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The 5 Steps to Managing a Crisis, with Dr. Jennifer Love

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

When crisis strikes, we need to learn how to respond appropriately in order to get a grip on the situation. Thankfully, we have Dr. Jennifer Love to tell us exactly how we can do that. In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Love, along with Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen, discuss the 5 steps to managing a crisis, taken from Dr. Love’s new book “When Crisis Strikes”. Dr. Love describes her wonderful analogy of the 5 fingers of the hand and explains the role each “finger” plays in coming to terms with any tough situation, so you can set yourself up for the healing that comes afterward.

For more info on Dr. Love’s new book “When Crisis Strikes: 5 Steps to Heal Your Brain, Body, and Life from Chronic Stress”, visit https://www.amazon.com/When-Crisis-Strikes-Chronic-Stress/dp/0806540818

Daniel Amen, MD:

Welcome to The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

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.

Daniel Amen, MD:

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 amenclinics.com.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com.

Welcome back. We are still here with Dr. Jennifer Love. We are so proud of her. Her new book is out, When Crisis Strikes, could not be more time-appropriate, and we’re talking about… Oh, excellent. Thank you for showing that. We are talking about the five steps. We talked about the first one, which is get a grip. What are the other steps, Dr. Love?

Jennifer Love, MD:

Yes. I’ll go through them maybe not with as much depth, so we’re not here all day. I mean, it’s a long book. But as we go through, we walk people through. We talked about how you get a grip and how you dig down and find out what’s really going on. And then the second is the pointer finger, and it’s pinpoint what you can control, because the hardest thing about crisis is we hit this point where we feel out of control. And we are. It’s like you’re wheeled into the operating room. You’re going under anesthesia. And even though I’m a doctor, I’m losing control.

There is this aspect of things that’s overwhelming, feeling of helplessness, that often comes along with these major life crises. The first thing our brain does is makes a whole list of all the things we have no control over, because we’re wired to look at the alarms first. In step two, we train the brain to step back from the alarm of all the things we can’t control and look at, well, what can we control? And then, well, what can we do about the things we can’t control? Step two is not about making an enormous to-do list.

It’s teaching our brain that we have options. It’s challenging that sense of helplessness to a duel. It’s getting the brain off the siren and off onto possibility. That’s the process of step two. We walk through how to do that in that step.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

That is so important. I mean, for the people listening, not that I am a person who needs control, but for people listening… I love that you described that because… Okay, you can stop laughing now. When we feel out of control… I mean, I know for me, when I feel out of control, I start acting a little crazy trying to grasp control. But I love what you said because that’s-

Daniel Amen, MD:

That’s so insightful.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yes, no, it’s so true. I suffered for years with it silently with an eating disorder and it was all about control. It was all about trying to figure out how to manage my anxiety and have this perfect facade. And it was so silly. Silly is the word. Hard. It was painful. But one thing I learned in that process, and I love that you are talking about this, is focus on what you can control. Focus on what you can control. But I love that you took it a step further in what can you do about the things you can’t control. I love that.

Jennifer Love, MD:

We have lots of examples in there too.

Daniel Amen, MD:

After the election, which I know was stressful for so many people, I was on CNN Headline News, and I talked about PEST, post-election stress trauma, and they cut it out. But I’m like, everybody should be saying the serenity prayer over and over and over again. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. It is such a useful strategy. And I love that you put that number two. What’s number three?

Jennifer Love, MD:

Well, number three is the middle finger. I’m not going give you the middle finger, but in a sense, it’s a finger of action. We give our crisis the middle finger.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I love that.

Jennifer Love, MD:

We talk about getting from all the options to how do you move into action? My co-author, Dr. Hovik, is a specialist on the frontal lobe. I have a section in there on motivation. How do we get motivated to do change? Long ago, I did a podcast called Why Don’t I Want To Do The Things I Want To Do, right? Because I want to be fit and look good in my jeans. But what I really want to do is eat ice cream and watch Netflix on my couch, right? We have these internal battles on doing the things that seem hard. We talk about motivation.

We talk about dividing up tasks into easy actions and tough actions. We walk people through the process of getting going. We help people find the fire in their belly to start fighting this crisis and to feel empowered to do that, because it’s something… When I hit crisis, I want to build a blanket fort and not come out for a week, right? We give our crisis the middle finger.

Daniel Amen, MD:

She builds a pillow fort every night.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Since I was four.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And I think what was that, protection?

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

It was hiding. It was safer to hide when I was four. Now it’s just a habit comfort thing.

Daniel Amen, MD:

I love this hand analogy.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Oh my gosh. No. I feel like I would be really good at giving crisis the middle finger. I think I could do that.

Daniel Amen, MD:

It’s empowering.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

He’s so zen, but I’m not. I’m a fighter. I like that. That’s just empowering.

Jennifer Love, MD:

This is why we wrote this book together because we have different personalities and Dr. Hovik is so interesting. He used to be a PGA golf player. He’s done coaching, psychological coaching, for like the Norwegian ski jumpers. But there are times in crisis when those of us who are soft have to be loud and strong, and there are those of us who go through life loud and strong that will need to be soft.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

100%.

Jennifer Love, MD:

And that’s actually stepped forward. That’s our ring finger, right? Because this is personal. Our ring finger is… It’s a softness. It’s not a finger of strength. We researched all the fingers, by the way. Like really weird stuff online. If you had to have one finger get cut off, which would it be? Like all that kind of weird stuff. It’s not your pinky, by the way. Everyone chooses the pinky and that’s not right. Step four is called pullback, and it’s a time of reflection and simplification.

And we walk people through this process of now that you’re doing all of these things, your actions, what do you want your focus to be on? What do you value? How do you put that in front of you? Which relationships are healthy in your life and which are toxic? How can you simplify your life without feeling guilty? What are the things you can do on a day-to-day basis that are going to improve your life moving forward? This is what I consider a more introspective and gentle step, and some people struggle with this more than others.

But again, we just kind of walk you through that process of how to do that piece by piece, because you want to come out of this crisis a more kind of grounded you. You want to come away with that knowing who you are, knowing what you value, because crisis distracts us from that. When those alarms are sounding, we go into survival mode, and we sometimes lose the essence of who we want to be or who we used to see ourselves.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

He’s so good at this. He’s really good at like stopping and grounding. I’m like always a fighter, but he’s really good at like… You’ve helped me learn some of that when I started to get a little over the top. If he needs someone to fight certain things, he’s like, “Yeah, go ahead, honey.” But when I need to ground, it’s like I know that that’s super vital, but we are so good together. We’re so yin and yang. And yet, when you do need to fight, you just fight differently.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Yeah. I remember in March when this whole thing happened and one of our young employees got COVID and was on a ventilator.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Six weeks.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Remember that? Six weeks on a ventilator. And we had to close our Manhattan clinic and everybody was freaking out. And I thought to myself, am I going to be proud of how I act in September? That when you are in the crisis, it’s like get out of the moment and then to all of the moments. This is so helpful, Jennifer.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

So helpful.

Jennifer Love, MD:

You know what’s so interesting is people can do the steps individually. They can also do them as partners, or even as a family. We have a lot of examples in the book. You can do it together or alone, or even with the therapist.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I love that.

Daniel Amen, MD:

When we come back, we’re going to talk about step five. And I have another thought on the ring finger as well that I want to talk about, about… Because when I think of the ring finger, I think of you and I think of our family, because I wear my wedding ring-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I instantly felt grateful for…

Daniel Amen, MD:

… on my ring finger. And it’s how do you activate your support networks when you’re in a crisis, because often a crisis will bring out the worst in the people you care about. Anyways, what did you learn? Give crisis the middle finger. Love that. So many things I love. We’re having this conversation with Dr. Jennifer Love, who’s a psychiatrist, has specialty in addiction medicine, that we have talked about her new book, “When Crisis Strikes”, out December 29. You will love it.

You will love her. She’s a master clinician and communicator. How can they find you online, Jennifer?

Jennifer Love, MD:

I’m going to Instagram at… There’s a lot of Jennifer Love’s, so it’s a little complicated, @dr_author_jennifer_love.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Awesome. Stay with us.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

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Daniel Amen, MD:

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