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For most of us, the holidays are typically the least healthy time of year. So what do we do to keep ourselves accountable and feeling great through our holiday break? In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen give you the tips you need to make it through the holidays with your brain health intact.
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 Amenclinics.com.
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 help of your brain and body. For more information, visit Brainmdhealth.com. Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, Tana and I want to say Happy Holidays to all of you-
Tana Amen: Happy Holidays.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... who've been with us for a long time, or if you're new to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. It's a labor of love we do for you. We have a podcast review. This is from Maya Ever. "I woke up with so much anxiety. I was so angry. I don't know how this started playing on my phone in the morning, but it came on like my morning alarm, even after I cleared the cachet."
Tana Amen: That's funny.
Dr. Daniel Amen: "But I started to like what I was hearing, because I've been in such a dark and lonely place. I'm thinking I now have a way out. So, thank you."
Tana Amen: Oh, that makes me so happy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Even though you may not see this" ... we did ... "thank you. I feel I have some morning ammunition."
Tana Amen: That's makes me so happy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Like a little bit of cocaine?
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Actually, I've never done cocaine.
Tana Amen: No, it's like petting a puppy, that warm feeling. So, I want to-
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, we would just say it's dopamine hitting our nucleus. So come by, and it makes us happy. Thank you. We are grateful to be helpful to you.
Tana Amen: You know, and this person, as we go into the holiday, I think more and more people might be feeling some of this, right? So, people, all of the Hallmark stuff on the TV is not real for a lot of people. I mean, even my family right now, this year ... So, about three years ago, we had a really rough holiday. My mom lost her husband. This year we lost two family members going into the holidays. We had one suicide in the family, and then a death. And it's, literally, that was last week, we had it, right before Thanksgiving, two days before Thanksgiving. And the holidays are not an easy time for a lot of people.
Even though my little, I'm so grateful, because my little nest is safe and happy, and I always focus on that, when people in your life that are very close to you, my mom, my uncle, my aunt, whoever, when they are suffering, the holidays are hard for a lot of people. So, we need to really acknowledge that as we go into these holidays, and really, we want to talk about the holidays and how to be healthy, but also the people who are having a hard time, and really focus on that, and what they can do.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and I figured out one of the reasons why the holidays are so hard. I mean, there are many reasons. It's the chronic stress, feeling like you have to be perfect, and buy the perfect gift for all these people.
Tana Amen: Oh, gosh, so stressful.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Stress is stressful. Then, you hang out with people that throughout the year, you've chosen not to hang out with.
Tana Amen: Isn't that the truth?
Dr. Daniel Amen: But you believe you should. I adore my family. And I have a big family.
Tana Amen: You have an amazing family.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But we were at dinner the other night, and one of my sisters started telling stories about me when I was a child, and how much of a troublemaker I was. And compared to the patients I see, I was a frickin' angel.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But I found myself irritated, right? I'm a double board certified psychiatrist-
Tana Amen: And you are listening to stories when you were seven.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... founded Amen Clinics. I've written 30 books. I've done some cool things in my life. And here I am, for about the 50th time, listening to the stories of when I was a child and I irritated someone. And I just, I found myself leaving early, irritated. And I go, "Oh, this is why the holidays are hard for people, because they have to hear these stories about themselves", which of course, have been embellished over the years.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Over, and over, and over again.
Tana Amen: And that's true. That's true from your perspective, right? That's how it feels to you. And so, I just want to, you always have to tell the other side of the story, too. The stories had started out about your sister and what a troublemaker she was. And I think she did that to shift the attention away from her.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But don't do that-
Tana Amen: Okay, hold on.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... this holiday season. Because you know, when we first got together, you were a runner, and you'd come and go, and come and go.
Tana Amen: Like the Runaway Bride, right?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, you made my life a living hell.
Tana Amen: And I'm so grateful, right? But when I would bring it up, it would just really make you sad.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because I want to focus on now, right.
Tana Amen: Right. Oh, this holiday season, so we are going to give you some tips on how to manage the holidays. This holiday season, don't, because you'll get a laugh, don't do it-
Dr. Daniel Amen: To someone else.
Tana Amen: ... at the expense of someone else. But what I want to point out, too, one of the tips is, – and, yes, to finish this point.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You guys don't see this, but whenever she wants to make a point, should kicks me under the table.
Tana Amen: Well, it's better than punching you in the arm.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yes, there are other options, right? Another option would be, put your hand nicely on my leg.
Tana Amen: Because you switch gears, you don't understand. His brain, he switches gears so fast, he moves onto the next point and I don't get to finish this point. Okay, so, now, I'm trying to politely do this, and you just threw me under the bus and told them my little strategy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That wasn't polite. I have bruises.
Tana Amen: No, if I punch you in the arm, then you'll have bruises. Anyways, so, what I was going to say is, when this happens to you, if someone does this to you, the point I want to make, okay. It might be hurting your feelings a little, like it hurt your feelings. And we left. I had no idea your feelings were hurt. And I was enjoying the story so much. And to other people, they don't sound the way they feel to you. So just remember that. And it doesn't make it less irritating, necessarily. But to me, it was like, I only know you as Dr. Daniel Amen, whatever. It's fun for me to see the mischievous little kid, right?
So that's sometimes why people do it. It isn't so much because they mean it to be mean. Just remember the intention sometimes. So, it's fun for me to know the kid, the child. And, they don't always mean it the way you're taking it. And I think it's important to remember that, so you don't feel necessarily, wounded.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, holiday tip number one. Watch the stories you tell and how they'll impact others.
Tana Amen: And an addendum to that, watch the story you tell yourself if you hear a story about yourself. What's the story you're telling yourself about what they are saying about you?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Two is, be grateful. That is so important. That's why we celebrate Thanksgiving. It's why we celebrate Christmas. It's why we celebrate the holidays. It's about gratitude. Too often, people get caught up in the stress of, "I have to do this, I have to do that."
Tana Amen: Oh, my gosh, the gifts and the blech.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And many of you probably read Gary Chapman's book on The Five Love Languages. And gifts are a love language for some people.
Tana Amen: For some people.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But they're totally not for you.
Tana Amen: For anyone in our family.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And they're totally not for me. And they're totally not for Chloe.
Tana Amen: And so, it makes it stressful that we have to go to this gift thing, because none of us really like gifts.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, it's just not a big thing. The third tip is, take a timeout. You need to sleep, because if you don't sleep, you're gonna be irritated. You're gonna have less blood flow to your frontal lobes. And if you have less frontal lobe function, you're gonna eat the weapons of mass destruction, right? They're everywhere, whether it's donuts, holiday donuts, holiday [crosstalk 00:08:59], holiday cakes, holiday-
Tana Amen: If I'm really tired I'm susceptible to grabbing something, just like that, "Oh, I need to stay awake. I need to push through." And so, I'll grab something to eat to do that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right. So, if we think of the Brain Warrior's Way, well, what's the war? Well, there's clearly a skirmish going on during the holidays, with all of the candy and bad food, what we refer to on this program as weapons of mass destruction. ISIS has nothing on our food industry. The next one is, learn to let go. And forgive, I guess I should do that. And in Feel Better Fast and Make It Last, I actually quote Everett Worthington's research on REACH for Forgiveness. So, remember what happened. My sister irritated me. That's the R. E is, empathize with her. That's what you were doing. A is, altruistically give the gift of forgiveness. Commit to it, to someone. And then hold on, not to the hurt, but to the forgiveness.
Tana Amen: If you are having trouble with this, because it's too quick for this podcast, go back and listen to our podcast on forgiveness. We have several. And they are powerful. So, it's really important. Because, if you can't forgive them for them, forgive them for you. So, go back and listen to those. It's really important.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, the next one is, repeat a mantra, or just have a saying in your head to help anchor you. I like my morning one and my night one, which is, "Today's going to be a great day," and, "What went well today?" And I actually go to sleep at night, I say a prayer. And then I just start at the beginning of my day, looking for what went well today.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And the reason I do that is, I believe it sets my dreams up to be happy if I'm-
Tana Amen: It's true.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because dreams are actually a consolidation of what happened during the day. And they actually help you remember things. And of course, you want to learn from the challenges in the day. But before I go to bed, I want to think about what went well today.
Tana Amen: It's so true. And here we are during the holiday season, and I got, a bunch of stuff happened day before yesterday that sort of sidetracked my day. I didn't get to go to bed doing my normal routine, my ritual of praying and then saying my mantras, and waking up ... I got woken up really early to get busy. And what happened? My day went completely sideways, off-track. And I know that happens to a lot of you. So, just try to really make this part of your day, because my day just went ... We all do it. We have days like that, where you just go completely off track. And it leaks. It leaks all over people when that happens. So, just keep going.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm feeling the leaking all over-
Tana Amen: Well, fortunately, you're not of the people. Usually, you're not one of the people. Fortunately, he's usually not one of the people, but occasionally. It's usually people on the freeway. But anyways.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Do you want to share?
Tana Amen: No, I do not. It was not-
Dr. Daniel Amen: I was just giving you an opportunity to share.
Tana Amen: It was not attractive. But anyways.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Now everybody's wondering about it.
Tana Amen: No, I sit in my car yelling, but I don't ... No hand gestures, but anyways.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And I very rarely get mad on the road, because I know he or she may have a gun in their car.
Tana Amen: Well, that's why I don't do hand gestures. I just yell in my car.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And I treat a lot of dysfunctional brains. And I'm always thinking to myself, "I wonder what the brain of that person is like?"
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And it might not be great.
Tana Amen: But if you're not sleeping, yours isn't either, and that's where the problem comes in.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yes. Talk it out. This is an absolute must. Let friends and families know when you're emotionally overwhelmed. And, if you're really struggling, and it's not getting better, get help for yourself.
Tana Amen: I just have to tell a story, because it was my favorite thing. I was so overwhelmed. This is that period where I was telling you, everything was coming at me. Everybody needed something. My phone was ringing off the hook, and I literally felt like if one more, "If my phone rings one more time, I'm literally, gonna throw it at the wall, and I just want to crack the thing." I was just, I don't know if you've had days like that, where it's just like, "I can't take one more thing."
I was so tired. I got home so late. There were just so many people that I felt like needed something. I mean, we had deaths in the family. Stuff was going on. And I just couldn't, I was being pulled in different directions, right? And I was just like, "I don't know which way to turn first." And I was just overwhelmed. And I remember, I woke up in the morning and it was 8:30. I never sleep till 8:30. We are usually up by 6:30–ish. And so, I slept. And I woke up, I started to jump out of bed, and I'm like, "Why did you let me sleep that late?" He's like-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because, whenever I wake you up early, you get mad at me.
Tana Amen: But that's not what you said. Because usually I wake up early. You said, "Because you needed to sleep." And I'm like, "No, I needed to get up early." You're like, "No, you didn't. You needed to sleep." And you were very calm, you were very gentle. And you came over, and you laid down next to me, and you gave me a big hug. And I'm like, "No, I have this to do, and I have this to do," and I started to go through my list. And you said, "So, what can I take off your plate today?"
And you literally, went through one by one, and four of the major things that I had to do ... One of them was a TV appearance. That's a big thing. And you're like, "Nope, I already canceled that. Nope, I already took that off your plate. Nope, I do canceled," and there was like, four th-, I was just like, I literally, I was just, in that moment, I felt so in love with you. If you have someone that you know is going through that and you do something like that for them, that's money in the bank. I'm telling you. So, as far as relationships go, that was amazing.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, that was actually conscious, the sneaky way I got you to fall in love with me. Because now whenever we're together, guys go, "How did he get her?"
Tana Amen: Oh, stop it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's, you do something nice for someone they love. Or you do something nice for them.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I mean, that's what love is.
Tana Amen: And you do that a lot.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right.
Tana Amen: You do that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I mean, love is nurturing.
Tana Amen: That's actually easy for you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And decreasing the stress of others. And when you do that, it's money in the bank. So, emotionally, it makes me feel good. I'm obviously happier if you're less stressed.
Tana Amen: Oh, my gosh, my whole day went different. My whole day went different.
Dr. Daniel Amen: All right, stay with us. We are gonna talk more tips for having a brain healthy holiday. Thank you for listening to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. Go to iTunes and leave a review, and you'll automatically be entered into a drawing to get a free signed copy of The Brain Warrior's Way and the Brain Warrior's Way cookbook we give away every month.