July 2024

I turn 62 (born in '62) this year, and I can't tell you how grateful I am that I created Pressure-Free -- for my clients, for the teams I coach, for the world, my family, and for myself. So much has changed, it would take pages to explain it all! In this July issue:

  • Stress and Vitality: How to Stop Stress Hormones from Accelerating Aging
  • The Anxiety of Striving for Perfection
  • Tips for a Pressure-Free Vacation
  • Pressure-Free Parenting

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Pressure-Free Living with Elle

 Stress and Vitality:

How to Stop Stress Hormones from Accelerating Aging

A physician whose staff I was coaching said to me that she had noticed that many of her female patients were experiencing peri-menopausal symptoms 5-10 years earlier than their mothers had. I turned 48 the year I created the Pressure-Free Method and I had been experiencing some peri-menopausal symptoms, but they stopped completely within eight weeks of using my method. NINE years later I went through menopause with hardly any symptoms! I shared this with a client of mine who is a nutritionist with a specialization in thyroid health and she told me that it is critical for a woman to have healthy adrenal glands the decade prior to menopause in order for her to make the transition well. 

Menopause is a fairly clear marker of the aging process for women, although a quick internet search focuses more on physical appearance: skin quality, hair loss, difficulty losing weight. For men, it can be those same appearance markers plus a lack of libido, erectile dysfunction, frequent urination, fatigue. 

With our society’s obsession with anti-aging — creams, diets, treatments like botox, and surgeries — what if, like beauty, aging less quickly comes from the inside? And when I say inside, I mean the smallest bits of us: our DNA, our chromosomes, our cells. Ergo, if these are healthy, then our organs can function well. 

Here are three ways stress hormones affect aging:

  • Shortened telomeres. Both floods of stress hormones, the catecholamines (adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine) and the glucocorticoids (cortisone and hydrocortisone) damage and shorten our telomeres. Telomeres cap and protect the ends of our chromosomes and are required for cell division. As they shorten, they weaken and can cause cells to age and die more quickly.
  • Inflammation. Both floods of stress hormones cause inflammation throughout our bodies, in our cells, in our neurons.
  • Dehydration and lack of fat, glucose, collagen, and nutrients. The catecholamines pull fat and glucose from our extremities, our brain, our skin, and stop the digestion process so nutrients have difficulty getting out to those cells. Then glucocorticoids to help restore homeostasis to the cells, but, at the same time, too much will break down collagen, bone, and muscle and cause fat cells to expand. 

If we want our adrenal glands to be healthy before menopause, or reduce symptoms of aging like memory loss, erectile dysfunction, frequent urination, or even things as simple as having healthier skin, we will need a process to undo the effects of constant stress that prevents our bodies from healing and builds up over years.

Therefore, one of the fastest ways to slow aging is to prevent excess stress hormone release. And it starts by stopping the first flood of stress hormones, the catecholamines, from releasing from the adrenal glands; that’s the essence of Pressure-Free Living. 

When you can identify what is causing you to trigger the stress response, you can begin to interrupt it, and prevent both the first flood, then the second flood, glucocorticoids, from releasing from the cortex of the adrenal glands. When you master this, your endocrine system can function better, you don’t experience adrenal fatigue, and your thyroid can stay healthy. In fact, every bodily process can work so much better than if you are caught in the stress cycle.

The Anxiety of

Striving for Perfection


"Miss Starrett, are you aware that you played a b-natural instead of a b-flat?" This is what a conductor asked me at my first audition at the University of Michigan after I had sight-read an excerpt. I was speechless, but in my head I said to myself, "Crap, I can't play a single wrong note, even on a piece I don't know."

Perfection, or near perfection, is required in many professions. You don't want an eye surgeon who misses 10% of the time. And even one wrong note in music is noticed. I just watched America's Sweethearts; The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders on Netflix - talk about striving for perfection - every move, every facial expression is judged.

What interests me is helping people, as I helped myself beginning in college, strive for perfection without anxiety. Here are some thoughts:

1. Let go of comparing yourself to others. Ask yourself how you can bring forward your unique gifts and talents. Open yourself to being willing to learn more rather than feel you have to show off to everyone what you can do.

2. Feel safe. Keep your lower belly muscles really relaxed and your brain will assume that you are safe. And expand your energy in front of you, then take a step, so that you are always in your comfort zone!


3. Don't keep pushing the same rock up the hill like Sisyphus and the guy in this photo. Instead, ask yourself, "What can I do differently to attain my desired results? Who can help me? What can help me?

I have many more ways to help you up-level without the stress and burnout, so feel free to book a free call with me!

Pressure-Free Parenting


Four years ago, I wrote a book that has helped so many families make small adjustments to reduce stress, anxiety, drama, and illness, both mental and physical.

I also recorded the book in video format and, in celebration of my birthday, would love to give you free access:


Corporate wellness coach Lauren Grogan wrote this review:

This has been one of the most transformative self-help books I’ve ever come across. I listened to this book, then read the book as well. My book is earmarked and doodled all over, and I have 3 sheets of paper that are stuck inside it (listing my Targets, Triggers and Tools!). I have NEVER kept a book around like this for so long - I just keep picking it back up and referencing it over and over. I’ve been applying the concepts and tools to my life and I have to say, it’s changing my life for the better. I’m not anywhere near 100% pressure-free, but man am I working towards it, and boy am I feeling the difference!!! Thank you, Elle!

Lauren asked me for the video version first, and then she went out and bought a hard copy. She showed it to me with all its notes and papers when I gave a talk in New York City last February!

If you would like a hard copy or paperback copy of the book, it is on Amazon. Just click here to access it.

Access Elle's calendar here to book a call.

June 2024

My youngest private clients are 10 years old, and the oldest was 80. I've also coached groups as young as first graders! Pressure-Free is for CEO's and teens, high-achievers and those struggling with anxiety or depression. In this month's issue:

  • July 1 FREE Master Class with me.
  • How Over-Identification can be a Stressor
  • Tips for a Pressure-Free Vacation
  • A tribute to my eldest client (so far!)

PS: If we're not connected by email yet, you can subscribe below:

Register Here for the Master Class with me.

 How Over-Identification Can Keep You

Locked in the Stress Response

I've noticed a pattern in some of my clients of over-identification with their career or organization to the point that any external or internal threat to the organization is a threat to them personally. (And I've done this, too.) It can be a relentless subconscious stress response trigger. This source of identification could also be a cause you advocate, political views, sports team, or anything external that for which one develops a passion to the detriment of their well-being.


It can be people, which is called enmeshment where you become so over-identified that boundaries blur: your partner, your child, the successes or failures of your family members, even a mentor or someone you admire. Whether it's over-identification or enmeshment, the passion can be so intense that it causes us to stay trapped in the stress cycle.


My colleague Lynn Westerman had such a passion as Executive Director of the Civic Theatre of Battle Creek, Michigan. Lynne died of cancer in 1995 at the age of 58. At her funeral, I was sitting next to another nonprofit executive who whispered to me, “She didn’t need to die, you know. Her fight for her organization is what killed her.”


“Her” organization. As if she owned it. Leadership can sometimes require you to jump through hoops not of your own design to meet the requirements of funders and donors and governments. Lynn’s situation was even more challenging. She lost the very building that housed her theatre.


In the 1990’s, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation decided to move its headquarters from the campus of Kellogg Community College to a new facility in downtown Battle Creek. At the same time, the Civic Theatre was struggling. So the story goes that the City of Battle offered to buy their building for a dollar to “help.”  The theatre board agreed to the deal. Then, the Kellogg Foundation told the city they didn’t like the look of the old building across the street that housed the Civic Theatre. So the city tore it down and Millrace Park was built.


Lynn was expected to make do with a small black box theater built down the street, but it had no fly space, no orchestra pit, and no dressings rooms which made it next to impossible for the theatre to be a going concern.


My friend Lynn fought. And fought and fought. She’d even fight irrationally with people who were on her side! And I watched her intensity, her stress over the situation push away people who might have supported her.


My friend had done what we all do, to a certain degree, which is identify internally to an external source that we can't control.  She identified with a leadership role of an organization that was, essentially, taken from her from external sources.  Other people may identify with having a certain life partner, having a certain amount of money in the bank, or even being a "premier flyer." And what ends up happening is the identification itself creates a near continual triggering of the stress response due to outside forces, to uncertainty: the relationship may end, the money dries up, the frequent flyer rules change.


What my friend Lynn didn't do, and it ended up accelerating her death, is question whether she had the ability to fight for what she believed without identifying with the outcome. And, even if she did identify with it, do it in such a way that she didn't trigger own stress response consistently, and, therefore reduce the effects of stress on her health.


How can you steer clear of triggering the stress response when others’ agendas seem to be a force against you and you have over-identified with your organization? I went into deep reflection on this, thinking about what I’ve said to clients who have experienced this, thinking about what I would have said to myself in 2000 and to my friend Lynn in 1994:

  • Your well-being is worth more than any organization, even one you’ve founded or to which you made a major commitment.
  •  The people in your life care more about you and your well-being than any organization, and anyone who doesn’t is someone you can ignore  So don’t isolate Let people in who have your best interest at heart.
  •  If a door is closing, you can open a window.
  •  You can let go and leave the organization.
  •  In order to create a new vision, it’s critical to stay Pressure-Free so that you can cognitively assess your options without emotion overriding.
  •  Your power comes from within. Hold yourself open, wide, and high everywhere you go.

Summer Stress? Tips for a Pressure-Free Vacation


As I write this, I'm getting ready to host my retreat on Lake Michigan this month, and it reminded me of vacations we took there and in New Hampshire as a family. Here are some tips that may be of help to experience a beautiful vacation:

1. Plan time for various family members to have one-on-one time. My son Hugh mentioned to me how grateful he was that for several summers he and our middle son Ned got to spend time in NH alone with my parents and one-on-on time with them, and then we would come for the days we could get off from work. Precious memories were made!


2. Flexibility. Allow for a more relaxed schedule. If everyone is having fun on the beach, stay in fun-mode. My phone flipped to Central time once when I was on the beach at Pentwater and it was so great to have an extra hour not worried about the time.


3. Play to the youngest. We tried as a family to plan our activities that would include everyone - things the youngest could do as well as the oldest. In NH at our big family reunion, we had a wild game of kick the can and the adults would carry the little ones so they could be a part of it, too.


4. Allow for quiet time. Once we were preparing dinner for quite a crew in NH, and my mother noticed that one of my sons - only 10 at the time - had gone down on the dock and seemed deep in thought. She turned to me and said, That's so beautiful, let's hold dinner for a bit until he comes up.


5. One more thing! This is an Ingalls Family tradition - we are usually the last to come out of the water, the last to leave the Go-Karts, the last to go to sleep, the last to get home because we've stopped at one more beach for a final swim!

A Tribute to Kathy Barton who said,

"An Old Do Can Learn New Tricks!"


This is Kathy Barton. She passed away in April at the age of 92, and I so wished that I had checked in on her before then. Over a decade ago, she called me and asked if I'd be willing to coach her, even though she was 80 years old.


I told her I would love to, and I drove to her farmhouse in Homer, Michigan to meet her. She was such an inspiration - so many talents! She loved to kayak, bike, and do yoga, and the mother of a gold-medal Olympian. But she told me she's always been stressed. It was a glorious day about six weeks into our work together when she emailed me that she had her breakthrough day - a day when she stayed Pressure-Free all day! 


Here's to a marvelous woman. And if you'd like to see her obituary, here's the link: https://www.kempffuneralhome.com/obituaries/a-barton

May, 2024

14 years ago in April, I launched Pressure-Free Living. It's been amazing to coach 291 private clients, thousands in retreats and workshops, and hundreds of thousands in speaking engagements. For May:

  • Understanding the Stress Response: It's Not Just Cortisol
  • Breaking Generational Habits of Reaction
  • The Power of Questioning Limiters


Have a Pressure-Free May!


PS: If we're not connected by email yet, you can subscribe below:

I’ve been reflecting on why so many of my clients and high performers, in general, feel that they sometimes underperform in key situations — in interviews for promotions, during presentations, and in what they achieve in general. I think our culture has come to accept “stress” as a factor, and rightfully so, but I think “stress” is largely misunderstood.

Semantics: The word “stress” is used to represent both stressors and the stress response. We can experience stressors but refrain from triggering the stress response, which protects us from an overabundance of stress hormones and their myriad side effects that cause or exacerbate all chronic conditions and diseases.


One of the most apparent misunderstandings of “stress” is that recently, in the media, in health care, and in business seminars, I’ve seen the hormone cortisol discussed a great deal, almost equating it to stress.  It seems to be the new “C” word. Referring to cortisol as the only stress hormone is misleading. In fact, although cortisol causes a lot of side effects, its main function is critical to reducing inflammation and helping cells regain homeostasis once we’ve triggered the stress response.


Here’s why this is a misunderstanding: cortisol is not the first stress hormone to release when you encounter a stressor, catecholamines are. When a stressor is perceived by your nervous system, your preganglionic sympathetic fibers stimulate the center of your adrenal glands to release a cocktail of hormones with the main ingredient being adrenaline, also referred to as epinephrine, with norepinephrine and a small amount of dopamine. 

That first cocktail mobilies fat and glucose into your bloodstream for energy so that you can violently fight or quickly run away. This is great if you are truly under attack, but devastating to your performance if you’re not. And because of this natural defense mechanism to protect ourselves, we’ve become prone to over-reacting to all sorts of small triggers, in some cases addicted to this cocktail as in the phrases “adrenaline rush” or “adrenaline junkie.”

Then, at some point —research differs on exactly when — glucocorticoids -- cortisol -- from the cortex of your adrenal glands, release into your bloodstream to mitigate the effects of your stress response and hopefully help your cells, including your brain’s cells, return to homeostasis. However, like the first flood of hormones, this one has many side effects as well. 

Hence, you do not necessarily want to just “reduce” cortisol. You need cortisol to regain homeostasis in your cells. Instead, you want to get to the root of what is triggering the stress response and the release of catecholamines, then the glucocorticoids won’t release.

Let’s consider how often you may be triggering your stress response, and the side effects of this catecholamine release and the later release of glucocorticoids (cortisol) on both your cognitive and physical performance in a concrete example. For example, you are scheduled to give a presentation to a group at your first meeting of the day. 

  • The night before, as you prepare for bed, you experience some anxiety about your presentation, wondering if you’ve prepared enough. 
  • Your partner comes to bed and wants to be intimate, but you find yourself not at all in the mood or even capable which concerns you. 
  • It’s hard for you to get to sleep, so you worry you won’t be on top of your game in the morning. And/or you wake up in the middle of the night and then have trouble falling back to sleep.
  • Plus you have to get out of bed to pee. Maybe a few times.
  • Instead of waking up naturally, the alarm you set, just in case, startles you awake and you feel your heart pounding. 
  • You’re uncoordinated and rushed and feel that you are going to be late.
  • You step out the shower only to be greeted by too much fat on your torso and worry lines on your face, reminding you that your physician is concerned about your health. 
  • On your commute, the worries about your preparedness for your presentation begin again, and you feel your face flush and your hands are cold and sweaty.
  • In the meeting room, you get impatient because you have to wait for someone who is running late. 
  • Tech fail. You press a button, and your presentation doesn’t load correctly. 
  • Memory fail. You’re introduced to key people in the room and instantly   you forget their names. 
  • Sometime mid-afternoon, you hit the wall and feel the need to rest or nap. 
  • You arrive home exhausted, cranky, and looking for anything to make you feel better - wine, weed, your remote to binge watch.

Thirteen times, and probably even more, you’ve triggered the stress response in your day.

Now let’s consider the possible side effects you may experience.

  • Chronic Anxiety. Worry may be the initial emotion that caused you to trigger the stress response, and glucocorticoids can exacerbate feelings of anxiety, keeping you in an unsettled feeling around the clock.
  • Lack of Libido. An excess of catecholamines shut down desire and the ability to be aroused.
  • Insomnia. Cortisol is your wake-up hormone. You release a flood naturally to wake up each morning. But too much at the wrong time will keep you awake.
  • Frequent Urination. Your bladder and sphincter muscles are affected and your kidneys are working hard to deal with removing the excess hormones which makes you have to pee more.
  • Heart rate and blood pressure increase when you trigger the stress response.
  • Hyperreflexia Catecholamines cause your reflexes to be hyperactive and you may be shaky and fidgety.
  • Stress fat. Fat mobilizes and gathers on your torso and in a fatty hump at the base of you brain stem above your shoulder blades. The cortisol release expands these fat cells. Your ancestors needed these fat stores to survive if they couldn’t get to food in an attack situation.
  • Face flushes, Sweating. Catecholamines may cause your face to flush and the larger sweat glands (not the small ones used to keep your body cool during exercise or heat) activate. These glands collect more bacteria, hence you may smell more body odor - hands, feet, pits, scalp, groin. 
  • Impatience and other unhelpful behaviors. Small annoyances like waiting for someone who is late can easily trigger the stress response.
  • The unexpected, like tech not working correctly may trigger you.
  • Issues with memory and cognitive function. The catecholamines shut down your brain’s cortex and hippocampus so creating memories and accessing memory can be difficult along with decision-making, willpower, motivation. 
  • Exhaustion and Burnout. The stress response requires massive energy fluctuations and once your caught in the stress cycle, you can experience exhaustion and stress-induced burnout. 
  • Lack of willpower. The areas of your cortex required for motivation and willpower are compromised, so you may binge.

These are just a few of the dozens of side-effects of these stress hormones. These side effects are affecting your ability to communicate, think, remember, and comport yourself which results in underperformance on many levels. The deeper I dig into research on the stress response, the more I discover how complicated it is.

In addition, every person I have coached to help them stop their stress response experiences a different combination of stressors and side effects. Being able to recognize these in yourself and in those with whom you work and live is a skill worth developing if you are aiming for optimal mental and physical health and performance. 

With practice, you can learn to identify what triggers you within ten seconds which is plenty of time to interrupt the stress response with tools as simple as relaxing your abdominal muscles, smiling, moving your focus to what you want. Yet, our habits of reaction are complex, which is why I’ve gathered over fifty ways to interrupt the stress response. I think of it as a game that we get to play to set ourselves free, matter what pressures come our way - Pressure-Free!

Articles and research of interest:




Breaking Generational Habits


A professional hockey player I was coaching in my performance methods asked me, “Is anxiety hereditary? Because both my father and mother were highly anxious when I was growing up.”

Nature, nurture. Rather than dive into that debate, I asked him if there were any behaviors his parents had that he consciously decided not to make a part of his way of being. He listed a few. And we talked about breaking generational habits. Like not getting angry over spilling something. Or overreacting if you’re running late. Addictions to alcohol or drugs.

Our habits of reaction begin in utero. We react when our mothers react. We react to sounds (we can hear everything so well thanks to the conductivity of sound in fluids), to movement. And then, when we’re born, we begin imitating. Facial expressions, movements, sounds, and reactions. Not just those of our parents but of anyone around us: siblings, other family members, caregivers, friends. 

As young adults, we begin to craft how we want to be in the world. But if we’ve been habitually triggering the stress response, it’s easy to be caught in generational habits of reaction. 

Here are some steps to begin to break your patterns. 

  • Awareness. Start noticing your patterns.
  • Acknowledgement. Come clean and tell yourself or someone you trust that you have this pattern. I like to say, “Acknowledgement will set you free!”
  • Assess. What triggers the pattern?
  • Action. What can you do instead to interrupt the pattern?

And celebrate! Whether it’s not longer crying over spilling something, arguing less with your partner, or drinking and smoking less, every habit you break can bring you more quality of life. 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?

Michigan is full, 4 spots for NH!


I'm looking forward to coaching the Michigan retreat - all spots are filled! I still have 4 spots left for the New Hampshire Retreat. Just click on the picture above to go the retreat page for more information.

Celebrating 14 Years

of Pressure-Free Living

It has been an amazing journey as an entrepreneur creating a new method to help people experience better health and performance while reducing stress and anxiety at the same time. 291 people from age 10 to 80 have worked with me privately. They are C-suite-level executives, business owners, professionals, educators, coaches, parents and students as young as 10. Thousands have experienced my coaching in retreats and group trainings, and tens of thousands have been in attendance at speaking engagements. I've worked with people at Kellogg Company, Steelcase, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, Blue Cross Blue Shield and hundreds of other companies. Plus thousands have read my book Pressure-Free Parenting.

This is only the beginning as there is still so much to do. I'm hoping to complete my second book The Pressure-Free CEO by my birthday in July. And there are so many people and groups I have yet to introduce to my coaching. I also want to continue to grow my certification program where I not only teach people the method, but help them deeply master it so that they can teach it to others either as a part of what they already do, or help them create their own coaching business.

I held a little celebration online the other night to reflect on these years, and when I asked what people's biggest takeaways from working with me were, here were a few of the responses:

  • Better sleep - able to sleep through the night.
  • The planner and writing an adjective (an intention) next to each activity in the day.
  • Being able to more smoothly navigate change in the workplace and at home.
  • Learning to let go of what does not serve you, especially in terms of your vision and what your are creating.

If you know someone looking for a proven way to up-level, my calendar is below:s


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!


PS: If we're not connected by email yet, you can subscribe below:

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.

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:


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




PS: If we're not connected by email yet, you can subscribe below:

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




PS: if you haven't subscribed yet, it's free! Just click the button below:

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!