Make energy conscious choices daily — Many busy leaders can live a very reactive life. From the moment they wake up, demands and requests pour in, and their energy is pulled this way and that. One way to become stress-proof at work is to make sure you take 60-seconds to make energy conscious choices as requests come in throughout the day. Take a moment to understand what the impact of the choice is on your energy. For example, is a meeting a good use of your time? Taking just a few moments to think about the impact of saying yes and no to requests will help you better delegate and help you better set boundaries. This can keep your energy flowing to the activities that align to the impact most meaningful to you and can reduce the noise and distractions that can deplete your precious attention.

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 Sarah Deane.

Sarah Deane is the Founder and CEO of MEvolution, a company empowering any individual or team to focus their human energy and overcome internal blockers to live happier and more productive lives. As a researcher and innovator working at the intersection of behavioral and cognitive science and A.I, Sarah created the Energy Management Quotient, an assessment that reveals the unique combination of what is draining a person’s, team’s, or organization’s energy. She holds a Master of Engineering in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, has traveled the globe studying human behavior, authored The Wellness Formula based on her research and has presented at various conferences such as SXSW, Gartner and HRWest. She teaches her highly rated course, at Stanford University Continuing Studies, on The Power of Personal Energy and consults with leaders to become positively energized leaders themselves as well as on their workplace strategies to create positively energized cultures for increased engagement, performance, wellbeing, and resilience.

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 have had a journey filled with pivots. At the time it didn’t always make sense, but as soon as we founded MEvolution, it all became clear. My path allowed me to develop expertise in Artificial Intelligence, psychology, human behavior, experience orchestration, and measurement systems, which all came together to address the problem we solve today. It started back in 2017 when we noticed that people were getting increasingly stressed. In fact, it was getting hard to find someone who was feeling their best self or showing up at full capacity. We set out to answer this question: what is needed to perform and feel your best throughout the day? The quest took us everywhere from Ancient Japan, to neuroscience, mindfulness, psychology and more. After over 1000 data sources, such as research papers and articles, we discovered 74 attributes. We started measuring people against these and helping them to cultivate them. After two years, the data clustered up and revealed a blueprint for human energy. We held a map of exactly what created it and what drained it. It showed us that there were energy-blockers that hindered a person from showing up at full capacity and that everyone experienced their own unique set of these to some extent.

At this point, holding the blueprint meant that we had the opportunity to scale and enable all humans to live life in a thriving state. This was when it became more than a mission, it became a responsibility. This laid the groundwork for MEvolution, where we provide personal development that measures and systematically increases human capacity by teaching employees how to manage, direct, and optimize their personal energy. And set me on my course today, where I spend my time teaching, talking, and transforming all things personal energy management.

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

There are so many lessons I would share with my younger self! However, one of the biggest ones would be that there may be moments where you don’t like how you’re showing up and that’s okay. That these moments are the moments where you dig in and you find out what produces any internal conflict. Usually, you will find there is a conflict with your personal value system. When that happens, take stock, learn, and move forward making better choices. Remember that just because you may demonstrate certain behaviors in certain moments, it doesn’t define you and is not who you are. Who you are is your personal value system and that is something you can choose and are in control of living.

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?

If I had to list everyone it would take more than a book, possibly even a library! First and foremost, I am lucky enough to have two parents that have supported me in my journey and in the choices that I’ve made along the way. I’m grateful that they never tried to force a path on me, that they encouraged me to follow where my heart and mind took me, all whilst giving me sound advice. This gave me the courage to pursue my passions and ideas, even though that took me many pivots. I’m also fortunate enough to have siblings that encourage me, an amazing partner that understands what I need to do, and wonderful business partners who not only fill in the gaps of my weaknesses but believe in the impact we can have just as much as I do. I am blessed to have had several mentors, advisors, and sponsors throughout my career. And, at MEvolution, we have a strong network of advocates that have experienced the power of what we do and support the mission. Together, they are a force and example of the movement we are hoping to create, and I couldn’t do this without them. And at the end of the day, support is a critical aspect of being able to achieve success and I am grateful for the different relationships I have and the different kinds of support they afford me.

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

We are always looking at ways to make it easier for people to work on their energy-blockers so that they can live life at full capacity. One of the exciting projects that we worked on this year was creating an Introduction to Personal Energy Management bundle offering that would enable any organization, from small businesses to enterprise, to get their employees started with a deeper awareness and energy management skills through one affordable price.

We realized the issue isn’t that we as a world and society don’t know what to do. There are millions of pages of tips and techniques out there to tell you how to deal with burnout, performance, engagement, and wellbeing. What we are excited about, is that we can help someone understand their personal psychology, see what holds them back and depletes them, and then handhold them through each step that they need to do to retrain their brain and drop the behaviors and mental models that don’t serve them. The more positively energized people we have, the better the world will be.

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

You can think of stress as experiencing tension or pressure. It’s a strain — physically, emotionally, or mentally. It can be what we experience when we feel overwhelmed, nervous or under threat. And it’s our body’s response when faced with a challenge.

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?

There are several reasons why someone may feel higher levels of stress and, often, it is their own personal combination of causes combined with their own personal ability to manage stress that leads to the levels of stress they experience. While in the Western world many have their basic needs met, there are still several areas in the journey to self-actualization in which they may be deficient.

We see several areas such as incredibly high expectations and negative emotions coming from the pressure of how they think they should and shouldn’t feel. A combination of worries that keeps their minds occupied, from the economy to political instability, inflation, and increased responsibilities. For example, perhaps they are caring for parents or have children suffering from anxiety or depression. They can experience a lack of belonging, feel a lack of control, and can face perceived social pressure. With work, they can feel that they are always on, without a moment to detach from the worries or stressors of the day.

Not to mention that many people are depleted. They are not starting the day with their energy tank filled, making it harder to have the capacity needed to handle the many daily stressors well. It is a horrible cycle as the stress can cause even more fatigue, and then the cycle continues.

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

High levels of stress can impact all areas of life from emotional and mental wellbeing to interpersonal dynamics. However, experiencing too much bad stress can take a toll on one’s physical health too. You may experience physical pain such as headaches, you may experience more colds or illness as your immune system is weaker, and you may feel some form of physical tension, for example, in your neck or back.

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

Stress, itself, is a normal and needed human reaction. We are designed to react to it. It is, in fact, a critical component of helping us handle various situations in which we may need to be alert or avoid potential threats. For example, an important meeting may cause temporary stress that may help you direct more attention to it, increase performance and help you focus your energy. Or if you are going on a date that you are excited about, this short-term stress may feel positive, like butterflies in your stomach. In these cases, even a little nervousness can be a good thing! It can let you know that something is meaningful to you and help you show up even better to the moment.

What is important to remember is to assess how the stress makes you feel, as that is a clue into whether it is bad or good stress.

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?

Short term stress typically does not last too long. You can usually return to some level of relaxation relatively quickly afterwards, so it is not sustained and doesn’t take a large toll. While it may not feel great during it, it is one of the least damaging forms of stress. It happens when we experience an immediate perceived threat. For example, a deadline at work, having visitors to stay, or getting into an argument. Typically, the moment happens and then you can recover afterwards.

Stress becomes a problem when it continues for longer than is healthy or has negative consequences in your life. It could be a series of different stressors or the same stressor happening frequently. This longer-term stress can lead to longer-term effects. These can include stressors such as a toxic relationship, continuous financial anxiety, loss, or continuous unsustainable workloads to name a few. It can lead to anxiety, heart diseases, trouble sleeping, impaired memory and decreased performance.

Under stress, people’s worst behaviors tend to show up and this can create problems across life. They tend to become more distracted and “snappy”, as well as less tolerant and compassionate, so their relationships can be impacted. Stressful energy can be felt by others, which can also create more tense interactions.

Is it even possible to eliminate stress?

You can certainly implement strategies to reduce stress and handle daily stressors in healthy ways. But you can’t completely eliminate it, nor would you want to. Stress is a natural response to a demand, request, or challenge. It serves a critical purpose in keeping us safe as it is the system that allows us to respond to threats. However, in today’s world, the key is identifying when something is actually a threat and limiting how much you are in fight or flight mode.

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 is a huge and far-reaching issue. A stress pulse report showed that 62% of employees have high levels of stress with extreme fatigue. Gallup’s global negative experience index has been upticking since 2008 and recently they have found that, “the world became a slightly sadder, more worried and more stressed-out place than it was the year before”. In fact, they found that employee stress is now at an all-time high.

Stress is not a new issue. While the pandemic may have exacerbated it, as humans, we were not in a great state beforehand. The pandemic created the presence of numerous stressors all at once, along with the other stressors in the world, and in people’s personal lives, it essentially created a stress minefield. Organizations and people everywhere realized we were not as well equipped, not as fulfilled, and not as resilient as we thought. This all contributed to bringing us to the current state of the human energy crisis. Personally, I don’t think we have a choice but to address it. The world can simply not go on this way. Imagine a world where people feel great and have the chance to experience life fully. Isn’t it time for that?

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?

I used to experience much higher levels of stress and I remember it well. I remember the feeling of my heart racing and being snappy with others. However, being in the business I am, I used our own system to train my brain to respond better to stressful situations.

The stressors haven’t gone away, in fact they have increased. Between leading a growing business, caring for a family and, like many, tending to the numerous demands on my time, energy and attention, my plate is fuller than ever before. However, how I handle it has changed and how I respond to it is different so that I can maintain my level of inner peace and harmony — which makes everything else in life that much better.

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.

Becoming stress-proof is all about training yourself to have a healthy and productive response to stress. There are so many ways you can do this, but here are five that I have found work well.

Know your personal core values

This is your guiding compass. It can help you make choices, influence your behavior, and explain when you feel triggered. When you experience conflict in your values, whether through your own behaviors or someone else’s, energy is wasted in negative emotions and thoughts. Whether it’s frustration, guilt, or disappointment. By reflecting on your values with frequency and taking the actions steps needed to live those values, it has been proven that you can mitigate the impact of stress. For example, you can reflect on your values before a stressful situation such as a challenging conversation with an employee. By writing about your values, it can help you feel more in control, connected and empathetic. They also serve as key reminders as to why things are important to you. So even if work for a deadline is tiring, when you connect the actions to what you value, you are better equipped to manage the stress and overwhelm that comes with it.

Reserve a little time for you — and just you — every day

There are so many demands on a busy leader’s time, energy, and attention that it becomes the easy choice to sacrifice the activities that are for “self”. Things like working out, taking a moment to eat, that precious moment of silence, or time spent on a hobby that brings you joy. It can become the easy choice because you believe that it’s only you that it impacts, and that it will allow you to have more time to serve everyone else. However, continually making these sacrifices leads to less energy for you to be able to serve others and show up as your best self. Very similar to putting on your oxygen mask first on a plane, to care for everything else well you need to be your best. By reserving a little time for you every day, just for you, alone or for an activity that brings you joy, provides your mind with that much needed space to detach from worries and top back up that precious mental capacity. It also trains your mind not to forget about you in the decision-making process. Requests and situations will inevitably happen, so the key here is to not remove this time for you but to reduce or shift it if something comes up. For example, perhaps on a busier day instead of a 30-minute walk, you take a 10-minute walk.

Understand and define your measure of success

We can often find ourselves pulled in directions based on external definitions of success. However, this can lead us to experience more stress in the pursuit of this definition and from the stress that comes from achieving what we thought success was yet not feeling fulfilled or even successful. By taking a moment to really understand what success means to you, internally, and creating your own definition of success that you are in control of achieving every single day, allows you to mitigate the stress that comes from feeling at the whim of external forces. For example, what does success look like for you as a person? For you as a parent? For you as a leader? You can then focus your energy on meeting these definitions.

Make energy conscious choices daily

Many busy leaders can live a very reactive life. From the moment they wake up, demands and requests pour in, and their energy is pulled this way and that. One way to become stress-proof at work is to make sure you take 60-seconds to make energy conscious choices as requests come in throughout the day. Take a moment to understand what the impact of the choice is on your energy. For example, is a meeting a good use of your time? Taking just a few moments to think about the impact of saying yes and no to requests will help you better delegate and help you better set boundaries. This can keep your energy flowing to the activities that align to the impact most meaningful to you and can reduce the noise and distractions that can deplete your precious attention.

Be vulnerable

Many leaders struggle with being vulnerable. Whether it’s their expectations, they feel that they should show up as the strong one, or they see vulnerability as weakness, asking for help can be challenging. However, this belief can create more stress as you try to take on everything and do everything yourself. Becoming comfortable with asking for help and vulnerability is what makes you limitless. Accepting the help and support of others immediately increases your human capacity so that you can get more done and feel better doing it. As leaders you can certainly do it all, you just cannot do it all alone. Support is a massive component of being stress-proof because you have people that you can lean on and that can take care of some of the daily tasks and activities that free up your energy for the tasks that you need to do.

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

I read a lot of research and articles daily! However, a short book that I always keep close is, “Orbiting the Giant Hairball” by Gordon Mackenzie. A great read to inspire you to think outside the confines of corporate normalcy and awaken your creative genius. I also tend to find inspiration all around me. In nature, like the many different color leaves in Fall. In something someone says in a call that may serve as a great reminder or nugget of wisdom. In seeing a child trying to do something, failing, and keep trying with the same level of determination. I find that inspiration is all around us if we choose to slow down and see it.

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. 🙂

This one is easy as it’s the movement we are working on 🙂 I would democratize feeling good and living life as your best self. I want everyone to be equipped to take the positive actions that enable them to best manage their energy, so that they have more capacity for life, and therefore unlock more of their potential. Imagine a world where everyone was showing up at full capacity. Imagine the compassion, inclusion and innovation that would exist.

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

They can visit the website, connect with me on LinkedIn, or follow us on Instagram for all things energy management (@JoinTheMEvolution). They can also sign up for a monthly newsletter from the website, which is sent on the first Monday of every month, that covers topics pertaining to personal energy management, information, tips, and challenges.

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.