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Fatigue and Impending Client Crisis

» Mental Health Library » Disorders & Conditions » Stress » Featured Article

By Dr. Sara Denning, Ph.D.

Dr. Sara Denning, Ph.D.

Fatigue and Impending Client Crisis – Some top performers never take a break they just fall apart. Theresa G. could get clients to agree to almost anything once she got to know their needs. Her tenacity, which was known throughout the industry, was behind each promotion throughout her career. On this particular Monday she was making her battery of calls and sending e-mails. Theresa had worked for six months to get every detail right. She had everything she needed. There was just one problem: she no longer cared. Over the past six months the joy of the pursuit had slowly but surely disappeared. Each night her head rang with incoherent dreams keeping her from getting the sleep she so desperately needed. Her meals were tasteless. The support staff in the office had teased her about weight loss until it was no longer a joke. Her secretary looked at her with concern each time she appeared.

Theresa is experiencing the symptoms that often accompany prolonged stress. She hasn’t lost it yet, but chances are the next small crisis will lead to a collapse of her self-confidence. With that loss the chance that a larger crisis will occur increases dramatically. Lower level employees will take a leave of absence or quit but top executives just keep working until they drop. This is partially due to the great degree of identity they gain from the work and the sense of community it provides. Theresa’s stress and fatigue will never be discussed in the CEO’s office. When the crisis happens she will do her best to cover it up. Someone will step in to carry the ball. If the executive management level of the company had understood the progressive toll of chronic stress, Theresa’s anxiety would have been handled well before it reached crisis mode. Instead of damage control after her meltdown, the burden would have been shared early on.

The stresses of top performers are unique and require the structure of a peer system and outside resources that can recognize and alleviate anxiety. A few “too simple to be true” strategies for dealing with stress can prevent executive burnout.

  • Create a full Stop at least twice each day. This may be only 60 seconds which will at first feel like forever and a waste of time and then begin to be an island of peace.

  • Develop a lunch time routine in a place that is out of the office, even a stand- up café. A different location will help create a perspective of a larger view when you return.

  • Walk part of the way home each day in a pace that feels slower than usual, this will feel like forced activity until you can be present in the walk.

About the Author...

Sara Denning, Ph.D., Licensed Consulting Psychologist. Prevention and treatment of executive stress and burnout is detailed on the web site developed by Dr. Denning. Stress Strategies Workshops were developed through post - 9/11 consulting with New York City companies. Dr. Denning works with business owners, partners, and key executives. You are invited to visit the website and sample some of the methods used in the workshops. The worksheets are available at no charge and are accompanied by brief instructions.

Last Update: 6/2/2008

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