How Stress Affects Your Brain

From test anxiety to Alzheimer's, releasing stress hormones can seriously affect your brain.

Six years ago, a student came to work with me to improve his sports performance. After a couple of weeks, he asked me if Pressure-Free tools help with school also. Apparently his grades were not so good (really not good!), but by using the tools, he was reducing his test anxiety, and was experiencing A’s and B’s. This year, he is graduating with honors and heading off to college in the fall. He has also won numerous awards for his sports. I wonder where he would be today if he hadn’t learn how to stop his anxiety?

Triggering the fight, flight or freeze stress response causes great damage to our brain. Here are just a few consequences:

  1. The first flood of hormones (catecholamines) shuts down your cortex, impairing your ability to think and remember and your ability to make decisions. That’s why, if you get anxious before any sort of test, it can be difficult for you to access the information you studied. It also explains why you will say and do things you later regret, because you were acting to protect yourself from attack rather than respond rationally.
  2. These stress hormones weaken the neurons so that the slightest change in blood pressure causes them to die, build plaque. Do this many times a day, and you begin to permanently affect your memory, which can lead to diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  3. The second flood of hormones, gluco-corticoids, can make you feel anxious. Feeling anxious for no reason can be unnerving and cause you to release the stress hormones all over again, causing chronic anxiety.

The good news is that by using Pressure-Free tools religiously, moment-by-moment, you can condition your brain to choose healthier responses, and stop the release of these nasty hormones. The brain is very resilient and it can rejuvenate. The simple scaffolding that makes the shape of the neurons is replaced every 4-10 seconds, which means that as we begin creating a more positive chemical environment through stopping the release of hormones, your ability to think, remember and make decisions can significantly improve!

Blessings in Disguise. How a Marketing Campaign Messed with Me

Have you ever been hurt or injured and wish you could have a "do-over?"

Do -overs. Does your mind ever spin, loop, go over and over about something? Do you wish you could go back in time and change up what happened? Sometimes these mess-ups, accidents and failures are blessings in disguise. They lead us in a new direction. They humble us. They make us dig deeper. Using Pressure-Free mind tools can help you regain your focus and step out of the looping.

My senior year in high school, I had lofty goals for my track season. The year before, I was Concord (NH) High School’s top two-miler and one of the top sprinters. I was driven. And I was also a bit gullible and quite naive. After cross-country season, a magazine came out with an add for a new running shoe with a cross promotion. Bonnie Bell Etonics. Winter of 1979. Buy a pair of shoes, and get a free lip gloss. I fell for it. Up until that point, I was running in Nikes with a very straight last and excellent arch support. I didn’t know anything about lasts and arch supports until months after training in my new “cool” shoes wearing my strawberry lip gloss.

That Spring, our first meet was intra-squad. We had a large team with 26 distance runners. I ran a few races, and after the last one of the day, when I crossed the finish line, my knees buckled and I fell. They hurt, too. But I was the kind of girl that ran through the pain. The next morning, walking across the parking lot of the school, I fell again. And trying to go up all the stairs of old high school, my knees hurt so much, I had to cling to the bannister and pull myself up.

My mother brought me to a sports medicine physician with a specialty in podiatry. Apparently, my feet pronated, and the Etonics exaggerated my condition, causing damage to my patella under my knee cap – it was all rough and jagged. And it would take months, maybe a whole year to heal.

If you have ever been a student athlete and experienced an injury, you know how devastating it can be. For me, it was like going through withdrawal. I was used to running many miles every week. Now I could hardly walk. My hands and legs shook. I actually got mononucleosis at one point. Not only did I miss running, but I also missed my team. So I went to the coaches, Bill Luti (a legend in New England) and Bruce McMahon, and asked if I could apprentice and help out. I also spent time in the weight room (I remember being the only girl to hang out in there back then) and did straight leg lifts to build my quads as well as build my arms and shoulders.

I loved helping the coaches. I kept stats on all 25 distance runners – their times, their splits, their targets for each meet. I was full of spirit and gave pep talks, and helped keep people calm and focused before their events. Little did I know, all of the performance techniques I had used since I was small as a violinist, I was sharing with these athletes. Tools and tips I have taught hundreds of violin students and young athletes for decades. These weeks at the track were planting the seed for what would become the Pressure-Free Method thirty years later.

And something else amazing happened. Since my lofty goal of running cross-country for the University of Michigan was over, I was open to new experiences. The first week on campus, a student handed me a flyer and said, “You look like a rower. You should come to this meeting.” I went, and started out in the novice boat learning how to row. I grew up on Lake Winnipesaukee in the summer, and water sports were some of my favorites. Although I had never been in a racing shell, it felt completely natural.  My coach, Lisa McFarlane, was from Princeton, and she had just come from teaching at Phillips Exeter in New Hampshire, my home state! Thanks to the weight-training I did, I was strong. And three weeks into learning how to row, I was asked to sub in the Varsity boat! I then earned the #4 seat Varsity, and for three years I rowed for Michigan.

When a door closes, a window always opens. And you can experience blessings in disguise.

How do you know if stress is the cause?

Here are some quick tips to help you tell if stress is affecting you.

I’m going to be honest with you. I didn’t think I needed my own course. I thought I was a fairly calm professional. Quite successful. I achieved the goals I set for myself, often way ahead of my timelines. But when I started doing deeper research, and started really taking a look at myself, I knew that I was truly under the influence of stress hormones continually. All day. All night. You see, I was in denial. The perfectionist in me didn’t want to admit that I was being affected by stress. And I seemed to bounce back quickly from situations. However I didn’t know that the hidden effects last for hours. It takes up to nine hours for the male body to dissipate the stress hormones out of the cells and get back to “normal.” For females, the cycle lasts up to 24 hours. When I learned this, I realized that the last time I was completely clean of these nasty little hormones that damage our minds and bodies was when I was 2 or 3 years old.

So in April of 2010, when I created Pressure-Free, I got out of denial, and began to work on myself. Within weeks, I experienced changes. My skin started looking better and better. My eczema that I had had for 35 years disappeared. Stress fat reduced. I stopped grinding my teeth. I stopped reacting so negatively in situations, and started choosing my response. I am still a work in progress. I’m human, and sometimes the unexpected throws me for a loop. But now, using the Pressure-Free method, I get back to my true self – my authentic self without the crazy stress and overwhelm – faster.

In this fb live video, I share a way for you to self-assess. And you can sign in, right on this page, for a checklist and my 3-step method. When you start learning all of this, you may wish that you could have learned this all years ago. But we can’t go back. Just start now. Celebrate this moment. If you are reading this, watching the video, and clicking to get the checklist, you just made a decision that may be one of the most powerful ones you will ever make. -Elle



3 Tips to Maximize Your Time

C-Suite. Business Owner. Entrepreneur. Home-based Business Owner. Most of us today are juggling more than one of those titles. Then you add all the non-work titles: spouse/significant other, parent, care-giver of older parents, community volunteer, etc. Is your time ever your own? Do you barely have a chance to come up for air? Does your spouse/partner/child/parent complain that you aren’t spending enough time with them? When you do spend time with the people you care about, are you truly present? Or are you thinking about work or other pressures?

Here are three tips to gain more time without compromising your effectiveness in your work and career.

  1. Reduce the time you spend complaining. I read somewhere once that we spend on average 20 minutes a day complaining about time and the weather. You can gain 20 minutes or more of quality time just by changing up this one habit! Take a day, and make a list of the things you notice that cause you to complain. When I did this, I was shocked how extensive my list was! Every time you refrain from complaining, you not only add time to your day, you also move into a more positive mindset. You can also become more aware of how much time you spend complaining when you are with other people. I added 90-120 minutes a day of time in my day when I used this one tip. I was really tough with myself, even eliminating complaining I was doing in my head, along with verbal complaints.
  2. Increase your flexibility and enlist those closest to you in your flexible scheduling. The greeting card industry doesn’t need to rule your life. Just because a holiday is on the calendar, doesn’t mean you need to celebrate it on that day if your circumstances aren’t allowing it. When our family all moved into entrepreneurial endeavors, we became extremely flexible about how we view the calendar. It is easy to work every single day and night when you are starting out. You can calendar in specific free time. It can be different every week. Today, Thursday was a day for me with no scheduled appointments. I am flowing in creativity, taking longer walks and re-focusing. (I’m still in my work out clothes at 2:43pm as I write this.) Sunday is Mothers’ Day, and my boys know that for me, every day is Mothers’ Day. They honor, love and respect me every day of the year. I don’t need a greeting card to tell me that. My youngest has two big video projects he needs to do that day. My middle son is moving to a new home. My eldest texts me something beautiful every morning, and he will probably be off on a work project. We celebrate each other often, and when we are together, it is magic. There is no “you’re supposed to…” feeling to it. If you can all get on the same page about what is important, and honor what is important for each person, you can begin to craft what works for you.
  3. Step off the “hurry up and wait” hamster wheel. Have you ever hurried to get somewhere, only to wait? One of my Pressure-Free songs is the Dooby Brothers’ Old Black Water with the line: I ain’t got no worries, ’cause I ain’t in no hurry at all! It is in the small moments that you can practice not hurrying. You will be much less apt to trigger stress hormones if you move with calm purpose. Driving the speed limit, moving purposefully through your house when you are getting ready to go somewhere, and showing patience with others who are getting ready are three places to start. Once you start reducing the release of stress hormones, you will be more fully present in all of your activities, increasing your effectiveness and your relationships.

I hope these tips are helpful! If you are looking for a fast, effective way to improve your time management and would like to truly get a handle on stress and overwhelm, I have some openings for my “Free to Excel” Strategy Call. Click here to access my online calendar.

Do you ever have one of those days when things don’t go as planned?

Or maybe your computer is just slow?

No matter how carefully you may plan your day, the unexpected can happen, or in my case, today my computer was just extremely slow, or at least felt like it! One of my Pressure-Free tools is to create some slogans: short phrases you can say out loud or in your head to prevent triggering excess stress hormones. You can use your slogans when the unexpected shows up. Here are come of mine:

Stay up! (I lift my posture and imagine that I am staying above the problem or situation so that I can gain perspective.)

Let it go! (Is it really worth going into fight-or-flight and messing up my mind and body for hours over this?)

Go with the flow! (Great ’70’s phrase. Peace out. Stay frosty. Chill out.)

Caught you! (This is my favorite. I roll my eyes up as if I am looking into my brain at the negative voice that is starting to chatter and stop it before it messes with me.)

Some of my clients use spiritual slogans. Some are really humorous. I’m curious; what words come to mind to keep you positive and prevent you from reacting negatively?
















Saving time and hassle with an online scheduler.

It seems like a decade ago, getting together for business meetings and for pleasure was a lot easier. I recently tried to schedule a meeting with an organization that a few years back would have set the meeting that very week. Instead, I was told I would need to wait over two months!! And two decades ago, we all responded to calls and correspondence within 24 hours, often meeting the same day. Now, you are lucky if people return your text, email or phone call ever!

I like efficiency. Several years ago, I started using an online calendar scheduler to schedule appointments with clients, prospects and even personal get togethers. It has saved me and those who connect with me the hassle of going back and forth trying to find a date and time to meet. There are several out there in the ether. My needs are simple, so I use TimeTrade. I send a link to the person with whom I am connecting and they click and choose a time to meet by phone, webinar or in person. Then I receive an email notification and sync it to my calendars. I have received many compliments over the years for this simple way to connect. It’s saved me so much time and is cost-effective.

One aspect of my performance coaching is assisting my clients with how time is a stressor. Here is what one graduate student said about how working with me helped her:

As a college student, I know that time is very precious. I also believe that time is money, and one session with Elle has saved me well over 10 hours each week because of the tools I was given. If you are busy person, especially a student, I urge you to have this life-changing experience! – Parita Shah

Click here if you would like to see my online calendar, and learn more about Pressure-Free Performance.


The Power of Qualifying Your Agenda

You get to choose...

The power of qualifying your agenda: One goal-setting step I share with clients is to qualify everything on your agenda for your day with an adjective that describes how you want to feel while you are doing each activity. In other words, you set an intention about your emotional state rather than falling prey to the emotions of others, or your own negative emotions. I do this work at night for the next day, and the results are tangible. Even a dental appointment or an oil change can lead to game-changing opportunities when your are in a positive emotional state. A few years ago the night before I was bringing my car in for an oil change, I wrote “fabulous” next to it on my planner, and I decided in that moment to use my time there working on my ebook that I was creating for my course. I filled a bag with all that I would need for this work, and the next day, I spread everything on a sofa in the waiting room, and got to work with a smile on my face. A woman came over and asked me what I was doing. When I told her, she asked if I would come speak to her cancer support group. Having lost my mother to cancer, I was elated to go. At that small group meeting was a woman who would become my private client and experience transformative results from working with me, and she has since recommended others to me. She came that night because the topic intrigued her. I came because I seemed approachable by the organizer of the support group. If I had been in a crappy mood while my car was being worked on, the organizer would never have approached me and many people would not have been freed from stress and anxiety. How we show up matters. 


How to Maximize Your Performance in Spring Sports

Learn the most effective way to increase muscle development, sleep better, and stay healthy

Are you looking for ways to gain a competitive edge? Do you have high expectations for yourself in your sport this spring? Do you sometimes feel nervous before competitions? What if you could learn the fastest way to maximize the health of your muscles? What if you could learn how to keep your immune system high to ward off any colds and infections? In this video, I share with you how the release of stress hormones affects your coordination, your muscle development and bone strength, your immune system and your body’s ability to heal after workouts and injury. If you want more tips, sign in to the right and click the Student Athlete or Athletic Coach option.

How do you know if stress is affecting your performance? Here is a short check list:

___Do you have trouble sleeping?

___Is your skin unhealthy? excess acne? blotchy? eczema? psoriasis?

___Do you feel your heart racing when you sitting still?

___Do you sometimes feel shaky?

___Do your palms sweat?

___Are you sometimes uncoordinated, miss targets, over-shoot, over-throw?

___Do you have to go to the bathroom a lot?

___Do you feel nervous before your events?

___Do you get annoyed or angry at teammates or even your coach?

___Do you feel as if you are under-performing?

___Do you feel excess pressure to improve your performance?

___Do you grind your teeth?

___Do you bite your nails?

___Are you fidgety?

___Is your stomach queasy, do you have digestive issues?

___Do you have trouble recovering after workouts?

Any of these are signs that stress is affecting you. The great news is that you can learn how to reduce and even eliminate all of these effects! The Pressure-Free Method is super easy to learn, however, you are complex, so it may take time and patience for full benefits to come your way. You are trying to break years of habits. Having suffered through a serious injury, followed by a serious illness my senior year in high school, and the tough journey back to health to perform in college, I have a first-hand perspective of the ups and downs and all the emotions that come with high expectations and high-level performance. Hundreds of athletes have worked with me to gain the emotional control it takes to perform at their best. It’s life changing. And it affects not only your physical performance, but your mental toughness and abilities improve as well. My mission is to help you unlock your true potential, one moment at a time!


When the slightest bit of hope can change everything...

Do you ever experience stress and overwhelm to the point where a hopelessness starts to set in? Perhaps you experience an event that really rocks your world, or something is coming up for you that seems too difficult. One of the greatest moments in my coaching practice, is when I help someone experience the smallest bit of possibility within themselves.
We live in a very conditional world. Pressure-Free is about unconditional love and support. It’s about learning to be your own best friend and provide that kind of love and support to yourself first, and then everyone around you. It is nearly impossible to do this when we have released stress hormones, because the mind is in fight-or-flight and cannot think logically or lovingly.
The hope of possibility is like a tiny shaft of light, that starts to melt the resistance of what is so hard, so painful. The hope seems to begin deep in our cores, radiating out until the tiny possibility breaks into action, illuminates, frees us from the darkness of stress and anxiety. Then we begin to walk in the light, work in the light, share in the light, love in the light. May you live in your light, Pressure-Free. -Elle





What Does Stress Really Do to You?

Here is a sample video from my online course.

The only way to know if my training would benefit you, is to experience it. Below is a link for you to sign in for a strategy session with me, and  I thought you might like to see a sample video from my online course (above). This is from the Optimal Performance course and it shares what stress really does to our bodies and our minds.

I invite to experience a free strategy session with me by phone or webinar. During the session you will:

  • Build a vision of your optimal life with significantly less stress.
  • Gain clarity on what you would like to experience and achieve.
  • Discover obstacles and the deeper challenges that are preventing progress for you.
  • Learn the steps to overcome stress, anger, anxiety and under-performance.
  • Learn more about Pressure-Free and ask me questions.

If this sounds helpful to you, click right here. This an obligation-free, Pressure-Free opportunity for you to experience my coaching.