How to Feel Better Fast During the Holidays

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

What comes to your mind when you think of the holiday season? Decorations, Santa, presents, and joy? Or do you think about disappointment, insecurity, family grudges, and too much alcohol? In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen give you a plan to take the proper care of yourself during the most wonderful (and chaotic) time of the year.

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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Doctor 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 Brain MD where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain, and body. For more information visit
Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. So we're gonna finish our Feel Better Fast and Make it Last series.
Tana Amen: I think this one's really important because we're talking about the holidays, and people not doing well during the holidays. I want to actually talk to you about specifically why people don't do well during the holidays, and what they can use from this book. You're at the principles you talk about to turn it around, and what people that love them can do to help them turn it around. Because this has been just going on in my own life and my family, and probably many people listening to us.
Dr Daniel Amen: So if you want to have a bad Christmas, buy a lot of alcohol.
Tana Amen: And sugar. Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: If you want to have a bad Christmas.
Tana Amen: And now that pot's legal in many states. Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: Toke it up. All right, before we go.
Tana Amen: So, brilliant by Kelly Davis. Doctor Kelly Davis. “Doctor Daniel Amen is a brilliant medical doctor who is changing lives through his work. His wife, Tana Amen is brilliantly informative too. I just wanted you to hear that. Even though I'm tagged on, I wanted you to hear that I'm brilliantly informative. Just so you know, FYI. Just kidding. Everyone should hear everything that these two have to say.”
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, so you're here with my brilliant wife, and her husband who his mother called son because I'm bright. So, getting serious, seasonal affective disorder is real, it's serious. It begins to happen actually in October, and then the stress of November, and December.
And one of the big reasons besides there's less sun, there's lower vitamin D, there's a higher risk of depression just because of the weather. It's interesting, I'm listening once again to Lincoln's Melancholy, and in the winter of 1840-1841 he was suicidal. And one of the things he attributed it to was how awful the weather was.
Tana Amen: Yeah, especially when people live in states where the weather's particularly bad.
Dr Daniel Amen: So seasonal affective disorder is real. But it even happens in sunny southern California.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Because we just went through the time change-
Tana Amen: Well, we have time change. Right, so the time change is actually linked-
Dr Daniel Amen: And all of a sudden the sun is not out anymore.
Tana Amen: And it's specifically linked to people starting to get a little wonkier, a little tired, a little depressed. But then during the holidays if you add to that, what happens? It gets colder, so people start spending more time indoors. We start traveling because we're going to see family. Our stress level goes up dramatically because financially we're now strapped, we have to buy presents for everybody. I hate shopping more than anything on the planet. So now we have to go shopping for all these people, you're stressed out.
Dr Daniel Amen: But you love online shopping.
Tana Amen: No, I don't love it, I just have to do it. I have to do it, so you've gotta shop, financially you're strapped, and you're feeling bad because you can't buy what you want to buy for people you love, you have to travel, it's cold. Traveling alone makes people sick, you've got the time change, you have all these factors, and now you're gonna eat bad, and drink a lot of alcohol on top of it.
Dr Daniel Amen: And then add one more factor that people often don't think about. So they're gonna spend time with their family-
Tana Amen: And they're not sleeping as well.
Dr Daniel Amen: And their family is often stressful for them because they're not taking care of their brains-
Tana Amen: And family dynamics come up.
Dr Daniel Amen: And when we come to the holidays, you come to Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and New Years. You have this expectation in your head because of social media that everybody's having an awesome time.
Tana Amen: Right, yes.
Dr Daniel Amen: And so you being to compare your family-
Tana Amen: The Hallmark channel.
Dr Daniel Amen: Your life with ... You might not remember Donna Reid, and fathers know best, and you know, those perfect families.
Tana Amen: Right, the Hallmark channel type.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right. That because your family is different, that you don't live up ...
Tana Amen: That was never more apparent to me than last year. Do you remember when our nieces came? It was the first year they spent with us. And we were all outside cuddled up on ... We're outside because it's California, and it was beautiful out. And we were cuddled up on the couch outside, and we were hanging out, and I had a little fire pit going, and our niece looked over at us and she goes ... Actually we had all three nieces, and she looks over and she goes, "I've never had a holiday like this." And I'm like, "What do you mean?" She goes, "We've never had a holiday without drama that's this peaceful and there was no alcohol." She's like, "It feels weird."
So people have these expectations that the holidays are gonna be great, but if your family is the type of family where there's a lot of family drama, where there's a lot of chaos, and fighting-
Dr Daniel Amen: So if you want to create a mental illness, go through the holidays where not only is there disappointment, but there's a lack of sleep, there's more free flowing alcohol, there's stress, and disappointment because how many times can you buy something that thrills somebody? And it's stress, disappointment, sleep, toxins, a lack of exercise, overdoing things, filled with negative thinking. It's a prescription for disaster. But having said that, December is the lowest month for suicide.
Tana Amen: But the highest month, Christmas day, for heart attacks.
Dr Daniel Amen: The lowest month for suicide.
Tana Amen: Number one day for heart attacks.
Dr Daniel Amen: Highest month for suicide is April.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Because people who have been depressed for months now, the sun is out longer-
Tana Amen: They get some energy.
Dr Daniel Amen: They have more energy to complete something that they've thought about-
Tana Amen: For months now.
Dr Daniel Amen: For a long time.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: Or it's because they have to pay their taxes, they'd rather check out than pay their taxes.
Tana Amen: So we're gonna show the IRS? A little confused by that.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, what are the holiday prescriptions from Doctor Tana Amen? What are the holiday prescriptions from the brain doctor's wife?
Tana Amen: Well, I can only tell you the nutrition part, is that-
Dr Daniel Amen: No, you can ... You're a nurse. You're a neurosurgical ICU nurse, they're bossy, and they're in charge.
Tana Amen: We are bossy, aren't we?
Dr Daniel Amen: So, take your bossiness, Highness. Your Bossy Highness, and be in charge, and give our Brain Warrior listeners-
Tana Amen: Well, I actually did write about this.
Dr Daniel Amen: Direction.
Tana Amen: I wrote about this in Brain Warrior's Way. Only from the standpoint of, because as a nurse in the hospital we know ... And it's funny, we see so many car accidents because of people drinking, but we see so many people coming in the hospital with heart attacks, and everyone thinks it's just because it's a stressful time of year, and it is a stressful time of year, but it's because people aren't taking care of themselves, and it's not just December. They start in October, and they just start not taking care of themselves all the way through.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's from Halloween.
Tana Amen: All the way through.
Dr Daniel Amen: And then they go, "Oh, it's January. Let's get healthy." It's insane.
Tana Amen: It's silly. Right, so that's the problem is we just see these people, and then they add the stress of the holidays on top of it, and the travel, and the lack of sleep, and the time change is not good for us. We know that. So you throw that in on top of it, and now all of a sudden you have a recipe for disaster.
So really what we talk about doing is everything that we've talked about in Brain Warrior's Way, it's what you talk about, the tiny habits in Feel Better Fast. It's really what we talk about. You have to follow those daily habits to combat it. So the first thing you need to do is be sleeping, and you need to be grounded. So meditating, praying, grounding yourself.
Dr Daniel Amen: So like making appointments to exercise, because so often, especially this happens for women more than men because women are more selfless, men are more selfish, just as a rule right? It's about me. And for women, evolutionary wise-
Tana Amen: Well, and that's part of the-
Dr Daniel Amen: It's about we.
Tana Amen: It's part of the argument my mom and I got into, because I will take the time no matter what to exercise, eat healthy, right?
Dr Daniel Amen: And that's rational. That is critical.
Tana Amen: That's actually selfless.
Dr Daniel Amen: Because what they say on a plane when the masks come down, put yours on first.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: So that you can then put-
Tana Amen: On your favorite child.
Dr Daniel Amen: On your favorite child. But if you don't take care of yourself there's no way you can take care of others, and if you have daughters, what you're doing is you're modeling taking care of everybody else, and not yourself.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: And you actually I think do a good job of modeling for Chloe. It's, "I need this time because that's what makes me be an effective human being."
Tana Amen: Yeah. And when family members call that selfish I would argue it's actually much more selfish to do the other thing. Much more selfish.
Dr Daniel Amen: Because then you end up prickly.
Tana Amen: No, not just prickly, you end up sick, and your family members have to take care of you, and you're not there for them when they need you. You can't show up and be your best when people need you. That's selfish. So yes, that's me preaching.
Dr Daniel Amen: Back to the prescription. Positivity, happiness-
Tana Amen: Yeah, this was a little personal in case you didn't notice.
Dr Daniel Amen: Let's get back to prescriptions from the brain doctor's wife for the holidays.
Tana Amen: So yeah, finding a way to ground yourself is really important. So for me, the prayer and meditation. I'm not a person who can do one thing, I have to do it all. So prayer, meditation, exercise. But eating really bad during the holidays to me just seems psychotic. It just doesn't even make sense. Now, we're not saying ... We know you're gonna maybe have something, but have a plan, and we actually write about a plan in the cookbook, the Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook. There's a plan for the holidays. Have a three bite rule if you're gonna go have something. You don't need to go pig out.
There's a plan to have healthy recipes for the holidays, healthy stuffing, healthy turkey, healthy desserts for the holidays, and if you're gonna have something that someone else made, do the three bite rule, don't go hog wild crazy for three months. That's just dumb. It just doesn't make sense.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's not the sign of love.
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen: So what are some of your favorite desserts?
Tana Amen: So I actually have all kinds. If you love pumpkin, there's all kinds of pumpkin based stuff. There's pumpkin spiced lattes, there's pumpkin muffins, there's pumpkin everything. There's brownies, there's chocolate-
Dr Daniel Amen: Your brownies are so good.
Tana Amen: Yeah, the brownies are great. There's chocolate muffins, there's apple cobbler, right? There's cherry cobbler.
Dr Daniel Amen: So yeah, it's a little ridiculous.
Tana Amen: So there's all kinds of stuff. But there's no sugar added.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's really good.
Tana Amen: They have a little natural sugar from the fruit.
Dr Daniel Amen: Really good.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: In fact, you should make me some of that.
Tana Amen: So have a plan. My suggestion would be to have a plan to be healthy. Warriors do not start training on fight day because you can't start training on fight day and expect to win. You have to be trained, prepared, ready to go so that on fight day you win.
Dr Daniel Amen: And notice how you feel when you do the right thing, and how you feel when you don't do the right thing. We want you to love yourself.
Tana Amen: Be prepared.
Dr Daniel Amen: Getting well. I mean, the holidays are really a celebration of love.
Tana Amen: Not a time to kill yourself and be a glutton. I don't understand that. Yes, I'm preaching again, sorry. I'm not sorry, I take it back. I'm not sorry.
Dr Daniel Amen: Pastor Tana Amen.
Tana Amen: I'm just not sorry. Take care of yourselves.
Dr Daniel Amen: Happy holidays.
Tana Amen: Your loved ones are depending on you to be healthy. Take care of yourselves. Love yourself, and love other people by taking care of yourself because we love you.
Dr Daniel Amen: Happy holidays.
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