Episode 098 : “Creative Stress Reduction Solution for the Busy Professionals” with Carlee Myers

Carlee Myers is an expert at helping professionals who feel overworked, overwhelmed, or on the verge of burnout relieves stress so they can find more joy at work home and beyond. As a founder of The Stress Less Company, Carlee has helped hundreds of professionals across the country take action to reduce stress through coaching. She believes there is no-one-size-fits-all when it comes to stress management. Carlee, a Diplomat of The American Institute of Stress, has had her work most recently featured in media outlets such as Parade, Good Day Philadelphia, FOX 29, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Mag and Whoolley Magazine.

Questions

  • Could you tell us a little bit about your journey, how did you get onto this journey to manifest or understand that you are manifested to help others reduce stress in their lives?
  • Talk to us a little bit about stress and customer experience, to just expound for us why reducing stress in your life can impact your overall wellbeing and of course impact your business regardless of what type of business you’re in, whether you’re the employee or the business owner.
  • Let’s say our listeners that are listening to this episode, they are looking for some tangible takeaways, give us maybe two or three things that they can start doing tomorrow morning to reduce stress.
  • Based on your experience and just working with the different clients that you’ve worked with over the years, and I know it’s a very general question and it may not overlap across many different people, but maybe two or three stress-relating activities that you found works well for busy professionals, low resource, is healthy for you, but generally speaking people tend to enjoy it.
  • Can you share with us how do you stay motivated every day?
  • Can you share with us maybe one online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely couldn’t live without in your business?
  • Share with us maybe one or two books that have had the biggest impact on you. It could be a book that you read recently or even a book that you read a very long time ago but the principles and tips that you maybe have picked up in there still stay with you to this very day.
  • Can you share with us what’s one thing that’s going on in your life right now that you’re really excited about either something that you’re working on to develop yourself or your people?
  • Where can listeners find you online?
  • What’s one quote or saying that during times of adversity or challenge you will revert to it, kind of helps to refocus you and just help you to get back on track. Do you have one of those?

Highlights

Carlee’s Journey

Carlee shared that she likes to say whenever folks asked her this question that you’ve opened a can of worms. But the cliff notes version of her story and how she ended up in this line of work is actually it goes back a really long time. So when she was about 12 years old, her parents had gotten separated and her mom ended up dating again and you’re probably thinking, okay, well, what does that have to do with any of this? Well, her mom ended up actually dating a bad apple and as a result, that bad apple, she broke it off and he had never kind of let go of the relationship. And so a few months later that bad apple, that ex-boyfriend broke into her childhood home, killed her mom’s new boyfriend and tried to kill her mom.

So, as you can imagine, as a 12 year old girl, she struggled with stress, with PTSD, with overwhelm, with anxiety, with fear, you name it, she was probably struggling with it. And for about 10 years, she really struggled and when she says struggled, she thinks that’s probably an understatement. And to be clear for everybody who’s worrying about her mom right now, she’s alive, she’s well, if you saw her today you would have no idea that she was shot three times. All she has is a pair of reading glasses and a slight limp, but it’s wild. But for her, she struggled for 10 years with PTSD, with overwhelm, with stress, with everything. And for the first five years of her journey, she didn’t tell anybody.

She thought that if she told anybody that she would be the straw that broke the camel’s back in her family, that her family couldn’t take another problem to deal with, or that she would become a burden to other folks. And so, as a result for the first five years, she didn’t tell anybody. And then one night she actually had probably one of the worst night terrors of her life. And she finally opened up to someone and thank goodness she did, because then she started slowly but surely sharing with people in her life. “Hey, I’m kind of struggling right now.” or “I’m feeling a little stressed or I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.”

And she would ask people for advice and it was like clockwork, she would get the same five or so responses every single time. “Hey, Carly, have you tried therapy? Have you tried yoga? Have you tried meditation? Have you tried changing your diet? Have you tried exercising?” Have you tried insert mainstream approach here basically.

And the reality was for her is that she had tried all of that. She was so desperate for change that she had tried all of that and some of it didn’t work and some of it worked a little bit, but nothing ever got her over that hump where she was experiencing things like happiness and joy and peace of mind and contentment and silliness and goofiness and all of those beautiful states of mind that she used to roll her eyes at because she thought that they weren’t real. She thought people were faking it and all this to say that it took her 10 years to find the thing that worked for her. And at the time it was art, it was creativity.

And now as she has matured and grown, she has learned that more specifically, what she has found is this thing called Creative Stress Reduction and that is any activity that gets us out of fight, flight or freeze mode and into a state of play or flow. And so she spent a few years when she figured out what this was and what it was all about and how it worked. She spent a few years being upset because she was like, “Why isn’t anybody talking about this? Like, this is so important.” She struggled for 10 years, she knows there’s people that struggled for 20, 30 plus years and that’s not okay.

And so after she spent a few years throwing a temper tantrum because no one told her, she had to figure it out on her own. She realized, “Oh crap, like I’m supposed to be talking about this.” And so, that’s how she ended up here. That’s how she ended up with The Stress Less Company, because she did not want anyone to feel like they’re stuck or that something’s wrong with them because those five or so mainstream approaches that everyone’s talking about, isn’t quite working for them.

Me: It’s so fascinating that you shared how you got on your journey was because of a pain that you were experiencing, a challenge that you were facing that you did the research on your own, you tried different methods, proven methods, not so proven methods and then you decided to come out with this wonderful solution and now you’re offering it to other people because all businesses go into operation to solve a problem. And a lot of times it’s the entrepreneur, the person starting the business that has the problem first and realizes that, “I’m not alone. This isn’t an isolated problem. This is a group problem. This is an aggregate problem. How can I create a solution that will not just fix it for me, but fix it for other people?” so I really thought that was quite insightful. That’s what I got from what you said awhile ago, that a lot of times we’re solving problems we think is just for us, but a lot of other people are having the same issues.

Carlee shared that she does a lot of speaking and she shares a more extended version of her story and of course she’s sharing tips and tools to manage stress. And she cannot tell you how many times at the end of events, people will come up to her and they’ll say, “I’m so sorry about what you went through.” And her response always kind of jars people because her response is…..

“I’m not, I’m not because if my mom hadn’t gone through that, if I hadn’t gone through that, if my family hadn’t gone through that, then none of us would be doing the work that we’re doing today. None of us would be the people that we are today and as a result of that, our lives are so much better.”

Carlee Myers

Me: That’s so true Carlee. It’s funny that you say that too, because I was listening to a young lady that I follow on LinkedIn and I’m not sure what type of abuse, but I know she suffered severe abuse in her youth and now she’s an influencer on LinkedIn. But one of the things she speaks about as you said is she’s not sorry about the abuse that she went through because she doesn’t think she’d be the same person that she’s today, if that wasn’t part of her journey.

And you’re so true. Sometimes we wonder how we ended up on the paths that we’re on and we don’t realize that it wasn’t by chance, it was by design why we ended up on the path that we’re on and I guess as you get older and you become wiser, the picture is much clearer, there’s more clarity.

Managing Stress in a Busy World

Carlee shared that managing our stress is so key to having our customer’s experience our businesses and our work in a much better light. One of the key symptoms or a few of the key symptoms of stress, we can start with the mental health side of things, which is irritability, anxiety, depression. And then we go into the physical symptoms, which they can be as slight as headaches and things like that. And then we can go into the more extreme, which is like cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, strokes, and things like that.

And so when we think about stress from the perspective of, “Okay, when I’m experiencing distress, all of these symptoms come along with it, then am I really functioning at my best when I’m showing up in my business and in my work. If I’m showing up with a client irritable, or if I’m showing up with a client anxious, are they really getting the experience that they should be getting?” Her guess is that most folks want to show up with their customers and their clients from a place of abundance and love and care and kindness. But when we’re irritable, we can’t do that, we’re being passive aggressive accidentally, we’re being short, one word answers.

And so, that’s just a small example of how stress can majorly impact sales, revenue, the relationship that you’re building with your clients and that’s just irritability, that’s not even getting into a lot of the conversations that she’s having with corporate professionals. We are losing millions of dollars every year because of unmanaged stress, because people are getting sick. People are having to call out and they’re cancelling important client appointments because what happens when stressor after stressor after stressor builds up is that our body finally, it’s like, “Okay, well, if you’re not gonna listen to the emotions, if you’re not going to listen to all of the warning signals I gave you, I’m going to shut you down.”

And so, noticing and realizing that there is a true correlation between the stress and these outcomes, and that’s the difference between you getting behind on your work or getting behind on your revenue and you growing.

She thinks there’s a lot of talk about personal brand right now. And she loves the definition of personal brand is, what people say when you’re not in the room. And she thinks that when we show up irritable or anxious or even depressed in a conversation, that’s what people are talking about. People read energy; they remember how you made them feel more than what you said.

Creative Stress Reduction Process

Carlee shared that she is going to give listeners something that they can start right now, at the end of this podcast, they can get started on. It’s really about implementing it now because the now leads to tomorrow.  And she thinks there’s a great example, her own former business coach used to say to her, “The stuff you’re doing today, you’re going to see the results tomorrow, 60 days from now, 90 days from now. And so, it’s important to get started.”

But she wants to circle back to the concept of Creative Stress Reduction, because she believes that this is the foundation, the very first step that we need to be taking to manage our stress. And so, if we return to creative stress reduction in the definition of this methodology that she has created. Creative Stress Reduction is any activity that gets us out of fight, flight or freeze mode and into a state of play or flow, AKA rest and digest.

And so, the reason why this is so important is because if we’re in fight or flight mode, we tend to make some pretty poor decisions, almost always. And so, we need to get out of fight or flight mode so that we can start thinking clearly and strategically about what changes need to be made in our life to address those chronic stressors, the stuff that’s coming up over and over and over again.

And the reason she’s going to go one step further. The reason why it’s important that we address our chronic stress is because we can’t prevent all stress triggers, let’s be real. We could not prevent COVID-19, we could not prevent a lot of stuff, but we can better prepare ourselves so that we can move through unpredictable stressors with grace, by removing all of the unnecessary stressors that we’re experiencing in our life. But it starts with getting out of fight or flight mode so that we can even be in the head space to do that.

So the first thing that she recommends in order to find the creative stress reduction activity that works for you is to start with back to the basics with the simple piece of paper and a pencil or pen or marker or whatever you’re writing utensil you’re into. And you’re going to start by making a list of at least 50 to 100 activities that you love doing. And yes, 50 to 100, she feels like every time she recommends this, she sees draws drop across the audience, but it’s really important that we have a diverse abundant list of activities and anything goes here.

So, she enjoys going on a walk, she enjoys playing with my dog. She likes gardening. She likes meditation, maybe she likes yoga. Or maybe even she loves formatting Excel spreadsheets. If that’s what you’re into, can be anything. And it’s really important not to edit ourselves here. So even the stuff that you’re like, “Ooh, maybe I shouldn’t be doing this.” You can put that on this list too. So you can put your wine, you can put your cookies; you can put the hanky panky, if that’s what you’re into.

And really the whole point being that there is no editing in this process because that’s where we can get stuck. And that’s when we get to the place of, “Oh, I can’t come up with 50 to 100 items. I can’t do this. This is too hard.” And so once we have that list, once we get through that process, no editing, anything goes, we go and we go to the next piece of the equation. And the next piece is to narrow down that list by asking 4 really important questions.

Four Important Questions To Ask Yourself

And so the first question that we are going to ask in this process to narrow down our list is, “Does this item have the potential to put myself or someone else in harm’s way, AKA in the world we live in right now?” Could someone else get sick or could I get sick? And if the answer is, yes, we’re going to cross that item off our list.

Now, the second question that we’re going to ask is, “Does this activity have the potential to trigger me?” Based on my past experience, maybe based on my past trauma, does this item have the potential to trigger me? And so she loves to give this example from a client that worked with her a few years ago, because she cannot tell you probably one of those mainstream approaches that we hear a lot about managing stress is going to get a massage. 

And she loves a good massage, but she had a client a few years ago who was a survivor of sexual assault. And she had never gotten a massage before. And so everyone in her life, well, let’s say a few people in her life kept telling her, you got to go get a massage, It’s going to make you feel so much more at ease, your body’s going to feel great, your mind is going to feel great. You should just try it.

They actually went through, before she just went and got a massage. And they said, “Okay, based on your past experience, how comfortable do you feel with this? Are you a hundred percent comfortable that you’re not going to go in that room and feel triggered?” And she said, “I’m not sure, I’m not sure, but I can tell you that even if a friend touches me in the wrong way, it makes me feel uncomfortable.” And so, they cross that off her list because creative stress reduction is not the time to explore past trauma, it’s not the time to explore, am I quote strong enough or healed enough or whatever for this, it’s a time to get out of fight or flight mode.

And so, even the possibility of that triggering her is not going to work for creative stress reduction. So they crossed it off. Another simpler example is, if you have the beach on your list and every time you go to the beach, you see those lovely skinny 18 year olds in their bathing suits. And you’re looking at yourself and thinking, “I do not measure up here.” That’s a trigger. So, we’ve got to be real about the big and the small triggers. And so if it has the potential to trigger you, you’re going to cross it off.

The third question that you’re going to ask is, “Does this activity fit into my resources?” And this is a really, really important one. “Does it fit into my financial resources? Does it fit into my social resources? Does it fit into my time resources?” And this is really important, especially for busy professionals, because if we don’t have the time to do this, we’re not going to do it. We’re going to push off our creative stress reduction until we, one day magically have the time, magically have two weeks or a month to backpack around Europe. We’re going to keep pushing it off.

Me: If we’re really embracing the creative stress process, shouldn’t we really be making time for the things that we enjoy. If it is that you said I’m to write down 50 to 100 things that I enjoyed doing, then I need to make the time, I have to be intentional about it. Wouldn’t I need to be that way?

Carlee agreed and stated that however, we’re not trying to go from 0 to 60 in 3.5. And so we want to be realistic, we’re not going to be able to just storm in to our boss’s office or completely upheaval our lives to take a month off. That’s not to say, and this is one of the key things that she talks about too, is it’s not to say that you can’t plan for those things and you can’t work towards those things. But the goal is to have an activity that is accessible to you right now, today, without a to do list of, “I have to talk to this person; I have to change this relationship with this client. I have to do all of these other things that may cause more stress before can get to this resource.”

A great example of something similar to this is, when folks write this list, oftentimes they’ll write that fancy vacation and they’ll say, oh, I want to go to Hawaii. Or I want to go wherever and they’ll go to their bank account and it’ll say something completely different. They have some big aspirations but the resources might not match the aspiration.

And it’s not to say that we can’t go to Hawaii or we can’t go on that fancy vacation, but it’s not accessible to us right now. And so we can add to our list and add to our plan that we’re going to save up enough money to make that happen 5 years down the road. But if we make that our creative stress reduction today, what we can do is we can actually cause more stress and put ourselves even more into fight or flight mode because maybe we put that thing on our credit card, now we have credit card payments every month, or we’re jeopardizing our client relationships because we don’t actually have the time resources to do that based on our past agreements. And so that’s why we’re really talking about, does it fit into my current resources because we don’t want to create more stress, the goal is to get out of fight or flight mode, even if it’s 5 minutes that we have right now in our current time.

And so, the last question that we’re going to ask ourselves, in terms of narrowing down this list is, “If I did this activity every single time I was stressed out, would it be healthy?” So there goes the wine there goes to the cookies. And oftentimes this last question is probably the one where we’re seeing the most lines happening, the most pencil scraping across paper, because this is often our go to. These are the things that usually fit into what we would consider our resources; cookies aren’t that expensive, wine is not that expensive in the long run.

And so, that’s why we typically go to these things because they typically fit into our resources. And so, we’re really looking to expand, what else can I do that’s cheap, that doesn’t take much time and we’re not jeopardizing our financial future, we’re not jeopardizing our health, we’re not jeopardizing our relationships and things like that.

Creative Stress Reduction Activities that are FREE

Carlee shared that probably the three most common. So the ones that are coming up for her that come up with her clients a lot are giving ourselves permission to dance, dance in our home when we’re cooking dinner, or when we’re folding the laundry, putting on music, singing, these are common, very common, creative stress reduction activities that don’t take much time. If we have a really short song, it’s less than two minutes. She thinks we all have about two minutes a day and allowing that play to come through you in those moments. She thinks those are really great examples, we might not be playing with Barbie dolls, which is a great example.

She was doing another podcast about two or three days ago. And she said, “Well, what about playing with Barbie dolls? I feel like I should not be doing that.” She (Carlee) said, “Well, if you’re into that, you can do that. No judgment here.” But her guess is that your form of play as much different, your form of play might be dancing on hardwood floors and socks in your kitchen or your living room, it’s very different, very accessible.

And so, for busy professionals, if we are taking the time to microwave a meal, even if we don’t have time to cook it, what are we doing with those two minutes? Her guess is we’re probably scrolling through social media for that two minutes. And so, we can replace, we can still hop on our phone, put on a song instead of put on that social media app and take that two minutes.

The other thing that she has a lot of clients do is that they get up and they walk around, especially right now, many of us are in quarantine. They’ll get up when they’re starting to feel stressed and they’ll do a walk around their house. Or if they live in a more urban environment like her, they walk around the block or they just pace from the front to the back. And getting up and getting out of fight or flight mode so that we can separate ourselves from that trigger for a moment, that’s another way and that’s not necessarily play, but it is getting us to a state of a flow or a state of rest and digest. And so, these are really accessible items as well.

And then she has even more simple activities that some of her clients do, some of her clients just try to get more grounded in their body by rubbing their hands together or rubbing their hands on their thighs. And she mentioned these because oftentimes we think that stress reduction has to be some big grand, like, “Oh, I’m going to take a bubble bath or I’m going to go on a trip or I’m going to do something crazy.” But it can literally just be, “I’m gonna get out of my head. I’m going to move the energy to my head to my hands by just rubbing them together.”

Me: All right. So dancing, I have a crazy side to me I must admit. Every now and again, I’ll just get up and start playing music and I’ll probably grab my daughter and say, come Summer on let’s dance. And she’d be like, mom, but I like to do fun stuff. I like to swing. One of my dreams is to have a swing in my backyard. I feel so almost at peace with nature when I’m swinging. And of course I love to go to the beach, but then I live in Jamaica and I suppose people hear when I live in Jamaica, they probably think I’m at the beach every weekend. Sadly, I don’t live in a parish that the beaches are my backyard; I literally have to drive at least 30 to 45 minutes to get to the closest beach.

And so it just based on that, sometimes I don’t get to the beach for months, especially with Coronavirus and the government putting restriction on the number of people in any one location. But I totally agree with you. Simple things like playing music that you like to listen to getting up and stretching, especially if you’re working from home. I was talking to a client recently and she indicated that she actually puts in way more work when she’s working from home, because it’s not like she has to pack up and leave at 5:00 pm.

Sometimes she doesn’t realize how time has flown until she realizes the news is being read at 8:00 pm on the TV. And she’s like, “Oh shoot and I’m still here on my computer.” And that’s 13, 14, 18 hour days and you’re like, what is happening? You wouldn’t have been putting in that if you are physically at work. So, I do agree with you that sometimes stress relief can be very, very simple strategies, but I guess sometimes we think so grandiose, we think it out of proportion instead of just trying to be very simple about it.

Carlee shared that one thing that’s coming up for her when Yanique share that, is that a lot of us get to the point where in our stress management journeys that we are working, working, working, like we are hustle, go get it done. And we almost do it to the point of this like subconscious resentment. So when we finally get around to doing stress reduction or creative stress reduction, or to take care of ourselves, we are in this head space of like, “I worked so hard. I deserve something grand.” I deserve insert whatever big thing it is. And so, that mindset can really create a cycle because we say we want this big grand thing and then we realize it’s not in our resources and so our coping mechanism can become to just return back to work.

And so, really honoring that creative stress reduction can be multiple times throughout the day. The goal is to not have you be so empty that at the end of the day, you feel, I deserve this big grand thing, which you probably do, but it be that, “I feel slightly exhausted or I feel slightly stressed and I’m going to do this thing to recharge,” versus “I’m completely empty. I’m burnt out and I need to do something yesterday.”

How Carlee Stays Motivated

When asked how does she stay motivated every day, Carlee shared that for her, her creative stress reduction is gardening, she cannot even believe it. If you were to ask her 10 years ago if she would be a gardener, she would have laughed at you and told you no way and in heck. But for her, her thing is to get up, go out, check on her garden, even if nothing needs water, if nothing needs repotted, it’s just checking and connecting that way, that’s for her.

And then she would go a step beyond that. Creative Stress Reduction like she said earlier is just the first step. And so for her, she’s constantly evaluating what stressors are coming up over and over and over again in her life. Or maybe they’ve come up one or two times and she’s starting to see a pattern. And so, she’s constantly evaluating what’s working, what’s not, what can she change so that she’s not creating chronic stress or she’s not allowing chronic stress in her life.

And so, whether that’s setting boundaries with clients with love, whether that’s setting boundaries with family, whether that’s allowing herself more downtime, more space, she doesn’t know what it would be, but each day she’s really evaluating, “Okay, what could be causing some discomfort in my life and what can I do to move through my life with more joy?” And it’s really for her and she thinks for everyone, it’s showing up every single day willing to address the hard stuff so that we cannot let it become baggage and so we can move through life so much lighter.

App Carlee Can’t Absolutely Live Without

Carlee shared that she would say Insight Timer, she really loves Insight Timer. It is a meditation app which she cannot believe she is recommending it because it’s one of those five mainstream approaches. But she has to be honest, she uses it every single day and talk about accessibility. She uses it to meditate for two minute meditations at least once a day. So it’s a great app that has tons of free meditations that you can use for all sorts of different reasons, for revenue growth, for anxiety, for sleep. It’s a really great, versatile app.

Books That Have Had the Biggest Impact on Carlee

When asked about books that have had the biggest impact, Carlee shared that it’s The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller. He has a podcast as well. And that book, she has taken a lot of those principles and applied that to her business, to her work life, to her personal life. It’s made everything so much simpler, so much easier to digest. It’s a really great book.

What Carlee is Working On Right Now She’s Really Excited About

Carlee shared that she’s super excited about this self care accountability group called The Virtual Stress Less Space that she’s running, it’s brand new. It’s only two months old at this point. And basically what they do is they hop on Zoom, they go around the room, they share what self care activities or what creative stress reduction or what they’re going to do to take care of themselves in the next 40 minutes.

And then they all shut off their cameras, they mute themselves and they do something crazy, which is go do it in the moment and then they return back and they share it. Did we do it or didn’t we do it? And if we didn’t, what can we change so that we do it next time? And she’s super, super excited about that because oftentimes you were talking about earlier, we shouldn’t we be making the time? And the answer is yes. And oftentimes we might make the time, but we don’t follow through because there’s no one else on the other side. And so she loves this group because they have the accountability with other members of the group that can say, “Hey, did you show up? Did you do that thing?” And all from a place of love.

Me: And so is this a program that you applied to get into or is it a program where anyone can access it?

Carlee shared that anyone can access it if you visit www.stresslessco.com/virtualstresslessspace

Where To Find Carlee Online


Carlee shared listeners can find her at –

Website – www.stresslessco.com

Facebook – @thestresslessco

Instagram – @thestresslessco

Quote or Saying Carlee Reverts to in Times of Adversity

Carlee shared that her mantra is, “I choose calm.”

Me: That is very simple, and it’s straight to the point, “I choose calm.” And of course, calm can be manifested in many different ways, depending on whatever makes you feel calm.

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