A traumatic incident is one that may involve exposure to catastrophic events, severe injury or a personal loss (emotional and physical). Individuals can reduce the risk of experiencing stress associated with a traumatic incident by utilizing simple methods to recognize, monitor, and maintain healthy state at the time of traumatic event and following such experiences.
Individuals may experience physical, cognitive, emotional, or behavioral symptoms of stress. Some people experience these reactions immediately at the scene of exposure, while for others symptoms may occur weeks or months later.
Individuals experiencing any of the following symptoms should seek IMMEDIATE medical attention:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe pain
- Symptoms of shock (shallow breathing, rapid or weak pulse, nausea, shivering, pale and moist skin, mental confusion, and dilated pupils)
Individuals may also experience the following physical symptoms. If these symptoms occur over time or become severe, workers should seek medical attention. Additional physical symptoms include:
- Profuse sweating
- Visual difficulties
- Clenching of jaw
- Nonspecific aches and pains
If these symptoms occur on the scene of an incident individuals may not be able to stay clearly focused to maintain their own safety or to rescue injured victims. Affected individuals may experience momentary cognitive symptoms; however, if symptoms are chronic or interfere with daily activities, the affected individuals should seek medical attention and counselling. These symptoms include:
- Heightened or lowered alertness
- Poor concentration
- Poor problem solving
- Difficulty identifying familiar objects or people
- Memory problems
Strong emotions are ordinary reactions to a traumatic or extraordinary situation. Individuals should seek also counselling support if the following emotional symptoms or distress emerge:
- Loss of emotional control
- Sense of failure
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Blaming others or self
- Severe panic (rare)
As a result of a traumatic incident, Individual may notice the following behavioral changes in themselves or associates:
- Intense anger
- Emotional outburst
- Temporary loss or increase of appetite
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Inability to rest, pacing
- Change in sexual functioning
Individuals affected by traumatic incidents need to take ownership and to maintain the constant vigilance they need for their well being and must be able to stay focused in the dynamic, changing environment. Often people do not recognize the need to take care of themselves and to monitor their own emotional and physical health. The following guidelines contain simple methods for individuals affected by traumatic incidents.
Take control over yourself and your environment
- Be conscious of those around you. Individuals who are exhausted, stressed, or even temporarily distracted may place themselves and others at risk.
- Take frequent rest breaks if necessary. Mental fatigue, particularly over long shift your risk of accidents and injury.
Maintain adequate nutrition and rest
- Eat and sleep regularly. Maintain as normal a schedule as possible.
- Drink plenty of fluids such as water and juices.
- Try to eat a variety of foods and increase your intake of complex carbohydrates (for example, breads and muffins made with whole grains, granola bars).
- Whenever possible, take breaks and getaways.
Monitor mental and emotional state
- Recognize and accept what you cannot change
- Talk to people when YOU feel like it. You decide when you want to discuss your experience. Talking about an event may be reliving it. Choose your own comfort level.
- If you have access to counselling support, use it!
- Recurring thoughts, dreams, or flashbacks are normal—do not try to fight them. They will decrease over time.
- Communicate with your loved ones as frequently as possible.
Over time your impressions and understanding of their experience will change. This process is different for everyone. No matter what the event or an individual’s reaction to it, you can follow some basic steps that will help adjust to the experience:
- Reach out—people really do care.
- Reconnect with family, spiritual, and community supports.
- Consider keeping a journal.
- Do not make any big life decisions.
- Make as many daily decisions as possible to give yourself a feeling of control over your life.
- Spend time with others or alone doing the things you enjoy to refresh and recharge yourself.
- Be aware that you may feel particularly fearful for your family. This is normal and will pass in time.
- Remember that “getting back to normal” takes time. Gradually work back into your routine. Let others carry more weight for a while at home and at work.
- Be aware that recovery is not a straight path but a matter of two steps forward and one back. You will make progress.
- Appreciate a sense of humor in yourself and others. It is okay to laugh again.
- This is a time for patience, understanding, and communication.
- Avoid use of drugs or alcohol. You do not need to complicate your situation with a substance abuse problem.
- Get plenty of rest and normal exercise. Eat well-balanced, regular meals.
- Get counselling