Don’t underestimate the benefits of working from the office. Avoiding public transportation during rush hour is going to lower your stress, but if your work involves a lot of thinking, you’d benefit from a trip to the office. When you’re on the move, you’re constantly looking around, which allows your brain to unconsciously analyze information from your surroundings. Spending all day in one place deprives your brain of tasks like assessing the outside temperature and wind speed so your body can adjust accordingly or changing your position in different surroundings. When you don’t get a chance to work with these types of signals, you lower the body’s ability to respond to stress.

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 Dr. Kovaleva.

Dr. Kovaleva is a physician, as well as a certified personal trainer and lead researcher at Welltory — a stress management app loved by 5M people and used by universities like Arizona State University and University College London in their research. Dr. Kovaleva authored the research “Heart Rate Variability vs. Perceived Stress in a Large Group of Adults” (ResearchGate link to read).

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!

Thank you for having me. I like to think that my path toward medicine, fitness, and science started in childhood. My favorite pastime was studying the world around me, and my favorite subjects at school — biology and chemistry. Also, I always considered myself a philanthropist. That’s why medicine satisfied both my interests and my values. During my sophomore year at university, I realized that the idea of preventative healthcare was really close to my heart, which is how I turned to fitness. By the time I graduated, I had 17 fitness training certifications, including cardio and weight training. Later I learned about the US-based startup Wellotry, whose core focus is preventative healthcare by analyzing a person’s stress levels. I knew that this was exactly where I could put my education and love of fitness to good use.

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

I think it’s important to never doubt what you’re doing or your choices. I’d tell my younger self, “you’re doing the right thing.” It’s something that’s especially important to hear when you’re researching something that goes against the grain of the general consensus.

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?

I‘d wanted to be a doctor basically since I was 3. When I was 11, I met an amazing person who became my mentor and whose support helped me move towards my goal over the course of many years.

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

I genuinely find my job very exciting. A few years ago, Welttory’s research team and I developed a method for evaluating stress. You can read our research on the topic on ResearchGate. Right now, I’m focusing on studying sleep — specifically, how it and its quality affects stress levels and a person’s ability to cope with stress overall. Most recently, we launched a unique personalized sleep analysis algorithm and are now working on perfecting it. My big dream is to keep making our app even more personalized, so it can help even more people find their unique pathway to a happy and healthy life.

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

Stress isn’t just about feeling tired, anxious, overwhelmed, or excited. Rather, it’s a physiological phenomenon — our body’s response to mental and emotional pressure. And it can be measured and observed.

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?

At our core, humans are still biological beings with all the potential to experience stress, even if we’ve satisfied their basic needs. Stressors don’t disappear, even with increased social status and general well-being. Our bodies simply start analyzing different “threats”.

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

Since our body’s reaction to stress is complex, it manifests in many different ways, including:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • An increase of lipids and glucose in the blood
  • Lower parasympathetic activity which increases the risk of cardiovascular problems like heart attack and stroke and also causes appetite loss
  • Hormone balance is disrupted, as is your sleep cycle, and the duration of your sleep
  • A decrease in nonspecific immunity, which is your body’s first line of defense against viruses and bacteria

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

Stress can be a good thing, as it’s a mechanism that allows us to be ready to react to any situation. Most types of temporary stress are actually beneficial and provide some stress “training”.

The most basic example of this kind of stress is a workout. If, after a workout, a person adequately recovers, refuels, and hydrates, then this type of stress “trains” the body and makes it better equipped to handle daily unpredictable stressors.

Similarly, the stress a person experiences before a meeting or a presentation activates memory, helps to get organized, improves thinking processes, and leads to better outcomes, so long as the person was prepared in the first place.

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?

Chronic stress can be defined as a challenging circumstance that disrupts your daily life for an extended time — for example, being a primary caregiver to an aging parent or living below the poverty line. Continuous activation of the stress response causes wear and tear on the body. As a result, physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms such as addictions can develop, affecting both physical and mental health.

Is it even possible to eliminate stress?

No, nor should it be the goal — stress is a vital physical reaction.

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.

Psychological stress is considered to be one of the most significant health problems of the 21st century. Most health researchers agree that some mental and emotional pressure is necessary for a person’s health, but too much can affect your physical and mental health. So, it’s important to know what happens to your body when you are under stress and how to manage it.

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?

As a doctor and a professional trainer, I can tell you that physical activity is the best strategy for working with stress. Just make sure that your training sessions aren’t exhausting and don’t drain all of your energy reserves.

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?” Please share a story or example for each.

We often assume that common stress-management tools will help us cope with stress, but they simply serve as a jumping-off point to help ease your body into a state of relaxation so it can start building up its energy reserves. However, on their own, breathing practices, meditation, or massage aren’t enough to reduce stress in the long term. That’s why all of my recommendations are based on physiology, working with stress on the physical level.

  1. Learn more about your health. I’ve mentioned that not all stress is “bad,” but it’s true that each stress response dips into your energy reserves. It’s important to keep those reserves full so that your body can adequately react to stressful stimuli. If you have any underlying health issues, aren’t getting adequate rest, or are overloaded physically, your body can’t fully recuperate, so it won’t be prepared to deal with any incoming stressors.
  2. Measure your level of physical stress. We can only manage what we can measure. If you measure your physical (not your emotional) stress levels daily, you’ll be able to pinpoint situations or patterns that cause them to grow. Knowing this, you’ll find it much easier to tweak your lifestyle so that it works for you. Other researchers have confirmed that apps are an effective way to measure stress. For example, Nora Ptakauskaite, a Ph.D. research student at UCL, set out to discover how wellness and activity apps can help people manage their stress more effectively.
  3. Get quality sleep. In reaction to stress, our bodies produce stress-regulating hormones ACTH and cortisol. A 2017 study found that not getting enough sleep for just two nights lowers the body’s ability to produce these hormones, which in turn lowers stress resistance and your ability to bounce back after a stressful situation passes.
  4. Get moving. Once you’ve excluded physical stress and any physical health issues, the next step is to take on emotional stress using physical tools. Stress brings our bodies into a state of physical readiness, often called fight or flight.” This is an evolutionary response that our bodies developed because most of the stressors our ancestors faced were physical dangers. Physically this manifests as a rise in heart rate and blood pressure, faster breathing, and a release of glucose and lipids, which the body burns to produce energy. If this response isn’t followed by physical activity, it can lead to stress-related health conditions like atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in your arteries) and hypertension. This is why getting active after you experience emotional stress is key for stress management. For example, after a work conflict, or a difficult negotiation, it’s beneficial to get in some exercise or at least go for a brisk walk. Physical activity helps eliminate excess stress hormones from the blood and use up those energy substrates, glucose, and lipids.
  5. Don’t underestimate the benefits of working from the office. Avoiding public transportation during rush hour is going to lower your stress, but if your work involves a lot of thinking, you’d benefit from a trip to the office. When you’re on the move, you’re constantly looking around, which allows your brain to unconsciously analyze information from your surroundings. Spending all day in one place deprives your brain of tasks like assessing the outside temperature and wind speed so your body can adjust accordingly or changing your position in different surroundings. When you don’t get a chance to work with these types of signals, you lower the body’s ability to respond to stress.

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

I genuinely do get joy from my work, and I‘m obsessed with studying different methods for working with information, like mnemonics, mind maps, and visualization. I also spend a lot of time watching videos about the biomechanics of the human body, like correct, ergonomic movement, including the different exercises that help with body adjustment.

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. 🙂

I worked in the fitness sphere for 14 years but ended that career when I realized I disagreed with the methods used in this profession. A lot of trainers and gyms build motivation through shaming — telling clients that they’re weak, unhealthy, or unfit. I would love to start a “caring” fitness movement that is more supportive and focused on achievements tailored to each individual rather than on perceived “flaws” in a person’s appearance or health.

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

The best way to see my work in action is through Welltory. I’ve put my heart and soul into developing algorithms and features that are both rooted in science and take the individual approach that I value so much.

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


  • Savio Clemente

    Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Media Journalist, #1 Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), media journalist, #1 best-selling author, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.  He coaches cancer survivors to overcome obstacles, gain clarity, and attract media attention by sharing their superpower through inspiring stories that make a difference. He inspires them to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. 

    Savio has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad.  His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.