Fear and Worry

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

Fear, Doubt and Worry, How to harness the worry monster lurking in your Brain. Master your thoughts to live free again and love your life.


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Tana Amen: Hi, I'm Tana Amen.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: We are here today to talk about fear and worry and how it affects your brain.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well it's actually your brain that can cause the little ants in your head to get on the exercise wheel and go over and over, on and on, and torture and terrorize you.

Tana Amen: Which can then torture and terrorize people around you.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Oh no question that if you are struggling with anxiety, fear, and worry, it leaks.

Tana Amen: So many women are worriers by nature.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Guys too, no question, and Brain Warriors, they recognize it but they go after it.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: They don't just settle for it.

Tana Amen: That's one place that I think I have a bit more masculine mindset. I like to be proactive and feel empowered, so we want to talk to you about that today. I think if you are proactive and moving forward, in martial arts we have a saying, prepare for the worst and expect the best, so if you're prepared, and you're trained and you're constantly striving to improve, it can often alleviate some of that fear and worry because you're just constantly taking steps toward improvement.

Dr. Daniel Amen: There's a neuroscience to this. There are three areas to the brain that we should talk about. There's the amygdala in the temporal lobes that are involved with the fear signal in the brain. There's the basal ganglia that are involved with anxiety. The cingulate gyrus which is the brain's gear-shifter. Let's talk a little bit about them to get a base line.

The cingulate helps us shift our attention, it helps us go from thought to thought, move from idea to idea, be flexible, go with the flow. When the serotonin levels are low, and they are much lower in women on the whole than in men, people tend to get stuck.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: On negative thoughts or negative behaviors.

Tana Amen: Doesn't it also get worse for women during certain times in their cycle?

Dr. Daniel Amen: It does.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: When that part of the brain tends to work too hard, people can be worried. What's that? You get stuck on a negative thought. They can hold grudges, they get stuck on something that happened in the past. They can be inflexible. If things don't go their way, they can get upset. On the surface it can appear selfish, it's really not, it's more inflexibility.

Tana Amen: You see young children acting like this, and because their brains tend to be a little hotter in that area, correct?

Dr. Daniel Amen: You do, but you see a lot of older people acting like this so-

Tana Amen: No, no, I'm using that as an example, when you see kids that are like no, no, me, mine.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The terrible two's.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, continued.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: People can obsess, get the same thought over and over. They can compulsive behaviors. They tend to be argumentative and oppositional, no matter what it is that you say to them. They will argue with you. The cingulate is really interesting part of the brain because it detects errors when something's not right, it's your cingulate that talks to you and says that's not right. If it works too hard, you might notice too many errors in yourself, you know when you're looking in the mirror, or in your children, or in your partners.

Tana Amen: That just really interesting.

Dr. Daniel Amen: One of the ways, if you notice some of those symptoms apply to you, natural ways to boost serotonin are exercise, high carbohydrate foods. You want to go after the ones that are good for you rather than sugar. Bread, pasta, potatoes and rice. Those will calm it down, but they're also pro-inflammatory and can make you sick, so sweet potatoes, humus are better choices for you. An apple with some almond butter can be really helpful.

Tana Amen: Let's talk about a couple of the things that might trigger this. When people tend to react a certain way, is it caused by... Is it a template that's set because of their memories, or like early in life?

Dr. Daniel Amen: That would be one.

Tana Amen: Okay.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It can actually be not even in your life, so there are new studies, there's the study from Emory University where they made mice afraid of the scent of cherry blossoms.

Tana Amen: That's just interesting.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Whenever they would put that scent in the air, they would give them mild shocks. Pretty soon, whenever that scent was in the air, they were just afraid. What they found was their babies were afraid of the scent of cherry blossoms, even though they'd never been shocked, and their grand-babies were afraid of the scent of cherry blossoms and so fear was actually transmitted-

Tana Amen: It's actually inherited.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Genetically or epigenetically. You know when I think of that, I think about how probably hatred can be transmitted. If you think about what's going on in Syria today-

Tana Amen: Or even in Germany.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Civil war, the ISIS crazies, the chronic stress, is even the babies that are born under chronic stress are likely to have babies who have higher incidence of anxiety disorders.

Tana Amen: Well, by the way, babies hear in utero, so you know they hear.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, but now, even the babies today are going to have babies that are raised with a higher vulnerability to psychiatric problems.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Now the opposite is also true, if you manage yours, if you deal with yours, you're changing your genes in a positive way so that your offspring is more likely to come out more resilient.

Tana Amen: It's one of the reasons that we say it's so important to be a warrior. I know that certain things from my past, I did not want to pass on to Chloe, our 13 year old, so you have to take the steps, be a warrior, train. Break that cycle.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, it's part of the essence and responsibility parts of mastery.

Tana Amen: In the book.

Dr. Daniel Amen: In the book, The Brain Warriors Way, responsibility is really, it's my responsibility once I know this, to pass it on, in a healthy way.

Tana Amen: Be the best I can be.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: Right, because you don't want to keep passing on... You know you want to pass on the good stuff.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The basil ganglia, another interesting part, also the amygdala, the way you calm them down, if they've been kindled, if they've been stirred up either your past or maybe not your past, your mom's past... You know, your mom certainly had plenty of trauma, right.

Tana Amen: A little bit.

Dr. Daniel Amen: My mom had her own, for example with her own mother. They fought like cats and dogs for a long time. You know you have that vulnerability, but you use things like hypnosis and meditation-

Tana Amen: Like they're my best friends!

Dr. Daniel Amen: And deep breathing, and neurolingusitic programming as a way to calm that down.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Too many people, I think, reach for what are the pills I can take, so I don't feel anxious as opposed to doing some of the training exercises.

Tana Amen: But let's be clear, we are not anti-medication, we don't want to make anybody feel bad. It's that we want you to not just have pills, we want you to have skills. Talk a little bit about that because we always get people commenting, well I've taking medication and it's working, or I've been taking medication and it's not working. It's not the medication we're against.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Even when I was a medical student, I thought to myself, I want to build skills in my patients, not just give them pills.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Now, sometimes people need medication.

Tana Amen: Sometimes they need medication.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, if you have bi-polar disorder, or you have severe, major depression, or schizophrenia, but you know the medications haven't worked out. As well-

Tana Amen: They're not as good as we expect it.

Dr. Daniel Amen: As well as we'd hoped.

Tana Amen: Training. Training is what's worked out better.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That head to head for depression, that exercise, fish oil and learning how to not believe every stupid thought you have, have been found to be equally effective.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: We have a high school course, called Brain Thrive by 25, and we're so proud of it because we had an independent research group study it and it found it decreased drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, decreased depression and improved self esteem.

Tana Amen: Yeah, it's amazing.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's just by giving kids skills.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So, not opposed, but I guess... You know the truth is, I am opposed to-

Tana Amen: Some medicines.

Dr. Daniel Amen: You going to your family doctor and in a five minute appointment, leaving with medication without any other options.

Tana Amen: Make sure it's someone who's skilled at what they're doing. What I want to make sure we get across, because I've actually seen this happen, we want to make sure that you understand, it's not that there's shame in taking it, if it's working for you, or you're happy and things are working in your life.

If it's not working, and you do want to get off of it, be very careful and do it responsibly because I actually, I've heard this happened at events that I was at, and someone who does not have a medical degree was telling the entire group, literally thousands of people, to go off their medication because the medication was basically a sign that you were weak. Someone actually contacted me, knowing who I was, knowing our clinics, telling me that she went off three psychiatric medications after that event and did it cold turkey without a physician helping her.

I just want to make it very clear, that's dangerous, please do not do that. Do this in a responsible way with someone you trust. What would you say to that?

Dr. Daniel Amen: No, that makes total sense to me, that you should have a partner for your health care. Too often people let their doctor be their mother or their father and we just want to empower you, but based on your brain type-

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Which is why we think that's so important and you know why I wrote Change Your Brain, Change Your Life and The Brain Warriors Way, it really empowers people to know what are my vulnerabilities and what are both the natural ways to help and then what are the medicines if I choose to go that route.

Tana Amen: I have a question, there's a saying that men are warriors and women are worriers; help me out with that.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, not in our family.

Tana Amen: I know, but it's by focus.

Dr. Daniel Amen: You are the warrior.

Tana Amen: It's by training.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I mean, I'm a warrior as well, I'm just the peaceful warrior.

Tana Amen: In all honesty, in my case, it's because it is fear driven a little bit. It is worry driven that I'm that way. It's just my way of reacting to fear is to empower myself and train. It comes from a place of a little bit of worry and fear. That's why I train, so why... Where did this saying come from, men are warriors, women are worriers?

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, you know as we talked about it in another podcast that women's brains are wired differently than men. They have more anxiety, and because of that, they live longer because they don't engage in some of the high risk behaviors. Men have ADD, for example, five times more than women, so they have lower frontal lobes. They're more excitement seeking, conflict driven, and what do we play as children. I remember, you know as we get to the holiday season, I got my Cowboy and Indian set, and you know another Christmas, I got soldiers, the little green things.

Tana Amen: So we're socialized even very young.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I think it has to do with hormones, that boys are more aggressive and their play is more aggressive. It has to do with modeling but if you're a worrier, or you struggle with anxiety, some tips to do; exercise, it just helps so many things. Hypnosis, meditation can be really helpful. If you're with someone who worries, don't tell them not to worry.

Tana Amen: Oh yeah, that's really effective by the way.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That is not helpful. It's helpful to listen if they want some solutions, it's going well I might think about it this way. If you tell them how to think, they'll just... It's like they get Teflon-

Tana Amen: It's irritating, yeah, it's irritating.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And it just bounces off them.

Tana Amen: So I do all the things that you just mentioned and taking a proactive approach to like doing things where I do training or I'm planning things. That really helps me, to settle me down. Feeling empowered.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Sort of being like Branch.

Tana Amen: Yeah, I'm like Branch in Trolls. It's true.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm prepared for the end of the world.

Tana Amen: I am and that way I can relax.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And I'm just amused by it.

Tana Amen: I know, he's Princess Poppy, no question. I always say your brain is the happiest place on earth, it's like it's Disneyland. It's got Mickey and Minnie doing the waltz, the happiest place on earth, nothing bad can happen. I'm envious actually, yes, it's amazing.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Our goal for you is to have a happy place in your head. In fact, one of the things I do with my patients, actually have them find that haven. That very special place and I have them think about it a lot because the more you can meditate on it, the more you can find it.

Tana Amen: Yes, it's true.

Dr. Daniel Amen: When you need it.

Tana Amen: Yeah, it's really helpful.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Stay with us.

Donny Osmond: Thanks for listening to today's show, The Brain Warriors Way. Why don't you head to brainwarriorswaypodcast.com, that's brainwarriorswaypodcast.com, where Daniel and Tana have a gift for you, just for subscribing to the show. When you post your review on iTunes, you'll be entered into a drawing where you can win a VIP visit to one of the Amen Clinics. I'm Donny Osmond and I invite you to step up your brain game by joining us in the next episode.