I'll be busting some myths in this issue to help empower you. Here's what is in this issue:

  • Unlocking Willpower and Motivation for Success.
  • The Real Power of Your Abdominal Muscles.
  • The Side Effects of the Stress Response.


Have a Pressure-Free Month!


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Pressure-Free Living with Elle

Unlocking Willpower and Motivation for Success

One of the reasons people schedule a call with me is because they feel stuck. They can't seem to get motivated. They lack willpower. It's not because of laziness or lack of talent. It's because parts of the brain are not firing properly.

What parts of the brain are "stuck?" The pre-frontal cortex is often referenced since it involves decision-making and executive function. If you follow Dr. Andrew Huberman, he talks about the anterior mid-cingulate cortex which is still a part of the cortex, but deeper and more centrally located.

Have you heard of the marshmallow experiment studying delayed gratification in children? Forty years later, there was a follow-up study using fMRI scanning that discovered a difference in the areas of the brain for willpower based on whether you have higher or lower self-control.

Subjects with higher self-control showed activity in the pre-frontal cortex, and those with lower self-control showed activity in the ventrial striatum which is linked to desires and rewards and is not a part of the cortex, but more centrally located in the brain. That led me to wonder if the subjects with lower self-control were under the influence of the stress response when they were tested, hence the cortex isn't firing properly. (Research always creates more questions for me!!) And is the cause of their lower self-control simply the stress response?

There was an article in Stanford Medicine's 2011 publication SCOPE that talks about how willpower is a lot like stress: a "full-blown mind-body response."

This got me thinking that we actually experience the inability to feel motivated and to have willpower due to the stress response, since the first release of catecholamine hormones slows the activity in our cortex and other parts of our brain. We are in survival mode and our brains are not capable of what is required to plan for the future, focus on work, study, eat the right foods, take care of our bodies. We just want to fight, run away, freeze, and protect ourselves from a threat. And because our brains are compromised for hours by stress hormones, we can stay stuck...chronically stuck, chronically stressed.

The antidote to this lack of willpower and motivation is to prevent the release of that cocktail of stress hormones so that those areas of your brain can function well. That's the essence of the Pressure-Free Method: breaking the stress cycle moment-by-moment with three simple steps: Targets (what are you aiming for), Triggers (what causes you to trigger the stress response), Tools (simple actions to prevent the hormones from releasing.)

The Real Power of Your Abdominal Muscles

One of the first Pressure-Free tools I developed was to encourage people to relax their abdominal muscles in that 10-second window when they first feel certain emotions. I was working with a high school baseball team, and I noticed that for some of the athletes it was very difficult for them to breathe from their abdomens.

That brought me back to 1980, my freshman year at the University of Michigan when I was a member of the Varsity 8 crew. Our captain had us all on down on our back on the riverbank and was watching how we breathed: "chest, belly, chest, chest...," she called out. She then taught us how to fully relax our abs and breathe deeply so that we could increase our oxygen and maximize our power in the boat.

But there's a deeper reason that your abs are key. The real power of your abdominal muscles is the fact that relaxing them can help you prevent triggering the stress response. Since we don't have ribs to protect our lower organs, our ab muscles serve to protect us in a fight. So we tighten them. And ever since the 1920's, when sit-ups became a component of military training in most countries, we've been tightening and tightening these muscles. Plus, we've been acculturated to try to look as thin as possible. "Suck it in!"

Note: pretty much the only time any other animal tightens their abs is when they are afraid.

Here's what I've noticed. If your abs are tight, you are probably holding tension in other parts of your body: your jaw, your forehead, your shoulders, even your hands and feet. Relax your belly and you'll find it much easier to relax other body parts, even your face.

If your abs are tight, it's as if you are priming your nervous system to go into fight-or-flight easily. The gut-brain connection has been studied since the mid-1800's when the ENS - enteric nervous system - was defined and noted to be key in all of the animal kingdom. In fact, you have 5 times the number of neurons in your abdomen than in your brain. Which makes sense when you consider that for millennia, in order to survive, we needed to be very good at triggering the stress response! But it's the 21st century, and we've become so easily triggered by things that are not actual threats to our lives.

As you begin to relax your abdomen more and more in all directions, you will find it much easier to have good posture, more energy, and improved health. And you will signal through that amazing gut/brain neural connection, especially the Vagus nerve, that all is fine and there is no need to trigger the stress response.

Access the Article on Willpower by the American Psychological Association

Side Effects of the Stress Response


This chart that I created after studying some research by Dr. Brent Myers at Colorado State is just the tip of the iceberg. When I ask people what they feel when they are stressed, the answers vary considerably from migraines and jaw-clenching to chest tightness and difficulty breathing to nausea and bladder issues.

There are embarrassing side effects like turning red in the face, dry mouth, sweaty palms, nail-biting and leg-jiggling.

And then there are the behavioral side effects: lack of focus, fidgeting, impatience, bursts of energy followed by exhaustion and burnout, blaming others, forgetfulness.

As I read studies on any chronic illness, there is always a link between symptoms and the side effects of the stress response. Which leads me to believe that by gaining control of the stress response, we can begin to alleviate those symptoms. That inspires me every day! What symptoms do wish would start to lessen?

Spots are going fast!


I have 3 spots left for the Michigan Retreat and 6 spots left for the New Hampshire Retreat. Just click on the picture here to go the retreat page for more information.

Let's Have a Conversation

If you're curious about any of my programs, from private coaching to group speaking, retreats, or certification, I'd love to talk with you. And sooner rather than later! So many times, I talk with someone and they say to me, I wish I'd worked with you years ago.

What I've found is that we live with various chronic conditions for so long that we don't think things can change. They can! I can't promise what will change, but because the programs I've designed are science-based, I know that something will change for you. It has for me -- no more eczema, allergies, or dense, fibrous breast tissue -- and hundreds of others. The button below will take you to my calendar:

Access my calendar here.


Changing the clocks reminded me of how time can be stressor for us. Here's what is in this issue:

  • Springing Forward with Less Stress About Time
  • Colds? Allergies? Tips to Boost Your Immune System
  • How to Walk and Massage Your Feet - a Guest Column by Lila Veronica




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Spring Forward with

Less Stress About Time

For those of us that spring forward this month and fall back in autumn (not you Arizona and Hawaii!), there can be a bit of adjustment. The first time I really complained about the time change was in college when our Michigan rowing team had Mid-West championships in Wisconsin on the very day we were to “lose” an hour. Add that to our back-and-forth time change from Eastern to Central and the fact that exams were the next week, and I found myself quoting T. S. Elliot, “April is the Cruelest Month…” This phrase became a pattern — I’d say it every year, even though in 2007, they changed the month from April to March!

As I reflect on why I complained, it’s become clear to me that time can easily become a stressor for me and for my clients when we perceive that we are not in control. I often will decide to stay up an hour later than usual, and “lose” an hour of sleep without even thinking about it (I’m in control). But when I’m forced to change my clock an hour, or if I expect something to occur at a certain time and I have to wait, I’m easily annoyed. 

Feeling annoyed can trigger the stress response just as easily as anger or anxiety. And feeling ashamed because you miss a deadline or arrive late can do so, also.

I think that one of the root causes of why we get emotional around time is how key members of our family of origin reacted to time. We either followed the patterns of behavior of key family members or resisted them, and either one can cause time stressors. How is time a pressure for you?

The key to gaining productive hours in your day is to notice the moment you begin to feel tense or emotional about time and to interrupt the stress response before we lose perspective and behave and think in ways that are unproductive. The gains are real: at least two hours a day and one of my clients reported three hours!

These four Pressure-Free tools can be helpful when you notice a time stressor:

  • Relax your abdominal muscles, especially your lower abs, to tell your brain that you are going to be OK.
  • I’ve got all the time in the world,” “Tomorrow is a new day,” “I’ll get there when I get there.”
  • Reduce the number of things you do before leaving to go somewhere so that you have plenty of time to leave on time. 

Colds? Allergies?

Tips to Boost Your Immune System

A few years ago a mother brought her 10-year-old son to me to see if I could help him overcome some anxiety around math and soccer. He was quite talented in both and a classic high-achiever.

At the end of our consultation, I asked him if he had any health issues that concerned him. He did. Allergies. Year-round. He said that his father also had terrible allergies, so it must be genetic.

He went through my student coaching program and at the end of the last session, I asked him how his allergies were. He grinned and looked over at his mom, who also was smiling. He said, “I don’t have any allergies anymore!”

What changed for Dylan is that by preventing the stress response many times in his day, his immune system could begin to heal. Stress hormones affect every aspect of our immune system and can be the root cause of frequent colds, allergies, inability to heal well. In fact all chronic diseases both mental and physical are either caused by or exacerbated. 

In our sessions, I never directly talked about his allergies. But what I did do, is help him interrupt the stress response and also build belief that change can happen.

We focused mostly on performance anxiety for his math tests, his homework load, and his soccer. He was the one who made the leap that more things could improve!

Here are three tips:

  • Open yourself to the possibility that your health can improve. You can even say to yourself, “I’m open to the possibility that…”
  • Notice where you are holding tension in your body. Relax your abs and then go to the spot you’ve identified and gently relax the muscles there.
  • Whatever you currently do for healing, let go of any resistance. For example, sometimes we will take medicine and say to ourselves that we don’t really think it will work. Or we will drink a tea with immune boosting properties, but think it probably doesn’t do much good. A simple reframe changes your brain chemistry which affects every cell!

How to Walk and

Massage Your Feet

with Lila Veronica


I asked my personal body coach Lila Veronica to share how to care for your feet. She’s helped me and thousands of others experience less pain with these practices. Check out her video and if you want to connect with her, you can click the button below. And the lower button to connect with her.

Spots are going fast!


I have 3 spots left for the Michigan Retreat and 6 spots left for the New Hampshire Retreat.

Just click on the picture here to go the retreat page for more information.

Cover photo: Deb Oliviara with OliviaraMultiMedia.com

Makeup: Jen-Dedeaux-Priest Hair: Cynthia Hoang

This month, I'm sharing something really personal with you which is scary for me, but I know that someone out there needs to hear that there is hope that things that we thought we could never change about our health might possibly be able to! So let's dive into:

  • Timing Your Smile
  • Healthy Breast Tissue (the personal one)
  • Dynamic Posture - a Guest Column by Lila Veronica
  • And What's Your Fun for February




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Timing Your Smile

Over the past few decades, there have been many research studies and anecdotal articles written on how smiling affects our emotions, including articles with headlines like, Fake Smiling Doesn’t Work and one that I find quite interesting, that was published in Medical News in 2022: Is Fake Smiling enough to Improve Your Mood. You can check it out here: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/is-faking-a-smile-enough-to-improve-your-mood

What all of the studies are missing is the critical factor of the timing of the smile. One of the first tools I teach my clients is to smile. But the timing is the key.

If you can begin your smile in the ten seconds when you first start experience an emotion, a tension, or a trigger that could possibly result in you releasing an over-abundance of stress hormones, you can prevent significant changes in your brain chemistry, your response, and the outcome of the event, including how you feel. 

During my college years, I participated as a subject in several psychological studies at the University of Michigan and had a first-hand glimpse of labs and protocols. Just walking into one of those labs can be triggering!

As I dig deeper into the side effects of the stress response, I’ve started to question the results of research studies because when I consider the subjects involved, chances are nearly every one of them, like I did back in college, has triggered the stress response prior to participating in the study.

This means their cognitive function and emotions are under the influence of the stress hormones rendering results that will reflect the myriad of side effects of these hormones. So I take them with a grain of salt, and focus instead on the results my cients are getting.

Your smile can be silly, sarcastic, small, or so big your fillings show! So keep noticing what causes you to feel any tension or any emotion like feeling angry, annoyed, anxious or ashamed, and smile, especially in the 10-second window. I'd love to know your experience!

Healthy Breast Tissue

If you know me, you know that I’m a fairly modest person. I rarely show cleavage like in the photo on this month's e-zine cover. But, I decided to do so to bring attention to the importance of breast health. 

My mother passed away in 2005 at age 68 of breast cancer. Her first diagnosis was at 62, which is the age I will be this year. 

I still remember sitting at the breakfast table back in the late 90’s, reading a Wall Street Journal article about a study linking dense fibrous breast tissue to cancer. A shiver passed through my body as I read that. Because, you see, I had dense, fibrous breast tissues. So dense that mammograms hurt. 

And then when my mother died, I started to wonder when, not if, I would go down that path.  

That nagging fear probably caused me to trigger the stress response more often than I care to know. Until 2010. That’s the year I developed The Pressure-Free Method and started experimenting with it. At first, I thought I had developed this method to help people perform at higher levels - in athletics, in the performing arts, in business, in school. But it is far more than that. 

Eight weeks into using the method, my breast tissues were no longer dense! I was so amazed at the change, that I decided to share with my mother-in-law. In fact, I was so excited that I whipped off my bra to show her! She exclaimed, “Oh my! They’re so youthful!” And then we cried together, for she had lost a breast to cancer in her 40’s. 

Recently, a client of mine experienced a similar change in her tissues, calling Pressure-Free truly life-saving. Of course, I can make no promises about what will happen for any of my clients, but what I can promise, is that mastering the Pressure-Free Method prevents the side effects of stress hormone release. And that does have an impact on gene expression and cancer according to a 2022 research study that you can access here: https://factor.niehs.nih.gov/2022/2/papers/stress-hormones.

The Power of Dynamic Posture

over Static Posture

by Lila Veronica


Dynamic posture, in stark contrast to its static counterpart, is a powerful force that embraces the natural curvatures of the body while in motion. Unlike static posture, which emphasizes the importance of staying still with a straight spine, dynamic posture recognizes that the body is designed for movement and constant adaptation.


The magic of dynamic posture lies in its ability to allow the body's natural curves to work harmoniously, promoting strength, flexibility, and resilience. When we move dynamically, whether walking, running, or engaging in physical activities, the body instinctively adjusts to maintain stability while accommodating its inherent curves. This adaptability not only prevents strain on specific muscles and joints but also promotes a more comprehensive engagement of the musculoskeletal system.


Static posture, on the other hand, often leads to stiffness and rigidity. While a straight spine is crucial for certain activities, maintaining this position for extended periods can result in discomfort and potential health issues. Dynamic posture, by embracing the body's curves, encourages a more fluid and natural way of moving, reducing the risk of chronic pain and promoting overall well-being.

Understanding the power of dynamic posture is crucial in a world where sedentary lifestyles prevail. Incorporating dynamic movements into daily routines not only fosters physical health but also enhances mental well-being. By acknowledging and respecting the body's natural curvatures during movement, individuals can unlock the full potential of dynamic posture, leading to a more balanced and resilient approach to life.


If you’d like to learn how you can integrate dynamic posture into your everyday life, feel free to schedule. A complimentary posture assessment at https://speakwithlila.com/body

What's Your Fun for February?


In 2021, I was in a coaching program with Shanda Sumpter, and on a call at the end of the year, she shared two tips that have changed my life:

1. Plan your fun for next year.

2. Whatever goals you set for yourself for the next year, do it in half the time.

That year was one of the most fun, most successful years of my life. I planned two amazing trips. One to Vancouver and Victoria where our son William ran the marathon and our eldest son Hugh and my husband Peter ran the 10K, plus my husband got to see his friend from college for the first time since our wedding in 1988 - he ran the half marathon. And I ran all over Vancouver cheering them all on!

I also planned an extended time in New York City for our whole family to go to William's graduation from Columbia, then hop over to Brooklyn to watch him and his friend Ignacio run the Brooklyn half marathon in their graduation gowns!

And it keeps getting better, as I do more spontaneous travel and take time to visit family and friends.

For 2024, when I asked myself what I wanted to do for fun, the first thing that came to mind was to go to a concert of Vikingur Olaffson, my current favorite pianist, to see him play the Bach Goldberg Variations.

At first, I wanted to fly to Iceland this month to see him play in his home concert hall in Reykjavik, but then I saw that he was playing in Carnegie Hall a week earlier. I have performed and attended concerts in dozens of halls in the US and Europe, but I've never been to Carnegie Hall! That changes this week. I WILL see Vikingur perform there! And I can't wait to hear my favorite variation, 13, played live.

What is fun for you?

And what fun will you plan this month?

And is there a goal you are working on that you could achieve in half the time?

For years, I've wanted to create a Pressure-Free Living Magazine. But how to start? I'm just going to do it! I was inspired by my friend Leslie Christin who asked me to write a guest column in hers called Cara Style.


In this first e-zine issue are three short articles to give you some ideas for creating clarity as we start the new year:

  • Your Theme for the Year
  • Streamlining
  • De-bunking Assumptions that Affect Performance



Your Theme for the Year

Back in 2018, when a business coach I was working with asked me, "What's your word for the year," I had no idea what they were talking about. Apparently, I missed the memo floating around that focusing on a word or theme can be beneficial.


And I found myself resisting choosing a word. Which was a sign to me that it might be helpful! Since then, each year, I have had a word or a theme that really has helped me focus on what's important to me.


The best one I've chosen to-date was streamline. I chose it by asking myself, "What do I need more of this year?" And the answer that came back to me was organization which I translated into streamline. 


You, too, might benefit from a theme. And if the first word you choose needs to change, you get to change it!

Why Streamline?

The author Stuart Wilde would say that if you're feeling a bit muddled, clean something. 


Streamlining means a few things to me:

  • Cutting through the crap.
  • Clearing out the crap.
  • Keeping my phone clean and organized.
  • Keeping my computer clean and organized (always a work in progress!)
  • Creating routines that make my life flow better.

My computer background is just a solid color, no photo or design. That helped me significantly. I did it to my phone, too, but recently have added a photo that is significant to me. 


Another streamlining trick is to reduce how often I touch things, like mail, dishes. I engineer where I keep things to reduce how often I open drawers. I know it may seem  like I'm just shaving off a few seconds, but they add up! Even just a little streamlining will give your more time for the things that matter.

As I continue to work with CEOs and high achievers on their stress response, I find myself reflecting on random circumstances in my past that are analogous to their situations. One of these was believing an assumption that was reinforced by the opinion of an expert.


A few years ago, I watched a crowd of parents at a cross-country championship run from spot-to-spot on the course to get a better view of the runners. I was walking, not running, and next to me was a Big 10 cross-country coach.  He shook his head, looked at me and said, “nobody should run after the age of forty.”


It was an assumption that I had also made. I was primarily a walker, in part because I’m ultra sensitive about my joints, having damaged my knees in track in high school (they took a year to heal), and having hip issues after my pregnancies. I thought that running after the age of 40 would have me replacing joints, and this Big 10 coach confirmed it.


So for two decades, I rarely ran…until April of 2023 when I was out for a walk and my body just wanted to run…barefoot! So I took off my shoes and socks, and I ran—I’ve been running ever since.


It turns out that I can run after 40 (after 60!) In fact, we are built to run our whole lives!  But, we often aren’t trained appropriately and that leads to false-assumptions, like: don’t run after forty.  These assumptions become culture when they are reaffirmed by others, especially those whose opinion we respect.


I changed my assumption about running when I applied the methods of alignment that my personal body coach Lila Veronica had taught me - how to sit, stand, and walk - to my running. And it worked!


The reason I was thinking about this and my work with CEOs is that there are cultural assumptions related to stress that are espoused by experts and the inexpert alike.


Many of my clients are told by health professionals and their family members to get a handle on their stress, to slow down, to take a vacation - go to the Bahamas for a week! They assume that this will reduce the effects of stress.


For most people, going on a vacation will not de-stress them. You’ll encounter different stressors: flight delays, traffic, the weather, the rude or incompetent person at the counter. 


And for many of the leaders I coach, who love being in the driver’s seat, it can be triggering to relinquish control of their lives to pilots and taxi drivers. In fact, many people get back home and say they need a vacation from their vacation!


There is no moment in our lives where the environments are pure enough to not potentially be stressed by them. That means we need a different way to approach stress by releasing assumptions that are not truly serving us.


For example, not: where can I go to avoid it (you can’t) but: how do I prevent the stress response so that it doesn’t derail my day, my week, my career, my vacation.


There aren’t stressful and not-stressful scenarios  There are moment-to-moment habits of reaction that cause us to trigger the stress response and experience the resulting side effects of stress hormone release.


Experts and non-experts alike may assume that you need a break to remove yourself from stressors. But that doesn’t solve the issue. By preventing your stress response, you’ll find that you can do exceptional things. You can be aligned anywhere (work, vacation, social situations) and perform at even higher levels than what other people—even expert people—did not think would be possible.

I believe that you deserve a beautiful life, no matter what challenges and difficulties you encounter. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, I am here for you!