Mastering Stress: Creating Mental & Emotional Space for Success with Allison Graham on Best D Life with Daniela Podcast

an image of allison graham and daniela wolfe with their company logos and the title a conversationa bout mastering stress

On today’s podcast is:

Allison Graham is a keynote speaker, author and consultant who works with accomplished men and women who love their work, but want more mental and emotional space away from the constant stress of the daily grind.

In her business, Elevate Biz Inc, she works with professionals to create a better relationship with stress, improve problem-solving for the human experience at work and design their personal capacity to create mental and emotional space in their lives for what matters most to them.

Her last book, Take Back Your Weekends: Stress Less, Do More, Be Happier is giving hope to people that they can have it all and her next book The Stress Illusion is bound to ruffle some feathers! You may recognize her from media outlets like CTV, CBC, Global News and Breakfast Television.

A note from Daniela Wolfe:

Let’s lighten up how much there is on your daily to-do list!

Put YOU back on your priority list!

Imagine not feelingburnt out or exhausted at the end of the day!

You have the time to relax at the end of the day knowing you achieved your tasks and took time for yourself!

Best D Life Interview with Allison Graham (transcript – unedited)

The BEST D LIFE with Allison G…0e-465f-9a4d-6edb-46bd82ee8f08

Sat, Dec 09, 2023 6:03PM • 28:38


people, life, patterns, shift, thought, find, book, beat, calming, work, care, point, talk, relationships, happen, inspires, space, framework, positive, negative


Allison Graham, Daniela Wolfe

Daniela Wolfe  00:00

Hi, this is in Daniela Wolfe with Best D Life the podcast. And this is your community to support you through the little and not so little events that make up your day to day life. From the I’ve got this moments to the, I just can’t moments. We are here to empower all women to find and develop the skills they need to find peace, balance, and the bliss in their busy through solo episodes, as well as interviews with amazing women who share their journey and their story and how it works for you. I hope you find the inspirations to make you laugh. Think as well as maybe rethink what you thought you knew, and connect as we realize that we are all living similar ups and downs and don’t have to do it alone. So excited for you to hear this episode. And thanks so much for joining me today. Hi, this is Daniela with Best D Life the podcast and today I am so excited for you to meet Allison Graham, she is the owner of Elevate Biz. And she works with professionals to create better relationships with stress, improve their problem solving for the human experience at work, and design their personal capacity to create mental and emotional space for their lives for what matters to the most which is I think what we’re all trying to do. Her clients have often described her as tough, loved wrapped in an empathetic hug. And she considers herself a pragmatic optimist. Her superpower is seeing patterns in human behavior and making framework so that it’s easier for busy professionals to develop the skills to improve their mental health, and increase their daily resilience. Thank you so much, Allison, for joining me today.

Allison Graham  01:40

Thank you for having me. And for everything that you’re doing with this podcast. It’s such an important topic and work. So super excited for our conversation.

Daniela Wolfe  01:48

Now, thank you. And I know that was a very brief summary of all the amazing things you do it even to talk about that you’re a speaker, and an author and everything else. So if you can share a little bit more background on your journey, and everything that you do to help people sure

Allison Graham  02:02

it all really began in with the surgery that went wrong. And this was like this is quite some time ago. Gosh, 2007. So Oh, wow, the math on that. And it created neuropathic damage, which stays till today. And that I had before that happened, I was the typical a type personality GO GO GO GO GO giving for everybody. Always trying to volunteer too much, you know, really I was I was so focused on trying to earn my worth, like I had a post it note that says deserve to hit the pillow. And there were nights when I thought I didn’t do enough for other people. And I wouldn’t let myself rest. And then the surgery happened. And I went from living that lifestyle to having two to five hours of functionality a day. And that was for many years. And now I have I’m back working full time. And it’s not that the pain has gone away, I just have some really strong strategies that I was forced to rely on through all of these years. And now that inspires me to help other people, because it’s like everybody is going through something in the background. And if they’re not going through it now they’ve gone through it in the past or they’re, you know, potentially headed for something in the future. It’s part of our human experience. And so there were just so many facets that I had to really dive into in order to be able to maintain my livelihood. When the doctor told me to go on disability. Oh, geez. Yeah. So there’s, that’s what inspires me, because I know there are other people behind the scenes who are really struggling, and I want to share with them my frameworks to help them get through that. Yeah. Because I’m

Daniela Wolfe  03:49

sure there’s so many people that just kind of keep going and kind of trudging through and thinking this is how it’s always going to be this is how it’s always been. And not being able to see that possibility of rethinking about things differently. Restructuring having different frameworks, you know, you only know what you know, until, you know, different you don’t do anything different, right? That’s

Allison Graham  04:11

right. And so much of our lives is driven by pattern, just default, like we’re just operating on default. And what I see a lot is people who are highly successful, especially like that, like is in and you can define success however you want. But in terms of a lot on the go a lot of people, you know, relying on them. They’re the busy, busy, busy people. And the thing is they don’t have any space in their life mentally, emotionally, physically, to actually take a step back and look at their life and like, is this how I want to live it? And when they ask the question, if the answer is no, I don’t want to continue living this way. Then I think, to your point, a lot of people think well, this is the only way I know to live it which is fair because those have been Many patterns have been repeated for

Daniela Wolfe  05:02

decades, or they defend their patterns. I don’t know if you hear that, too, where it’s like, as soon as you offer something different, you get like three or four reasons why it has to be that way. Right? Yes.

Allison Graham  05:12

So it’s interesting, because a lot of the people I work with are choosing to look forward for the thing, they want me to give them advice. So I don’t get a lot of people who are stuck in the victim trap, coming into my realm, because they and here’s the thing with my friends, I have had to learn. And I don’t know who said this originally, but I love it. So please, you know, send it out to the universe, whoever needs to be acknowledged for this. But I’ll ask people, do you want to be heard? Good, or helped?

Daniela Wolfe  05:46

That’s fantastic. Because yeah, I think everyone comes in with a different agenda.

Allison Graham  05:50

Yes. And so what I find is, when I do get that pushback, which would typically be from my friends and people in my life more than my clients, because my clients are paying me a lot of money to, to show up and help them and give them solutions. Not that they don’t resist some of them at times, but for friends or colleagues, or just, you know, when it’s not a coaching or consulting relationship, I just ask, like, look, hugged, helped, or heard. And it’s a different hat that I will wear as the listener on the other end of somebody’s challenges in life, based on their answer.

Daniela Wolfe  06:28

Yeah, because do you even go back to what you said before, you know, it’s the people that are so busy, they don’t have any space in their day, because I think, mindset wise, we haven’t been taught to value space, we haven’t seen it as a form of, you know, value and productivity and things like that. And that’s got to be a huge shift for you and your clients, right?

Allison Graham  06:48

Oh my gosh, because like, for me, when my body was, like the neuropathic pain, I didn’t know how to, like, I didn’t know how to turn it off, or how to embrace it. Now I say, I’ve made friends with my pain, it doesn’t mean I like it. But I’m not angry and adding on to it and make it making it harder. But what I noticed for so many years, was when I would be on the couch recovering, right. And we all know those times when you’re just like, you’re just done, right? Like you’re so exhausted, and your body is saying I need rest. And I would be watching a show and just trying to relax or doing something. And then the inner voice kicks into here. And it’s like, You’re so lazy, what’s wrong with you get up, I can’t believe you’re sleeping again, I can’t believe you’re, you know, lying down when you have this and this and this to do. And, you know, my my doctor Tony, who was my pain psychologist for eight years. And I would just hate these horrific thing about myself. Like, I can’t believe you know, how dare I take that day off? And he’d be like, Who are you talking to? Because I didn’t even know how badly I was beating myself up.

Daniela Wolfe  07:58

Right? Right. We’re definitely our own worst enemy. You know, we would never speak to anybody else, the way we talk to ourselves and judge ourselves. But we assume if we can say this about ourselves, other people must be saying this about us, too.

Allison Graham  08:11

Yeah, absolutely. And so I think really, like to your earlier point about how people don’t necessarily value that space, it’s a shift. But when you It’s like that old proverb in order to speed up, slow down. And you know, being strategic, I actually see people making bigger strides in their life and their overall happiness and their ability to embrace joy and transition their relationships, when they take that space. And they actually objectively look at how they’re living their lives. And so now it’s no longer being lazy. It’s like, I am proactively recharging my body.

Daniela Wolfe  08:55


Allison Graham  08:57

So important, just like those little nuances. Yeah,

Daniela Wolfe  09:02

I’ve had a similar situation where I got the benefit of a physical issue, not allowing me to keep living and doing the things I was doing. I had surgery on both my feet at the same time. And so I wasn’t going anywhere, lots of time on the couch. And I I struggled to learn how to sit still, and just sit in be and not constantly picking up doing something on the go, that type of thing. And what a gift it was, is as hard as it was at that time to be able to learn how to just sit and be still and enjoy that downtime in that calm and that space. But not everybody has, you know, those types of events that happen. And so they do just keep going and going and going to the point of burnout probably right?

Allison Graham  09:44

Well, and then burnout is the thing that forces them to make the shift. Right? Like there is a point where if you’re not aligned, I think that the universe will step in and shift your shift for you. And before we can so I’m really curious about it. In your experience, so how did you figure out how to embrace that time? When you were out of your feet, like off your feet? Yeah,

Daniela Wolfe  10:08

literally off might be. Honestly, I started just even shifting the types of things I was doing, I went back to things that I enjoyed as ways, you know, to occupy my time and realize, like, gosh, I was so happy I took up, you know, I was knitting again, I was reading more again, I thought I was going to teach myself to play the guitar. But that was a little ambitious, that didn’t happen. You know, but like the kids. Yeah, you never know, the kids were at school, you know, my husband was at work. And so I had a lot of time to really just sit with myself and my thoughts during that recovery period. And so it’s, well, it’s just knowing what I know, and doing what I do, focused on appreciating it and seeing it as a gift that it was, you know, as a full time working mom, I’d always been like, Gosh, I wish, you know, I could be home and put my kids on the bus in the morning, get them off in the bus. And I actually got to from a wheelchair, you know. So it’s like, you got to be specific with what you asked for, too, because it doesn’t always look the way you want it to. But I did still get what I asked for and appreciate the fact that this is what I wanted, you know, it was a little bit of that slowing down and downtime to just be there, I couldn’t go run a round and do other things. I really enjoyed that time with my kids in different ways. You know, it was, as well as it helped them grow. Because I wasn’t doing everything anymore. I learned how to delegate, I learned how to let go, I learned you know those other gifts as well. Being kind of one of those people that feel like I had to do it, I’ll be at all, I learned to let people help in a different way. And it I just found as scary as I thought it was going to be was the best thing that could have ever happened.

Allison Graham  11:45

Wow, what a beautiful story. And the gifts that come out of these random things. Like and you know, what is one of my biggest strategies is funny is what I call silver lining thinking. Okay, not the same as positive thinking. nuanced. Silver Lining thinking is finding the potential reasons that are positive that something can happen. So if I so randomly this afternoon, I was at a different location. And I couldn’t find my phone. Okay, I’m like, where’s that? Oh, my gosh, find it. And you know, I’m like, oh, it’s there’s going to be some sort of a reason. So when I went back into the area where I’d been having my meeting, I actually forgot my charger. It was a 45 minute drive. So I had my charger was sold in the extension cord for my laptop. And I was like, Oh, there’s the reason, because I had I not have lost my phone, which is totally irritating to me, right? Because it’s like, oh, you know where that you’re looking and you feel like you’re going in circles. But there was that was a blessing that I did that. And so they see, hindsight is 2020. If that horrible thing didn’t happen, or that little itty bitty thing didn’t happen, then this thing wouldn’t have happened. And you can see it all in reverse in the rearview mirror. And so there was a point in my journey when I just chose to believe that the 2020 is actually like, unfolding forward. So I just always assumed that there’s going to be something that in any moment, I can look back and go, Oh, this was led to this. And it just helps me release a bit of angst in relation to your rotations of life. Right? Like, even if you’re caught in a traffic jam and like, oh, well, you know what I might be meeting somebody on the way in the elevator that who I need to be right? Like, it could be anything. And so just having that, that expectation of how you think and so that to me is like a silver lining thinking.

Daniela Wolfe  13:43

It sounds like constant gratitude throughout your day. Oh, yeah. And

Allison Graham  13:47

just like believing well, and what’s that old quote, I forget, but like, it’s up to you. If you believe you live in a positive world that is working towards you versus I’m totally butchering this. You know what I’ve actually somebody’s gonna reach out to me who’s listening right now and telling me the real quote?

Daniela Wolfe  14:07

Yeah, so if you know the quote, please let us know. Let us know. But

Allison Graham  14:10

it’s this concept of like, you get to choose, is it a positive world? Or is it a negative world? And what do you choose to focus on?

Daniela Wolfe  14:17

Yeah, because I think we do draw in and notice the things, you know, that we are thinking about that whole, activating your RAs, your reticular activating system, you want to go buy a red car, and now all of a sudden, you see red cars everywhere. You want to see, you know, that the world’s against you, you know, those kinds of things everyone’s out to get Yeah, you’re gonna see that versus that everything’s working out for you. Everything’s gonna go the way you want it to eventually. That’s also the way

Allison Graham  14:45

it’ll work out. Exactly. And it doesn’t mean everything’s great. No, right. And that’s, I think, sometimes my problem with the power of positive thinking, and I used to be the person who would, you know, really bought into that concept of No, no, no, don’t have a negative thought have a positive thought. And so I would try to play this. And but what happens is if you’re actually feeling really negative about a situation that is authentically negative, yeah. And you try to cover it up with exceptionally positive perspective, you’re brain calls BS on you.

Daniela Wolfe  15:22

Yeah. Yeah. That’s all invalidated. Yeah. Like, it’s

Allison Graham  15:27

like completely invalidating. So, a couple tricks I have for that, number one, embrace the sock, like, what sucks is like, there’s a lot of Secretary in our lives, right. And so we just acknowledge it. And we don’t, I believe if we process it to its fullest while it’s happening, then we won’t hold on to it long term. I think it’s because we’re trying to like stuff it down and stuff it down, let it go, let it go ever tells you to let it go. But the very things we’re often told to let go, or the very things that impact us the most in our emotional and our mental and our soul. And yet, we’re just told to get rid of it. So I’m, like mininno, lean into it. And then the other little trick I have is to be sure I don’t hook on to the negativity is to create at least two other storylines. Right? So it can’t be one because then if you’re leaning negative, and you try to come up with positive, your brain is gonna go back to the negative. But if you have three to choose from, or four other possibilities, your brain kind of unlatches from the worst case scenario and goes up or possibilities here. Why don’t know what’s gonna happen?

Daniela Wolfe  16:37

It’s a smaller percentage at that point, even if you still think the negative, right?

Allison Graham  16:41

Yeah, so little things that have really helped me over the years, I think,

Daniela Wolfe  16:46

yeah, no, I love all those strategies. So definitely rewind this if you need to grab a notebook and write those things down. Because I think they’re so important in just making those tiny shifts, because obviously, these things are going to take time, you know, it’s going to take some practice, but making those tiny shifts consistently, is how you start changing the way you think and the way you act and the way you feel. Absolutely.

Allison Graham  17:08

And it is of small steps, right? It’s like, there’s no big, you know, oh, it’s NP perfect. Unless you know what, somebody can tell me how Sure why not, but it would lose a lot of the joy out of life, right? If we were, but we learn and continue to keep growing. So

Daniela Wolfe  17:31

what are some of the things you do to take care of yourself now on a regular basis, your kind of personal self care practices? Yeah,

Allison Graham  17:38

so I have a funny relationship with self care, because in its truest sense of the word, I mean, well, how do you define to healthcare? I guess that would be

Daniela Wolfe  17:48

Yeah, no, I definitely not your traditional spa, today’s bubble baths, massages, I think from a more practical self care model that looks at everything from how you sleep, how you eat, how you think about money, how you dress, how you decorate your home, how you connect with others, you know, as well as yes, some of those other practices, journaling, meditation, movement, all of those kinds of things, but not just a one once a week kind of thing. I look at it throughout your entire day, things that light you up and make you feel good about yourself every day. Okay,

Allison Graham  18:19

so I love, love, love, love that definition and perspective. And here’s why. Because I think in early in my journey, and even now, if you just go to the internet, if you just go to YouTube, and you look at how do I take better care of myself, they’re going to tell you what I call the critical six of stress management, nutrition, exercise, meditation, strong social circles, laughter and optimism. And there’s one more doesn’t matter. But it’s all the things you would expect, right? And the issue with that is when somebody is suffocating on their daily grind, and you tell a mum of three who’s climbing the corporate ladder, who also has a side hustle and is trying to, you know, take care of her elderly aunt or something that she needs to just, you know, the answer is just add some exercise.

Daniela Wolfe  19:14

That sounds like possible, right,

Allison Graham  19:16

but what can we stack into our day? That’s my philosophy. Yeah. So it’s living in a way where you you notice where you have enough space and a habit of like bringing the jaw into our lives. So that bird that leaf like I’m often mesmerized by, I’m up in Canada, and we have snow and I’m like, so like, I’m the cheerleader for the leaves that hold on all winter long. Yeah, like how did you do it? Right, like there’s still fall like that. I know that sounds so simple, but if we don’t find those little itty bitty things, it’s really hard to find the big things. And if we’re always waiting for the big things, the big wins in Life are fewer and farther between. And I don’t want to wait for those in order to have some joy. So I often in manufacturing, just acknowledging some really cool things, whether it’s nature or whatever, but I think the other piece of it is calming that internal critic. So I do, I no longer have those harsh words and beating abdomen like caring what other people think and everything. Like I’ve used my problemsolving framework to nullify that, for the most part in my life, of course, you know, it’s ingrained in me to beat up on myself. So it’s not like it doesn’t happen. So there’s that. So like calming the internal voice. And I would say the other piece of the puzzle is giving myself the space and the grace to truly process the things in life. And so what people who are listening would know is you and I, we tried to do this a few weeks ago, or many weeks ago now. And I had had a really significant reaction to some stuff I was on and I got very, very sick and was horrible. That was the day that I texted you. I’m like, I’m actually on the floor in the bathroom.

Daniela Wolfe  21:12

Like, do you want to still try it?

Allison Graham  21:16

I was willing, because I was committed, right? But I’m like, thank you so much. And I wouldn’t have been able to do it in the end anyway, it wouldn’t matter. And then I ended, we rescheduled again, and I ended up with COVID. And then I had laryngitis from COVID. And what is so like, I reflect on that. And I think, okay, now I didn’t drop a ton of balls, I had to push a few things forward. Because as a speaker, and you know, a podcast guest didn’t doing media and stuff, like I needed a voice. So that’s a problem. But I was still able to keep up on the main priorities and the workday without, you know, getting too beat up on myself that my book is stalled. Like it had to sort of go not stalled, but it’s just in the line. Well, I get better, and not having that sensation of beating myself up for it. So I think those are a few other really key strategies and how I practice self care.

Daniela Wolfe  22:10

Now I love them, you talk about so many things that I’m tuned into as well from you know, the habit stacking on if you read James clear atomic habits, the mindfulness practices, as well as just yeah, the grace of life is going to happen and to not let it consume you and blame yourself for it. So those are all amazing. Now, this was your fourth fifth book coming out? Right? So these are other books out there, though. Definitely. If people want to check them out, can you want to just quickly kind of give me a little synopsis of each. So

Allison Graham  22:42

there’s from business cards to business relationships. So there were two of those. And that was all about professional networking and building your personal brand, which was the original iteration of my business. Then there was a book called married my mom birth a dog. million when life sucks. Now, I thought the title was hilarious. So my family didn’t think it was that funny. They thought that was a bit embarrassing, but obviously it was joke. I did not do either. But it really just walks through that experience of having neuropathic pain and figuring out how do I succeed anyway, despite my limitations physically. And then there was a busy as about excuse, which was just a really short ebook around getting control your time, which then led to a mini book as well, you can get on Amazon, which is called Take back your weekends, stress less, do more and be happier. And the next book is going to be called the stress of illusion.

Daniela Wolfe  23:49

Oh, can’t wait. So

Allison Graham  23:51

stay tuned for that one. Because that that’s my whole philosophy that I teach corporately and with executives when I go into companies or speak at a conference.

Daniela Wolfe  24:01

That’s awesome. We’ll definitely have to keep in contact about that one. Via

Allison Graham  24:06

Yeah, I will definitely give you an advanced copy.

Daniela Wolfe  24:10

So just, you know, one thing I always connect to self care as well as gratitude, and I know I said, you know, your silver lining mindset and philosophy definitely almost seems to give that gratitude throughout your day. But what would you say are some of the bigger like top two to three things you’re the most grateful for?

Allison Graham  24:26

Oh my gosh, well, my mom, for sure, because she really isn’t an integral part of my life. And so without her I wouldn’t be able to continue to function. She picks up a lot of a slack in my life, which is thus the quote unquote, married my mom because I had to learn how to ask for help with my physical limitations, and I would say I’m gret grateful for this is interesting coming to me for the gift. I believe it’s a gift that many of us have to have go through something and then be able to distill that experience and observe human nature so that you can inspire others to rise through what they’re going through. Like, that makes me feel very, very purposeful. Yeah, yeah, too.

Daniela Wolfe  25:19

And it’s, I mean, I know it’s been, I’m sure a process to get there. So congratulations. Because yeah, that is sounds like a great place to be, you know, to be able to not stay stuck in the moment and be able to pull out, you know,

Allison Graham  25:31

and, you know, I’m not perfect. Now, the record, I want to I do not ever want to set an expectation. Like I, you know, my mom is often reminding me to read my own books, and my own advice, and I do. And so I think that the key is, and this is, the last thing I would sort of leave with people is it’s one of my solution activation principles is, the second response is the priority, get to it faster. Mm hmm. And what I mean by that is we’ve got patterns, we’ve got ways that we in our we interact with people in our lives with our work with ourselves. And those decades of reinforcing patterns are not going to change on a dime. But if we can start to recognize them, and take strategic action, to interrupt those patterns, and try again, with a better solution, you know what, like, if you worry about something for three weeks, and we can get that down to two weeks, and then one week, and then you get to a point where you don’t worry for longer than 10 minutes? Oh my gosh, that’s huge. That’s beautiful. But don’t beat yourself up for worrying as an instant reaction, if you were to take worrying is an option. So second response is the most important. Get to it faster.


That’s awesome.

Daniela Wolfe  26:49

So Alice, where can people find you? How can they work with you? How can they grab your books?

Allison Graham  26:53

Awesome. Allison is my website. So everything’s there? If you are involved in conference planning, I mean, that’s my main work, right is to go into companies and organizations and do speeches. So there’s that and then there’s my bigger program, where people can engage with me as a team. And we can actually start to implement some of these, you know, things that I touched on an ongoing basis. But I do take a very few limited number of private one on one coaching clients, if somebody’s really wants to shift their patterns in their life, talk to me and we’ll get you on the waitlist and we’ll work with you because it’s what it was, is what Jazz’s me up, but my clients keep renewing the contracts. That’s the problem. I’m like, no, no, no, you’ve got a Mac. So anyway, that that I love as well, so and there’s the books and the blogs and the social media, and yeah, however I can serve as

Daniela Wolfe  27:50

awesome. That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much, Allison, for joining us today. Thank you. Thanks so much again for joining me today. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Please let me know any questions or comments that you have. Also, if you can, please leave Apple five star review so that this episode can be shared with more women. There’s two quotes that I love alone. We may be strong but Together we are stronger, as well as when women support each other incredible things happen. So let’s be stronger and incredible together. As well as maybe just have some fun along the way. Thanks so much and talk to you soon. Bye.

Allison Graham headshot smiling leaning against a grey wall, blue cardigan and white top

Welcome! I'm Allison Graham

Let’s face it – life is tough enough without having behaviour patterns that make life harder than it needs to be! 

That’s why I’m obsessed with finding ways to make the human experience easier by offering strategies for problem solving, dealing with chronic pain, leveraging empowering stress, and stopping patterns that create destructive stress. 

I hope you find huge value in my content. To go deeper please check out my online courses, coaching, and keynote speeches