Understanding common responses

A critical incident can be any situation in which you experience either a threat to your own life or physical safety, or have been affected by the death or injury of another as a result of a traumatic event such as an accident, crime, or suicide.

Critical incidents can vary in severity. Here are some common responses you may go through if you are affected by such a situation.

Feeling numb or shocked. For many people, these are their first reactions. There is often a sense of unreality, with typical comments being “It didn’t seem real”, “I can’t believe what’s happened” or “It was like I was dreaming”. You may feel emotionally numb for a few hours, or even a few days. This is completely normal.

Feeling afraid. Fear is one of the most frequently experienced emotions after a critical incident, and its intensity is often driven by the type of event that occurred. For example, in the case of an armed robbery at a till point where the attackers are still at large, you may feel afraid for your personal safety and that of your family. You may also feel frightened that the attackers know who you are and where you live, or anxious that the perpetrators will return and launch another attack.

Feeling anxious. Anxiety is different to fear and it can have a long-term effect. You may feel nervous, ‘jumpy’ or hypervigilant for some time. Unexpected anxiety can also be triggered by something that reminds you of the incident such as seeing a customer in clothing similar to that worn by the perpetrator or hearing a piece of music which was playing at the time of the incident.

You may also have intrusive and recurring thoughts during the day or nightmares which not only have a psychological impact, but disrupted sleep patterns can also cause physical illness and lowered performance at work. Click here to learn how you can manage your anxiety.

Feeling tearful. It’s not uncommon for people to cry as a result of their involvement in a critical incident. You may find this helps you cope with the experience.

Feeling angry. It is likely that you may feel angry. Anger is often used to protect and conceal deeper emotions of distress such as hurt, sadness and fear.

You may find that you have a short-fuse. Anger can arise from seemingly minor incidents at work, including a hectic day or unkind words from a customer. If you are struggling with anger, take a look at our resources for support.

Other physical signs. You may also experience a variety of physical effects as a result of the event such as heart palpitations, neck and back pain, gastrointestinal problems, or headaches. Processing trauma doesn’t happen overnight so you may also feel very tired and drained, which could continue for some time.

Apathy at work. You may feel apathetic and disengaged after the event and feelings can include a desire not to be at work if the event took place at your store or other usual location. A loss of energy, engagement, motivation and lowered concentration are common in these instances. You may also struggle to feel the same way about work as you used to in the weeks following the incident.

Assistance from retailTRUST

We can support you through this challenging time with in-the-moment emotional support and counselling. To speak to one of our advisors, please call our confidential helpline on 0808 801 0808 or email the team at [email protected]