For most of my life, I thought I had a broken brain. By the age of 12, I had already been diagnosed with my first stress ulcer and experienced my first panic attack. It was well understood by scientists and doctors at the time that the brain was hardwired from an early age-that our mental maps had been secured soon after adolescence and could not be changed. So I accepted the fact that I would need to learn to manage my broken brain and try to control the symptoms, without any hope of fully healing.

A few years ago while writing my dissertation on stress and weight management, I began to learn a great deal about how the brain works. (I also learned that stress leads to weight gain, as I put on 10 pounds without changing my diet or exercise habits—but that's fodder for another book). I was burning out, completely exhausted from traveling across the globe for work. After being hospitalized with severe fatigue and crippling panic attacks, I was unsure of how I would ever return to a normal life. My greatest fears—those that cause the biggest spikes in my anxiety—are flying and public speaking; so I definitely didn't make the best choice for a career path if I wanted to live conservatively. I had pushed myself to the limit and wasn't taking care of my personal energy the way I knew I should—and my brain let me know it.

Around this time I also found out that a third grandparent of mine had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. This prompted me to begin a deep dive into ...

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