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Taking Care of Yourself

In times of crisis, tragedy or violent events, healthcare professionals must cope with their own personal emotions and reactions. These responses are very normal, and can influence work and home life. It’s important to recognize our vulnerability so we can take better care of ourselves, and better care of our patients and mental health patients/clients.

Some responses you may be experiencing include:

  • More or stronger feelings; unexpected emotions or reactions
  • Fear and anxiety: personal reactions to events that distract or inhibit
  • Fatigue: emotional and physical exhaustion or weariness
  • Worry -- loved ones may be at risk for physical harm
  • A wide range of emotions: anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, avoidance or depression
  • Difficult time leaving children or spouse, or leaving home or coming to work
  • Intrusive imagery, feeling distracted
  • Feeling the need to stay constantly informed

When our patients and mental health patients/clients are in crisis, they can need more from us: 

  • patients/clients in distress may ask for more of your time or need increased telephone contacts
  • When patients/clients’ previous experiences of traumatic events are triggered, they may experience more symptoms or have more crises
  • When trying to manage your own emotions, on top of increased needs from patients/clients, stress from work increases. Know your limits

A unique aspect of community trauma is the shift in clinical boundaries that may result: 

  • patients/clients know you have experienced these events so you have no choice about initial disclosure
  • Your patients/clients may question you about your well-being, experience, family members; remember to disclose as little as possible, and reframe or redirect the conversation
  • Be careful with regard to:
    • Transference: responding to patients/clients' perceptions about your loss of control or safety
    • Countertransference: feeling exposed or wishing to share your experience with a client as a fellow human affected by the same tragedy
    • Projection: taking your own feelings and projecting them onto others


  • Don’t share your feelings or opinions with patients/clients
  • Don’t assume your patients/clients feel or think the same as you do about the situation
  • Remember that everyone responds differently to events like these and that everyone has a right to their opinion, and to voice it, even if it differs from ours

Get help here:

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