Stress + Holidays: How To Deal

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

Many of us tend to think of the holidays as a happy time. After all, we connect and spend time with family and loved ones and give thanks for what we have in our lives. In reality, however, there’s more depression during the holidays than any other time of the year. So what can you do to keep the holiday stressors at bay? In this episode of the podcast, Daniel and Tana Amen discuss some of the biggest holiday stress culprits, and how to manage them to keep a level head going into the new year.

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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. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we have been transforming lives for 30 years. Using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your 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 nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Welcome back. We are talking about the holidays; gifts and stress and all the things that go along with it. In this episode, I actually want to talk about stressors. And what I'd love to know from you is what are your biggest stressors during the holiday? Maybe you can tell us what you do if you're really good at managing it.
And if you're not, what are your biggest stressors and what is it you want to know about how to manage that? You can leave that on You can also leave us a review at Apple podcast or on, and if you do it enters you in a raffle to win my cookbook, which we just sent a bunch out. Which is a great gift for the holidays. And yes, let's talk about stress.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, I have a review from a mom in Colorado. "Thank you for doing the work you do. I'm a single mom who grew up in chaos, has the genetics for brain disaster and was outrageously over medicated. My brain was a disaster, as was my life. It's taken years of work and the guidance of your books to get to where I am now; off meds, just landed a job I love, and launching a business. However, I have found myself 100% single parent, and that has brought a new host of challenges. I love what Tana brings to the podcast as a woman and mother, hearing tips from your kiddos has been so insightful as I guide my relationship in home structure with my own daughter. Thank you and love to your whole family." [crosstalk 00:02:32] That was on Apple reviews.
Tana Amen: Thank you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and think of it from a single mom, you were a single mom when I found you.
Tana Amen: Found me?
Dr. Daniel Amen: When I rescued-
Tana Amen: When I was an orphan?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Not rescued you.
Tana Amen: Yeah, that's the wrong word.
Dr. Daniel Amen: When you rescued me from ...
Tana Amen: We rescued each other, yes.
Dr. Daniel Amen: From the craziness in my life. Yeah, no, we rescued you. But you are a single mom, and it was hard.
Tana Amen: It was very hard.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I mean, you working these 12 hour shifts ...
Tana Amen: And because of my chaos, to that fact, I wouldn't have a babysitter. So I refused to have babysitters because I had been so traumatized by babysitters in my past. So what I did was, I was mom when she was there. When she went to visit her dad, I would work and I would work double shifts as a nurse. So I'd work nights, I'd work weekends, and then I would make up as much time as I could, so that I could be home and be mom. I was just exhausted.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, I wonder how many moms actually have adrenal fatigue?
Tana Amen: Well, I worked in a trauma unit, so you can bet I had adrenal fatigue.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You can bet that you did. And it takes a toll. And so if you're a single mom, being a brain warrior is even more important.
Tana Amen: Oh, and I wasn't then. So my refrigerator, I was really good at making ... I was dead set that I was going to make my daughter, I was going to give her what I didn't have. So I made her breakfast. I made her whole foods. I didn't really understand what we understand now about the gluten free stuff and all that. But I was really good at making her food. And then I would eat frosting and go to work and have two pots of coffee and M&M's. So I was really bad. It was really bad. It was when we got together ...
Dr. Daniel Amen: I feel like I'm in an AA meeting and we're sharing our confessions.
Tana Amen: Oh yeah, no, it was bad. It was bad. But when we got together and I started taking classes again and I'm like, wow. It hit me how much my lifestyle and nutrition and all that was playing a part in my past illness over my life. And I didn't want to repeat that cycle.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, didn't you say growing up, your best friends were-
Tana Amen: The Captain, the tiger and, yeah ...
Dr. Daniel Amen: The leprechaun.
Tana Amen: Leprechaun.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Lucky Charms and Captain Crunch and Frosted Flakes.
Tana Amen: They started coming to dinner too.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, no, you have to be careful. They'll just, you know, wiggle their way into your life.
Tana Amen: They look so harmless.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And the problem is exposure equals preference. What you do is what you're going to want to do. Maybe not even want to do, but what you do is what you do again. And that you do again, what you do again, it becomes a unconscious habit.
Tana Amen: And what I love is, this sort of leads into what we're talking about today with stress over the holidays. People do not want to accept it, and I'm sorry folks, you can want to accept it or not. Because I go through this with our 16 year old. Now that she's 16, the teenage gene is finally kicking in a little bit, and that pushing back, which I never thought .... Because she was just so easy, and she's still easy, but that little bit of pushing back.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You never thought she would push back?
Tana Amen: Well, I mean, she's always been strong willed, when she was five it was terrible. But she's been such an easy teenager and all of a sudden now she's pushing back a little more, and she's got her own opinions and her own, you know, she's just not quite as easy. And she, you know, she wasn't feeling quite right and she was getting a rash and she wasn't feeling like her normal self. And I'm like, have you tried cutting gluten out of your diet? Because she does not want to acknowledge that she's sensitive like I am.
And she's like, "It's not that," and rolls her eyes and gets all mad. And then finally she, it has to be her idea, she comes to me and she goes, "So I'm going to cut gluten out of my diet and just see what happens." And she was like, three days later she's like, "Oh my God, I feel so much better." And it's her idea. But as we go into the holidays, our diets get worse and worse and worse, and brain fog gets worse.
And already people, even though we think of it as a happy time of year, it's not for most people. If you actually look at the statistics, it's when depression goes up. It's when people are very, very stressed; between the weather, the time change, the financial problems and having to just shop, which thought alone for me it was just like ... But-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Did you know that when men go to the mall, their bodies take on the physiology of a soldier in war?
Tana Amen: I knew I was a guy in disguise.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But for me, that doesn't happen.
Tana Amen: I shouldn't have said that, because that sounded really weird. But I knew that that was like, I knew there was something to that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Is there another discussion we need to have?
Tana Amen: Well, I'm just telling you, when we get near a mall, I literally ... I feel myself tensing. I feel like my blood pressure's going up. I get annoyed. Like, seriously, I'm almost angry when I get near a mall. And when you say, "Oh, it's your birthday, let me take you shopping," I'm like, "I thought you loved me. Why would you do that to me?" I get seriously annoyed.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And then you found Amazon.
Tana Amen: Yes. Yes. Which talks ... speaks to another [crosstalk 00:07:40].
Dr. Daniel Amen: This is not about us, this is about our listeners.
Tana Amen: [crosstalk 00:07:43] speaks to stress. So if you don't like the mall and you have to do some shopping, online shopping. Yes, the best.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But, with what you can afford, which means take care of your frontal lobe so that you plan. And part of the one page miracle I do with all of my patients ... So if you haven't ever done a one page miracle, on one piece of paper just write down what you want. In your relationships, in your money, in your work, in your physical, emotional, and spiritual health. And with money, I think psychiatrists don't talk enough to their patients about money and managing their money. Because it's clearly one of the biggest stress is, if I spend this, does it fit the goals I have for my life? And so, we're often so wanting to please other people, but going in debt to do that increases your stress and then you're not as happy. You're not as fun.
Tana Amen: And, you know, as somebody on the receiving end, it doesn't feel good to me when I know that someone had put themselves in a position of being stressed to get that gift. That doesn't feel good, that feels awkward. So just FYI, the person receiving it, unless it's a little kid ... They tend to not see it [crosstalk 00:09:10]
Dr. Daniel Amen: And one of the things I've learned about little kids, you know, being a child psychiatrist ... that Haven ...
Tana Amen: She likes the box.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... my 16 month old granddaughter, actually likes the box better [crosstalk 00:09:21]. Right. So it doesn't have to be expensive. It's the thought and the time that counts. And if you go, "Oh well you don't know my family," then it's, you know, are these really the right people to hang out with? Because you become like the people you spend time with.
Tana Amen: So the tips we so far have talked about; food, really watch your ... Protect yourself.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Brain warriors protect themselves.
Tana Amen: Right, because your food will, the food you eat will either make you feel better or more stressed going into the holidays. We talked about how to shop to protect yourself. Like I know I hate mall. Hate it, and I hate it worse during the holiday. Hate the mall. So I shop on Amazon for the shopping I'm going to do. I try to think of things that are more gifts of service, so maybe that's something you can do. Don't stress yourself financially any more than you absolutely have to. And you'll be surprised at how much you can do. Like reading books to kids is a really helpful thing.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And one great gift that you could institute if you're not already doing this, is something called special time, which we've talked about a lot, but it's spend 20 minutes a day with your child doing something he or she wants to do.
Tana Amen: Games or books or-
Dr. Daniel Amen: I remember one, because I like watching basketball, and you don't. And one Christmas you said, "I'll watch 10 games with you," because I just like it.
Tana Amen: [crosstalk 00:10:57] collected all of them.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But I know that you owe them to me, and I feel good about it.
Tana Amen: [crosstalk 00:11:03] makes you feel good, yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: No, it makes me feel good when you're with me, doing something.
Tana Amen: That you love. I'll go to the games with you anytime. I like going to games. I just don't like it on TV.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Now the Lakers are more fun.
Tana Amen: But be careful. There is one word of caution with special time. When you institute it, it's really hard to un-institute it. So our 16 year old still, every morning, she gets up, "Mommy," and she climbs in my lap, "can we go for a walk? Can we go for a drive? Can we ..." it becomes this, like ritual that you have to [crosstalk 00:11:35]
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, but who has the most influence over her?
Tana Amen: I'm sort of kidding, because I love it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And as a 16 year old, you want the parents to have influence.
Tana Amen: I'm going to cry when it ends. I'm going to cry.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And it'll be okay.
Tana Amen: No.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because you and I can have more special time. What is the one thing you've learned today about how you can help manage stress during the holidays? Post it on any of your social media sites and hashtag Brain Warrior's Way podcast. Also, leave us a comment, question or review on how you manage the stress, or any really cool brain warrior gifts that you've given to people you care about. Stay with us.
Tana Amen: If you're enjoying The Brain Warrior's Way podcast, please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode. And while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating, as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you're considering coming to Amen Clinics, or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from Brain MD, you can use the code Podcast 10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at, or a 10% discount on all supplements at For more information, give us a call at (855) 978-1363.