My Journey Towards Managing Stress and Taking My Own Professional Advice

I’m always nervous and excited to post personal pieces.


On one hand it’s liberating. I spend A LOT of time trying to live up to an ideal that I set for myself. I feel A LOT of pressure not to disappoint and to represent myself professionally in a way I think my business deserves. In doing that though there is a lot of relief in acknowledging I’m a real person and I deal with many of the same struggles as our clients.


I’m nervous because that means admitting I often don’t live up to the advice I give out daily. It means admitting I’m a lot less curated than our feeds and websites. 


But then again, we ask our patients for honesty and vulnerability so we can help them heal so isn’t it only fair I ask the same of myself?


In the past I’ve been pretty terrible at managing my stress. In the present, I’m slowly learning and am making strides but I still carry it in my body, in my mind and in my heart. It shows up every day and always quietly whispers “is all of this work worth it?”. 


And of course it is! I believe this in my blood! But that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with it every day.


What I have gotten better at is acknowledging it and taking small steps to make it more manageable.


Rachel Hollis said “goals are dreams dressed in work boots”.


Well I’ve got big goals, boat loads of determination and a pretty healthy work ethic but none of that makes the stress of executing and the risk of failure any less.


Dr. de Chickera recently spoke to the physical and hormonal side of stress but the truth is that the application of decreasing your stress isn’t so easy and something I am always trying to improve.


So in the spirit of facing it head on and owning it, here are some of the things I’m working on to handle both the negative and positive stressors that aren’t going anywhere if I am going to tackle my audacious goals.


I’m Asking For Help 


To know me is to know that I don’t ask for help very well, a dangerous pitfall for someone who has also made a habit of biting off more than she can chew. Oh did I mention I also fall prey to overwhelm quite easily?


The reality though is that I am a mom of two small children, a business owner, a chair of my daughter’s school parent council and a woman with big ambitions. There is no way I can do it all, the way I want to do it all, in all of those different places, so I’ve surrounded myself with amazing people who can help.


I’ve come to terms with the idea that asking for help, whether as a favour or in a paid capacity, is not a weakness but rather a way for me to bring better energy and passion to the things that really need me. It is also key in avoiding burning out from trying to do all the things for all the people.


I’m Making Space for Me


When you are accountable to many people (family, clients, staff) it is really easy to forget yourself. Last year I found myself getting short with my kids, losing interest in work and generally being short and irritable with people. So I got on a plane and left it all. I went to the jungle of Panama to get reacquainted with myself and do some of the work I needed to do to make sure I was taken care of too.

Photo Credit: Trina Turl Photography for Forces of Nature Retreat


While I was there I set the actionable goal of scheduling something just for me every 6 to 8 weeks. Whether it is a massage, a coffee with a friend or time away, those stolen moments let me recharge and lengthen my tolerance to my everyday stress. I now understand that I’m better able to show up for others when I’m in a good place myself and that time for me should be a necessity, not a luxury.  


Are you concerned about how stress my be impacting your body? Do you have trouble sleeping or losing weight and think stress might be to blame? Often a simple cortisol (stress hormone) test can tell us how your body is physically managing your stress. Schedule an appointment with our naturopath, Dr. de Chickera, to test your cortisol levels and discuss treatment options that can help your body better process and eliminate stress.


I’m Setting Priorities


Some people’s big business goals include making millions. My big goal for my first 5 years of owning my own business was to get to a place where I had the flexibility to drop off and pick up my kids from school everyday. I’m proud to say with very few exceptions, I do that every single day. I also take the time to linger with them at the park before we head home. I let them buy ice cream from the ice cream truck and we play our music loud as we make our way home. I don’t answer calls and I don’t check email.


Now school pick up might not be a glamorous priority for everyone but whatever you priority is, making it a non-negotiable makes sure you are taking care of the things most important to you. In my case I often work early in the morning or after bedtime so I can make sure it happens but in doing that I also ensure I am filling my bucket by being present with my kids. It allows me to have less mommy guilt when work shifts to being the priority knowing that special time is reserved every day.


I Move


The one thing I am most consistent in when managing my stress is movement. It has taken many different shapes over the years from marathon running, to heavy lifting to yoga but the universal commonality has been that moving my body always makes me feel better and alleviates my stress. It is my meditation. It is my church. I love nothing more than a juicy sweat to reset my mind and body.


How do I keep so consistent about movement? I make myself two deals. The first is that it can take any form. If I don’t feel up to an intense workout, walking the dog is totally acceptable. The second is that I have to commit to at least 10 minutes but after that, if I totally hate it, I can throw in the towel. I can count on my hand the number of times that has actually happened in the last twenty years because as my friend Nat of Well & Tight always says, “I might not feel like it but I never regret it.”


I’m Giving Up Control


If you are an A-type like me, you might think this is crazy talk but sometimes control is not healthy and can contribute to your stress.


Take March 16th, 2017 for example. If you had called the clinic that day you might have noticed I was distracted or out of breath on the other end of the line. That is because I was in LABOUR!!! To make it worse, it wasn’t even surprise labour, it was a scheduled induction but I still somehow felt I was the best person for the job. I know what you are thinking, call in the psychologist, right?


I’m proud to say that since that day I’ve come to realize I don’t need to control everything. I’m even prouder to say there are tasks I no longer do either because someone else is infinitely better at it than me or because it was a task that didn’t bring me joy and added to my stress. Admittedly, it’s sometimes hard to hand things over because my ego still thinks it requires my direct attention. The reality is though that there is no mistake that can’t be undone and handing over control empowers others to live up to their amazing potential.

Photo Credit Emily D Photograpy




I know I am not alone in these things. 


Stress might be our world’s next big epidemic. My practice demonstrates this everyday as I see stress as the root cause of physical disorders in everyone from stay at home moms, to elite athletes to corporate CEOs. Like most things though, I believe half of the solution lies in acknowledging the problem exists so we can put ourselves in a position to contemplate how a solution might fit into our specific world.


I will be the first to admit I haven’t got it figured out yet despite my own best advice. I will however take credit for those small efforts I make that lift a small bit of the weight from my shoulders and opens my heart a little more.


It is an evolution and a work in progress. I hope you will join me on that road.


Melanie Stevens Sutherland, Clinic Director & Senior Orthopaedic and Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist

Melanie is a graduate of McMaster University and brings 17 years of experience as a senior physiotherapist to Body Co. She has enjoyed a long tenure working with active populations at prestigious sport medicine clinics. Past clients include Provincial, National and Olympic level athletes as well as members of the National Football League, the Canadian Football League, the Ontario Hockey League, the American Hockey League, the National Lacrosse League and Major League Soccer.

Following the birth of her own children, Melanie developed a strong interest in women’s health. She has taken specialized courses in pelvic floor physiotherapy and women’s nutrition. She is passionate about helping women find strength and confidence in their post-natal bodies following pregnancy and delivery.

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