Stress Management – Case Example

Jason: A Case Example

Jason is a 39-year-old Commercial Producer working for a major broadcasting organization. He has been married to Lesley for 11 years and they have two boys, aged 7 and 4. Jason describes himself as having a Type A Personality, I.e. he is very driven, works long hours and is a perfectionist. He has worked for the same organization for the past 7 years, and has been very successful and happy.

Recently, there had been some changes in the organization and among other things, Jason’s boss was fired, and another person, an outsider, got his job. Jason had a very good relationship with his previous boss. They got along well, both professionally and personally. They even used to socialize together quite often. When the new boss arrived, he said there were many things that needed to be changed. He started a process of evaluation whereby he would follow people around and make comments about their work and how they should change their work. When he reviewed Jason’s work, he was displeased with a few things. He conveyed his dissatisfaction to Jason in an unfriendly way, sounding displeased and even threatening. Jason felt the tension rising inside of him. He felt that everything had changed for the worse and that he did not feel safe in his job anymore. He felt that his performance was constantly being challenged and criticized and that he was given no credit for his talent and hard work. Jason has lost the fun, the security and the satisfaction that he used to have in his job. A few weeks after the new boss arrived, Jason started having headaches, which he had not suffered from before. He was also having sleep problems, usually falling asleep around midnight only to wake up a couple of hours later and be unable to fall back to sleep for hours. He started feeling irritable and got impatient with the kids and with Lesley. Worst of all, he said, his work performance was affected and he began to fear the worst – getting fired.

When Jason’s boss scheduled a private meeting with him, Jason was sure he was going to fire him. A few hours before the meeting Jason started having chest pain, breathing problems, and indigestion. Half an hour before the scheduled meeting, Jason was admitted to the ER of the local hospital with a suspected heart attack.

On admission, Jason had high blood pressure and rapid heartbeat, but he did not have a heart attack. “What is wrong with me?” Jason asked the attending doctor. “Nothing really,” said the doctor, “but tell me what is going on in your life right now…” After they talked for a few minutes the doctor said, “I believe you have been having a reaction to ongoing stress. Take it easy for a few days and seek some counselling.”

Jason did seek counselling, and learned to manage his stress better. He started exercising regularly, learned some new relaxation and breathing techniques and did some cognitive work with his therapist. Specifically, he learned to identify how his thoughts were related to his feelings and behaviours and vice versa. After a few weeks in therapy, Jason reported feeling much better. Things at work had calmed down and his boss even made a couple of positive remarks regarding his performance. His sleep was getting better and his overall mood was good. There were still times at work when he would feel a little panicky, but using his new tools he managed to calm himself down and focus on the task. Jason was well on his way to a full adjustment to the changes in his work place and to a regained sense of well being.