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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato


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There are a number of common reactions following upsetting incidents. These can include:

·          Physical reactions: stomachaches, headaches, increased allergies, rashes, flu-like symptoms, sleep and appetite disturbances, fatigue, dizziness, pronounced startle reactions.

·          Cognitive reactions: preoccupation with the traumatic event, concentration difficulties, attention difficulties, excessive worrying, indecisiveness, memory difficulties, self-doubts.

·          Emotional reactions: sadness (including crying more easily or wanting to cry), anger, fear, guilt because you are okay and others are not, moodiness, irritability.


These are all normal reactions. They may come and go depending upon your daily thoughts and experiences. If you have been involved in a previous disaster such as a tornado, you may find yourself remembering that disaster and experiencing similar emotions to what you felt then.

Here are some things a person can do to help handle the stress of an upsetting incident:

·          Look at whom and what you value. You may want to touch base with loved ones.

·          Talk with others about what happened and how you feel about it. For most people, talking helps work through what happened and helps deal with the feelings associated with it.

·          Give yourself permission to think about the upsetting event.

·          Realize that changing thoughts and feelings following a tragic incident are normal.

·          Consider limiting your viewing of the media coverage. Sometimes repeated visual and auditory reminders of an upsetting incident can impede one’s ability to get over the stress of the trauma.

·          Return to your usual routine.

·          Remember the basics. Maintain good nutrition and healthy sleep habits. Exercise regularly in moderation. Eliminate or restrict caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes. Do not use controlled substances.

·          If you wish to help others, consider getting involved with your local volunteer activities.

·          Know when to seek professional counseling. Should it seem that you are having an unusually severe or prolonged period of distress following this event, reach out for help. Significant problems -- a high degree of distress which interferes with daily functioning -- along with depression, anxiety, prolonged sleep disturbances, and substance abuse following a traumatic event warrant professional evaluation and treatment.

o         The MSU Counseling Center (389-1455) is available for students. It is located at CSU 285.

The above information was prepared by the MSU Counseling Center and adapted from information prepared by John D. Jochem, Psy.D., the Critical Incident Stress Management Information Pamphlet, and the American Red Cross.