Updated: Apr 11
We are creating content and building tools to help you access, manage and relieve your stress- because life is too short to live overwhelmed and frustrated. Learn more about how Kopely was founded and why we created it.
Let's face it, Americans are stressed and there are problems with current stress management strategies. The founding of Kopely is the result of my personal battle with stress. My entire formal education was a stressor for me (as I am sure most kids would agree, who likes school?!). I hated school. My negative feelings were most likely the result of me not doing well in school and being picked on. However, my lack of performance wasn’t due to my lack of motivation but learning disabilities. Later, my parents and I learned that I had dyslexia. Dyslexia made reading and writing seem impossible.
After the dyslexia diagnosis my school experience changed and the bullying began. Now I was whisked away from my friends and the formal classroom setting for “resource room.” The resource room was a place were kids like me were allotted more time for reading, writing and test taking. I also remember receiving extra motivational nudges in the resource room. Despite the extra attention, support and motivation, now I loathed school. I just wanted to be like everyone else and now the school drove a huge wedge between me and a “normal” school experience. I can remember fellow classmates making small, mean comments as I left the classroom to write a paper or take a test. And if I remember correctly the kids that attended resource room were nicknamed the “stupid kids.”
As I got older I turned to my parents and siblings to learn more about stress. Most people would say that adult stress is the “real world.” My family had a lot going on: managing self-employment, 3 children, the financial crisis of 2008, paying mortgages, paying bills, the introduction of the internet, reality television, first relationships, first break-ups, cheating, college acceptance, social media and smartphones.
I also had the pleasure to grow up with computers and technology. To date myself, I remember AOL Instant Messenger, the first iPhone and when Facebook required a .edu email address to create a profile. This was an interesting time to grow up.
Fast forward to the end of my Freshman year of college I was spending too much time in my head. I was doing my best trying to keep my head above water playing varsity tennis, maintaining an academic scholarship, working, dating and trying to figure out what the heck I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I felt stressed, unhappy and challenged from every angle of my life. The stress and anxiety never made me reach for drugs or alcohol but, I did start to feel like I was losing a sense of reality. Life wasn’t fun anymore.
During a college tennis match against a strong team in our division I was pushed against a wall competitively with what seemed like no way out. The tennis match was indoors, it was a home game and an important match. I remember running and diving around for shots like an idiot and that there was a decent size of fans watching my match. Every shot my opponent hit I had zero answers. After so many lost games I felt a physiological response that I have never experienced before: a racing heart, a feeling like I was losing control and a shortness of breath. I continued to play that match until I fainted and woke up in the local hospital. It was a nerve racking experience for me and my family. I wake up to bright lights, a person grinding my chest plate with their knuckles to bring me back to conscious and with a bunch of people in white coats who looked concerned.
I spent the next several days in the hospital being poked, prodded and evaluated. The hospital staff was preparing for the worst (since I was so young, healthy and no alcohol or drugs were involved). Once the tests came back they found that my only diagnosis was dehydration.
After a bunch of IV bags, and a three day stay in the hospital I was wheeled out of the hospital and back to being a student athlete again.
My hospital stay changed my life and made me obsess about what happened during that tennis match. As I replayed the event in my head I started to feel a sense of failure. I couldn’t believe I was incompetent and lacked so much confidence as an athlete (I had played tennis since the age of 4). I think I had such a hard time with this experience because there was such a dichotomy of who I thought I was versus who I actually was. Prior to that tennis match I was young, healthy, fast, strong, and working out nearly 2-3 hours 6 days a week. After that match my confidence was shattered, and my body felt weak and fatigued. I had a hard time accepting who I was and that I had so many limitations.
Because of this event and my many wrestling matches with my mind I decided to shift away from a major in biology and pursue psychology. The result eventually led to an undergraduate and graduate degree in psychology. During my studies, research, self-analysis and senior thesis I learned about the ill effects of stress, anxiety and depression and how many people struggle with the same things that I do. I was not alone.
If I remember correctly, it was in my Psychopathology class (a class that teaches students how to diagnosis mental health disorders) that I came to the conclusion that what I experienced during my freshman college tennis match wasn’t the effects of water or electrolytes... it was stress and what had actually happened was that I had a panic attack. I will never forget those feelings of confusion and disgust as we reviewed the symptoms of a panic attack in class. I had a panic attack. So many thoughts swarmed around my head. On one hand, I felt a sense of comfort and clarity that I now knew what had happened to me that one tennis match. However, on the other hand, I felt like an absolute loser.
How could I be so weak mentality that I couldn't even compete in a tennis match?
That year I spent a lot of time thinking, reading and applying what I was learning in the classroom to my own psyche. I quickly learned that my mental capacity was my biggest limitation as a person and as an athlete. I also learned the difference between a healthy stress response versus a negative stress response, how anxiety works, why people become depressed and how psychology can drive physical symptoms.
My pain, frustration and low self-esteem drove me to start finding more answers. I started meeting with my professors more frequently and taking classes that aligned with my questions. Positive Psychology, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), understanding the stress response and how anxiety and depression worked provided even more clarity as to why I suffered from a panic attack. Gathering this information was the beginning of my stress fighting journey. Just educating myself gave me the confidence and clarity I needed to understand what happened but also a guideline on how to get better. I soon felt empowered to start working through my mental baggage.
I don’t pretend to be a mind reader online or in person but I feel confident in saying that my story is like many others. Life is freaking hard and there is no manual on how to live a more meaningful, purposeful and productive life. And if we are frank, most of our parents, teachers, or coaches are not equipped to help us manage stress or anxiety. After my personal experience with stress, becoming a student of psychology and making a living as a coach I now confidently say that with the proper information and mindset you can improve your mental resiliency and your ability to cope with stress. I feel fortunate and lucky that I stumbled upon psychology early in my life and stayed away from unhealthy coping strategies and now understand how to manage my own cognitive distortions.
I feel like I stumbled a lot to get where I am today (I am still stumbling now, just not as much) but my motivation to figure out my own psyche and to help others with theirs has led me to formulate this one question:
What are the best tools, tactics and strategies to overcome stress and live a more meaningful and purposeful life?
Philosopher Aristotle answered this question nearly 2,000 years ago with the “good life.” Which is a pretty darn good answer. I think that Aristotle and the Stoic’s had a practical approach to how one should live their life. However, I think in the year 2020, the world has changed and I would like to modernize these time tested philosophies, couple it with evidence-based psychology and the relatability of my own experiences with stress.
My search for answers has brought me into what I think will be my next decade of work. I want to create an easy-to-use, actionable tool to help assess, manage and overcome stress while fostering a community of individuals who want to live a better life. This mission is what I call Kopely.
Not that long ago, Kopely was called Hapy… and I didn’t have such a refined answer to what this project was. Let’s rewind a little bit. I recently pitched Kopely to the Psychology faculty from my Alma Mater. After seeing how much attention happiness research was getting I thought that happiness was my true north for this project, and I thought I could help people by teaching them how to be happy. I was quickly forced to rethink Kopely’s direction after a phone call with Dr. D (a psychology professor and stress expert). I am paraphrasing here but, Dr. D in short said that he wasn’t convinced that the world needed more happiness. Dr. D’s words shocked me since I had spent so much time and energy researching happiness. As a moment of silence went by my brain eventually saw Dr. D’s point of view and how happiness was being sold to American’s, not taught. Hence, the self-help books, life coaching and well-being conferences that are taking over the country and the internet. There is now a market for happiness in America (and it’s very profitable). Dr. D explained to me that after his own research that he believed that stress was a more actionable and measurable topic than happiness.
After we hung up from our call, I took notes and started googling stress research. I soon stumbled upon Dr. Daniel Kahneman’s work.
Dr. Daniel Kahneman (he won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Studies in 2002) may be one of the most prolific psychologists of our time and he too got stuck on the word happiness. But, after nearly ten years of happiness research Dr. Kahneman concluded that his studies of happiness were all for naught. In his more recent interviews Dr. Kahneman can be found discussing how confusing and distracting the word happiness becomes. That happiness doesn’t help the conversation of how people may live more meaningful or purposeful lives since happiness can mean so many different things to so many different people. In short, Dr. Kahnman along with Dr. D and a host of scientific literature has helped me conclude that happiness is not the road I should drive Kopely on. So, what then should we focus on, or better yet, what problem should we try and solve for? Dr. Kahneman states that the one thing that the world can agree on is that the world needs less pain and suffering.
Voila, I was sold on stress! Between Dr. Dooley, Dr. Kahneman, Cognitive Behavioral therapy, my personal struggles and my professional coaching experience working with clients I realized then, that yes, stress is the most important problem to solve for if your goal is to help people live a better, more meaningful life.
The evidence is clear, American’s are more stressed, more anxious and more depressed than ever before (especially Gen Z and Millennials) and suicide is increasing at staggering rates.
My mission with Kopely is to help individuals better assess, manage and overcome their relationship with stress. And as a mission driven person I think that this mission is one of the best ways that I can contribute to the world.
So Kopely is me scratching my own itch. I have always wanted to help people and Kopely is now giving me and the Kopely team the opportunity to help people at scale.
In closing, I think most people would agree that they want to be the best version of themselves and live their best life (no one wants to be a stressed out loser). My hypothesis is that although most American's notice that they are stressed, unhappy and unfulfilled they never seem to get around to making personal changes that would make their lives better. I believe that every individual has a set point for mental bandwidth, like a fuel tank. In other words your brain only has so much brain power and space to deal with the demands of life- job pressure, money, health, relationships, poor nutrition, media overload, sleep deprivation. Your brain power can be used for positive or negative thoughts and behaviors. And the data seems to support that most people are filling up their mental fuel tanks with negative stuff.
I believe if Kopely can help teach people better stress management strategies, individuals will free up additional mental bandwidth. With this extra bandwidth individuals will now have the capacity to work on themselves and shift their perspective toward resilency and optimism. Resilency and optimism are the foundations to creating a more meaningful and purposeful life and Kopely is going to show you how.