Are you feeling stressed? Does the Pandemic and mask mandates stress you out? Why is that? What is stress anyways? And what does your control and ego have to do with it?
My guest today is Carlee Myers, the founder of The Stress Less Company. After experiencing a major trauma at 12 years old and struggling with PTSD and stress for over 10 years, Carlee now helps hundreds of people take action to reduce stress through her educational and mentoring programs. I’ve learned so much from her and you will too.
Full Transcription at the bottom of this blog post.
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Hey, thank you so much for having me.
I’m glad you’re here. Now. We are talking about a common buzz word stress and that buzz word is, you know, used often, especially among women. Can you share what happened in your life to inspire you, to devote your time to educating people, how to manage?
Yeah, so I, I always say when someone asks me this question that you’ve just opened a can of worms. Um, but I promise it’s, it’s got a, it’s a good can of worms in that. It’s got a good ending, but so I actually got into this line of work because of an experience that I had when I was about 12 years old, believe it or not. Um, and when I was 12 years old, a man was actually murdered in my home and my mom was shot three times. Oh my goodness. Um, yeah. And, um, while my mom wasn’t supposed to survive, she ended up making basically a full recovery. Uh, she did have to learn how to walk again, talk again, eat the swallow test at the hospital was a huge day when she passed that that meant she could come home. But while, you know, she wasn’t supposed to make a full recovery, she ended up really doing well.
And if you saw her today, you have no idea. Right? All she has is a pair of reading glasses and a slight limp. But for me, I really struggled for a long time. You know, I struggled with the symptoms of PTSD with stress overwhelm night, terrors, jumpiness, I mean, you name. I was probably struggling with it. And I ended up as a result struggling for a long time now. And it took me a bit, probably six or seven years before I even told anybody that I was struggling, you know, cause I didn’t want to be a burden. I didn’t want to cause more trouble. You know, my family was already, already kind of struggling. Everybody had been part of the experience. Right. And um, so I finally opened up to the people in my life and I said, things like, you know, Hey, I’m feeling a little stressed or I’m feeling a little overwhelmed or I’m kind of struggling.
And boy was that one that was the courage one. When you see, would you admit you’re struggling? Um, and I asked people for advice and it was like clockwork. I got the same five or so responses every single time, you know, Hey Carly, have you tried therapy? Have you tried yoga? Have you tried meditation? Have you tried changing your diet? Like when’s the last time you hit the gym? And from my perspective as like, who do you think, like, do you think I’ve been living under a rock for the last 20 years? Right. And um, for me, like the reality was is that I was so desperate for change that I had tried all of that. No. And some of the stuff did not work at all. I got to be completely real with you. And some of the stuff worked a little bit, but nothing ever got me over that hump where I was experiencing things like, you know, joy and, and silliness and happiness and goofiness and you know, like all of those beautiful States of mind and that I was seeing everywhere else in my life, other people were experiencing.
And um, as a result of continually trying to show up and implement advice that I knew didn’t work for me. I ended up struggling for 10 or more years. 10 plus years. Wow. Yeah. Until I finally figured out what worked for me and I have to be honest, when I figured out what worked for me, I then spent quite some time throwing a temper tantrum because I was like, what the heck? Why isn’t anybody talking about this? Right. Like why isn’t anybody talking about the fact that there is no one size fits all when it comes to mental health, when it comes to stress, when it comes to all of this. And um, so I threw myself a little fun temper tantrum. And from there it really came to the point where I had this realization that, you know, like, why isn’t anybody talking about it? Wait a second. Like, I’m supposed to be the one that’s talking about this. And so I ended up creating the stress less method, which is the method that I teach all of my clients and creating the stress less company as a result.
That is a, it’s like, I have chills as you’re talking about your story, but you said you were opening up a can of worms, but it was a good ending to your can of worms because do you feel that you are almost meant to experience the stress you went through so you can help others go through what they’re helping? Do you ever question them? Yeah.
It’s so funny. It’s such a funny question. Right? So part of me is like, yes, it’s fate. Like I had to go through that hard thing so that we could create real change in the world. And, and that idea is like so romantic to me. And then the other part of me is like, Hey, I was just a kid, you know, I deserve to have a safe environment where, you know, my mom wasn’t shot where I wasn’t, you know, so it’s a little bit of both, you know, a little bit of like, yeah, like, thank God that happened because now I wouldn’t be doing the work that I’m doing. And um, you know, I have big grand ideas of like, this is the ripple effect that can, could possibly create world peace. Like that’s where I’m at. Um, but also the other side of it is like, no, every kid deserves to have a safe, loving, nurturing, whatever environment. So it a little bit of twofold.
Yeah. That’s interesting. Now let’s break down stress because we know that’s your area of expertise. So what is stress? And is there a thing as good stress and bad stress?
Yeah. Great question. So first of all, stress is one of those words that we all just kind of throw around Willy nilly. We all say that same word. And for many of us, we mean different things. Even the therapist, the psychologist, the stress management experts in this industry seem to not agree on a singular definition. So I’m going to, you know, after reading through probably hundreds of definitions at this point, I’ve found one that just really resonates with me. It resonates with the work that I do. And the way that we define stress at the stress less company is it is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that the demands exceed the resources that they are able to mobilize. And what that is basically a fancy way to say, we, we think we can’t handle it. We don’t think we have what it takes to rise to the occasion.
And so, because if we think about the stress that we experience, it’s really a simple formula. It’s the thing, the stress or the trigger, if you will, plus our perception of that thing. And that really is the stress response, like what are, what we actually end up experiencing. So for instance, um, for me, I grew up in rural, Maryland, right near the Potomac river. There were quite some bodies of water near me. And there were dams everywhere, dams, every, I swear everywhere. I don’t know how many why we needed so many dams, but we had some not many. And so I grew up constantly hearing, you know, what would happen if you know, what would happen to people, if they forgot a existed or they didn’t know a dam was there, right? They were going over in some tragedy story would happen. And so, as a result, when I thought about going on a boat on a kayak and a canoe, right, my immediate response was I am not going over a dam.
Did you research that, that route? What are we doing? Right. So for me, the thought of going kayaking, plus my perception of how dangerous it is equal to the amount of stress. But for instance, my dad, same thing. Let’s go kayaking, let’s go canoeing. His perception is you go the opposite direction of the water. You’ll never go over a dam, go the opposite direction of the way the water is flowing. And then you come back, you always know your path. And so for him, he’s like, yeah, let’s do it. Let’s go out. Let’s have fun. The only thing that shifted was the perception. So that kind of leads me to the two main different types of stress, right? So what I was experiencing was distress and that’s the type of stress that we all usually mean when we use the word stress. So distress is the bad stuff.
It’s the stuff that causes all those crazy symptoms that we hear about all the time, cardiovascular disease, heart attack, strokes. It can cause headaches, migraines. It can cause irritability, anxiety, and I could go on. And what’s interesting about distress is that it also creates this really specific physiological response. And what it does is when we perceive that stress or that thing as a bad thing, our blood vessels actually constrict. And so the blood has trouble moving through our bodies, which means we’re kind of like just like fighting ourselves to rise to the occasion versus my dad, he was experiencing this thing called use stress still stressful. Right? Still invigorating, still got a worry. You still got a lot going on if you’re in the middle of a river. Right. But he viewed that stress as a good thing. Now, typically you stress is associated with things like getting married or getting that promotion or having a baby, right?
Like these things are also incredibly stressful. I think of the word excitement. Yep. Like euphoric it’s really stems from that. That kind of perspective. Yeah. It shows up anxiety and, and excitement show up the same way in the body. It’s just the perception that creates the difference between the two. But so when we experience youth stress, when we perceive the thing as a good thing, what happens is, is our blood vessels actually expand. So we create a completely different physiological response just based on what we’re thinking. And some of the blood is able to move through our bodies. The oxygen is able to get to our brains and we’re actually able to rise to the occasion. We’re not fighting ourselves. We’re still maybe getting that fight flight or freeze or spots, the sweaty armpits, you know, all of that, but it’s not creating all of those negative side effects, which pretty awesome. It’s a bio hack. If we really think about it,
That is so interesting. And I’m already thinking like us moms when we go through our day and we tell ourselves, Oh, I’m so stressed. Well then maybe we need to acknowledge like stop at that moment and see how we perceive and go, well, is this a good stress because I have all these things happening and I’m able to do it, or is it truly a bad stress? Like, is that something that you help your clients do is determine if it’s a good stress or a bad stress.
Yeah. 100%. And actually I have, um, a free download that can help everybody who’s listening. Uh, so I’ll make sure to share that link with you to put in the show notes, but it helps us shift that just shift that perspective from that distressed you stress so that we can, you know, create those, those good symptoms, those good side effects. Um, but it’s, it’s interesting too. So there’s like, for instance, if I think about like an entrepreneur, maybe we’re afraid of public speaking, right. It could be so easy to be like, Oh my gosh, what if they laugh me off stage? What if I forget everything I’m supposed to say, what if I straight up vomit on the stage?
I’m sure many of us have had the exactly what, what if, what if, what if, what if, what if, and that’s, you know, those are the thoughts of distress, but if we shift that perspective, we really sit down and you’re like, wait a second. How is the stressor serving me now, depending on your business model, that might look a little different, but you know, it may look like saying, wait a second, without this big audience of people, I don’t have this expert status. I don’t have this visibility. And therefore I can’t help as many people. So this is actually not a horrible thing. Yes. You might still get that fight flight or freeze response, but it’s not a horrible thing. In fact, it’s not only good for my business, but it’s good for the people that I want to serve. The people I want to get in front of. And just that little shift can support us now. Also we can sit down and we can say, okay, well, what if I forget everything I’m supposed to say, Oh wow, this is a really good thought. Maybe I should have no cards in my back pocket.
The stressor is serving me to rise to the occasion. That’s so interesting. So that’s, you know, that’s yeah, yeah. It’s, it can, and it can be applied in so many scenarios, for sure.
So what are some common causes of stress that you’ve seen in your clients, especially with women?
So this is an interesting, yeah, so this is an interesting one, right? So, you know, according to, I will share like kind of the statistics around us. So according to a Gallup poll that was done pre pandemic, and I want to put that asterix on there because I think that there have been some shifts as a result of the pandemic, but the number one stressor for women is money and it could a matter of managing it. It could be amount of matter of getting it. It could be a matter of inequality of how it’s handled in the world. Uh, but money is one of those things that I have seen show up over and over and over again. The thing that I actually see though most with my clients is actually ranked the number two stressor, um, in that recent Gallup poll. And that is job pressure.
And when I hear that, it’s not just like the demands of the job itself, it’s the responsibilities of everything that’s going on. Like, I got to get this, I got to serve this client. I got to get this email. I got kids, I got this, I’ve got that. I’ve got all, I got to get, take care of the house, dah, dah, dah, whatever the F it is. Right. And that is one of those things that I see. And it’s not a matter of what it is that we’re doing. It’s a matter of being spread thin, right. Not being able to focus. I mean, because one of the things that I’ve seen my clients, especially my female clients, is that we will, you know, we’re, we’re multitaskers, but really what multitasking means is that we’re not doing multiple things at once. We’re rapidly switching from one thing to the other.
And so when we, yeah, so when we do that and we add in a bunch of kind of unnecessary and that’s to be defined by each individual, these unnecessary things, that’s when we can get really spread thin. It’s not that we’re not good at switching back and forth, but if we’re switching back and forth between three things, it’s very different than switching back and forth between 15 things. And that can be really what, what spreads this out. The other thing that I see is things like health concerns, which is definitely, uh, many times influenced by the amount of stress that we have. So folks are coming to me with chronic migraines or random aches and pains that doctors can’t figure out. And it’s to the point where in addition to their day-to-day stress, their health is stressing them out because they’re like, I don’t know what to do. I have no idea. I’ve tried everything. So what do I do now?
Your comment on the number one issue from that poll is money. And that one actually surprised me. I thought the number one issue would be time.
Yeah. And I think that falls under, I think that falls under the like money and time are so intertwined and same with job pressure, job pressure, and time are so intertwined. And it’s ironic that you bring that up because that is one of the main, like one of the key tools. I wouldn’t say me, but one of the key tools that I teach my clients is exactly how do we manage our time based on our priorities. How do we as business owners manage our time in terms of serving clients in terms of marketing, in terms of when do I actually get to take a day off where’s family time fit into all of this? Um, I was just talking to a client probably last month about fitting into, you know, shifting her perception of doing all of the things for the kids. Her time off that is not her time off. Right. So really helping us manage our time in a way that not only makes sense, but also enables us to take a, take a step back so that when we get back to work, when we’re with our families, we’re a hundred percent, we’re a hundred percent there.
So here’s the ultimate question. What steps can we take to significantly reduce stress? And are these proactive steps or are there steps that we can do in the moment?
Well, so I mean, I definitely think that in the moment, one of those things that we can do is if we have that awareness to try to make that switch from those thoughts, from being those disruptive thoughts to the use dress, the, the, this is a bad thing to this serves me. That’s something that we can do in the moment we can do on our heads. Um, if we catch ourselves, it’s also something that we can do after the fact when we’re like, Oh man, I wish that it would have gone differently. Let’s rewire for next time. Let’s have that ready. But one thing that I also recommend to folks who are experiencing stress is to start with the basics. So here at the stress less company, we actually start with this thing called creative stress reduction. And so creative stress reduction is any activity that helps us get out of a state of fight flight or freeze and gets us into that state of play or flow AKA rest and digest mode.
And so this can be really anything. It could be playing with your dog. It could be going on a walk, it could be gardening, it could be knitting. It could be formatting an Excel spreadsheet. If that’s what you’re into really could be anything as long as it gets you out of that, excuse me, out of that fight flight or freeze mode. And the reason that we start with this is because when we are in that distress state, when we’re in fight flight or freeze mode, the first thing that goes out the window is our critical thinking and critical thinking is a really important thing to have on board a hundred percent we needed in our businesses we needed in our day-to-day lives. We needed just for street-smarts then. So when we engage in creative stress reduction and it helps us get our critical thinking back.
So it can be, again, anything, whatever brings you, joy, whatever makes you feel like you’re rested, you’re back in that place. And then from there, that’s where the deep work comes in, right? That’s why my clients decided to work with me because it’s about, okay, what can I do? How am I creating more suffering for myself? Where are the unnecessary stressors in my life? What can I do to pull those out from the root? So that if something that’s unpredictable comes up, like a family member gets sick or global pandemic happens. I’m, that’s not the thing, right. That breaks the camel’s back.
That’s really. Yeah. That’s really interesting. And I’m so glad that you provide that for your clients. And I want to shift gears. I want to talk about coping and prevention. Can you share your best tips on coping with stress? And then here’s the other question? Can stress be fully preventable?
Okay. Well, I would definitely say start with the creative stress reduction for coping with stress a hundred percent hands down in terms of the preventability of stress. This is such, such a great question, because a lot of folks are like, ah, this is what life is. You know, it’s just stress. It just comes up. But the reality is, is that we really do have some level of control over the stressors that we’re experiencing. And so one of the things that I have my clients do is actually create a thorough inventory of everything that is stressing them out, really triggering them. And it can be like traditional, like I feel frazzled type of stress, but it also can be like, this is really making me angry. Like this, the girl, no, no, are you kidding me? Right. You could have those responses to anything that is making you feel a sense of despair, stress, or, or anger, um, really going through that.
And then what we do is we, um, we then get to the root cause that that initial stressor is just the symptom we get to the root of what’s causing that. And the reason I share that is because most of the times when my clients do that inventory, they find out that 80% of their stress is actually fully preventable. It’s things like that. Dang desk has 500 pieces of paper on it. I can never find a darn piece of paper and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And then the shame that comes up around that and the, the lack of organization, the frustration that comes out of that, right? That’s something that we have complete control over, but we get distracted with everything else that we’re doing. Right? And so those things, those little things, they add up to create big piles of stress. So there’s a lot of stress that is a hundred percent fully preventable.
And so we go from small things like my desk is a fricking mess to bigger things like this relationship is just not working out and I keep trying to make it work and I’ve done everything I can. And at this point, this is something that I have control over. I just got to do something, right. I got to say, see you later, Jack goodbye, Sue. I don’t know. Or maybe we haven’t done anything in that relationship and it’s time to do something to actually have that tough conversation. Um, so there’s a lot that falls into that, that thing that I have control over, and it may not be the whole situation completely that you have control over, but there are some actions that you do have control over versus those things that are unpredictable. Right. That I mentioned earlier, like a global pandemic, like a family member falling ill, um, like, um, like the, the stresses of living in the U S through the U S presidential election, right? Not necessarily something we can control something greater than us, but when we handle all of those little things and those little two big things, depending on what it is in our life that we have control over, and we can have so much more space to handle the things that aren’t
No, I have a follow-up question to that. Cause it just kind of came into my head cause you were talking about control. So what do you say to someone who comes to you? Because I’m sure there’s people out there that have this issue where they want to control everything in their life. Even the things that they know they can’t control. So how does, and that stresses them out right? When they have no control and they, they feel that they have to control everything in their life. How did they deal and cope with that?
Yeah. This is such a great question. Cause uh, you’re talking about me.
Well, I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there that this is the number one thing that they stress out about is that lack of control. They want everything like in order, so they can have a fulfilled, happy life. And when things happen, like the pandemic, the election, things that are attentions happening in the family and it’s out of their control and it’s, they’re flipping out over it. How do they start to, I don’t want to say getting control, but how to cope with their stress or figuring out the triggers.
Yeah. So first of all, that need for control. Oftentimes comes from, um, a place where maybe we grew up or maybe in our past, we were in situations where everything was outside of our control, where stuff was just, it was always one thing after the other. And so we grew up or we were in our past in an unsafe situation. That’s where that control comes from because it’s the thing, the thought that if I could control the, then everything will be better. And that, that is an illusion created by the ego. Believe me, I’ve been in a position where I’ve tried to control everything. And like you said, more miserable than I had ever been in my life because you end up learning things that, you know, then, then you feel even more powerless because you made yourself believe that you were kind of all powerful, but then you realize you aren’t.
So one of the things that, um, that I teach my clients is in the, it’s actually the first step in the stress, less method. This is a foundation. This is what every single one of my clients starts with. Um, the first step is to deepen our spiritual understanding and the reason that that is the first step, the reason that that’s so important is because, well, one, most of my clients are like me and it’s hard. It is so hard to let go of that stuff. It is so hard. And so when we deepen our spiritual understanding, this is an exploration process of saying, well, what do I believe in? What do I believe? Do I believe in higher self? Do I believe in God? Do I believe in the universe? Do I believe that just people at the end of the day are good? Do what do I believe do what is this power greater than myself?
And when we figure that out, we’re able then to, rather than just saying, like, I don’t have control over this. We’re just going to let it go because, Oh my, if that wouldn’t cause anxiety for at least me when I was in that place, you mean I have to let go of control and then no, one’s going to do anything about it. Are you kidding me? So what this does is it enables us to say, Hey, higher power, Hey universe, Hey God, Hey, the divine, Hey, greater good of the, of the world, whatever. I don’t have control over this and it’s driving me insane. Can you, can you take this? Can I hand this Baton off to you? And what that does is if we have that concept of something greater than ourselves, we have that trust in something greater than ourselves. We can trust.
Now that takes some work. That’s why it’s the first step. Um, but once we have that, we can, we can trust that that’s going to be handled and it may be handled in a way that we had no idea it was going to be handled, not the way we would have done it. Then again, we, weren’t doing probably a really good job at handling it anyway. So, um, it creates space. So you’re able to hand that off and then it creates space for you to focus on what you can control. So to kind of tan, to make this more tangible, for instance, let’s say, um, the, the pandemic, the con let’s, let’s start with the whole mask issue. We’re going to open a can of worms here. So maybe it’s driving us crazy that someone is wearing a mask or isn’t wearing a mask that is driving us mad.
Like, come on. What are you? This is not a big deal. Or this is a big deal, right? That is something we can hand off. And we can say, you know what? I can’t ha I cannot control Sue or John or Joanne. I’m going to hand this off to you because it’s driving me nuts. And what that does is it creates space for us to say, well, wait a second. What do I have control over? Well, I can, can wear a mask. If we’re on that side of the spectrum, I can make sure that I’m social distancing. I can ignore all of the rules, you know, whatever it is, you know, whatever it is I can do. What’s within my control. I can reach out to my legislation. I can reach out to my local officials. I can focus on what’s within my control. Um, but really that it’s a handoff so that we can let go. We can get back our critical thinking. We can get out of fight flight or freeze mode, and we can think more critically. We can really do something about the problem at hand.
I’m so glad you said that that was such a great example with the mask, because honestly, that’s what we’re seeing it is wear. It don’t wear it, wear it, don’t wear it. And you’re seeing people get so angry and mad at each other. I’m seeing videos of people attacking other in the store and I’m even like, what, like, why would you do that to somebody? And you kind of nailed it because they’re trying to control that person and outcome. And we have to realize that we can’t control what they do, but we can control what we do. And I like it handed off to the higher power and whatever you define that high, higher power to be
A hundred percent, a hundred percent. And we also have to acknowledge just a little tidbit here that, so each of us have kind of two layers. We have the, the real us, like, if you believe in like a soul, like that would be the real you, this like deeper, essential self. And then outside of that layer, we have our ego like that protective defense mechanism. And so when we see people in that place where they’re fighting or they’re arguing or, or attacking what it is, is it’s not really them, their ego, that extra layer, you think of it like maybe a coat on somebody. It’s not part of them. It’s just there. It’s protective protect from the cold of the winter or whatever, what it is. It’s their ego trying to protect them. It’s their ego saying, you’re afraid we got to do something. This is, I don’t know.
I got to, I got to handle this because it’s trying to protect that inner self, but that inner self has never been in danger. It’s just kind of this illusion. And I could go into a whole philosophical thing about this, about this, but you know, one of the things that, that I just encourage, especially during these difficult, these kinds of exceptional, difficult times, it’s just acknowledged like, this person isn’t mean this person. Isn’t hateful. This person isn’t judgmental. They are just scared. They’re just trying to protect themselves. And that if we can get past that and we can see like what’s really inside, that’s a whole that changes the ball game that changes us from being, you know, let’s put the fists up, let’s fight this person to wow. Me too. I’m scared too.
Yeah. Wow. That was, that was such a great answer. And I’m glad I asked about that control thing. Cause I know there’s so many people out there that are stressing over their thought of lack of control. So, and I, and I liked that, uh, the comparison between your soul and ego, and I think that alone just will make you have more awareness of how you are reacting to external things happening in your life.
Yeah. Yeah. And I, what I love to love to compare the ego to is it’s basically just a label maker, right? So it’s just like walking around and spit, not labels on everything. It’s like bad person, good person. That’s salt. That’s sugar, that’s this that’s that. And sometimes the ego will put a label on something that is completely wrong. Like, it’ll say, I don’t know, let’s say I have a jar of sugar and it’ll label it and be like, this is a dog. And you’re like, no, just because you labeled it, a dog ego does not mean it’s not sugar. So you have to have this awareness of it, that awareness so that we can really see what is real, what is not, what is our perception? So
Yes, so many good tidbits in this conversation today. Perception sold ego control. I mean, we just went over so much!