Check-in with yourself daily for thirty seconds, asking, “what do I need today to truly thrive?” The body is intelligently designed, and the incredible thing is it will let you know what you need. Our body is always giving us signals throughout the day, but far too often, we only listen once it is too late. (Like ignoring subtle neck tension until it turns into a full-blown migraine.)

By checking in with yourself, you might notice today, “I’m really craving sunshine and fresh air,” so you decide to sit outside for 20 minutes on your lunch break. Tomorrow, you might like to take a walk in nature. The next day, it could be sensing that you’d like to connect with a friend and go to bed a little earlier. The bottom line is what you need will change based on the day or season you are in.

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 April Likins.

April Likins is a board-certified health coach, and stress expert, triple-trained at Duke Integrative Medicine, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and Precision Nutrition. Her story and articles have been featured in Authority Magazine, Mantra Wellness, Better Humans, and Wellbeing Magazine. Driven by her own experience of hitting (and overcoming) burnout, she is fiercely passionate about helping others beat exhaustion and burnout, and get their spark and joy back.

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 hit burnout years ago after my father died. Although I’d long made significant changes to my health before his passing, I fell back into my old bad habit of workaholism. I knew better, yet I wasn’t fully prepared to feel the full magnitude of that loss and my grief.

When life hits unexpectedly, it is tempting to turn to other things to distract us from our feelings like food, alcohol, binge-watching Netflix, shopping, and, yes, even our work.

During this time, I pushed harder and harder, often working until two in the morning, blowing off self-care and skipping meals. I burned the candle at both ends for a few years until I finally reached a breaking point when my health completely collapsed. (Forcing me to be nearly bedridden for a year and a half.) And it took dozens of doctors, specialists, and years of determined work to pick up the pieces.

Looking back at that catastrophic period in my life, I have learned it is far easier to prevent chronic stress and burnout than recover from it. Burnout isn’t something that happens all at once. It is a series of small things stacking up over time that, if left unchecked, can lead to disastrous things.

My health collapse forced me to slow down and reevaluate my life. I began working with an integrative health coach who completely changed my life. Working with her was life-changing and inspired me to pivot from design and project management to my career as a board-certified health coach.

While I would not want to go through that dark period again, I’m genuinely grateful that it has brought me to where I am today and given me a platform to share my story and expertise to help others.

I’ve learned that sometimes when you feel like your life is ending, you discover it is only truly beginning.

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

  1. Rest isn’t something you have to earn. You don’t need anyone’s permission to pause or take a break. If you grew up feeling “seen” only when you were doing, achieving, scoring, etc., understanding and fully embracing this can take a while. Give yourself grace and compassion as you are building this new habit.
  2. You can do hard things. Keep stepping outside of your comfort zone little by little, even if it feels scary. When you finally look back, you’ll be surprised at how far you have gone.
  3. No matter how stressful your life feels now, you have the ability to create more calm, peace, and joy in your life. That’s not to say life won’t be full of challenges, obstacles, and roadblocks — it will. However, we can allow them to crush us, or they can change us — for the better. Silver linings and good can always come out of hard things. Sometimes you have to look a little harder to find them.

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?

There are so many people I am grateful for who believed in me and saw this path for me long before I saw it for myself. Dozens of people told me I should become a health coach long before I set foot on this path. I am grateful they encouraged me and planted that seed, or I might not be where I am today.

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

I am currently writing a book on stress and burnout with practical tips and tools to help people avoid the costly consequences I experienced. While I enjoy working with clients, I’m excited to be able to share my story and help people on a much larger scale. That is the silver lining!

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

Stress is an emotional, mental, and physical reaction to a perceived pressure, challenge, or threat, and it varies based on our perceptions.

The World Health Organization defines stress as “a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. Stress is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats in our lives.”

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?

Technology plays a tremendous role in the chronic stress, burnout (and loneliness) epidemics we are in the middle of. For the first time in history, technology is evolving faster than we can keep up with. Our nervous systems were not designed to handle these warp-speed advancements, along with our “always on,” hyper-connected lifestyles. That, paired with the glorification of our hustle culture, has created chronically overstimulated nervous systems, with damaging effects on our mental and physical health.

Throughout history, our survival has depended on diligently watching for threats (whether real or imagined.) The problem is our brains and bodies don’t differentiate between being chased by a tiger or someone in a dark alley, versus running late for a meeting or emails coming in after hours. The stress response and the cascade of chemicals released are the exact same. Our bodies were not designed to deal with this daily barrage of stressors or the constant drip of the stress hormone cortisol.

At the same time, while we are more connected than ever, we are also lonelier than ever. Connecting in the digital world is different from connecting with someone face-to-face over lunch or coffee. We are wired to thrive in community, and throughout history, belonging to a tribe was crucial for our survival. Yet the irony is when you are chronically stressed or burned out, you feel like you have no time for friendships or socialization while feeling lonelier than ever.

Staying connected can be a powerful protective factor against chronic stress and burnout. If you are aware of the Blue Zones Project or watched the documentary on Netflix, then you know that being a part of a community is tied to our overall health, happiness, and even our longevity.

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

The body responds to stress by activating the sympathetic nervous system (the “fight or flight system”), releasing a flood of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. During this time, your heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, digestion halts, and your senses sharpen — all preparing you to take action.

Too much stress shows up differently for all of us, but some things to watch out for include:

  • Fatigue / exhaustion
  • Sleep issues / insomnia
  • Increased anxiety
  • Chronic headaches / migraines
  • Appetite changes / cravings
  • Chronic muscle tension / pain
  • Jaw clenching / teeth grinding
  • Moodiness / irritability
  • Lack of motivation
  • Forgetfulness / trouble concentrating
  • Heart palpitation
  • Dizziness
  • Digestive issues / IBS
  • Feeling “wired but tired”
  • Weakened immunity
  • Edginess
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Crying spells
  • Blood sugar instability
  • Relying on caffeine to function
  • Increased alcohol or drug use

The key is knowing how too much stress shows up for you. If you notice several of the symptoms above or frequently find yourself feeling overwhelmed or having trouble coping, it is a strong clue that you may be experiencing too much stress.

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

Stress is subjective, meaning different people can experience the same situation in very different ways, like being stuck in traffic. One person might have a total meltdown (creating a massive internal chemical response), while another feels the stress but chooses to call ahead and practice deep breathing.

How we perceive stressors determines whether or not the stress response is activated in our body. According to recent stress research, it’s not the stressors in your life that are so dangerous to your health but your perception of them.

Stress can be good — it is part of our survival mechanism and the body’s way of protecting you.

Stress is our body’s internal alarm system designed to protect us from harm (fight, flight, or freeze) or keep us engaged, healthy, and energized.

A small amount of stress can be helpful to us. Positive stress (otherwise known as Eu-stress) is stimulating and helps us to learn, grow, adapt, and stay productive. (Like working on a stimulating project.) Healthy stress stretches you outside your comfort zone and can enhance your performance, like getting in a good workout or going on a challenging hike.

The right amount of stress helps you to feel interested, motivated, energized, engaged, and actively moving toward a goal or project. And if you are in a threatening situation, you want your stress response to kick in so you can fight or flee.

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?

There is a difference between short-term stress (like giving a presentation, arguing with a partner, or studying for finals), where your nervous system can return to its baseline after, versus long-term, ongoing stress, such as caring for an aging parent or dealing with a chronic illness.

Long-term, chronic stress can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health, relationships, and career. Too much stress over an extended period of time can be serious and has been linked to high blood pressure, insomnia, heart issues, type 2 diabetes, obesity, mental health issues, chronic pain, decreased immunity, disease, cancer, decreased longevity, and more.

Is it even possible to eliminate stress?

No, stress is part of our world, and as we discussed above, stress isn’t always bad; it is the body’s way of protecting you or helping you rise to a challenge. Life will always be full of curveballs, obstacles, and things that completely catch us by surprise. The key is not to fight the waves but to learn to surf them. Meaning again, it’s not the particular stressor but what we think of the stressor and how we choose to respond that can be helpful or damaging to our well-being. We always have a choice.

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’d rather see us start normalizing talking about mental health, well-being, building resilience, setting healthy boundaries, and saying no to the toxic hustle culture. I’d love to see us begin teaching resilience, stress management techniques, and self-regulation from grade school on up. Imagine how this could positively impact future generations and our society if we made this the norm, not the exception.

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?

Like anyone else, I can feel the effects of stress in certain situations, like when deadlines are approaching or when my plate is too full. However, as a stress and burnout coach, I try to practice what I preach, so I have strong boundaries around my work and time. When I start to lean toward being out of balance, my husband keeps me in check and tells me to slow down.

Most days I feel balanced, calm, and peaceful, but that does take actively working on things like boundaries, self-care, my mindset, counting my blessings, and staying connected to community.

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 . Check-in with yourself daily for thirty seconds, asking, “what do I need today to truly thrive?” The body is intelligently designed, and the incredible thing is it will let you know what you need. Our body is always giving us signals throughout the day, but far too often, we only listen once it is too late. (Like ignoring subtle neck tension until it turns into a full-blown migraine.)

By checking in with yourself, you might notice today, “I’m really craving sunshine and fresh air,” so you decide to sit outside for 20 minutes on your lunch break. Tomorrow, you might like to take a walk in nature. The next day, it could be sensing that you’d like to connect with a friend and go to bed a little earlier. The bottom line is what you need will change based on the day or season you are in.

I grew up playing multiple sports year-round (which was a tremendous outlet for me) and being taught to “just push through the pain.” In the long term, this taught me to completely ignore and disconnect from my body to push it past its limits. It became something to conquer and dominate instead of learning to respect, honor, and nurture.

2 . Develop your own resilience tools. Just like everyone experiences stress differently, all of us recover differently. The key is knowing what things help you recover and recharge, and then prioritizing them.

For one person that might be walking daily, getting eight hours of sleep, and spending time in nature. For my husband (who is a chiropractor), his resilience tools include:

  • Running or biking daily
  • Practicing deep breathing
  • Listening to motivational podcasts
  • Meal prepping and eating clean
  • Getting bi-weekly massages
  • Doing ice baths

Now, I’ll admit I know very few people who enjoy doing ice baths (I’m not one of them), so my point is how you recover may be vastly different than your partner or best friend, and that’s okay. Know what works for you and why, and intentionally schedule those things like you would a doctor’s appointment.

3 . Make high-quality sleep a daily priority. Sleep isn’t a luxury — it’s a powerful restorative tool that helps you better navigate and cope with stress, and it helps prevent burnout. Aim for sleeping in a cool, dark, and quiet room and getting 7–9 hours of sleep a night.

I recently worked with a high-achieving client who came to me with the mentality of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” With his military background and demanding career as an engineering leader, sleep wasn’t something he had prioritized or initially wanted to work on. However, he was interested in lowering his blood pressure (tracking it gave him anxiety), and he wanted to better respond to challenges at work and home.

Gradually, while working together, I encouraged him to track the duration and quality of his overall sleep (alongside monitoring his blood pressure.) Very quickly, he noticed a direct correlation in how he slept and his blood pressure readings. On the days he slept better, his blood pressure was lower. On the days he tossed and turned or went to bed late, his blood pressure was higher. He also noticed that when he slept well, he was better able to navigate stress in his life. Both were enormous insights for him!

To read more of my top sleep tips, click here.

4 . Unplug and set healthy boundaries around work.

I was chatting with a friend recently, Mariana Henninger, an Emmy-award-winning documentary film director and the founder of Brand Magnetic, about her experience of hitting burnout. Mariana shared, “I wasn’t disconnecting from my job, so I was living my job and felt like I could never escape it or catch up. I wasn’t investing in other parts of my life like meeting friends, hobbies, making time for joy, fun, and connection, and it all caught up to me.”

After Mariana’s experience of hitting burnout, she is much more diligent about maintaining a healthier work-life harmony, unplugging and doing relaxing things like going to the beach, making time for friends, and practicing self-care.

Unplug Tip: Try putting away your phone and devices for 1–2 hours at night and for half a day on the weekends and see how you feel.

5 . Make time for rest, fun, and connection. Rest is the antidote to overwhelm and burnout and is KEY for maintaining your peace and feeling balanced.

As a stress coach, I ask my high-achieving clients often, “What recharges you? What do you enjoy doing for fun outside of work? The answer is typically met with a blank stare and crickets.

“I really haven’t stopped to consider that,” they’ll tell me. Or I’ll frequently hear, “I enjoy working,” or “I like to workout.” While working out is a foundational pillar of staying healthy, self-care, de-stressing, our mental health, and preventing burnout, it’s not the same as a hobby or doing something fun. Yet, ask a child what they like to do for fun and they’ll effortlessly rattle off an endless list.

Here’s the fascinating part of why it matters — recent studies have shown that rest, play, (and socialization) affect our overall happiness, resilience (our ability to bounce back from stressors), health, and longevity.

Rest, fun, and connection don’t happen on their own. You have to be intentional to schedule those things into your calendar. Learning to be still often feels counterintuitive to high performers, but it’s crucial for boosting productivity, performance, overall happiness, and health.

If that still feels foreign to you, try remembering what you used to enjoy growing up.

Perhaps that was:

– Exploring or going on adventures

– Being out in nature

– Doing something creative

– Dancing

– Playing sports

– Building

– Music
– Etc.

Then, make a list of things that are fun to you or help you relax.

I worked with another client recently who manages a billion-dollar account for her company while juggling being a mom to two young children. During the pandemic, she was at her wits end and seriously contemplating quitting her job — it all felt like too much.

However, while working together, she focused on better communicating her needs to her superiors, delegating, unplugging from work so she could focus on her family, scheduling monthly massages, and attending a weekly outdoor Yoga class by a river with a good friend. I not only watched her transform, but she was able to stay in a job she loved and was great at.

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

I listen to many different podcasts, but a few of my favorites are:

A Bit of Optimism with Simon Sinek

WorkLife with Adam Grant

The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes

WorkWell by Deloitte

I love reading and at any given moment I am reading 15–20 books. A few of my all-time favorites include:

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg, PhD

The Highly Sensitive Person’s Tool Kit by Allison Lefkowitz

The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington

Body Belief by Aimee E Raupp MS, LAC

The Fun Habit by Mike Rucker, PhD

Power of Awe by Jake Eagle LPC, Michael Amster MD

What Doesn’t Kill Us by Stephen Joseph PhD

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Rejection Proof by Jia Jang

Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst

Attitude 101 by John Maxwell

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 be that we can collectively reject this fallacy that we have to participate in this toxic working 24/7 hustle culture, wrapping our entire identities around work. Yes, your work may be an essential part of who you are, but it doesn’t define everything you are and the gifts that are uniquely you. Let’s start normalizing celebrating people for who they are (their kindness, adaptability, creativity, resilience, being a team player, etc.) and not just highlighting and rewarding their accomplishments.

And leaders, if you genuinely want to improve the overall well-being of your entire organization, you have to start walking the walk in your own life. If there’s a disconnect between what you are saying and how you live your life, it creates an unsafe culture for your employees to prioritize their well-being. Well-being is more “caught than taught.”

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

You can connect with me at or on LinkedIn or Instagram.

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.