How this former Hillary Clinton staffer wants to help you feel less stressed at work

Preview of self-care Aloe App, created by Amber Discko

Face it, we can't all be Elon Musk and work nearly 90 hours a week. Nor are we all fortunate enough to make a living working under 40 hours a week. No matter where you fall, half of all Americans feel overworked and burned out.

Amber Discko, a former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer who worked on her social media team, is out to change that.

Discko, 27, created the beginnings of self-care app Aloe while experiencing a difficult time working the final four months of Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

"It was an incredible experience to work on it, but it was hard to balance my mental health with the stress of the campaign and dealing with the toxic news cycle," Discko tells CNBC Make It.

She created a personal checklist, which assessed wellness items like if she was hydrated, had taken a break from the computer screen in the last hour and if she had been going to sleep on time.

Despite working with a "diverse, smart group of people," she noticed that others working on the campaign were also suffering from exhaustion.

"It's very common, especially with millennials, to overwork yourself when you're super passionate about a cause," Discko says. "We are so driven to do our best that we let other things slide by."

Discko surpassed her Kickstarter $40,000 goal, raising $50,528 for Aloe, primarily through Twitter followers, and continues receiving support through creative funding platform Patreon. The app is expected to be released for iOS devices first in January with Android to come later.

With help from the Femsplain community, an online publication Discko ran the past three years, Aloe already exists in the form of her now-public, online self-care checklist, a printable checklist for your desk and as interactive Twitter bot "@aloebud."

As Twitter followers interact with the bot, it creates an 8-bit illustrated garden — maintained like a real community garden — and sends out positive tweets of encouragement.

garden tweet

Once completed, Aloe will have three main sections: a check-in area to mark your accomplishments, a reminders section to motivate you throughout the day and a mad-lib style reflections section that gives a glance at how you feel and what your next goal will be. There will also be also a community support feature to connect with others using the app.

Discko says Aloe will provide a simpler path to wellness for even the hardest workers out there. She hopes teams in offices will put the app to use.

"Because people are chained to their desks, they are working long hours," Discko says. "I'm hoping if workplaces can encourage their teams to take moments for themselves throughout the day, it will create a better environment to work in."

For those who are unsure if they feel worker burnout, Stanford psychologist and research scientist Emma Seppälä notes it's when you are lacking energy, feeling down and feel generally unmotivated to do work.

"It seems ridiculous to need an app to remind you to sleep, breathe, eat," Seppälä tells CNBC Make It, "but we've gotten to the point where people do need reminders." She says this is because people are caught up in an "overwhelming" amount of responsibilities.

"Plunged into our virtual worlds and crunched for time, we tune out completely from our own needs for sleep, exercise, even food," Seppala says.

In researching her book, "The Happiness Track," Seppälä found that half of American workers, regardless of profession or position in corporate hierarchies, are burned out.

"We've gotten so addicted to working, we're so overwhelmed with notifications from our devices, and we're generally so overwhelmed trying to balance home life and work," Seppälä says, "that it's no surprise we're seeing 50 percent burnout across industries right now."

work tweet

Apps like Aloe can provide reminders and a supportive community to help keep us on track, Seppälä says.

"We are profoundly social people for whom connection and a sense of belonging is crucial for health and happiness," Seppälä says.

Since we are no longer always living in tight-knit communities with family and friends reminding us to take care of ourselves or pitching in to help cook a meal, Seppälä says "online communities are sometimes a great way to make sure you have people to connect with, be motivated by and look out for."

Without self-care, notes Seppälä, comes more burnout.

"When complete burnout happens, then you can have health consequences," she notes, including stress-induced health problems like inflammation and diabetes.

Discko says she has received online criticism and constant questions about the usefulness or necessity for the app, which will be free when launched and have in-app upgrades for personalization.

But Seppälä wants people to consider this: health care expenditures at high-pressure companies are nearly 50% greater than at other organizations. She cites an American Psychological Association estimate which finds that the U.S. economy loses more than $500 billion due to workplace stress as well as 550 million workdays lost yearly to stress on the job.

Seppälä says wellness apps like Aloe can promote a more inclusive workplace culture if the entire work culture buys into the idea that self-care is important, adding they should "for the sake of the bottom line if anything."

"You need an entire workforce, and especially its leaders, to support the idea," Seppälä says.

Discko says Aloe can help bosses and managers lead the conversation on mental health at work.

"Being able to say you need to take a moment to manage your own health and talk with your colleagues who know you've been working hard is important," Discko says.

"If people in the workplace were kinder to one another, making sure they feel good about their work and their day," she adds, "I think more people would be inclined to work harder and work together."

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