Uplink ALPA - The Voice of Aviation

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter. As of April 2020 Uplink ALPA is a 6-monthly publication.

Stress management information

What is a stress reaction?

In the context of critical incident stress management, stress reactions are psychological and physiological changes that occur in a person who has been exposed to a stressful event/situation.

Every person's reactions will be different; however, most common for people experiencing stress reactions from an accident or incident is sleep problems, anger, and complaints concerning the loss of enjoyment of flying.  Often we may not recognize our stress reactions and may even believe that because of our training and experience we are immune to stress.

Stress reactions may appear within days. In some cases, months or years may pass before the symptom surface.  If within a few weeks the stress reactions do not diminish in frequency and intensity, assistance from a Mental Health Professional may be necessary.

An important part of helping to cope with stress is to stay in your normal daily routine. Keep exercising and avoid alcohol/caffeine.  Stay in communication with friends/ peers about how you are feeling and remember - you are normal and having normal reactions to an abnormal situation.

Listed below are some things you can do to mitigate the effects of stress reactions.  This information was taken from several sources associated with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, to which NZALPA’s PAN and CIRP is an accredited programme.


Remember you are normal and having normal reactions to an abnormal situation.

Exercise is always important, but vigorous exercise is especially important within the first 24-48 hours of an accident or incident to offset the physiological stress reactions.  Move around, stretch and walk. Alternate relaxation techniques like deep breathing with exercise.

Realise that those around you, especially your family, may be under stress too.  Talk to them about what is going on with you.


Structure your time, keep busy, and follow your routines of eating, sleeping, exercise, time with family, etc.

Have someone stay with you for at least a few hours or even a day or so.

Reduce your use of caffeine and alcohol.  Both interfere with normal sleep and processing of the accident/incident or trauma

Take naps or just rest.  Get more rest than you usually do.

Contact friends and talk to people that you trust.  This is the most healing action you can take.  Talk about your reactions to the event and its "impact" on you.

Eat healthy foods and snacks even if you are not hungry.  Eat regular meals.

If you cannot sleep after a few days, call the NZALPA office or your PSV for help.  Sleep is critical in recovery

Drink lots of fresh water.

Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feelings with others.

Express your feelings as they arise.

Do not make big life changes or major decisions.

Make as many small, daily decisions as you can which will give you a feeling of control over your life.

Recurring thoughts, intrusive memories of the event, flashbacks are normal - don't try to fight them - they will decrease over time and become less painful.

Share the following information/suggestions with those close to you:

Offer your assistance and realise the traumatised person may not know what he or she needs or wants.

Listen carefully without offering advice.  Don't try to "fix" the situation.

Don't take the traumatised person's anger or other feelings personal

Be prepared for mood swings.  People experience trauma and cope with aftermath in different ways.  Respect this.

Give the traumatised person private time.

Helpthem with everyday tasks. Most people will not call and ask for help

Don't tell them that they are "lucky it wasn't worst" - traumatised people are not consoled by such statements.  Instead tell the person that you are so sorry that such an event has occurred and you want to understand and assist them.

Create an environment that feels safe to share in.  Don't attempt to force the traumatised person to talk if they don't want to.

Keep"curious questions" for your own self-satisfaction in their appropriate place.  A later time might be more beneficial to everyone.

Don't try to analyse the behaviors that may become apparent. Acceptance and support are the key elements of providing comfort.

Be sensitive to the fact that pre-established routine sometimes help to reorient the individual to prior functioning levels.

A sensitive touch, a caring embrace or someone to sit quietly nearby may also be supportive as individuals sift through some of their own issues. We cannot make grief less painful, often a simple, "I'm sorry" is enough

Most of the time a barrage of help is available immediately after a traumatic event; but as the days and weeks go on, your friend or peer may need your help even more.  Stay in touch!

Resist telling people how they should feel and try to let them know you    have heard how they do feel.

Call for help for yourself when you feel overwhelmed - this program designed to also help family members and significant others.

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