Eustress is a motivator of high performance and creativity and ideas. It is only when stressors become sustained without relief or reprieve that it become toxic, thus called toxic stress in contrast to regular everyday stressors. Our physiology is created to respond in short bursts effectively to deal with stressors but when they become long and sustained without relief the very system that is meant to protect us becomes damaging to our bodies and brains and tissues and starts to create break-down and dysfunction.

With all that’s going on in our country, our economy, the world, and on social media, it feels like so many of us are under a great deal of stress. Relationships, in particular, can be stress-inducing. We know chronic stress can be as unhealthy as smoking a quarter of a pack a day. What are stress management strategies that people use to become “Stress-Proof? What are some great tweaks, hacks, and tips that help reduce or even eliminate stress? In this interview series, we are talking to authors, and mental health experts, who can share their strategies for reducing or eliminating stress. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jill Carnahan, Functional Medicine Expert®, Medical Director of Flatiron Functional Medicine, and author of Unexpected.

Dr. Jill Carnahan is Your Functional Medicine Expert® dually board certified in Family Medicine for 10 years and in Integrative Holistic Medicine since 2015. She is the Medical Director of Flatiron Functional Medicine, a widely sought-after practice with a broad range of clinical services including functional medical protocols, nutritional consultations, chiropractic therapy, naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, and massage therapy. As a survivor of breast cancer, Crohn’s disease, and toxic mold illness she brings a unique perspective to treating patients in the midst of complex and chronic illness. Her clinic specializes in searching for the underlying triggers that contribute to illness through cutting-edge lab testing and tailoring the intervention to specific needs.

Featured in People magazine, Shape, Parade, Forbes, MindBodyGreen, First for Women, Townsend Newsletter, and The Huffington Post as well as seen on NBC News and Health segments with Joan Lunden, Dr. Jill is a media must-have. Her YouTube channel and podcast features live interviews with the healthcare world’s most respected names. She co-authored the Personalized and Precision Integrative Cardiovascular Medicine Textbook and is set to release her prescriptive memoir Unexpected, through Forefront Publishing in 2023.

A popular inspirational speaker and prolific writer, she shares her knowledge of hope, health and healing live on stage and through newsletters, articles, books, and social media posts! Patients and fans alike are encouraged by Dr. Jill’s are encouraged by her science-back medical knowledge delivered with authenticity, love and humor. She is known for inspiring her audience to thrive even in the midst of difficulties.

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 was born a healer, but I didn’t know it until I face my own mortality at the young age of 25 years old. I always knew that I wanted to help people heal and thrive in the midst of complex and chronic illness, but I had no idea that I would practice medicine. I applied to many different medical training programs, including osteopathic medicine, chiropractic medicine, acupuncture, and physical therapy but I ended up choosing conventional allopathic medicine for my training so that I could get a great foundation with the best reimbursed system in the US. I will say I really infiltrated the medical system in order to make change from the inside out, but I came in with a much more holistic mindset, knowing that I really wanted to help people find root cause of their symptoms and reverse illness instead of just prescribing drugs and surgery

Unfortunately, during my third year medical school at the age of 25 years old I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer and I had to use all of my knowledge and skills in order to heal and overcome this deadly illness. It was there in the midst of going from doctor to patient that I found some of the most important pearls of practicing medicine and healing. it was in the midst of this journey that I really began to understand the patient experience and how important it was to have that kind of perspective. Some of my greatest lessons were learned through overcoming illness and perhaps more powerful than anything I learned in medical training.

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

The most important lesson I would share with my younger self is that love and worthiness is an inside job. It’s very important to love and appreciate yourself just as you are. I grew up in a culture/family system where performance and achievement and education were highly encouraged and valued. Somehow, I got the wrong impression that I was only worthy of love for my achievement and while it made me a very successful individual it left me empty inside and always seeking the next fix, the next achievement, the next success. It was only in my 40s after a difficult divorce, but I truly learned to love myself and I now understand this is one of the most important parts of healing from any illness: trust in your intuition and love yourself. I often write this script for my patients: “Be kind to Yourself!”

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 friends and people I have encountered in my life that have encouraged me to grow & transform. Their unconditional love and support along the way has made everything possible and allowed me to believe in unexpected miracles. The most important person in my life, if you can call it that, is the Divine Creative. This is what I like to call my connection with Source of all things, light and unconditional love and this connection is what gives me purpose and meaning and drives me to love others and be a source of light in the world. I am incredibly grateful, and I know that even if I was all alone on a desert island I would have that connection with the Divine and know that my purpose is to share that love and healing with the world.

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

YES! I just finished filming a documentary about my life and overcoming breast cancer, Crohn’s disease and Biotoxin illness, called Doctor/Patient. Official trailer here. It was an epic journey in filming my own story but encouraging others to find transformational healing in their own lives.

I also wrote a book called Unexpected: Finding Resilience through Functional Medicine, Science, and Faith, set to be published by Forefront on March 7, 2023. In it, I share my story of facing and overcoming life-threatening illness using both science and faith, a combination of left-brain analytical mind and right-brained creative soul. My desire is to encourage the reader to find joy and meaning amidst life’s most difficult circumstances and replace fear and hopelessness with joy, hope, unconditional love and unexpected miracles. I am excited to reach the world with the message of hope and healing through functional medicine and demonstrate through my own journey that healing IS possible!

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

Stress is not all bad, it is the thing that drives us to do better, inspires us to think of new solutions and encourages us to become the best version of ourselves. However, in our current world and environment, many people are drowning in toxic stress and overwhelm. We are trying to do too much, be too much to too many people and the nature of our cell phones, email and 24/7 access has gotten many of us in a physiological state of constant fight or flight where are body never has the chance to really relax and calm down. This toxic stress is killing us slowly and a huge problem in North America particularly, Adding to the toxic load is environmental chemicals, lack of adequate sleep and heathy whole foods, weakening our immune systems and resilience to stressors.

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?

We are overfed and undernourished, overstimulated, and under-rested. Most people are grabbing processed packages convenient foods that are highly processed and nutrient deficient. This is causing weight gain and obesity, but we remain the most undernourished despite the excess weight. The lack of following the natural cycles of the sun with blue screens and exposure to artificial light 24/7 creates a sleep deficit where our body cannot truly relax and restore and detoxify as it is meant to do when we rest properly. This creates an epidemic of toxic stress, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. If we could get back in the biorhythm of nature, walking in natural environments, and getting up with the sun and avoiding the interference of electronics and artificial stimulants and blue light, especially before bed, our body might have a better chance to relax and restore. We would feel better rested, better mood, less stress and weight gain and overall optimize our health.

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

When we are under constant toxic stress, our immune cells do not function well, making us more susceptible to infection and illness. Sometimes stress can even trigger an overactive immune system that mistakes parts of self for a dangerous stranger creating autoimmune conditions. It wreaks havoc with our hormonal system, creating a myriad of hormonal disorders, even infertility among both men and women. Stress increases adrenaline and noradrenaline and cortisol all of which can cause anxiety, depression and other mood and sleep disorders, immune dysfunction and even weaken our tissues making us more susceptible to aging and injury.

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

No, eustress is a motivator of high performance and creativity and ideas. It is only when stressors become sustained without relief or reprieve that it become toxic, thus called toxic stress in contrast to regular everyday stressors. Our physiology is created to respond in short bursts effectively to deal with stressors but when they become long and sustained without relief the very system that is meant to protect us becomes damaging to our bodies and brains and tissues and starts to create break-down and dysfunction

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?

See above. Long-term unmitigated or unending toxic stress such as an abusive relationship or terrible work environment or lack of sleep is incredible detrimental to our health over the long-term.

Let’s now focus more on the stress of relationships. This feels intuitive, but it is helpful to spell it out in order to address it. Can you help articulate why relationships can be so stressful?

Relationships often trigger dysfunctional patterns from our childhood. In this way we may re-create traumatic patterns that we experienced with our mother or father or our primary caregivers. In this way it initially seems comforting or familiar but if we are not consciously aware of abusive or dysfunctional patterns that existed, we may be just re-creating a familiar situation that is incredibly unhealthy for us. While I do believe that relationships are some of the most powerful teachers and healers in our lives for transformation, they can also be manipulative, abusive or worse and create very real toxic stress on an ongoing basis. Because we all desire love and connection, there are various reasons why someone may stay in a relationship that is toxic or unhealthy. It is important that we learn to become aware of these patterns and observe our own tendencies in relationship. Through curiosity and growth, we can often change the patterns we are used to and begin to choose healthy partners that help mitigate instead of creating stress in our lives.

Can you help spell out some of the problems that come with the stress caused by relationships?

Many physical ailments can be traced back to chronically abusive or dysfunctional relationships. Symptoms like abdominal pain, chronic headaches, insomnia, mood disorders and even other diseases like autoimmunity can be related to the toxic stress we experience in unhealthy relationships. It is important that we seek awareness to our unconscious patterns and the types of relationships we are drawn to in order to understand and overcome any toxic patterns we tend to repeat. Through awareness and somatic based therapies, it is possible to reprogram our old patterns and childhood traumas and either heal current relationships or choose new healthier ones to replace the toxic.

A quote from my book

Until we choose self-love and compassion we will continue to allow ourselves to enter into toxic, unhealthy relationships because we don’t believe we are worth of love and respect.

Here is the main question of our interview: Can you share with our readers your “5 stress management strategies that you can use to eliminate stress from your relationships?” Please share a story or example for each.

YES! In my book, Unexpected, I share many strategies but here is one that I have found particularly helpful to me.

How To Be KIND to Yourself

  • Let your experience be what it is. Do not try to judge or change it
  • Love yourself. You are doing the best that you can. You are growing and learning in the process.
  • Know there will always be difficulties, even in the best relationships. Learn to communicate your needs accurately
  • Don’t judge how you are dealing with stress of relationships. Let yourself feel all of the emotions without judgement
  • Love others, give them the benefit of the doubt. Surround yourself with friends who can show you unconditional love.

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

It Didn’t Start with You — Mark Wolynn

No Bad Parts — Richard C. Schwartz

Bittersweet — Susan Cain

Cured — Jeffery Rediger, MD

What Happened to You — Oprah Winfrey, Bruce Perry

Staying Awake — Mark Nepo

The Art of Living — Thich Nhat HanhThe Brain that Changes Itself — Norman Doidge, MD

Atlas of the Heart — Brene Brown

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. 🙂

Yes, I truly believe that loving ourselves and sharing that unconditional love with the world is the start of great healing for each of us — on an emotional, physical, mental and spiritual level. I would first teach people to be kind to themselves, stop trying to prove that they are worthy of love through doing and instead just realize they are enough just by BEING. Once we truly love and accept ourselves we can start to love and accept everyone around us, freeing each person to become the very best version of themselves. We have been conditioned to judge others that are different from ourselves but Unconditional Love Heals. It’s just that simple.

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



Web —

Unexpected book —

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.