Rest is crucial to a healthy and functioning mind, and although napping in the middle of the day would be amazing 😊, it doesn’t have to be that. It can be stepping away for a walk outside, meditating for 5–10 minutes in your car, going to sit on a park bench, just taking yourself out of your situation and allowing your mind like a muscle to relax and rebuild is key.

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 Jane Smith, Senior Director of Digital Marketing at Merrell.

Jane is a senior marketing leader with 20+ years of experience driving customer demand and producing measurable ROAS in the digital space. Splitting her years between agencies and in-house, she has traveled and worked all over the globe.

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!

What started as an entry-level career at Doyle Dan Bernbach, one of the world’s largest advertising holding companies, has since evolved into a more than 20-year career journey for me. After my time in the traditional advertising environment, my next move was to Seattle where I worked for a PR/marketing agency during the .com boom in the late 90s. At this time, everyone was getting into a new space called “digital marketing”. My team was launching a new brand every week — Ask Jeeves, Microsoft 2000, Netscape, and MyLacky (the first Postmates) to name a few. Splitting my years between agencies and in-house, I have since traveled and worked all over the globe.

Now a Senior Director of Digital and Media at the world’s leading hike brand Merrell, I drive customer demand and produce measurable ROAS in the digital space. I am responsible for building and executing strategies across digital media channels and owned social platforms in addition to running the influencer strategy.

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

Reflecting on how I was in my 20s, if I knew then what I now know, it would have hindered me. My younger self was bold and outspoken, even though I was in positions around men in powerful situations. While I certainly wasn’t defiant, the concept of censorship wasn’t as prevalent and frankly, at that time, didn’t occur to me.

I’m proud to say I was authentically myself. Now that I’m older and thinking back to exactly what I said and did, it was great to have that comfort level to speak my mind in those moments.

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’ve had a variety of incredible mentors and my husband is one of them — both on a business and personal level. We both work in digital and were actually partners for nine years together at a different agency. During that time, he was an amazing professional partner who, as the Ying to my Yang, understood the technical side of digital business while I specialized in marketing. As a supportive counterpart, he helped me grow and never made me feel less than in situations where I didn’t know everything. Finally, I’ve always been very career-driven, and he has never made me feel bad about it. As my biggest cheerleader I’m so grateful my husband has championed me and my career and continuously encourages me to go for every opportunity.

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

Personally, I’m working with the Women’s Resource Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is a local organization supporting women who are underemployed, coming out of prison and/or the welfare system, and providing them with opportunities to help get on their feet and support themselves. During a time where women’s rights are challenged, I strongly identify with the organization’s mission to help women advocate for themselves.

Professionally, I’m striving to help people find peace, safety, and wellbeing in the outdoors. Consumers in 2023 are thirsting for good news and seeking experiences that bring them more joy and happiness. There is so much bad news out there in the media, and through the following initiatives at Merrell, we’re bringing more brightness and joy to all who venture outside.

In November 2022, Merrell published first-of-its-kind, “Inclusivity in the Outdoors report,” — a survey of multinational perceptions and experiences. This study examined the perceived inclusivity of outdoor spaces across the globe. While existing outdoor research typically analyzes race, gender, and income regionally, it does not dig deeper into understanding emotive experiences, perceptions, and the resulting multinational behaviors. Merrell has been able to take our key findings, learn from them, and apply them to all our endeavors.

We debuted our second boot collection in collaboration with Unlikely Hikers in January 2023

Designed in an eye-catching ungendered colorway and available in wide widths and hard-to-find sizes, this collab further welcomes the underrepresented outdoorsperson to explore confidently.

We also launched our second collection in collaboration with painter Jordan Ann Craig in February 2023

Featuring all-new designs and bold prints by Craig herself while celebrating Indigenous design and the world in which this art was meant to traverse, the collaboration includes five pieces of footwear, one beanie, one sweatshirt, and one fanny pack.

In tandem with the collaboration, Merrell is supporting the Fort Robinson Outbreak Spiritual Run with a $45,000 donation toward the 2024 run. With $3 from each item sold in the collection benefitting next year’s run. Merrell also outfitted each child in the 2023 run with head-to-toe apparel and shoes, which was held January 8 through 14.

How would you define stress?

For me, there are two types of stress: good stress and bad stress. Good stress can feel motivating and be a sign you feel strongly connected to something and want to create a good experience for all people involved (colleagues, family members, consumers, etc.). Bad stress is typically dominated by a feeling of worry and focused on things out of our control where we start to spiral in our minds. Bad stress can also be accompanied by physical feelings like tightness in your back or chest.

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?

I truly feel our chronic stress stems from the pace of which technology is outpacing what our brains are made to regulate. We are pushing our brains and bodies to move at faster rates than ever and finding our bodies do need to rest and recuperate to avoid burn-out.

I recently read the book, Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey, and found some incredibly impactful information. Three key findings are:

Rest is crucial to a healthy and functioning mind, and although napping in the middle of the day would be amazing 😊, it doesn’t have to be that. It can be stepping away for a walk outside, meditating for 5–10 minutes in your car, going to sit on a park bench, just taking yourself out of your situation and allowing your mind like a muscle to relax and rebuild is key.

I started thinking about how we are always trying to maximize every minute of the day — we all feel short on time, so how can we get the most of every minute, how can we be the most productive, create the most output with as little sleep as possible, and this is the opposite of what humans need and it’s turning us into robots. We need to prioritize rest, see it as just as an important part of our day as eating or breathing. “We don’t have to be productive to be worthy”

We are in charge of our “rest time” and have the power to say no to things that take it away from us. The only person we have to answer to on our deathbed is ourselves, and I don’t think many people will be thinking, “man, I wish I would have spent more time working.”

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

If it’s bad stress, my jaw clenches and I feel back pain. I am also prone to getting headaches and waking up in the middle of the night because I can’t sleep with my mind constantly turning. When this happens, I find myself becoming reactive rather than proactive.

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

Yes, bad stress is typically dominated by a feeling of worry and focused on things out of our control where we start to spiral in our minds. Bad stress can also be accompanied by physical feelings like tightness in your back or chest.

I think stress can be a good thing as it shows personal motivation and could be a sign you feel strongly connected to a cause and want to create a good experience for all people involved (colleagues, family members, consumers, etc.).

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

Yes. We’re absolutely seeing long-term ramifications to living in a constant state of stress today — one sign of this is the increased number of people in therapy now compared to years prior, along with more general health problems. A lot of this has to do with our dietary habits and physical activity, but heart conditions like strokes are being caused by stress. It’s clear we’re seeing so many physical manifestations of long-term stress occurring, which could look like the breakdown of relationships at even suicide.

Is it even possible to eliminate stress?

Not completely. That said, I love the podcast, The One Inside: An Internal Family Systems (IFS), as a listening tool to break down the ‘CEO’ of our bodies and find ways to better manage stress.

According to the podcast, the “Capitol S” self is really the CEO of the brain, the head of the table, the part of you that should be leading and making decisions. Other responses like confidence, fear, and safety can try to take over the CEO role at any given time based on any given situation we are in. I’ve found that through positive self-talk, naming the S self that is taking over and calling it out helps me move past it. I.e., “Hi anxious self — tomorrow will be hard but you’re good and safe. You need to sleep and you will get through it.”

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 there is a lot of information out there about stress, but people don’t know how and where to find it. Although mental health and stress are becoming more widely talked about topics, a good portion of information isn’t getting through to those who really need it. I can unfortunately relate as someone close to me passed by suicide, and although only one of many, I think more funding will help elevate this topic and the critical health people need to identify and care for their stressors before it grows and feels unreachable.

A personal anecdote that comes to mind for me is when kids are little and want to go off the diving board at the pool — one part of the child could be saying ‘no, not safe, etc.’, and as a parent, you’re like, ‘just do it’. As parents instilling this narrative, we’re teaching kids not to trust their own intuition or what their body is telling them. I’ve found through my life experiences that it is crucial to listen to your body and what it is telling you in order to live a fully healthy and happy life.

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?

While there is an underlying feeling of stress working in media, it’s more good stress than bad stress because we can make fast, agile changes if something isn’t working. We can test and be nimble in this ever-evolving environment in order to have more control over the final outcome. The stress of staying on top of everything and managing constant changes is with me often as part of my role is ensuring I’m putting money into channels that’ll work the hardest for me.

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.

Go outside and breathe — take time to walk around the building, block, etc. Last year at Merrell, we reminded our female consumers that self-care can be found outdoors, rather than in material self-care products, with our More Less campaign. We also created the Merrell Hiking Club in the US and Canada with the goal of ensuring women can safely and confidently experience the power of being outdoors.

Take your 20 at lunch.

Think larger picture — Consider, ‘will this matter in 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days or 10 weeks?’ in order to break down the stressor and better assess how much energy should be put toward it.

Implement a kudos folder at work — Include nice emails you can go back to to reinforce your value and work you do.

Enlist a ‘board of directors’ — have people in life who are both professional and personal connections who you can gut check your own emotions and reactions.

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

A few books I loved reading recently are Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey and Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.

My top-five favorite podcasts include:

The One Inside: An Internal Family Systems (IFS) podcast

Armchair Expert

Flightless Bird with David Farrier

We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle

The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos

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.