Brain Boosting Habits For Moms with Dr. Darria Gillespie

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Make no mistake, if Moms aren’t happy then no one’s happy. In fact, moms need to make sure they take care of themselves first so they’re in better shape to care for their children. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen are joined by Mom Hacks author Dr. Darria Gillespie to reveal some helpful habits to help moms manage their day.

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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here, we teach you how to win the fight for your brain, to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment, and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest-quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For information, visit Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We are here with Dr. Darria, and we were talking about Mom Hacks and her experience as an emergency room physician, mother, Harvard MBA, but-
Tana Amen: Crazy.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... really it's how can you really be your best as a Mom, because I know this, if Mom's not happy, actually nobody-
Tana Amen: Nobody's happy.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... in the house is happy.
Tana Amen: So true.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, I think many women-
Tana Amen: Because moms are the glue.
Dr Daniel Amen: Many women forgot that, so they're not taking really great care of themselves, because they're worrying about the baby, they're worrying about the other kids, they're worrying about their husband, they're worrying about their job, and they are overwhelmed, and it's different than generations before, where here in California, Darria, 90% of moms work outside the house, and it's probably-
Dr. Darria: Wow.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... not that different where you are, and you're clearly working outside the house, really hard. It's how do you balance that?
Tana Amen: You know, I just wanted to say one thing to speak to what you said, and Darria, you can answer to this, you know, how you see this, but it's just so interesting, being a mom, I write about this a lot in my books, so many women think they need to sacrifice themselves for their family, and the problem with that, as someone who's also been very sick for a long time, and had to really struggle, and so I practiced martial arts, for me, my metaphor. Yours is the emergency room, and I love that. My metaphor is being a fighter, being a warrior, so I apply that metaphor to my life and my health.
And so many women feel like they need to sacrifice that, but the problem with that is if you don't put your health first, just like as a doctor, if you don't put ... If you're not well, and focused, and on your game when you walk in, you're going to make mistakes. You're not going to do well by your patients. So if I'm not well and healthy as a mom, then I'm doing a disservice to my family, and I'm not going to be here that long, or I'm not going to be my best, or I just can't offer who I am to my family. So I had to flip that, and that wasn't an easy flip with my values, but I realized one day, it's got to be my health over all. It has to be, or I can't do well by anyone. So I don't know what you think, but-
Dr. Darria: And you know, Tana, you've worked in an ER as well, like you said in a trauma center. They say the first thing that happens when you get to a code is you should take your own pulse first. Now, when I had my kids, my thought was, "How can I take it even further? Instead of putting me first, and then having to worry about them, can I find shortcuts that kind of put us both first, so we're both thriving together?" Because that's eliminating one step.
So, I tried to find those things that would help, you know, what are ways that you could exercise when you have the kids, or make healthy meals easier, that you'll eat and your kids will eat. Sleep is the same way. I mean, I can focus on your sleep, but if I don't get baby sleeping, Mama's not going to sleep.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Darria: So how do we focus on both of us together, on all of us?
Tana Amen: I love that. I love that. Yeah, so I like that. So doing fun things with the kids-
Dr Daniel Amen: So let's talk about tiny habits. What are the quickest things moms can do to take care of themselves and their families?
Tana Amen: Yeah. What would you say?
Dr. Darria: So many. Obviously, there's 110, and asking me for my favorites is like choosing a child, which hurts a little bit, but I'll do it for y'all. So a couple things, and we mentioned in the last segment, that bright line in the morning makes a big difference. Bright light for our kids is ... Children are even more susceptible to light, so when I see over at a friend's or family's house, and they're giving a bath, and the lights are all on, and they're glaring, and then they wonder why their kids don't want to go to sleep. Melatonin of kids is dropped by 90% in one study, after they were exposed to bright light.
So, a lot of things the same things for moms and dads, so that sleep routine you talk about for your kids, dim the lights, bath, read, milk, bed, brush teeth, bed. Parents need that too, and as you both know, you're both brain experts, we development those routines and those habits in our brain, so if you start that bedtime routine for yourself as a mom, your brain knows, "Okay, time to start slowing down," so we talk a lot about how to create that sleep routine for your kiddos and for you.
Tana Amen: I love that. I know one of the things that I did, because I used to get up at 4:00 in the morning and go to the gym, and all of a sudden you have a baby. Well, that's not going to happen anymore, right? So I invested in creating a home gym for my ... It didn't have to be super fancy, but what I did when I had my daughter, because it's hard when you have a baby, to carve out that time, unless you're creative. I love what you said. So I see moms out with their jogging strollers, and that's awesome. For me, what I did is I created a corner of ... I took my bonus room, turned it into a gym, and then I took a corner of it and made it just a super fun play area for her, in the corner of my ...
Now, I had to listen to Barney while I worked out, but so what? I got to work out, right? I mean, you end up hating Barney when you're a mom. It just is the way it is. But I got to get my workout in. I got to be with her. We made it playful. She'd come over and work out with me, but it was just you have to start thinking and being creative like that, right? So that was one of the things I did.
Dr. Darria: Have you been reading my book? Like, did you read my book before I even wrote it?
Tana Amen: I did not. No, I did not.
Dr. Darria: Because that is ... Our basement is an unfinished basement. I got the treadmill, but we don't have a full gym in there, but I have a little pen. My brother once said, "Why do you put your child in jail?" We have a little hand-me-down play kitchen, and the children only get to play with that when Mommy's working out, which buys me at least seven minutes, so all these things can make it possible. Another thing I do with my daughter is I'll give her my iPhone, and I'll say, "Here's a timer. It's set for five minutes. I'll run for five minutes, then I'll play with you for five minutes."
Tana Amen: Yes. I love that.
Dr. Darria: She's in control, and I sprint for five minutes. I sprint all out, then I'm sweaty, playing with her for five minutes. When the alarm goes off, I go back. So there's little things like that-
Tana Amen: I love that.
Dr. Darria: ... that could make it easier to fit it in.
Dr Daniel Amen: So [crosstalk 00:07:12]
Tana Amen: And I got my daughter a jump rope, and we would jump rope together.
Dr Daniel Amen: Hang on. So, what you both just said is so important, because the research actually says burst training is more effective for you than long-distance running. So, it doesn't have to be a long time. It just needs to be an intense time.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Darria: Yes. Exactly. Even further on that, when they looked at studies, when they told some women, "Just exercise for seven to 10 minutes," and another group, they said, "You got to exercise for 30 to 40 minutes," the group in the seven to 10 exercised total more minutes per week, so there's a lot in-
Tana Amen: Because they're more consistent.
Dr. Darria: ... the book about finding that little small amount that you'll do-
Tana Amen: More consistent.
Dr. Darria: ... so you can get that success and check it off.
Tana Amen: I love that. And the one thing that I love about that too is you're really killing two birds with one stone in a sense, because kids do what you do, not what you say. I really believe that, so that consistency over time, of spending that time with them and being an example is so important.
Dr Daniel Amen: Oh no. You are modeling health or you are modeling illness. Right?
Tana Amen: And you're clearly very healthy.
Dr. Darria: Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: I mean, having grown up seriously Roman Catholic, I had to pass guilt 101, and advanced guilt, so I never really liked to go there, but the fact is, is moms, and dads, but more so moms, are modeling behaviors that your children end up picking up. So by modeling exercise, along with time, you know, I always say, because I'm also a child psychiatrist, if you want to make your child a Republican, a Democrat, or anything you want, you have to be bonded with them. If you're bonded, which requires physical time and being a good listener, so you draw out who they are, they'll pick your values. But, if you don't spend time with them, and if you don't listen to them, they will actually pick the opposite values, just because they're not connected.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Darria: Right. That connection-
Tana Amen: What do you think, Darria, about having your kids go in the kitchen with you, and just kind of make a mess cooking with you?
Dr. Darria: I think it's fantastic, for a number of reasons. One, it's fun. And number two, studies have shown that when kids actually help prepare the meal, they actually eat more of it, so I do ... I'm all about using, and there's a lot of behavioral psychology in the book, because I think it's fantastic. Some of it's a little evil, that you can kind of manipulate your [crosstalk 00:09:44]
Tana Amen: I am not above bribery at all.
Dr. Darria: You know? My kids are too young to watch this podcast, so I can say whatever I need to say right now. It's fine. But so you know, and giving them options, so she has the option of, "Do you want green beans, asparagus, or broccoli as the vegetable tonight?"
Tana Amen: Just confuse them a little.
Dr. Darria: And she feels like ... She what?
Tana Amen: You kind of confuse them, like, "Oh." Like, they don't even realize that no is not an option. They're just going to pick one of the three.
Dr. Darria: Exactly.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Darria: Exactly. They get to choose that. They have a salad. So I interviewed Dr. Traci Mann, who has the book Secrets From the Eating Lab. It's a fascinating book. We talked about that veggie first philosophy, so as I'm fixing dinner, even if dinner's ready, I'll tell them, "Dinner's not ready. Here's your salads," and I let them choose what's in the salad, and then they sit there, like-
Tana Amen: I love that.
Dr. Darria: I got my daughter eating cabbage that way, because that was all I had one night, so I played it cool. I was like, "Sorry, here's some cabbage. It's delicious." She waited a minute, and you have to wait them out. They can sense fear, so you have to be cool. She started eating the cabbage.
Tana Amen: That's actually a good tip. That's not one I've heard, is to just like, "Dinner's not ready yet," and let the veggies kind of sit there for a minute. I like that. That's good.
Dr. Darria: Yeah. Thanks.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, you also have some great dressings that you make, that actually make it tasty.
Tana Amen: Oh, I'm like you. I'm super sneaky. I would sneak it into her without her ... I wouldn't let her see me making her smoothies in the morning, because that's a great way to hide veggies. I mean, I was totally manipulative and sneaky.
Dr. Darria: Good, good, good. I love it. I love the dressings, because we didn't get into it, but there's so much hidden sugar, and 74% of the foods in the grocery have sugar added to them.
Tana Amen: No, we make ours.
Dr. Darria: Yeah, same thing. It's so easy, and it [crosstalk 00:11:22]
Tana Amen: It takes three minutes.
Dr. Darria: ... tastes better.
Tana Amen: No, yeah.
Dr. Darria: [crosstalk 00:11:25] better.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Darria: So, agreed.
Dr Daniel Amen: All right, so we have sleep. We have exercise. We're talking about food. What about taking care of Daddy?
Tana Amen: All right.
Dr. Darria: Next book coming up, Dad Hacks.
Tana Amen: I love that.
Dr Daniel Amen: Because-
Tana Amen: He gets lost sometimes, yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... dads often feel like-
Tana Amen: Left out.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... they've been sort of elbowed out, which can cause all sorts of problems, and dads-
Tana Amen: And moms don't feel sexy anymore.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... are incredibly important in raising kids, and I often tell my parents, "You know, the best thing you can do for the baby is love each other."
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, do you address that at all in Mom Hacks? What do you do about Dad?
Dr. Darria: I do. I think the role of the partner is so important for many reasons. One is letting them help, even things like, for babies, skin to skin. It helps them relax. Mom, dad, partner, grandparent, anybody in your village can help with that. So I think that's really important, especially when baby's young, to feel that you can hand baby off to somebody else and let them do it, and that's okay. You, as a mom, don't have to be there 24/7. You can't. You cannot be there 24/7 and be your best self. So that's really important, and then on the flip side, there are a number of things in there about relationships. We know that there's more people live longer when they're in a good relationship as well, so there's a lot in there about bids for connection and following up on that, and maintaining relationships.
Tana Amen: That's awesome.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, in our next podcast, let's talk what about Dad.
Tana Amen: Yeah, I like that.
Dr Daniel Amen: I think that's so important, because I know when relationships ... And babies change things. They just do.
Tana Amen: They do. Right.
Dr. Darria: Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: When relationships change for the bad, the level of stress in everybody, especially the children, goes way up. Stay with us.
Dr. Darria: Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thank you for listening to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.