Dr. Louis S. Csoka on the 5 Rules of Stress Management

Dr. Louis S. Csoka, author of When the Pressure's OnExperts warn us constantly about the dangers of stress—but how are we to mitigate that stress? Learn techniques from Louis S. Csoka, Ph.D., the founder of West Point’s Center for Enhanced Performance (and a retired Colonel of the United States Army himself), the creator of the first ever Peak Performance Center for a Fortune 500 company, and now the author of WHEN THE PRESSURE’S ON: The Secret to Winning When You Can’t Afford to Lose (AMACOM May 2016).


Rule #1: Know What You Can and Cannot Control

Ultimately the only thing you can directly control is what you think, say, and do. Trying to do otherwise will only lead to frustration and much wasted effort and energy without an impact on improving performance. We delude ourselves into thinking and even wanting to control others. But you really cannot! People always have the choice of refusing to do what you want, even under threat of harm. Imagine how much better you could be if you were to put all your effort and energy into things over which you have control, rather than wasting them on what you cannot control.

Rule #2: Stress is All About Perception and Reinterpreting

Our stress levels have much to do with how we perceive the events of the day. It is not what happens to you that really matters, but how you think about what happens to you. If you want to achieve your personal best, you must deliberately reinterpret your situation even to the point of embracing the stress response as somehow being beneficial. This is not about deceiving yourself or looking through rose-colored glasses. It is about looking for something potentially good in a situation.

Rule #3: Stress is Cumulative—a “Use It or Lose It” Plan for Recovery

A certain amount of stress is actually beneficial. It allows for activation and arousal so that energy is gained for the moment. The right amount of stress and energy actually helps you focus sharper, think clearer, decide better, and perform at the level for which you have prepared yourself. The real harm from stress is when it is continuous and unmitigated. You can manage your daily stress by using it as energy for exercising and losing it by engaging in relaxation exercises. Who hasn’t felt better from exercise after a long, hard day, especially if it was also stress filled? The release of endorphins and other feel-good hormones dissipates the stress and gives temporary relief.

Rule #4: Develop an Awareness of the Inevitable Parasympathetic Backlash

Powerful weariness and tiredness after long hours of work can occur even before we recognize it as affecting our performance. Another sign is that the mind wants to slow down in attention. Thinking patterns become less coordinated and logical, our memory is affected, and decision making becomes unreliable and confused. This occurs when the parasympathetic system (the part of our nervous system that is there to bring us back to a balanced, calm, and collected state) overreacts as a result of prolonged activation of the sympathetic nervous system. In other words, in conditions of prolonged stress where our nervous system finally says enough is enough, the brain overreacts and, as a result, diminishes the effectiveness of many of the faculties needed to function at our best. You need to be aware of this and recognize the signs, especially in periods of high stress. A parasympathetic backlash rarely occurs for people who have mastered stress management techniques and are able to control their responses to various forms of stressors.

Rule #5: Learn to Self-Regulate Through Relaxation and Physiological Control

This is about learning relaxation techniques that have been very effective in triggering the relaxation response. It is about training yourself to voluntarily control psycho-physiological mechanisms that are fundamentally wired to be involuntary. Because you can learn to control these responses—heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, perspiration, surface temperature, and so on—lie detector tests are not admissible in court. Lie detectors measure the same physiological responses. Learning relaxation techniques gives you a counterbalance to sympathetic nervous system functions.

Cover of When the Pressure's On by Dr. Louis S. Csoka

Adapted from WHEN THE PRESSURE’S ON: The Secret to Winning When You Can’t Afford to Lose by Louis S. Csoka (AMACOM May 2016).

LOUIS S. CSOKA, PH.D. has specialized in teaching performance under pressure for more than 30 years. He is President of Apex Performance, which trains clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to professional athletes. As a Professor of Psychology & Leadership at West Point, he adapted sports psychology to the demands of the military and founded the school’s pioneering Center for Enhanced Performance.

Louis Patler on Business & Surfing

The following is a guest post from Louis Patler, author of Make Your Own Waves: The Surfer’s Rules for Innovators and Entrepreneurs (AMACOM July 2016).




About 25 years ago I started doing research and writing about innovators and entrepreneurs who had repeatedly been successful. I was interested in how they sustained innovation over time, not just as a one-hit wonder. In the course of this project I stumbled upon an unexpected, common characteristic they shared: they took analogies and metaphors literally. This enabled them to form some odd couplings and creative inventions, ranging from making an industrial solvent into kitty litter to a “talking typewriter” that eventually became a smart phone.

In the world of business a common analogy at that time was matching “cycles”, “sets” and “waves” to economic activity. One day I had an epiphany: why not take that analogy literally and seek out those who are the subject matter experts on waves? I chose two: physicists and surfers! I started talking to both and found conventional wisdom on waves from the physicists, and unconventional wisdom on waves from the surfers. Taken together I gained new insights into the world of work.

In my 1991 book If it ain’t broke…BREAK IT!, amidst dozens of other topics, I wrote a few pages about seven “Surfer’s Rules”, and moved on. I received occasional comments about The Surfer’s Rules and in 1998 I was asked to do a short video feature to explain them further as part of a four-video package of training materials on innovation. To my surprise, the Surfer’s Rules video had quadruple the popularity of the other three. I saw that the Surfer’s Rules struck a chord with a broad audience–but I still didn’t see the depth of their wisdom, and their direct application to entrepreneurship.

In 2015, I contacted my literary agent, John Willig, with an idea about an ambitious, data-driven book that summarized my 25 years of research on serial innovators. I developed a book proposal in which one of the chapters revolved around the Rules. The proposal was sent around to a half dozen publishers and generated some early interest, but one editor, Stephen S. Power, contacted John immediately.

Stephen had an idea: might there actually be a book that could come from The Surfer’s Rules? Stephen was interested in targeting young entrepreneurs, start-ups and innovators and saw something unique and special in the juxtaposition of surfing and business. He contacted John, John asked me what I thought about the idea and after I had a talk with Stephen I decided to give it some thought.

By this point I knew that my real interest in the surfing community had shifted to the small, elite group of athletes who rode Big Waves. Having talked to many of them over several years, I knew that the Big Wave surfers were a breed apart: prepared, focused, patient, creative and courageous. As such, their traits mirrored my research findings of repeatedly successful entrepreneurs and innovators.

So I wrote a new proposal for a totally different book and audience. John looked at the new proposal and liked it. Stephen looked at it and liked it too, not only offering a contract almost immediately but even proposing a title: “Make Your Own Wave.” I knew then that he “got it,” he understood the power of this analogy that linked Big Wave riders and entrepreneurs facing big opportunities. He also understood the depth of insight these elite athletes could offer readers. I signed the contract, added an “s” to the title to reflect the ability to repeatedly succeed, and Make Your Own Waves: The Surfer’s Rule for Innovators and Entrepreneurs was born.

In writing the book, the starring role played by Big Wave surfers led me to immerse myself in that world. The deep dive helped me to evolve and modify the original seven Rules into the ten Surfer’s Rules that form the book. The more I researched the better the analogy fit and I then realized that there was a natural chronology or cycle to the Rules. The first four chapters (Learn to Swim; Get Wet; Decide to Ride, Always Look “Outside”) address the hard work to be done before even trying to ride a wave. The middle three chapters focus on the rides, wipeouts and determination to get up after set backs (Commit.Charge.Shred.; Paddle Back Out; Never Turn Your Back on the Ocean). And the last three chapters examine how important it is to not rest on your laurels, to collaborate and to stay passionate about what you do (Dare BIG!; Never Surf Alone; Stay Stoked!).

Today’s business opportunities—and challenges – are enormous. They roll in at high speed, in sets and intervals that mirror the ocean’s cycles. The size of the opportunity is dictated by trends, technology, market savvy and hard work. With the unconventional wisdom of Big Wave surfers in their toolbox, innovators and entrepreneurs will be better prepared to make their own waves. Where there’s a will, there’s a WAVE.


LOUIS PATLER is the author of Make Your Own Waves: The Surfer’s Rule for Innovators and Entrepreneurs. He is a longtime surfing enthusiast and President of The B.I.T. Group, a strategic consulting and training company whose clients include Sun Microsystems, Safeway, Wells Fargo, BAE Systems, and GAP.  A New York Times bestselling author, two of his previous books were included in Steve Jobs’ recommended reading list.

Spring has Sprung: 3 Books on Starting Something New

Even humans tend to hibernate in the winter. That makes spring the perfect time to think about switching jobs, switching whole careers, or just switching your mindset.

Take advantage of the vernal equinox, the longer days, the greener trees–and try one of these three books for motivation.
Career Courage: Discover Your Passion, Step Out of Your Comfort Zone, & Create the Success You Want by Katie C. Kelley (AMACOM March 2016)

Jacket cover of Career Courage by Katie C. Kelley

Katie C. Kelley put just the sort of change we’re talking about into action in her own life. After years of striving and succeeding in the field of psychotherapy, she realized something wasn’t fully clicking–so she found her career courage, and sought a new path. The book will guide you through that very process. It’s full of questions to help you discern your true calling, exercises to create the skills that will help most as you boldly stride forward, and stories of the fascinating experiences of seventy others with remarkable career-change journeys.

Check out a preview on the AMACOM blog: Katie C. Kelley on Taking Risks to Further Your Career

What To Do When You’re New: How to Be Comfortable, Confident, and Successful in New Situations by Keith Rollag (AMACOM September 2015)

Jacket cover of What To Do When You're New by Keith Rollag

“Rollag presents fresh strategies for making everything new less scary, more manageable and much more rewarding.” —Joyce Lain Kennedy, Chicago Tribune/Tribune Media Services
“…well-organized, comprehensive book. A must-read for newcomers in all areas.” —Library Journal

Everyone wanted to share Keith Rollag’s wisdom when his book emerged, as evidenced by his appearances in Fortune, Fast Company, The Harvard Business Review, and many more, but you can have it all to yourself with a copy of What To Do When You’re New! Whatever you choose for your big spring change, you’ll ace it with everything you learn from this book.

No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You A Lifetime of Fitness by Michelle Segar (AMACOM June 2015)

Jacket cover of No Sweat by Michelle Segar

“…not merely a weight-loss guide but rather a motivational manual to self-care and sustainable change… for persons wishing to set goals, change behavior, and/or improve their lifestyle.” –Library Journal (starred review)
No Sweat is the ultimate guide for changing your mindset. It’s primarily about fitness (certainly a great option for making a change this spring), but Dr. Michelle Segar’s stunning research and insights into the science of motivation can help you achieve innumerable positive shifts in your life. This was one of our best sellers of 2015, and we think you’ll see why after only a few pages. Dr. Segar offers an excerpt here.

Now Available on NetGalley: WHEN THE PRESSURE’S ON

Cover art for When the Pressure's On by Louis CsokaAn athlete won’t reach peak performance without stress management tools. A soldier can’t rise to the occasion without mental preparation. The same applies in the working world: star performers aren’t simply talented, or hardworking, or experienced—they also have what it takes to apply all of their skills under pressure. Louis S. Csoka has long specialized in teaching performance under pressure in all of these cases, and with WHEN THE PRESSURE’S ON: The Secret to Winning When You Can’t Afford to Lose, he brings these skills straight to you. Journalists, booksellers, book reviewers, librarians, and media professionals interested in stress, performance improvement, and/or how to succeed under any circumstances are invited to request When the Pressure’s On for review.

At the highest level of any pursuit, the difference between the two top performers in a contest is always mental. One holds it together—while the other falls apart. The same is true in business. Whether you are confronting a crisis, making a pitch, negotiating a deal, or facing a deadline, your mindset can give you the edge.

When the Pressure’s On brings peak performance principles to the boardroom, revealing five core mental skills that enable professionals to excel while under duress:


Goal Setting—become mission-driven
Adaptive Thinking—replace negative thoughts with positive ones
Stress/Energy Management—keep your cool no matter what
Attention Control—maintain focus despite distractions
Imagery—see success before it happens


Together, the skills form the core of this complete brain-training program, which is packed with guidelines, examples, exercises, assessments, and the latest advances in biofeedback and neuroscience. By learning to harness the power of your mind, you’ll achieve extraordinary results when it matters most.

LOUIS S. CSOKA, PH.D., has specialized in teaching performance under pressure for more than 30 years. He is President of Apex Performance, which trains clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to professional athletes. As a Professor of Psychology & Leadership at West Point, he adapted sports psychology to the demands of the military and founded the school’s pioneering Center for Enhanced Performance.

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Janet Lintala on the Changing Language and Understanding of Autism


The following is a guest post by Janet Lintala, author of The Un-Prescription for Autism: A Natural Approach for a Calmer, Happier, and More Focused Child (AMACOM April 2016).




I’ve been an autism mother for over twenty years, and a lot of things have changed since my son was born in the mid-nineties.

Resources were sparse

Let me take you back in time.  In the late nineties and early 2000’s, the Internet was still young and clunky.  We had a dial-up connection and the pages loaded v-e-r-y slowly.  My husband and I searched endlessly, often far into the night, looking for answers to help our child.  There weren’t many websites or blogs about autism, and as far as being able to network with other parents, even My Space hadn’t been invented yet.  Our support groups met in person, and it was difficult to arrange activities for the children during the meeting, or to get a babysitter for those at home.

There wasn’t an autism shelf at the bookstore like there is now, conferences were rare, and finding a physician that understood the medical and sensory issues of the spectrum was a challenge.

Screening and diagnosis is better now                                                            

When our son was young, just discovering that he had autism took years.  Hardly anyone had heard of autism or knew anyone with it. Evan was always highly verbal, had a wild imagination, didn’t rock or flap, and frankly, autism wasn’t the first thing that sprang to mind.  Friends, relatives, strangers and health professionals suggested our son was an impulsive and willful child, or had Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).  Some even called him a name that started with an “a” (hint:  it wasn’t “autism” or “Asperger”), and generally blamed it all on terrible parenting skills.   We hadn’t heard of sensory processing disorder, and his meltdowns were so colossal that in our ignorance, we wondered if he were mentally ill.

Screening programs and diagnostic criteria have since expanded, and fewer children are placed in incorrect mental health categories.  Resources, blogs, therapists and doctors are much more plentiful.  Pediatricians are actually screening for ASD now, and it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of it.

Dawning understanding of comorbid medical conditions

Up through the 1980s, treatment efforts focused on behavior therapy, nutrition and diet.  In the 1990s, the hunt was on for the “autism gene”, to no avail.

Research continued and during the nineties, autism support began to include medical and sensory interventions.  The irritability, poor sleep patterns, and disturbing gastrointestinal symptoms we saw in our son all make so much more sense today.   We now know that many on the spectrum may be challenged by:

  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Gastrointestinal dysfunction
  • Acid reflux, constipation and diarrhea
  • Immune dysfunction
  • More frequent colds and allergies
  • Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Brain inflammation
  • Autoimmune attack on various brain tissues
  • Impaired methylation chemistry
  • Impaired detoxification
  • Brain toxicity
  • Food sensitivities
  • Overwhelming sensory issues, including double vision
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

The evolving language of ASD

The language used at conferences and in news articles back then was about “treating”, “curing”, “recovering” or “preventing” autism, and we autism parents proudly called ourselves “autism warriors.” With time, greater understanding and awareness, this language is being replaced with more positive terminology.  Negative words such as “tragedy”, “catastrophe”, “sufferer”, and “afflicted” are being replaced with the more realistic concepts of neurodiversity and just being wired differently.

I think most of us didn’t understand what autism was initially, which increased our fear of it, and may explain the more negative terminology that was used back then.  Looking back through the lens of time and maturity, I can see that it wasn’t really autism itself that set off the sense of “catastrophe” for me, but rather the profound comorbid medical conditions, and their accompanying irritability, aggression and sleep disruption my son experienced.

The autistic brain is now being recognized as an amazing gift, and not something to be defeated or cured.  That’s not to say that the autism life is easy, and there aren’t any problems in our households, but it’s not the “tragedy” we autism parents once believed.

Although I now wince at the old language I once used, it is thanks to the early pioneers and efforts at understanding and research all those years ago that we have better understanding and so many tools at our disposal now.

Throwing out the baby with the bathwater

I have been in the autism world long enough to watch the understanding, language and politics of autism morph from mother warriors and searching for genes, cures and recovery, to the enlightened neurodiversity, acceptance and celebration we see today.  With a growing sense of alarm, I notice the shift in attitude is swinging too far, and I am seeing angry parents with the militant attitude of “I don’t need to fix my child” turning away from anything that might “change” their child.  In doing so, they are missing the opportunity for improved health, which is basically throwing out the baby with the bath water, as my parents would have said.

With research revealing our ASD children can have profound improvements in health and brain clarity by taking a few simple supplements such as digestive enzymes and probiotics – things they seem to be lacking – we aren’t doing them any favors by refusing these basic steps for improved gut and brain health.

Supporting vibrant health for autistic children and adults is simple and natural, and doesn’t “change” or “fix” your child.  It does help them have a happier, healthier life, and be at their best to learn, play, work or have a good day.  A healthy life on the autism spectrum – now that’s something we can all agree on!

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JANET LINTALA, D.C., is founder and head of the Autism Health! center, offering natural health support for ASD children and adults in a dozen states. Among her three boys (all of whom are now healthy, successful young adults), she struggled with a variety of issues, including learning disabilities, OCD, panic attacks, and ASD. She lives in Beckley, West Virginia, with her husband. Her coauthor, MARTHA M. MURPHY, is an award-winning health writer who lives in Narragansett, Rhode Island.