After exposure to an intense, unusual, highly emotional, or abnormal event, some people experience reactions that are out of the ordinary for them. This is not an uncommon experience. The event may create a stress response, which can result in a disruption of physical and psychological processes. These reactions are normal. While often appearing immediately after the event, reactions can appear hours, weeks or even months later. Listed are some of the more common stress reactions reported by people after involvement with a stressful experience; however, this is not an inclusive list.
Some people exposed to the same event may not suffer any effects; this is also a normal reaction. While these reactions can be alarming and unsettling, it’s important to remember that these are normal reactions and responses to extreme stress. However, if you experience any of the starred symptoms (*), seek medical and/or psychological assistance immediately.
Some things adults can do to aid the recovery process include:
Eat—try to eat something that has nutritional value, even if you don’t feel like eating. The stress reaction depletes energy levels; it’s important to restore these levels to keep the mind and body functioning normally. Avoid caffeine and sugar.
Exercise – Within 24 hours of the stressful event and each day symptoms persist, it is especially important to exercise. One suggestion may be a brisk walk. Regular exercise helps reduce any stress chemicals in the system, clear the mind, and promote total health and wellbeing.
Rest – Try to get plenty of rest. A common stress reaction is for people to try to “bury themselves in work or activity.” This can be self-defeating physically and mentally. If you find your sleep is interrupted, get up and replenish yourself. Drink a glass of juice, water or milk, snack if you have not eaten, read, watch TV or write about your feelings. After a short period of time, you should find that you are able to return to bed and rest more comfortably.
Talk – it’s important to share your thoughts and reactions about the event. Suppression of thoughts and reactions may postpone or prolong the recover process. Sharing is the mind’s way of replenishing. It is also important to share your reactions with loved ones so that they may understand and assist in your recover.
If stress symptoms persist, get worse or become more uncomfortable, consider contacting your pediatrician, physician or mental health care professional to assist with the recovery process.
Talking with Kids about a Traumatic Event
Mental Health Services