecessary risks. 
  • Your mind cannot relax, you have repeated horrific nightmares, frequent intrusive explicit flashbacks
  • Things don’t feel real or you feel like you have lost your identity. You are unable to remember significant information about the traumatic event.
  • You can’t find the energy for daily routines at home (showering, cooking) and at work (can’t concentrate on your job).  

How to improve your resilience.

  • Build your security skills through regular training such as HEAT.
  • Maintain a supportive network; talk things over with caring friends and loved ones
  • Live a healthy lifestyle: a healthy diet, physical exercise, maintain a regular sleep routine 
  • Think positively about yourself & remind yourself that you can get through the next situation
  • Use stress management and coping skills, such as exercise, yoga, or meditation regularly
  • Make time for activities you enjoy, try new activities or find new hobbies
  • Find additional support as needed; a group, spiritual guidance, or therapist
  • Clean up lingering daily stressors that will exacerbate the next major stressor; pay off credit card bills, send the mother in law home, change negative personal habits, etc.

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