3 Ways to Boost Your Brain Reserve to Bust Stress

brain reserve

Brain reserve is the extra brain tissue or function you have available to deal with whatever stress comes your way. Have you ever wondered why one person can walk away from a car accident and seem to have no negative effect, while another person’s life is devastated? It has to do with the health of the brain they brought into the accident.

I coined the term brain reserve to describe the extra brain tissue and function you have to deal with whatever stresses come your way. Even before you were conceived, your parents’ habits were laying the foundation for your overall physical, mental, and brain health. At conception, your brain had amazing potential for brain reserve. However, if your mom smoked, drank too much, ate junk food, or had infections during the pregnancy, she depleted your reserve even before you were born. If, on the other hand, your mom ate nutritious foods, took prenatal vitamins, and was not overly stressed, she was contributing to a boost in your reserve.

After birth and every day since, you continued to increase or decrease brain reserve by your habits, opportunities, BRIGHT MINDS risk factors, diet, and stresses.

Brain reserve is the extra brain tissue or function you have available to deal with whatever stress comes your way. Click To Tweet

Imagine two soldiers in the same Humvee that drives over an explosive. They both get ejected from the vehicle at the same time, same forces and angles. One walks away unharmed; the other winds up with cognitive impairment, PTSD, and anxiety. How could that be? It all depends on how much brain reserve each soldier had before the explosion. Yes, the blast hurt both of their reserves, but one soldier had more to carry him through a traumatic event than the other soldier did, who was much more at risk for serious brain health issues.

To boost your brain reserve, you need to follow three simple strategies:

  1. Love your brain (you have to really care about your brain).
  2. Avoid the things that hurt your brain.
  3. Do the things that help your brain.

Today’s Practice: List 3 things you do that steal your brain’s reserve and 3 things you do to build your reserve.

In Change Your Brain Every Day, psychiatrist and clinical neuroscientist Daniel Amen, MD, draws on over 40 years of clinical practice with tens of thousands of patients to give you the most effective daily habits he has seen that can help you improve your brain, master your mind, boost your memory, and make you feel happier, healthier, and more connected to those you love.

If you want to join the tens of thousands of patients at Amen Clinics who have already learned how to change their brain every day and have a better life, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.  


  1. Can you please email to me the things to do and do not know to care for your brain?


    Comment by Carolyn Buckle — February 1, 2023 @ 3:57 AM

  2. Excellent introduction. Makes good sense and is in keeping with my 50 years of Nursing experience in a tertiary hospital in Ohio.

    Comment by Kleia LucknerRN — February 1, 2023 @ 6:21 AM

  3. Thanks for very interesting article . I’ve learned a lot from your articles

    Comment by Ursula — February 1, 2023 @ 6:58 AM

  4. I find this to be true. I work with the geriatric population who struggle with the relentless fears of aging and loss of autonomy and independence. Never lose your sense of wonder. Stay connected even by phone to not fall into the abyss of loss. Attitude is everything! Where the heart is, the mind follows, where the mind is the body follows. Find Your purpose and meaning in any phase of life. Life changes, we are on a forward trajectory.

    Comment by Paula Rudeen, LCSW — February 1, 2023 @ 7:51 AM

  5. Thank you for all of the research you do Dr Amen. My Mother drank and smoke through her entire pregnancy with me and my sisters . I don’t feel that my anxiety levels were worsen from it, although as an adult my anxiety has increased due to the technological era and my daughter having autism conversion disorder . But we also came from the era of “just deal with it”. What I do feel is my brain couldn’t grasp onto some subjects as a youth I struggled to get A’s and B’s when so many breezed through things . As an adult I have incorporated many vitamins which I think has helped to allow me to focus and keep my adrenals supported. My skeletal system has always been weak and now my daughter suffers from that . Possible Calcium deficiency. Born in 1961.

    Comment by Jonette Hodson — February 1, 2023 @ 8:09 AM

  6. Learned that TBI and whiplash are not the only traumas to my brain. I wondered about more childhood things like standing for prolonged time on your head, tumbling, trampoline activities….etc. Thanks for the informations you give.

    Comment by Sherry Bytheway — February 1, 2023 @ 8:23 AM

  7. This is so interesting! I love receiving your emails daily and would love to know more about this topic.

    Comment by julia — February 1, 2023 @ 8:27 AM

  8. Yes. I care about my brain health. I had BTI from car accident 1976. Head hit windshield and dashboard. Broken seat belt. I got out of car and got help in isolated area too on a bridge. A voice told.me I'll call ambulance. I never met the man.
    Police and ambulance came for us. I had greatest injury. Broken nose. Memory problems. Perceptions wrong. Poor decisions. 72 now.

    How I hurt my brain.
    Not going to bed on time. Staying up too late.
    Watching TV too much. My son's stresses me unemployed a lot. He just lost his perm job. Employer lied to him. I told him to call US labor Dept and register complaint. Underpaid for position as sous chef. Wrongful termination. He thought he was on 2 month break end of soccer season
    They didn't inform him she never intended to call him back to work. Gen Mgr told him he had NO JOB THERE. HER IDEA. SHES GOING IN DIFFERENT DIRECTION. They never called him!
    He called them Jan 22.
    We decided for our mental health. Tell truth. He didn't lose anything but unhealthy hectic schedule 12 am game back to work 6am. No life.
    He was too tired to go to bookstore to read and have tea coffee with friends 2 weeks. He just slept in days off. That's team schedule not his life.
    Coach runs them ragged. Trains 2 days no time for beach. Even news commentator stated coach goes to bars late. Team had early bedtime.
    Mean coach. Mean chef mgr. Supposed to be exec chef. No respect for employees lives.
    She told.him this is their world. You are only
    Here because of team. What team needs is just important. He never liked her attitude.
    She's a vicious manager. Nobody stays there. Extreme turnover there.
    Company owner never gave a raise in 3 years. Security guards complained unfair salary practices there.
    An old co-worker 12 yrs ago contacted him for a job. He went for 2nd interview today. Phone bill late. Food depleted. I have to go grocery shopping this week. We take taxi. His truck broke down 2017. Vandalized by screwdriver holes to gas line. He replaced it. Won't start yet.
    Needs more work.
    He says he stopped gambling on Sunday.
    My main brain stressors are my son is a gambler all or nothing mentality. My husband was an alcoholic gambler. He died 2005. My daughter is an alcoholic who smokes pot and CBD products.

    For pain and suffering I took Tylenol for arthritis in hip today and heating pad since Sunday. I showered. I rested all week. Big shock to me. I cried a lot. No money coming in 3 months now. No job yet. I don't drink do drugs.
    I read. Bible study. I pray a lot. Rosary. Meditate. Yoga. Aerobics. Garden.
    I know from Alanon training.
    I'm not the cause. I can't control their problems. I can't cure them. Serenity prayer.
    I tell them you are adults. That's your problem. That's your REponsibility. I'm done. This is your last chance. Get a job. No. Clean up your act,!

    Thank you Dr and Mrs Amen for all you do. Look forward to your next pbs project. How about this? Losing your job. A loved one. Look at the stages after death. Denial. Grief. Anger. Acceptance. I still cannot face understanding all that happened to us. My husband and my father were mysogynist bastards. We didn't deserve their neglectful and abusive treatment. My mother had PTSD from being raped. She never told me. She only said she went to a mental hospital for electric shock therapy. She couldn't answer any questions about her past. Men scared her. She never answered door to salesmen. She stayed home ages 7 me to 20 yrs old. She told me when you get a car I will go with you. My sister told me. She trusted you Donna. She travelled from PA to Florida with you.
    Thanks Mom. I thought some new things today about all my work at home helping them with family 5 kids. A new light on the subject. I will tell my son later.

    How I help my brain. Reading Dr Amens emails very helpful since 2022. Drinking tea more than coffee now. Taking naps.
    I want to help my kids to a point. I'm not going to their limit anymore. I say No a lot now. I don't want to be codependent anymore. Not healthy
    for brain or me emotionally. I think I'm doing better. New plan new Dr now. They sent me certified letter to make.my appt soon. They paid 7.50 to write me. I texted them Im not ready yet. I have family situation I'm attending! I did not avoid them. This is big step for me. When stressed out. I used to avoid communicating to people. Big transition. Thank you.

    Comment by Donna Hopcraft — February 1, 2023 @ 4:56 PM

  9. Suffer from anxiety and depression

    Comment by Rita — February 1, 2023 @ 7:05 PM

  10. excellent information!

    Comment by Douglas Morris — February 2, 2023 @ 11:50 AM

  11. Interesting how we are predisposed to certain reactions to stress & behaviors. Thank you for the article. I look forward to reading the book.

    Comment by Barrett — February 2, 2023 @ 1:13 PM

  12. Hello Rita, thank you for reaching out. For more information about SPECT scans and our services, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 4, 2023 @ 2:21 PM

  13. Three things that steal my brains reserve is drinking alcohol, eating sugar when I know I shouldn’t, and not speaking honestly about my feelings. Things I do to help my brain reserve is Get enough sleep, Take my vitamins, and exercise.

    Comment by Samantha — February 5, 2023 @ 4:19 AM

  14. What is suggested for "white matter "disease MRi shows lesions throughout brain plus middle of prefrontal cortex . Ruled out cancer, Thank You God , suspect TBI in 80s or 90s on railroad embankment .

    Comment by Robert Crane — February 5, 2023 @ 9:22 PM

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