If I asked you if you’re stressed right now, you’d probably say “yes.” You’ve got that work thing that’s eating into your date night time every week. You’ve got kids that are more gremlin-like than the little angels you and your spouse had hoped they’d become. You’ve got that headache that never seems to go away. OH, and you’ve got in-laws that you wouldn’t mind seeing, well, if we’re being honest, never again.
Right? Am I right? Jokes aside, stress is something many of us have in common.
I was told when I was younger that it’s both a good thing and a bad thing; you need enough of it to stay alive, but too much of it can kill you (e.g. heart attacks, dementia, and cancer). This ideal stress level has never made sense to me, but that’s probably because I’ve never found the “sweet spot” of just enough stress; the reality is I’m always over-worked, under-slept, and in a constant state of anxiousness.
In his new book, “Heal Your Drained Brain,” New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Mike Dow, shares his thoughts on this phenomenon of chronic fatigue and incessant unhappiness with a two week plan he developed to combat brain fatigue and all the anxiety and stress that come with it. I’m pretty sure writing this review amidst studying for the bar exam is more than serendipitous, because all I feel these days is that my brain is utterly drained.
Dr. Dow explains in his introduction that the onset of a “drained brain” is more than just feeling tired; it’s also experiencing symptoms like: weight gain, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), ulcers, even death. As someone with an autoimmune disorder that flares with stress, I can tell you first-hand stress exacerbating health issues is a real thing. My symptoms are ten times worse when I’m going through something stressful, and when I’m not, sometimes (very rarely), I forget I have any health issues at all.
You shouldn’t have to wait until you’re at your wit’s end and your health is suffering. Believe me, I’ve been there and it’s awful. You’ve exhausted the list of prescription combinations your doctors can give you, homeopathic remedies your yoga teacher can suggest, classical music playlists on Spotify, you name it. It took a medical leave of absence from law school before I started to really make my health a priority; and even now, there’s more that I could be doing, but my affinity for dairy and gluten is stronger than any vegan cheesecake can assuage.
Even if you aren’t looking for a complete life change, the advice in this book is powerful (and clinically-tested with proven results). From my own trial and error while reading this book, I’d recommend integrating a few techniques and see how they affect your daily routine. For example: the bedtime latte (p. 135) paired with limited light and sound exposure right before you sleep could help you get a more restful night (it did for me). There might be some techniques that work better than others, and that’s okay! Do what works for you, because everyone is different…but do try something, because doing nothing won’t help you with those headaches and stomachaches.
The book is organized into four parts:
Part one focuses on the “Big Drain,” which explains in detail what this “brain drain” thing is. It covers everything from brain chemistry and how your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems interact, to the connection that exists between your mind and body.
Part two explores the “Brain Drain Fix,” which focuses on how you can help yourself from having a drained brain. Here you’ll find advice on how to balance things like: blood sugar, proteins and feel-good fats, the power of probiotics, exercise, energy-based cognitive therapy, and restorative sleep patterns.
Part three elevates part two even further with the “Brain Drain Super Fix.” This chapter delves head-first into techniques like: relaxation therapy, pranayama, self-hypnosis, and mindfulness. This is probably my favorite chapter, because techniques that go beyond how I eat and sleep dovetail nicely with the yoga I’ve been practicing everyday (especially mindful meditation). Changing exterior factors like food and sleep is important, but I’d say your perspective and mental framework for approaching stressful situations is just as, if not more, important.
Last, but certainly not least, part four is all about creating your own two week plan to “heal your drained brain.” There is both an overview section with detailed tips about making changes to diet, mindset, and sleeping patterns, as well as a day to day journaling section that’s great for accountability purposes. This part of the book asks readers to take what they’ve learned earlier in the book and apply it to their lives.
At the back of the book you’ll also find a couple of note-worthy appendixes. Appendix A explores a variety of natural herbs, adaptogens, and supplements that can be used in conjunction with the techniques in this book to promote mental acuity and stress reduction. Appendix B is packed with “brain-healthy recipes” from two well-known cookbook authors, my favorite of which are the blueberry ice cream and the cultured avocado boat.
You’ll also find a very detailed endnotes section that has a ton of resources that are referenced throughout the book. This is especially helpful if you’re looking for additional reading or more information about the topics Dr. Dow discusses in the different chapters.
Overall, I really like how this book is written in a way that anyone can pick it up and apply it to their life. The science isn’t overly-complicated and the techniques are explained in a way that you could seamlessly implement them into your daily routine. I think this book is a very comprehensive resource if you’re curious at all about how the mind and body function relative to one another, as well as if you’re someone who currently has a drained brain (I’m raising both of my hands).
This would be a great gift for a high school graduate heading off to college later this summer, or even a seasoned student like myself (or other working professional) who feels drained beyond belief, but needs that extra push to make it through the summer (and beyond).
What’s the worst that can happen? You give Dr. Dow’s program a try for two weeks and learn something new. Best case, you’ll read this book and feel a little more balanced and a lot less drained from all of the things that make your life great (and a little, or a lot, stressful…at times).
Score Card: Cover Art 3/5 | Content 5/5 | Ease of Read 5/5
Book Stats: Heal Your Drained Brain by Dr. Mike Dow
Genre-Psychology & Self-Help Book
Page Count- 345
Binding- available in hardcover and softcover
Spoonie Adventures in Books, Beauty, & Bullshit
I'm a twenty-something year old recent law and business school grad living with a chronic health condition. Follow along on my shenanigans.