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There are people who seem unflappable in chaotic and high-pressure moments: the unrealistic deadline, the hair-pin coastal drive, the medical emergency. And then there are the rest of us.

A number of factors can influence our tendency to freak out during intense situations — including a genetic predisposition to anxiety. But it’s also likely due to the normal functioning of your brain chemistry, says Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD, author of Habits of a Happy Brain.

“A stressful event triggers a cascade of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol,” Breuning explains. “This can prepare you for action, but it can also speed your heartbeat and cause a surge through your body that makes it hard to calm down.”

For many people, crises large and small trigger the fight-or-flight response. Cue the panic, freeze-ups, intense emotions, and even disordered thinking. In this agitated state, it’s tough to see situations clearly, let alone navigate them skillfully.
sign of trouble, we can learn to stay levelheaded, says positive-psychology researcher Michelle Gielan, author of Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change.

“Having certain strategies pre-pared in advance, when you’re not in a pressure situation, can be very helpful when those moments arrive,” she explains.

For situations you can anticipate (maybe you tense up every time you merge into bumper-to-bumper traffic, or you’re dreading an upcoming meeting to discuss a long-overdue raise), Gielan suggests training like an athlete gearing up for a competition. You might practice deep-breathing exercises even when traffic is light, or rehearse your salary negotiation with a friend.

For those high-pressure moments you can’t foresee, these strategies can help you build perseverance, de-escalate panic, and keep your cool.

1. Focus on Now
Our brains are designed to anticipate danger. “For many people, this creates a flow of threats that’s hard to turn off,” says Breuning. “Adept problem-solvers focus on the immediate issue.”

So if you’re on that winding coastal highway, concentrate on your speed and the turn that you’re navigating right now rather than the miles ahead or the steep drop to your right.

When you pay attention to what you can control and break problems into small, easy tasks, your mind becomes an ally. Each time you solve one of these problems, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical that elevates your mood and gives you a feeling of greater confidence. That will get you to the “unflappable” stage much faster than trying to deal with all aspects of a situation at once.

2. Remember Your Resilience
An overwhelming situation can be compounded by a fear that you’re unprepared and that it will end badly. Gielan argues that you can override these default settings by keeping a mental list of stressful events you’ve handled well in the past.

“Maybe you aced a huge presentation or lived through a very painful breakup,” she says. Even seemingly small victories, such as keeping your cool during a charged political discussion at Thanksgiving, can be on the list, because they demonstrate you already have that ability. You just have to reaccess it.

When you’re careening into panic mode, recalling those resilient times can help reduce the pressure.

3. Reframe Your Beliefs
“Changing your mindset can change everything,” says executive coach Jen Sincero. “Your perspective is what determines how well you deal with a high-pressure situation, and you can decide to shift that perspective. You have a choice.”

Sincero suggests switching up your language from dispirited and rudderless to powerful and driven. For example, instead of saying, “I’m so nervous about this presentation,” you can tell yourself, “I’m so excited to be doing this.” Even if you don’t quite buy your own words, your brain believes it, she says.

Several studies of mindfulness meditation in recent years suggest this may occur because focused visualization increases blood flow in the brain, especially in the frontal lobe — which is where all the good stuff happens, including problem-solving, impulse control, and spontaneity.

4. Talk It Out (But Not Too Much)
Gielan says people have a tendency to deal with stressful situations in two ways: They either talk to no one, withdrawing into jaw-clenching silence, or they discuss it with too many people — essentially crowdsourcing possible solutions.

In a study conducted at the Institute for Applied Positive Research, Gielan and her research team asked more than 10,000 people about their ability to handle stressful situations. They found that those who connected with just one or two other people tended to have the best results.

“Being an open communicator and talking it through helps to minimize the stress response,” she says. “But if you’re too open — as in talking to all of your friends — that can actually increase your stress, because you’re likely to get conflicting advice.”

5. Breathe — and Let Go
Even when a crisis situation ends, your fight-or-flight switch might stay on, says Henry Emmons, MD, author of The Chemistry of Calm. Some people can get stuck in their dialed-up energy, which leads to chronic stress that can affect sleep, energy level, immunity, and mood.

Take time to allow your nervous system to discharge this amped-up energy and flush out cortisol and other stress hormones. Emmons recommends conscious, deep breathing — a technique that engages your parasympathetic nervous system and, in turn, slows your heart rate and relaxes your fluttering stomach.

“This seems almost too simple to work, but just take a moment to notice your heartbeat and your breath,” he says. “Have heightened awareness of your body, right now. Take three deep breaths and consciously relax your shoulders and your jaw.”

Doing this on a regular basis when you’re not frazzled makes it much easier to employ it when the chaos kicks in. “You’re training yourself to let go,” he says. “It’s like any kind of training: You don’t do it all at once, but in increments. The more you do, the more you’ll feel in control when you need it.”

Elizabeth Millard is a writer and editor based in northern Minnesota, from Experience Life Magazine.

What you eat literally controls almost every function of your body and mind. Food connects us to one another and to our bodies.

Food can reinvigorate our health, bring families together, restore vibrant communities, improve the economy and the environment, reduce pollution, and help our kids get better grades and avoid eating disorders, obesity, and drug abuse. Food can even reduce poverty, violence, homicide, and suicide. 

In other words, food is powerful medicine. It is information. What we eat can have a profound effect on our lives.

At the same time, what we eat is only one “ingredient” needed to make a healthy human.

You see, we need real, whole, fresh food, but we also need things like movement, connection, meaning, and purpose.

When you take out the bad stuff and put in the good stuff, you create balance. Your body knows how to create health from those ingredients.

The Feel-Good Wheel



My team and I created the Feel-Good Wheel to showcase the 8 aspects to explore when seeking a balanced, fulfilled, and feel-good life. In this post, I want to talk a little more about some of these and why they are just as important as diet and nutrition. 

Community. When my patients have a support system, they are far more likely to sustain weight loss and feeling better. Having a community to support your health journey is very powerful in the short term for change. Yet the right community can also help you sustain those lifestyle and behavior changes that are so important to long-term success, health, and happiness. Being connected to others is a necessary ingredient for health, just like food, water, air, sleep, or movement. 

Emotional health. What thoughts and beliefs are keeping you stuck? Stepping into your feelings with vulnerability, love, and kindness so that we can turn our emotional compass into an ally instead of a foe, makes getting healthy a heck of a lot easier. When I focused on my emotional health, my relationship with myself, my family, and my friends improved significantly. 

Mindset and practice. Even with all the knowledge and tools to become healthier, happier individuals, it is often our mindset and daily practices that will be the strongest guiding force to carry us through our health journey. For me, working with someone to create a morning routine which involves meditation, journaling, and movement was a pivotal part of making the most of my days.

Purpose. A life of meaning and purpose, a life in balance with connection, community, love, support, and a sense of empowerment, are essential for health. Today’s overwhelming stresses—including social isolation, overwork, political tension, and disempowerment—create enormous strain on our nervous system, leading to burnout and breakdown. Why are you here? What is your calling? Understanding our purpose and sharing our unique gifts allows us to unleash our creative energy, embrace our quirks, and tap into joyful living.

Body and movement. Exercise is probably the most powerful medicine and a one-stop-shopping miracle potion. Scientists refer to exercise as a “polypill” because it treats everything. Your body is a complex, beautifully designed system that can become your greatest tool. Finding a way to move and exercise that you enjoy and that energizes you is an important part of your best health.

The path towards feeling good means gaining a deeper understanding of what is truly important to you, then taking tiny steps towards holding your needs in balance.

Dr. Mark Hyman is a practicing family physician, a ten-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is the Director the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine and a medical editor of The Huffington Post. He is most known and loved by the Daniel Plan community as one of the Founding Doctors.

We’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit!
No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. —Hebrews 12:1-2 MSG

Five times, the Bible compares becoming like Jesus to running a race. You’re running this race right now, and your goal is to be conformed to his image (romans 8:29), to be fully yourself, living the way he would live if he were in your shoes. if you’re going to run well, you’ll want to shed some baggage that weighs you down. that bag- gage may be a food habit or a negative thought pattern or an unhealthy relationship pattern that gets in your way.

Study Jesus and his life to see how he ran this race on earth. Watch how he dealt with people and with painful or frustrating circumstances. Watch how he related to the Father. He wasn’t just god dressed up as a human; he took on the life of a man in every way except sin. Run with your eyes on Jesus, and you’re sure to finish well.

The Daniel Plan 365 Day Devotional is a companion to the #1 New York Times bestseller, The Daniel Plan.  This 365-day devotional provides the heartfelt insight you need to take your health to the next level.  Feast on something bigger than a fad.  Motivational tips, Scripture passages, Food for Thought, and a special note from Rick Warren lead the way to transformation for the long haul. 

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