Are you your own worst enemy? Are you hyper-critical about yourself, your work?

How to begin to become your own best friend, accept compliments and begin to flourish...

I have a critical voice. Sometimes a nagging one. Sometimes a seriously negative one. Do you? Do you wish you could quiet that voice?

Gaining more control over how you talk to yourself can impact your emotional resiliency. It can help you stay free of triggering the stress response. And not only will you begin to have more positive self-talk, you will also improve your relationships with others.

I like three-step methods. So here is one for you to try:

Step 1. Analyze the voices in your head. See if you can become more aware of how you are speaking to yourself. What pronouns do you use? “I?” “You?” Some people even use “we” as if there are two or more people living inside their heads! Note that as you begin to pay more attention to these voices, that pretty much everyone has a variety of voices in their heads that change in tone, negativity, severity, so don’t be alarmed! I was at first. I really wasn’t aware of how much of my day I was living with my critical voice, especially command-form you.

Also, see if you notice whether or not you accept compliments graciously. Do you tend to deflect them? I sure used to. Mostly because of that inner critic.

Step 2. Decide which voices you like, and which you want to start to turn down. My mentor, Robert G. Allen, encouraged me to put a volume knob on my head and start to turn the voice down, then off. I created a tool I call “flip the switch.” And in my video today, I share using slogans to help you start to turn around your thoughts. Create some slogans for yourself. For example, if you start to say, “I can’t do this…” see if you can switch it to, “I can do this!”

Step 3. Practice switching up the negative critical voice with your slogans, or with empowering questions that start with. “How can I…” or “What can I…” You can ask yourself how your best friend would talk to you right now, and start using phrases to become your own best friend.

In my video, I share about the “I” in the West Michigan Mental Health Foundation’s Be NICE slogan. “I” stands for Invite. Invite yourself to have a conversation with someone who seems in need. Click here to see the video explaining this. 

Wishing you a wonderful, Pressure-Free day!

Elle

 

Do you ever feel like placing an “Out-of-Order” sign on your forehead?!

Do you sometimes feel great one moment, and then totally crappy a little later?

Most of us are experiencing a daily rollercoaster ride of emotions. Up one moment, down the next. Do you ever sabotage your good moments? You can hear yourself doing it. You start complaining about something; you pull back from your lover right during an intimate moment; you start picking on someone or arguing about something rather pointless.

Dr. Gay Hendricks calls this the “upper limit problem.” We only give ourselves permission to feel so good, and then we find ways to trigger – stress hormones will do it fast – so that we lose the great feeling we were having just a few moments before. I’ve begun calling these limits glass ceilings. We have glass ceilings for how much success we feel we deserve in our professions, in our athletic endeavors, in our relationships, even in our health. We are comfortable in our mess, no matter how painful it is. It can give us an excuse to give up, to not participate, to drink, to self-medicate.

I’ve created a tool I call the Dial to bring awareness to this glass ceiling phenomenon. In my coaching I go into the science of why we have these ceilings. For the purpose of this blog, I simply want to give you a tool you can use right away to start changing the trajectory of your emotions. I want to help you get off the rollercoaster and experience Pressure-Free Living!

Remember the mood rings of the seventies (they’re making a comeback!) Well, this is an imaginary mood dial right on your chest. You can change up these setting to words that work for you. Perhaps something a little stronger? Typically your dial is set at OK-Good. Whenever something great or in your genius zone area occurs, I want you to imagine twisting the dial so that great-genius zone is at the top, and hold it there. Be aware in the next minutes or hours to see if you try to self-sabotage, and hold fast to your dial. Permit yourself to feel great, to live in your genius zone for as long as possible in your day! Yes, it takes practice. We have LOADS of habits of reaction that will want to take you out, make you feel crappy. You deserve to live a fulfilling, amazing life. My mission here at Pressure-Free is to help you experience a NEW NORMAL, free of stress hormone release, no matter what pressures come your way.

Here is my video from my fb live show today. I honor three NFL players who took their own lives.

How the release of stress hormones leads to anxiety and negative thoughts

Even when it looks like you've got it all together.

Do you have a negative, critical voice in your head? Does it suddenly start telling you things like, “You’re just not good enough?” “You’ll never finish this.” “You’re totally worthless.” “What makes you think you can do this?”

Everyone I know has these thoughts from time to time. Where does the voice come from? Why do we use the pronoun “you” instead of “I?” Who is really talking to us? Maybe these thoughts are circulating, but on the outside, you’ve got your game face on. Everything looks fine. My video with this post honors Madison Halloran, a Penn D-1 athlete featured in Kate Fagan’s book What Made Maddy Run.

Several years ago, I took a three-week period to analyze the voices in my head, and what I learned was profound. My negative, critical voice usually only starts chattering when I have triggered the fight-or-flight stress response. If I can refrain from releasing stress hormones, my mind feels much more free to think and talk positively. I’m firing on all cylinders! I’m creative, innovative, effective, happy, and radiant.

But the moment stress hormones start coursing through my veins, shutting off dopamine in my cortex, there is a drastic change. When dopamine stops flowing, we don’t feel good. We get bitchy, bossy. We bully, get over busy. Or we feel broken down. We are in survival mode, using our “reptile” or “croc” brain. All we care about is self-survival. The smallest situation can feel like a threat. Depending on your personality, you’ll get aggressive and lash out, or you’ll want to run and hide, or you’ll freeze and feel stuck, paralyzed to do anything about your situation.

Then the second flood of hormones, gluco-corticoids, causes you to feel anxious, which can cause you to trigger the whole process again. Pretty much everyone you know is in some stage of the stress response all day and all night. Which is why we have so much chronic disease, physical illness and mental illness. If our brains never get a break from these hormones, we have a hard time experiencing true peace and happiness.

Chronic anxiety leads to depression and negative thought patterns that can lead to suicidal thought patterns. By learning how to stop the floods of stress hormones, we can begin to free ourselves from the negative mental patterns that keep us unwell. It’s a discipline so worth exploring.

When I created the Pressure-Free Method in 2010, I started using it, and I was astonished at how much I doubted it would work. My critical voice was in overdrive. I was vulnerable to others’ opinions. But after just a few weeks, my mind and body changed definitively. Then my clients starting experiencing breakthroughs. Life-changing breakthroughs. By stopping stress at the adrenal glands, we stop stress at its source. When a glimmer of hope and happiness can start to be achieved in our thoughts, it can be life-transforming. True happiness is possible.

 

 

Just noticing someone in need can give a ray of hope.

It's National Suicide Prevention Week. I am celebrating the life of Phoebe Wang, MIT student, in today's post.

Back in February, I met the extremely talented Malee Ojua, an MIT graduate who has left her engineering career to create her own business. Malee and I are in the same coaching program with Maria Andros Buckley to learn how to grow our businesses and we were sharing with each what we do when she told me that MIT students could benefit so much from my coaching. She shared that there were many attempted suicides when she was a student there. As there are at all colleges, big and small. And in all communities big and small.

The first step in the West Michigan Mental Foundation’s Suicide Prevention program Be NICE is to notice. Click here to see a video on NOTICE from them.

Many students often don’t really feel they have a mental health issue: It’s supposed to be hard, right? I chose this pressure. I should be able to handle it. I had all A’s in high school. These are some thoughts that go through their heads, along with: I’m just not good enough. I don’t have what it takes. I’m disgracing my family. I know, because these were some of the thoughts that went through my head my sophomore year at the University of Michigan in the Music School. There were so many violinists better than me. I came close to the edge. For three days, I only left my room to go to the bathroom down the hall. I was completely paralyzed by fear. I never once thought that I had a mental health issue. I never thought to ask for help. No one noticed that I wasn’t going to the dining hall. No one noticed anything amiss, except for my violin professor, Paul Makanowitzky. When I missed our scheduled lesson, and didn’t show up in orchestra rehearsal, he called me. HE CALLED ME. Little me. His least-talented student. He noticed me. And between his talk with me, and a conversation with my boyfriend over the phone, I ventured out again from my tiny single dorm room. I started playing my violin. I asked for help form Boro Martinec. (Boro, you never knew how much I needed you to hear me play my Bach that one day in the practice rooms.)

That same year, I helped a girl who got very close to the edge, and had even slit her wrists. I noticed her. I gave her hope. I gave her love and support as she navigated her fears and anxieties and I helped her get the help she needed.

I am dedicating my posts this week to high-achieving students no longer with us because of suicide. Today, I honor Phoebe Wang. Phoebe was a sophomore at MIT, a flutist in the symphony there, and she worked in the music library. She was incredibly gifted, talented. Click here to see a remembrance of her life published by MIT. I hope that this post and the resources I am sharing can help you notice if someone needs some help, some hope, some love, some Pressure-Free tools to help them navigate feelings of anxiety and depression.

Do you suffer from second-hand stress?

Do you trigger the stress response for news outside of your control?

Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma. Wildfires in the Northwest. News from around the globe. Often, we are releasing stress hormones not for something directly happening to us, but for something happening directly to someone else. It’s OK to watch the news if you can refrain from releasing stress hormones. But it’s the rare viewer who can remain calm and dispassionate. If you do trigger them, then you may have difficulty sleeping, feel irritated, take out your frustrations on others. And constant release can affect your ability to think clearly, cause your health to deteriorate, and lead to chronic mental and physical disease.

Second-hand stress also occurs when we empathize with another’s situation, and take on their pain. Educators, health-care workers, social workers and our uniformed professionals often suffer from second-hand stress. Professionals in these fields are reporting high levels of stress that impacts their personal and their professional lives.

Twenty-five years ago, I stopped watching television news. I read newspapers and listen to the radio for my news. When Katrina hit the gulf shore, I remember being at my mother-in-laws and she had the TV tuned in. I felt like I was watching some sort of sensationalized entertainment show that repeated the same images over and over and over. A far cry from the newscasters of my youth like Walter Cronkite, calmly reporting the news at a desk with a few still images.

This morning, when I awoke to a still, clear day in Michigan, and promptly got on my phone to find news about Irma, I listened to a newscaster from Naples report on how nice it was there at the moment, but how quickly it will change. If I had no way to access a broadcast, my feelings about this day would be far different than they are. What we choose to listen to, watch, read, experience, all has a profound effect on our emotions, our releases of stress hormones, and how we move through our day and impact others. I often tell myself to “guard my mind” – to be very selective about what I allow in. I encourage my clients to ask the empowering question, “Does this serve me?”

With friends and family in Florida, with their homes and all their belongings in Florida, I am keeping abreast of Irma, and using a few Pressure-Free tools to make sure that I remain free of stress hormones that will cause me to not be my best self, and lead to a host of symptoms I don’t want today, or any other day. I prefer to be in the mental state where I can develop solutions, rather than reactive and in panic mode. The tool I want to share with you here, to help you do the same, is to place a hand on your belly, and relax your abs. By relaxing your abdominal muscles, you send signals to your brain that you are not under attack, and therefore do not need to trigger the stress response. Plus, when you relax your abs, you will find it easier to relax other areas of your body.

Pressure-Free is helpful when you are experience physical storms and storms of your mind. Acknowledge, analyze and take action with Pressure-Free tools that fit your situation.

-Elle

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?