Grugg was proud of his most recent kill as he watched the flames of the fire dance off the cave wall. Dinner tonight was a rotisserie-cooked Saber Tooth Tiger and the entire family was present. Just as Grugg was ready to cut the tenderly cooked meat, death walked into the mouth of the cave.

The fully-grown mother of dinner had tracked down her deceased son and was about to take revenge. At that moment, Grugg and his family went into acute stress mode. Their emotional brains went on high alert. Cortisol and hormones protected the body systems, while inflammation protected them from disease through any open wounds. They each went into the fight, flight, freeze, or faint process, which the body is only designed to engage for 15-minutes a week.

Furthermore, insulin resistance prevents the body from guzzling down sugar in the blood, leaving ample supplies in the brain. A strong sense of motivation puts their respective bodies into motion and the enhanced synaptic response system provided valuable lessons from the experience.

Grugg and his family knew they had a short amount of time to live if they didn’t go into motion (flight). Their bodies’ response systems went into action and each member knew they had to outrun only one person to live. Sadly, grandpa Thunk bent over in years, was the slowest member of the clan that day, and perished from the mother tiger’s rage about her son being cooked over the fire.

Acute stress is when we experience a fight, flight, freeze, or faint response. It is when our amygdala determines we are in danger. Hunted animals, such as zebras experience the flight response whenever a lion chases them. Once the lion ensnares the weakest or slowest zebra of the herd, the collective zebras move past the experience and continue with the day, as though lunch just ended.

Humans, unlike zebras, are not usually someone’s dinner. However, humans, unlike zebras, manufacture chronic stress. As a reminder, the human body is designed to experience stress (fight, flight, freeze, or faint) for about 15 minutes a week. Anything more than that and chronic stress begins.

Under chronic stress, instead of the emotional brain on high alert, the emotional brain is compromised and doesn’t regulate in balance. Too much or too little cortisol is released and the brain consistently malfunctions. The body inflames and insulation resistance becomes chronic (diabetes). Eventually, the person experiences a persistently altered sense of motivation and the pleasure/reward system escalates out of balance.

The American lifestyle is a magnate for chronic illness. We lead the civilized world in a lack of hours slept. Listen to our conversations as we boast about how busy we are; how little sleep we get; how poorly we eat, and how much alcohol we consume. We fail to hear how productive we are, how we protect our boundaries from meaningless activities, or how we preplan healthy habits and follow through.

Each dysfunctional behavior made in the previous paragraph disrupts our circadian rhythm and contributes to the spiraling of chronic illness and pain. It only takes one minor change to set your life on a healthy trajectory out of chronic pain and into a flow. When you say “yes” to a healthy lifestyle, consider what you are saying “no” to.

Imagine taking 15-minutes tonight before you retire and preplanning ONE Thing you can do tomorrow that will eliminate some degree of stress in your life. After you eliminate that ONE Thing, pick another ONE Thing and focus on it. Chronic illness and pain are the results of small, dysfunctional habits being repeated thousands of times.

Moving into the flow is practicing small, healthy habits and repeating them thousands of times, even if you only imagine them. The brain can’t tell the difference. Happiness, joy, and well-being are 15-minutes away. It’s time to reverse engineer your life.