If you are reading this article, you may have experienced an acute or ongoing stressful event at work and may be experiencing your own stressful reaction as a result. My article will help you provide care for yourself or colleagues, who may be having a normal reaction to a stressful situation, but the experience is still difficult. This guide will give you tools that can help you heal. You can also use these tools to build resilience, so that you are better equipped to handle stressful events when they occur.

Helping stressed colleagues

Care for the colleague is bringing encouragement and support in difficult events. It is a way of supporting your coworker who have experienced a difficult, adverse, or an anticipated event and felt traumatized as a result. Often, these colleagues are having a normal reaction to a stressful situation.


Everyone responds to stressful events differently. Physical, emotional, behavioral, and spiritual changes are common. Below are some common symptoms that some professionals can experience following a stressful event at work. Typically, these symptoms will appear in the days following the event and will diminish with time.

If the symptoms interfere with your ability to function, persist beyond one week, or worsen with time, consult with the behavioral health service through the employee assistance program or your physician.


– Start to doubt their abilities

– Feel the burden of responsibility for unexpected outcomes

– Experience intrusive thoughts or memories about the event

– Experience a sense of being a failure

Additional Psychological Symptoms

  • Apprehension about returning to work
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Sadness and depression
  • Feeling lonely and isolated
  • Difficulty trusting
  • Fear
  • Guilt and remorse
  • Anger and irritability
  • Flashback and nightmares
  • Feeling numb or detached

Common Physical Reaction to a Stressful Event

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased heart rate and difficulty breathing
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and digestive symptoms
  • Muscle tension
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness


While these are some common reaction to a stressful event, they should diminish over time. Many people also eventually experience Post-traumatic growth, where the traumatic experience actually brings about a new sense of meaning or purpose in various aspects of life. This type of positive growth reaction, however, is not an immediate reaction. If negative reactions persist or cause impairment in functioning, seeking professional mental health services in indicated.


The following reminders can help you begin the healing process.

1. Express Feelings-Talking through a stressful event can improve your ability to “bounce back” while you may be feeling lonely and isolated, social connection will build resilience within you. Ask someone to listen-peer supporters or someone you trust are good choices. Make it clear that you are not searching for solutions, but just need someone to listen.

2. Allow Pain-While it can feel painful to allow thoughts and memories of the event into your mind, trying to ignore these completely can make them more intense. Use mindfulness techniques-give attention to your thoughts without judgment, to diminish their power over you. Use phrases such as, I’m noticing that I am feeling ______,” to achieve this nonjudgmental stance, and to move through the pain.

3. Allow enjoyment-Some people have a hard time enjoying themselves following a stressful event. Remind yourself that it is okay to feel joy. Feeling joy does not diminish the severity of what you or others experienced. Make an effort to get involved with activities that normally bring you joy.

4. Keep a healthy routine-Stress takes a toll on your body physically and emotionally. In order to give your body the resources it needs to heal, keep the following guidelines in mind:

a. Nourish Your Body

-Give your body the resources it needs to heal

-Eat whole foods, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins

-Limit added sugar, processed food s, and caffeine

-Avoid alcohol and drugs

-Don’t skip meals

-Drink plenty of water

b. Move Your Body

Physical activity will reduce stress while rest will help your body heal.

-Incorporate your favorite activity daily, if possible

-Try to maintain your exercise routine, but listen to your body if it is telling you to slow down.

-Generally, walking for 20-30 minutes per day is appropriate for many people.

-Do something you enjoy

C. Rest Well

Initially, your body may require more sleep and rest than what you normally need.

-Make your bedroom relaxing

-Go to sleep when your are tired

-If you have trouble falling asleep, get out of bed for 20 minutes before trying to sleep again. Repeat as needed.

-Write in a journal before bed if struggling with intrusive thoughts.




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