Psychological First Aid (PFA) – What It Is and How to Use It

This is a completely new area of health and safety for many companies. Understanding how to cope with anxiety, job stress and depression is critical to the well being of the employees and survival of the company. Psychological first aid or PFA can be used to dial down your own stress reactivity and come to your own emotional rescue or that of others.

8 Steps for the Workplace and at Home

  1. Address basic bodily needs. Many people who are stressed forget to eat nutritious regular meals.  Stay hydrated and get enough sleep & do some form of physical activity everyday such as going for a brisk 30 min walk!
  2. Avoid further harm. Remind yourself what you are going through is perfectly normal and other people are experiencing it as well. Try to protect yourself from COVID-19 information overload, from watching or reading COVID related media and conflicting reports. Limit your media exposure because it is causing pandemic related acute stress and depressive symptoms.
  3. Keep calm and carry on: Keeping a normal tone of voice as it has a calming effect and helps you and the people around you. At regular intervals through out the day or when you feel stress overload coming on do deep breathing. This helps you calm down and reduces blood pressure. Walk around your work have quick chat.
  4. Set priorities: It is easy to feel overwhelmed. Address your urgent needs. Distinguish what you can and can’t control. Focus on what you can do something about. Frame your goals – “I choose to do this”, not “I have to do this”.
  5. Build hope: It is important to stay positive. Look at the positive things that are happening at this moment and throughout the day to you. Simple things like a compliment from a colleague, the scent of a flower or tree on the way to work or being able to find time to watch a movie. Don’t spend 15 minutes watching 3 different news channels with the same negative news.
  6. Connect with others. A key part of this first aid is support from other people. Get everyone to chat about anything and leave work behind. Some companies are running Coffee Corners where every week where employees are talking for an hour about anything but work – from cooking to sport, decorating a room to bike maintenance, knitting to making puzzles as well as family entertainment ideas, family challenges and how they were solved.
  7. Practice good communications:  When people are stressed listen to them, be a good listener and give them your undivided attention. Let them take their time to tell you their concerns and feelings and show empathy and supportive words. Active listening helps validate the other person’s emotions.
  8. Reinforce coping skills. Ask someone one who is distressed how they coped with previous difficult situations. Encourage, motivate them to use these strengths and strategies to handle the current situation.

The World Health Organization has a PFA web site. Visit the links below for additional guidance.