Don’t get stressed about trying to become stress proof. Stress is a part of life, it is how we mitigate it’s impact that makes the difference. It is so easy with media and social media constantly telling us how wonderful other people’s lives are and therefore how we need to improve. My suspicion is most people are just trying to get through the day as best they can. Personally, I try not to get too hung up on trying to proof myself against things, rather I try to manage and mitigate challenging events as best I can.

With all that’s going on in our country, in our economy, in the world, and on social media, it feels like so many of us are under a great deal of stress. We know that chronic stress can be as unhealthy as smoking a quarter of a pack a day. For many of us, our work, our livelihood, is a particular cause of stress. Of course, a bit of stress is just fine, but what are stress management strategies that leaders use to become “Stress-Proof” at work? What are some great tweaks, hacks, and tips that help to reduce or even eliminate stress from work? As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Andrew McNeill.

Andrew is a leadership consultant with experience of leading major projects and programmes and working with leaders in those sort of roles. From his own experience Andrew understands how beneficial it is for leaders to have foundational skills that can support their wellbeing and performance. He established LXLeaders to provide training and support for leaders who want to share these transformational skills.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!

I have worked in senior leadership for a long time and about 13 years ago like many others I hit a wall. I was burnt out, not enjoying life and not being effective at work or at home. I needed a change and a friend suggested mindfulness. I tried it and found it transformational, but told no-one because I thought it was weird and thought others would too. Then my employers put me on a leadership programme at Oxford and we were all talking about how we navigated stress. I mentioned the ‘m’ word and far from running away as I’d expected, they wanted to know more. This gave me the confidence to share how I embedded mindfulness in a practical and pragmatic way with my teams. The reception was so positive that in 2018 I set up my own consultancy to bring these foundational skills and pragmatic approach to support other leaders and teams working under pressure.

What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?

Take a breath. I was so driven to change the world and felt personally responsible for all of it, that I gave myself a very hard time. I would encourage my younger self to accept that it’s not all down to me. I’d also encourage myself to take absolutely no notice of people who criticised me or tried to put me down. I’m a great one for leaning in and having my mistakes pointed out, but on occasion I have found myself on the wrong side of local politics, or a person who just wanted to assert themselves. Their commentary can be very harmful and destructive. I’d also remind my younger self of the adage — ‘no-one’s last thought is: “I wish I’d spent more time in the office.”

None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful because of the support they gave you to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for them?

Mr Wood, a teacher I had at the end of Primary School. I’d always struggled at school. I didn’t get the point of it and couldn’t understand why when there were 300 kids and only 10 teachers, we didn’t all just leave. I made that point in the playground but got little response. One day Mr Wood bought into the class room what seemed like 50 speakers, hooked them up to a spool tape player and played an audio book of The Hobbit. I was transfixed and something changed for me that day. In my first maths lesson in secondary school I went up to the teacher and asked “when will we be doing pi?” The teacher said “about the 3rd year”. A complete transformation all from a bit of creativity and care.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think it might help people?

My big project is LXLeaders, a consultancy I have co-founded which specialises in leadership training, coaching and consultancy centred on a pragmatic approach that has real impact both at the human and organisational level. We have been working with clients in the finance and government sectors and the results of our approach have exceeded my hopes and expectations. We know that we have really made a difference and I am looking forward to watching our approach catch on.

Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Let’s now talk about stress. How would you define stress?

Stress for me is that sense of pressure — not just mental but also physical. It is a sense of tightness, intensity. It is uncomfortable and can feel insurmountable. It can come from almost any part of one’s life. It can seem irrational to others. It can pretend not to be there. It can be shameful, and we can have a sense of weakness for admitting to it. It is insidious but it can often be mitigated.

In the Western world, humans typically have their shelter, food, and survival needs met. So what has led to this chronic stress? Why are so many of us always stressed out?

Personally I think it is often the fear of those things being taken away. If we have a mortgage or pay rent, how can we stay sheltered (and increasingly now fed) if we lose our jobs. Therefore a bad day or loss of reputation can quickly threaten our position in the company and when the next round of redundancies are announced we fear it will be us.

Although the job market in the UK is fairly strong, the number of shocks over the last 15 years have been extraordinary; the financial markets failure, austerity, covid, the war in Europe, cost of living crisis. All of these things contribute to a sense that our own position is on the edge.

There is also the enormous and growing inequality in our society. For those suffering poverty, the stress comes from real material hardship. For those who are better off financially, there is the fear that this could be you.

Finally, there is the existential threat of climate change. It is frankly terrifying to see the predictions of the 1970s and 1980s coming to fruition. In the UK our much-loved holiday destinations are on fire. Our urban homes are overheating and the weather always unpredictable and a topic for amused frustration can now be life-threatening.

What are some of the physical manifestations of being under a lot of stress? How does the human body react to stress?

I’m no doctor, but for me early warnings can be headaches, loss of concentration, pain particularly in the neck and back, sleeplessness. Our bodies can store stress and there’s a great book, “Your Body is Your Mind’, that looks at how this can be dramatic in sufferers of trauma. In time stress can become profound and it’s physical and emotional impacts debilitating.

Is stress necessarily a bad thing? Can stress ever be good for us?

It depends on what we’re talking about, but that sense of stretch can be helpful. Performers often talk about nerves before they go on stage being essential for a good performance. I’ve worked with groups of senior leaders that feel that some stress can drive them and provide them with focus. I think it is a question of to what degree and our own personal make-up. It’s easy to think we all respond to stress, or indeed, types of stress in the same way and I don’t think that’s right. I know people who find the thought of delivering a big presentation can be debilitating yet others thrive on the same buzz.

Is there a difference between being in a short term stressful situation versus an ongoing stress? Are there long term ramifications to living in a constant state of stress?

Yes, absolutely. I do a lot of work around resilience and if we look up a dictionary definition, we find that the word refers to our capacity to bounce back after a stressful event or period of time. It does not mean enduring intense stress for an ongoing basis. Long term stress can lead to long term physical and mental health conditions. It can ultimately lead to us having to leave the workplace and worse.

Is it even possible to eliminate stress?

I don’t think so. As I say, an element of stress can be helpful for some people. But even the stress that is unhelpful seems inevitable. Work stress is one source, of course there is the whole of our personal life to navigate too. Kids, eldercare, loss of friends and family all carry stress. Being human is frequently stressful.

As for work stress, I think it would need a radical overhaul of how we do work, how we talk to each other, how we consider others at work and the financial structures we work in. I think eliminating ‘bad for you’ work-stress is unlikely. But that said I think a lot of workplaces have come a long way. During my career many behaviours thought of as standard would now see the perpetrator in a tribunal or, at least, in front of the HR director in most workplaces. However, I know that this is not universal.

In your opinion, is this something that we should be raising more awareness about, or is it a relatively small issue? Please explain what you mean.

I think it’s a massive issue. The impact on individuals and their loved ones is enormous. The thing that frankly frustrates me is that this is not a question of being soft, nice or fluffy. The impact on the bottom line on business is enormous too. Sick leave due to stress related issues costs a fortune and we could be doing so much more to mitigate the cost by helping those who are affected and the businesses impacted by the consequences. Raising awareness and being pro-active in reducing stress is literally is a win-win situation.

Let’s talk about stress at work. Numerous studies show that job stress is the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades. For you personally, if you are feeling that overall, work is going well, do you feel calm and peaceful, or is there always an underlying feeling of stress? Can you explain what you mean?

The answer to that question has changed over time. For example, as my children become independent I am sensing less ‘underlying’ stress. That could well change as I start to understand better the potential cost of social care. If I’m right that a lot of our work stress comes from a fear of losing the basics of shelter, food and warmth and I suspect our personal circumstances affect that. If it is just me that is homeless, that’s not nearly as awful as my kids being homeless too. Whilst there are doubtless peaks and troughs in stress through workload, mistakes and other things I do still recognise a background level of stress. It is how I manage that that enables me to mitigate its impact and thrive.

Okay, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview: Can you share with our readers your “5 stress management strategies that busy leaders can use to become “Stress-Proof” at Work?”

1. Don’t get stressed about trying to become stress proof. Stress is a part of life, it is how we mitigate it’s impact that makes the difference. It is so easy with media and social media constantly telling us how wonderful other people’s lives are and therefore how we need to improve. My suspicion is most people are just trying to get through the day as best they can. Personally, I try not to get too hung up on trying to proof myself against things, rather I try to manage and mitigate challenging events as best I can.

2. Micro breaks — explore how you can bring practice into your daily work life. This was the fundamental change that enabled me to recover from burnout and go on to thrive in far more demanding roles and deliver under even greater pressure.

3. Spend some time in nature. There are many studies that show how being in nature and bringing our attention to nature can improve our wellbeing. During Covid I found that a local woodland was an absolute lifeline. The colours, sounds and scents just took me away from work and the stress of the pandemic, even for just a short while. After lockdown, I quickly forgot how useful it had been and as a result I consciously try to remind myself ‘get out into nature’ as often as I can.

4. Try mindfulness — this accessible personal practice may seem unlikely or not for you, but I certainly found it lifechanging and empowering. It has radically altered the way I am able to choose to respond, rather than just react to what happens in my life. In turn this has improved my relationships, my capacity to concentrate and my ability to manage stress.

5. Allow yourself time to do something you love. I recently took up singing and it has become something I look forward to all week. The sheer joy of it. It took me 40 years to get over the humiliation of being kicked out of the choir in primary school and I am just so glad that I have.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you to live with more joy in life?

My three biggest resources are:

  1. the friends and family around me — I would encourage everyone to put the time in to nurture that network
  2. nature — it helps me in so many ways to be in nature; not least securing some kind of perspective
  3. mindfulness — it’s worked for me.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It would have to be around a combined approach to addressing climate change and inequality. If we really invested the time to halt the impact of our actions on the world in a way that reduced the ever-growing gap between rich and poor, I suspect our species would last for longer and be happier as it did so. First step could be to abandon GDP growth as a measure of success.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

Do feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or go to our website at

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.