PLACE. A super effective strategy to manage stress is to remove it; but since it is not always an option, try changing your geography instead. Although it is not always possible to take a quick vacation or move to another state, you can work within the confines of what is possible. If you are inside, go outside. If you are sitting down, stand up. If you are in one room, leave to another. Going for a walk is another great option as much stress gets mitigated when you combine it with a somatic activity.

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 Teresa Lodato.

After 20+ years in financial services, a rare and serious chronic stress related illness ended it all. Teresa now combines science and awareness to help other leaders reduce stress and avoid burnout while getting better results with less effort. Teresa is an author and speaker in addition to being a highly sought-after coach for forward thinking individuals and organizations.

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 allowing me to share my story! I have been told I am a natural born leader, often being selected for leadership roles without raising my hand. As a type “A” personality, I never wanted my perfectionism nor other shadow sides of my personality to become my leadership style. I actively worked to create environments that allowed others to shine; but the misalignment between what I thought I valued and actually valued constantly clashed. This happened several times during my career, forcing me to take breaks to reset and get healthy before returning to work. This cycle continued until my nervous system ‘blew a gasket’ and I began experiencing stroke like symptoms with horrible migraine headaches, which ended my financial services career. My journey of healing and health involved me purposefully dedicating time and effort in getting to know myself deeply and align both my inner and outer worlds. During this intentional process, I learned many tools and techniques that I now get to share with other leaders, so you do not have to hit rock bottom and burn out like I did.

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

So many! I would say take the time to get to know yourself and your values, then embrace your authentic self and be fearless in protecting your relationship with your body, mind, and spirit. All three elements have value in both your personal and professional lives, and the sooner you accept yourself and your gifts — the sooner you will realize healthy relationships that are productive and successful.

None of us can 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 were so many people along my journey that helped me, but the person that helped me the most is a longtime friend named Mary King. We met training for the Susan G. Komen Walk for Breast Cancer Awareness event in San Francisco many years ago. I did the walk during a particularly challenging time in my personal life, and the long conversations we shared while training led us to taking Reiki classes together. For me, this was an essential foundation piece that helped reset my mind, body, and soul and what I credit providing me access to the gifts and strengths I now share with clients. Everyone has their own journey, and each path is highly personal. Some find their portal to wholeness through yoga, meditation, or contemplative prayer practices; others through running marathons or climb mountians. Whatever way you access that deeper connection to self and default mode network in your brain, do that! For me, it began with Reiki and my journey to becoming a Karuna Master/Teacher in the Usui lineage. I have since explored many other portals including studying psychology in graduate school, becoming a certified projective dreamworker, and of course my CTI coach training, to name a few.

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

Yes!! What I have come to realize through psychology, as well as advanced certifications in neuroscience and relational trauma is the correlation between stress, illness, and work performance. I’ve noticed many of my clients who suffer from migraines have experienced relational trauma in their life. Although I have done quite a bit of research on the topic, there are only a handful of studies that make a case for this correlation, and mostly indirectly. I am currently working with a researcher to develop a study in conjunction with my neurologist/migraine specialist to see if there is a more direct link that we can prove exists between relational trauma and migraines. It is a very exciting topic to explore, and I can’t wait to see the results since one in four people in the United States alone have been diagnosed with migraines (and that number does not include the countless number who are misdiagnosed every day) and it is estimated there is productivity loss of $21.5–24.4 million in the United States alone. A study like this could be potentially groundbreaking in creating a better way to mitigate the impact migraines have on your employees lives while also creating a huge cost savings to your bottom line!

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

Clinically speaking, stress is your body’s response to any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain that requires attention or action. It is basically an indicator that informs your brain that what is happening currently is important, and it needs to be remembered as such.

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 the standard work issues: inflation, potential economic downturns, health and relationship (professional and personal) issues, etc. What I have noticed is a lot of stress is wired into the thought patterns, experiences and perceptions born from trauma: people pleasing, perfectionism, “me first” and “keeping up with the Jones’” attitudes to name a few. Additionally, not being in alignment with who you are and who you truly want to be can cause a great amount of stress. Think about those of you who were pushed into career options by your parents — be a doctor, lawyer, accountant, or join the family business, etc. Consider how much stress is then placed on you to “be a good daughter/son” and do as you are told. I can’t tell you how many professionals I know that have burnt out or are suffering various mental health issues due to this burden. This is only the tip of the iceberg as so many (myself included) felt compelled to pursue a career simply to make as much money as possible. Although financial security is a value of mine, I realize now that doing what I love is a healthier way to realize that value instead of punishing myself for the wrong reasons.

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

When you are either over stressed or under stressed (yes, that is a thing!) your brain loses access to higher levels of functioning causing poor memory, poor decision making, foggy thinking, poor impulse control, lack of empathy, rigid thinking. It also can create physical manifestations in terms of health and wellbeing, as well as relationship issues with your team, direct reports, clients, or other people in your workplace.

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

Absolutely! Your brain needs stress. Acute stress is healthy for the brain and allows it to do its job (protect your body/keep you alive). Stress is only an issue when it becomes chronic.

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?

Yes. Acute stress (as mentioned above) is healthy. Hits of dopamine, norepinephrine, and adrenaline (among other hormones) help keep the brain and body healthy. Chronic stress can cause serious health issues and is a detriment, especially to the nervous system and organs that are impacted by stress hormones (heart, digestive system, etc.) as it can inhibit your ability to lead a full and productive life. Migraine is only one of many long-term health conditions that is impacted by chronic levels of stress but is something that has become commonplace with over one billion people worldwide suffering from this incredibly painful condition.

Is it even possible to eliminate stress?

It is impossible to eliminate all stress, but you can manage stress effectively and remove some stressors so that you can live healthier. For example, you may not be able to leave a job you don’t like, but you may be able to reframe what it provides you so it can lessen the amount of stress it causes. So instead of you dreading going to work because you don’t get to do fun things with your family, you may be able to reframe or reevaluate the value it provides you: income or health insurance perhaps which provides and protects your family. Maybe you can reframe it as providing freedom to leave work at the office so you can enjoy family time; or extra income to send your children to good schools.

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.

Raising awareness for sure! This is a topic I am so incredibly passionate about because it has so many implications for leading a full and purposeful life! We are still learning the extent in which stress plays a role in your overall health and wellbeing. What we do know is that addressing the root cause of chronic stress is one of the most important things you can do to realize healthier relationships and more work satisfaction. Since the impact of stress can cause so much disruption, leading to poor decisions, lack of empathy, black or white thinking, and more, I hope it is becoming clear how your current world view could be greatly aided by reducing stress!

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 think it is healthy to have periods of stress so long as it doesn’t become chronic. For example, most of the time I am calm and peaceful, feeling fulfilled in my work and the wonderful people I get to coach each day. But when the end of the month rolls around and I need to do payroll or worse, yearend taxes, I can get stressed out! Now, let it be known it is not the stress of having to pay my assistants or other members of my team that is stressful. I consider it a blessing to have such amazing people working for me who competently do the work that I have neither the time nor the skill to do myself. Yet some business tasks — even the simple ones — can create a log jam in my work flow, and because they aren’t may favorite things to be working on, will naturally create stress.

My clients feel this when they must do performance reviews, expense reports, hire/fire employees or other standard business practices that are necessary but not always enjoyable. I think the aim is to be so aligned in who you are and what fulfills you that the necessities of work become minor stressors so that overall, you can be calm and confident.

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.

My 5 P’s of stress management are:

  1. PAUSE. When you are under stress, it is helpful to pause and notice what you are feeling. Pausing not only allows you a moment to take a few breaths, but it gives you time to tune into your body and notice the sensations you are feeling. When you turn your attention inward, identifying your feelings, you can begin naming the emotion which will curb the stress response. People who lack emotional intelligence may express their emotions in unhealthy ways (throwing objects, yelling, shutting down, running away, etc.), but pausing and giving a name to the sensations you are experiencing instead, will help you feel better more quickly without the fallout that typically cascades after a stressful event. Practice pausing then naming your emotion (aloud or in your head) by saying, “I am so __(insert emotion)____ right now! I am feeling ___(insert how you are feeling in the moment) ______.” Ex. “I am so ANGRY right now! I am feeling MY HEART PUMP, THE BLOOD RUSHING IN MY EARS, I FEEL BEADS OF SWEAT RUNNING DOWN MY BACK.” This practice (and it IS a practice) will save you much relationship drama and give your brain a few moments to reset your stress response and return to a balanced state. In addition, research shows that speaking your emotion reduces amygdala activity, short circuiting the stress response. Check out Brene Brown’s most recent book, Atlas of the Heart, for a dictionary of emotions so you can be as clear as possible with naming your emotions and develop emotional intelligence along the way.
  2. PLACE. A super effective strategy to manage stress is to remove it; but since it is not always an option, try changing your geography instead. Although it is not always possible to take a quick vacation or move to another state, you can work within the confines of what is possible. If you are inside, go outside. If you are sitting down, stand up. If you are in one room, leave to another. Going for a walk is another great option as much stress gets mitigated when you combine it with a somatic activity.
  3. PURPOSE. Do you know your top five work values? If not easily recalled, it might be time to get clear about what is important. You are always making choices, whether consciously or unconsciously, and they are based on what you are valuing at the time. If you are exhausted and stressed out, remind yourself what is truly important and make sure it aligns with where you really want to go in life.
    In a stressed-out moment, you may choose to reschedule a meeting to take a short walk instead. Your purpose might be prioritizing your wellbeing and you are honoring your value of self-care. If instead you realize you are evading your feelings, and find you are valuing something that is NOT in line with your overall values, it provides a great opportunity to make a different choice instead.
  4. PERSPECTIVE. Reframing activates the prefrontal cortex which is precisely what is limited when you are under stress. Talk about getting to the root of the problem! Some neuroscientists state this is one of the best skills to reduce stress, improve your overall mental fitness and life success. Choosing a new perspective can take practice, especially if you are stressed and are stuck in black or white thinking. To bypass your brain in its stressed state, play with becoming someone else for a moment and see what perspective comes about. You may think of someone you admire, embody them, and ask what their perspective might be. Then shake your body or change your geography and choose another person and repeat. Sometimes I have fun with this exercise and embody my dog and think of what her perspective would be to my stress.
  5. PRESENCE. Ever see the movie Limitless with Bradley Cooper? Remember how time seemed to slow down right after NZT-48 was consumed providing him the ability to use his brain fully and improve his life? Practicing mindfulness and presence exercises is like consuming your own real life nootropic drug.

When you actively become aware of what is going on within and around you, your brain shifts focus and reduces the stress response. When you are stressed, focus on how your body is feeling in the moment (see #1) turning your attention to the sounds, smells, taste, and other sensations you have going on in and around you. This is by far the best way to manage stress as slowing down and becoming fully aware of your surroundings will give you clear access to see what the next right step is.

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

I am a consummate student and love learning all I can about how the brain and body work, in addition to ways I can experience more bliss in life! Huberman Lab is one of my favorite podcasts, and Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart is a great dictionary for learning more about emotions. I am also part of an offering by Heidi Dickert called Blissometer, where easily consumable microlessons guide your journey of bliss. I’ve loved learning what other experts have shared, as well as the opportunity to provide my own wisdom there as well!

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 like to think the work I am doing with stress, relational trauma and migraines could bring the most amount of good to people around the world, especially since there are so many who cannot afford nor have access to the best, or any, medications. Since some research exists in this area, I am hopeful this might lead to non-pharmaceutical ways to mitigate migraine pain and help those who suffer. If a true correlation exists (as is implied by other studies) imagine what would be possible in meeting the productivity goals in the workplace by providing a safe and stress reduced working environment!

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

The best way is to visit my website at: I can also be found on FB @Becoming.Aware.Coaching and IG @Becoming_Aware_Coaching

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.