Seek and maintain support networks. There is a positive correlation between support and well-being therefore prioritize healthy connections with people, places, and activities that are positive and growth-promoting. Engage in activities outside of work that fuel you up and fill you up.

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. Tammy Lewis Wilborn.

Dr. Tammy Lewis Wilborn is the author of Playing a New Game, President and CEO of Dr. Tammy Lewis Wilborn, LLC, and Founder and Producer of the Black Women’s Wellness Conference of New Orleans. She is a retired board-certified licensed professional counselor and board-certified licensed professional clinical supervisor, and former counselor educator.

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!

All roads lead to where I am right now. Like most, my journey is a winding road with unexpected delays, detours, disruptions, and divine intervention. In 2022, I retired from the counseling profession after 21+ years. My career as a counselor spanned a number of professional activities that included clinical practice, counselor education, consultation, training, and supervision. In 2020, I answered the call of ministry that I believe will bridge the clinical and spiritual and while I do not know what that looks like exactly, I am happy to be on this stretch of my journey. So, I am a grad student again!

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

The three main lessons I would share with my younger self are:

  1. You will be okay and it will be okay.
  2. You are never going to be enough for some people. That’s okay. Make sure you know you are enough.
  3. Trust God and bet on you!

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?

Professionally, I am grateful that over the years I have received an incredible amount of support from mentors, supervisors, and colleagues. But, I have to say that one of my biggest supporters and the person I am most grateful for at this moment in my life is my husband. In the twelve years that we’ve been married, we’ve moved to three states so that I could pursue a faculty position, a doctorate, and now a master’s in divinity. When I decided to leave the academy and the stability of a “real job” to build a mental health private practice my husband was supportive despite the fact that he was confused about why I’d gotten a doctorate to teach but decided I was done with teaching after four years. I assured him that I wasn’t done with teaching, I was just done with teaching in the academy. As a professional woman, I am grateful for a husband who encourages and supports me.

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

My new book, Playing A New Game: A Black Woman’s Guide to Being Well and Thriving in the Workplace was published in October 2022 and I am really proud of the reception the book is receiving. Playing A New Game offers Black women a new way forward, in which ambition and wellness can not only coexist, but bolster each other. Through insights from my professional counseling experience and research, the book expands the dialogue on Black women’s experiences of race and gender stereotypes at work as a wellness issue and provides evidence-based best practices that promote self-care and self-empowerment as necessary tools for professional success. I am also a professional keynote speaker so I am excited that I get to travel around the country (and eventually internationally) talking about my book!

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

The World Health Organization defines stress as an emotional, physical, and or psychological response that causes strain to the body and signals the need for us to take notice or take action. In instances of danger or threat, stress can trigger a fight, flight, or freeze response.

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? Shelter, food, and survival are basic human needs and the truth is for many people those needs are not always met. So, when people are not able to take care of their basic needs, it can be super stressful. Beyond basic needs, our world is a bit chaotic and has been for some time but if we look at where we have been as a society for the last three years, two words come to mind: trauma and crisis. We’ve experienced a significant number of existential and ecosystemic crises such as a pandemic, social and political upheaval, economic instability, and death and loss on a global scale. So, guess what? — those crises are pretty traumatic and persistent which leads to chronic trauma that leads to chronic stress which has deleterious effects on our bodies.

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 stressed, our bodies let us know. The challenge that I see is that many of us don’t do a good job of listening and responding to what our bodies are communicating. But stress is not a signal you want to ignore. The body needs what it needs to survive. And when it doesn’t get what it needs, it can lead to stress that affects us mentally, physically, and emotionally. Some of the ways that stress affects us mentally are anxiety, depression, misuse or abuse of substances, and difficulty focusing or concentrating. Some examples of the physical impact of stress include sleep disruption, weight gain or loss, headaches, hypertension, and diabetes. And emotionally, stress can lead to excessive worry, fear, and doubt.

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

Stress can take two forms: distress which is bad or negative stress, and eustress which is good or positive stress. I am sure we can think of plenty of examples of distress but some examples of eustress would be traveling, starting a new project or job, or celebrating an important moment in your life. These examples would generally be considered both positive and stressful. So, not all stress is bad stress. What’s important to remember is that stress is a natural response to something in the environment that gets your attention and requires some sort of action. That means everybody experiences stress but not all people will experience stress in the same way.

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?

By design, our bodies are made to handle short-term stress. However, experiences of chronic or long-term stress put our health at risk and lead to some of the mental, emotional, and physical health outcomes I mentioned earlier.

Is it even possible to eliminate stress?

Not only is it not possible to eliminate stress, but we also shouldn’t want to eliminate stress because again it is a signal that warrants attention and action. For example, if you are in imminent danger your stress response will signal the fight, flight, or freeze response. Without stress, we lose important communication about what is going on in and around our bodies and how to respond. I would argue that the goal is to reduce the stressors in your life. Again, like stress, it is not possible to eliminate stressors in your environment but it is possible to reduce them.

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.

Stress kills. Period — and the health data proves this. Stress has been associated with a number of adverse mental and physical health outcomes, some of which I have already mentioned. The general public tends to minimize or underestimate the impact of stress because of a lack of awareness and psychoeducation in this area. Of course, as a retired licensed professional mental health counselor with 21+ years of clinical practice, I am acutely aware of the pervasive and invasive impact of stress. So I say we need to keep sounding the alarm on this public health crisis.

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?

At this point in my life, I am all about protecting my peace. I make no qualms about that. That does not mean that I do not experience stress. We all do. What I do mean is that I make a point to reduce the number of stressors in my life. Sometimes we are stressed out by stuff that should be a non-issue. An example of this is the “person” who volunteers to add more obligations or responsibilities to an already full or overloaded schedule. Why? To please others? To be liked? To prove yourself? The question to ask is, what will it cost me if I do this? This “person” was me at an earlier age and stage of life. At work, I took on more obligations because I thought it would help me advance professionally — and it did, except I was unwell when I got to the top of the ladder. When I started listening to my body and honoring my worth is when I learned how to say “no” and be okay with my “no.” In other words, I started setting boundaries. Boundaries are a wonderful thing — for you. Others may not like your boundaries because they benefit from you not having them. That’s okay. They do not have to. Your boundaries are for you. Setting and maintaining boundaries is one of the best lessons I could have learned.

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.

Some of these I talk about in my book but I will list a few of them here.

  1. The first thing is to take care of the basics. The basics are your mental and physical health. Mental health is physical health. Physical health is mental health. It is hard to manage stress if you are not doing the basic things your body needs like getting 6–8 hours of sleep, staying hydrated, eating food that is good for you, not just good to you, and engaging in physical activity that gets your body moving. Your body needs these things to function optimally.
  2. Set healthy boundaries at work. It is important to maintain healthy boundaries at work such as not working from home or, if you work from home, having a schedule that has clear start/end times, and scheduled breaks. Another healthy boundary for work is maintaining time away from work that allows for rest, refueling, and restoration. Don’t work through lunch and breaks. Take your vacation time. Use your sick leave to attend important medical appointments. And the best boundary of all — learn how to say “no.” “No” is a complete sentence.
  3. Create and maintain balance. Balance is a juggling act. And many of us are juggling too many balls or the wrong balls. The truth is you either have to put some balls down or let some balls drop. I see three types of balls that serve as metaphors: glass balls, plastic balls, and air balls. Glass balls are fragile so if you drop them, they break. In life, glass balls represent important responsibilities or relationships that are non-negotiables. Failure to attend to these responsibilities or relationships can have negative consequences. For me, self-care is my glass ball. My health and well-being are non-negotiables so I make sure to set boundaries around things like going to the gym or going to therapy to ensure that I am looking and feeling my best. Plastic balls are more durable than glass balls so if they drop, they don’t break. In life, plastic balls are those things that could be important or interesting but not something that is imminent or immediate. Effectively, if you could drop a plastic ball, all would be well. For example, you might really want to start a new project, take a new class, or start a new hobby but if you don’t have the time or the resources to do it, then now may not be the right time. Adding to an already packed schedule is an unnecessary ball to juggle. Finally, there are air balls. Air balls are the intangible things we juggle — those things that may not be a thing except in our heads. People pleasing. Trying to prove yourself. Not feeling good enough. Air balls that are just taking up mental and emotional space. Drop them. They don’t serve you.
  4. Control the controllables. Many of us are stressed because we are trying to control things we have no control over. Focusing on the things you can control helps to reduce feelings of fear and worry that can lead to stress. So what are things in your control? Taking care of the basics — your physical and mental health are in your control. You can control your routine and your schedule. Being intentional about setting healthy boundaries around what you access and what has access to you is critical. You can also control your thoughts. What you think affects what you feel and what you do. So, it is important to pay attention to your thoughts and when you find yourself having negative thoughts take a step back and ask yourself: Is this thought accurate(i.e., true), healthy, and or helpful? If the answer is no, replace the thought with a thought that is accurate, healthy, and helpful then pay attention to how it makes you feel.
  5. Seek and maintain support networks. There is a positive correlation between support and well-being therefore prioritize healthy connections with people, places, and activities that are positive and growth-promoting. Engage in activities outside of work that fuel you up and fill you up.

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

I love listening to podcasts! Right now, my two favorite podcasts are Jemele Hill’s Unbothered and Hoda Kotb’s Making Space.

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 want people to live lives where they are well, whole, and free. When people actively pursue well, whole, and free lives there is little room for hate and oppression of others.

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

Thank you for this opportunity. Folks can check out my website: or connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn under Dr. Tammy Lewis Wilborn.

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 LLCHe coaches cancer survivors and ambitious industry leaders to amplify their impact, attract media attention, and make their voice heard. 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.