Clinical Psychologist & Performance Coach, Dr. Joann Toporowski Talks Stress Management & More

"I'm like Jillian Michaels crossed with Mr. Rogers. I can be your best cheerleader, but I'm going to really hold your toes to the fire..."


On Episode 39 of 1st Floor Conversations, we were joined by Dr. Joann Toporowski. Joann, commonly known as Dr. Top, has been a private practice psychologist for over six years. Just this year, she launched her new coaching business helping corporate executives, top producers, high performers, as well as entrepreneurs and business owners optimize their potential.

Joann has been practicing in the mental health field since 2004. She obtained a master's in psychology and worked toward her licensures as a marriage and family therapist while conducting group therapy. Later, she earned her doctorate and completed postdoc training at UCSD.

Dr. Top has six years of experience working primarily with high functioning, driven, successful professionals. She has dialed in the ability to coach others through their stress and anxiety and optimize the human experience. Let's jump in.

When would you work with someone like Dr. Top?

Psychologists and mental health clinicians are like dentists, and ideally, you would come for your regular cleanings.

The reality is, people, seek help from psychologists when they are in pain. And, one commonality between high performers, is, they may not be the best at recognizing the psychological, emotional check engine light.

Some indicators say we need rest; we need reflection, we need time to step back and recalibrate what we're doing so we can operate at maximum capacity, fully engaged.

With our vehicles, we refill the gas tank when it's getting low, we change the oil after so many miles, and we get help from a mechanic when the check engine light comes on.

Often high performers, business owners and people that handle pressure on such a consistent basis either ignore, or aren't in tune with those check engine lights.

What are common indicators for people, like you'd see on the dash of your car, that flash saying, it's time to step back and take a look?

We always have the answers; we have to look closer. Physical ailments like; I'm tired, stressed, frustrated, not sleeping well, are all indicators.

Dr. Top recommends patients start with a body scan. It's like taking a detailed inventory of the entire body. She asks questions like, what's your face look like? Is it all scrunched up? Is your brow furrowed? Are your shoulders up by your ears? Are you short of breath?... And on.

The take away is, there are so many signs. You need to know where to look.

What's typically the trigger event that causes somebody to look to a coach or an outside adviser to help them with emotions, balance, stress, and anxiety?

"It's the degree of suffering. So if your expectation is that you're going to be perfect, you're going to meet every deadline, you're going to make the right call versus what's reality. That gap is the degree of suffering."

So, if we can create realistic expectations and minimize the gap, the less suffering we will experience. Success isn't this marathon of significant, massive events. It's the 3-5 things that you need to do consistently over time to develop a healthy process that produces results.

How do expectations play into stress management? Do folks that expect life to be stressful, have a better relationship with stress?

The short answer, yes. When you feel angry, frustrated, or anxious, you were taken by surprise by a particular situation. With appropriately defined expectations, you open yourself up to finding a different solution. You are able to pivot. Prepared for the worst, but you're also optimistic enough to think, what if it's better than I expected? Proper expectations mitigate intense downsides.

People work with coaches because they want a result. People don't buy products; they buy solutions. They buy a result, and they determine if they're willing to put in the work to get there.

We have to continually work to grow and show up as the best version of ourselves. It's quality of life, it's potential, and it's also performance. If you're an A-player, high performer, you are paid to make big decisions and put out the fire. In between those fires, we have conversations with ourselves that boil over and impact our conversations externally.

How do we make sure the conversations we're having with ourselves don't impact the conversations that we are having with others?

Making adjustments to self-talk is a complete rewiring of the brain. The voice in your head has always been there will be the voice you hear upon your deathbed. Early caretakers shape the subconscious. It continues to be molded by current stressors, often resulting in a sharp, negative, and critical tone.

Dr. Top explains, "It's shaped by how motivated you are to improve your circumstances. And so if you're underwater, if you're stressed, you're going to revert to your old habits and these patterns that have been in your life for decades perhaps, and it because it does take time to take a pause and say, if I can't say that to someone out loud, I can't say that to myself."

Mainly, we're all working to find the balance so we can have strong, healthy relationships with our loved ones, ourselves, and our emotions. Understand we cannot eliminate stress anxiety or overwhelm. We are working to shape a different response.

The Wrap Up:

You have a financial advisor to manage your money. You call a lawyer to handle the legal risk in your business. You hire a personal trainer to help maintain your physical health and fitness. That leaves a significant gap in your cognitive capabilities, if you don't have a coach to help maximize emotional and mental health.

Our thesis here is simple. The view at the top is only as good as the foundation which preserves it. Whether it's personal or professional, having a good relationship with your emotions, and having somebody like Dr. Joanne Toporowski is incredibly valuable for building and sustaining quality of life.

We are human beings designed and hardwired to connect.

Guest Giveaway:

Download Dr. Top's exclusive resource: The Mini-Guide of Stress-Busting Exercises. Get 3 easy ways to relax in just 60 seconds. Go to for your free copy.