What is Acute Stress

Acute Stress

There is a wide variety of reactions that one may experience during and after a critical or traumatic incident. Everyone’s reactions can be different. It is natural to feel distressed after witnessing or experiencing a critical incident that happens to you or the people around you.

Common Responses

  • Feeling shocked, unreal, angry, or distressed
  • Feeling stressed or anxious
  • Feeling edgy or numb
  • Worsened concentration
  • Disturbed sleep or dreaming about the incident
  • Losing interests in activities, routines, and experiences that you used to enjoy
  • Having distressing memories or flashbacks about the incident
  • Worrying about friends and family who are impacted
  • Avoiding thoughts, memories, or activities that remind you of the incident

Most of these responses are helping our bodies and minds to cope with and make sense of the incident, as well as its impacts. Normally, these responses will improve over time after the incident.

Cope with Acute Stress
It may be useful to take note of the followings to promote your psychological recovery:



  • Get adequate rest and give yourself time to process your emotions and thoughts
  • Use alcohol or drugs to cope
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Disrupt your normal eating patterns
  • Take breaks from things related to the incident
  • Overwhelm yourself with different tasks or information (e.g. from social media or the news)
  • Focus on something practical to manage the situation better
  • Do risky things
  • Use relaxation methods
  • Withdraw from pleasant activities
  • Spend time with others but allow yourself some private time as well
  • Extreme withdrawal from social contacts 
  • Maintain your routines and keep your life normal as far as possible
  • Stop all your plans and work
  • Talk to people for support and express your emotions and needs
  • Engage in violent behaviours or conflicts

How Counselling Helps

If you would like to have further emotional support, or if the stress responses persist and become difficult to manage, you can talk to our counsellors at CoPE.

Support Services in the community

Hong Kong Red Cross -
Shall We Talk Psychological Support Service
Make an appointment:
5164-5040 (WhatsApp)
or @hkrcshallwetalk (Telegram)

The Samaritans - 24-hour Multi-lingual Suicide Prevention Services


Youth Outreach  - 24-hour hotline


Open Up - Jockey Club Online Youth Emotional Support
Facebook/ Instagram: hkopenup
WhatsApp: 9101-2012
Online chatroom

Disclaimer: CEDARS is not responsible for and makes no representations or endorsements to the services offered by any third party mentioned in this page. The information (e.g., service links) is subject to change by the third party with no control from us. The services listed may not be exhaustive.

What is Acute Stress