15 Questions to Ask at a Family Dinner

15 Questions to Ask at a Family Dinner 

Before this year full of shut down family dinners, for many of us, were a thing of the past. Between busy work schedules, homework, and extracurricular activities, finding time to sit down together and eat seemed impossible. But now with virtual schooling and offices closed, we find ourselves with a lot more time together as a family.

Family dinners are an incredible way to strengthen your family bond and build communication skills as a unit. I would encourage you to capitalize on the extended amount of family time you have and take it as an opportunity to get to know your kids even better! And help them get to know you better too!

Here are a few questions to get the ball rolling!
(PS - Make sure to answer the questions too! Dont just ask your kids for their answers, participate in the conversation and help them get to know you better!)
  1. What’s something new you learned today?
  2. What is your favorite thing we do as a family?
  3. Who is your favorite superhero and why?
  4. What is one thing that you’re afraid of
  5. What is your favorite memory?
  6. Which do you like better, waking up or going to bed?
  7. What was the high of your day and the low of your day?
  8. If you had $25 what would you spend it on?
  9. Would you rather go to the moon or to the deepest part of the ocean?
  10. What is your favorite thing about your best friend?
  11. What is something that you want to learn how to do and why?
  12. What do you know how to do that you could teach me or someone else?
  13. If you could have one dream come true, what would it be?
  14. Name 3 things that are really fun for you
  15. What is your favorite part about school and your least favorite part?

My hope is that these are just a jumping-off point for you as you start to develop healthy communication habits as a family. I’d love to be a resource for you and your family as you continue to build these open lines of communication as someone you can turn to when difficult topics come up. You can either email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323 to set up a time to talk directly or as a family unit.

3 Things to Remember As We Head Into the New Year

It’s officially here everyone...the end of the year. No matter what your individual circumstances were this year, it’s safe to say 2020 probably didn’t turn out like you had imagined. This has been a very long and difficult year for so many people and it’s natural to be feeling a bit of anxiety as we head into next year.

Here are 3 things to keep in mind as we all head into this next unknown year together:

  1. Remember to Manage Your Expectations - Many individuals have been counting down the minutes until 2020 is over and 2021 will begin. However, just because the date is changing that doesn’t mean all of the problems you’ve faced in 2020 will disappear immediately. Manage both your positive and negative expectations. Chances are, this year won’t be as terrible as you’re imagining and it may not be quite as wonderful as you’re hoping either.

  2. Don’t be Afraid to be Positive - I’d argue that most of you probably didn’t predict all of this year’s events when you were daydreaming about what all 2020 could bring last year. But, just because it hasn’t turned out as you had planned, don’t let this year’s events discourage you from hoping for the best in 2021! Don’t be afraid to be positive and dream big for this next year!

  3. Embrace New Years Resolutions - As silly as they may seem, New Years resolutions really can work and they can be a great way to focus on starting out the year by building healthy habits that will last all the way through to 2022! There are a few tips and tricks I’ve written about before that can help you stick with your resolutions long enough to start really seeing their benefits, you can check them out here!

It’s completely natural to feel anxious during such a huge time of transition such as this and it’s even more understandable given this year’s unique circumstances. If you find yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed about this upcoming year and need to talk to someone about it, please email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323. I would love to connect with you and help you see 2021 for what it can be - full of hope, excitement, and possibilities.

Oh Silent Night….How to Cope with a Lonely Christmas

Millions of individuals have had to face extreme loneliness this year through the months-long quarantines and stay-at-home orders. And, with many people choosing to stay home during the Holidays we are facing a record number of “silent nights”.

Being alone on any day of the year is difficult, but it is even more difficult on special days like Christmas.

If you’ll be spending this Christmas away from family, I’ve put together a few tips to help get you through the season:

  1. Plan Ahead - You know what the day is going to hold, might as well make it as enjoyable as possible! Plan out your day chock full of Holiday movies, yummy treats, and anything else that will put a smile on your face.

  2. Reach Out to Friends and Family - Even though you may not be in the same house as your family and friends, that doesn’t mean you can’t still connect. Plan a zoom call to open presents together, facetime to sing carols, or simply hop on the phone to wish your family a Merry Christmas.

  3. Watch Out for Negative Coping Mechanisms - It can be tempting to want to avoid negative feelings with negative coping mechanisms like alcohol, drugs, binge eating, or any other habit that doesn’t lead to a healthier life. Make a plan ahead of time to avoid any pitfalls and make sure you have a friend who can hold you accountable.

  4. Remember This Isn't Forever - How many times have we had to tell ourselves “this isn’t forever” this year? It may not hold the same weight as it did at the beginning of the year, but try and remind yourself that it really isn’t going to last forever. This year has been hard and it’s turning out to be even harder during the Holidays. But, Christmas comes around every year and how much sweeter will it be next year when you’re able to celebrate together again?

  5. Give a Little Gift to Your Neighbors - Most likely, you’re not the only person on your block facing a smaller Christmas. Write a little note or drop off a small treat for the neighbors around you who are staying home as well. You’ll probably make their day and knowing you’re not in this alone will help you feel better as well.

No matter how many tips or tricks you try there’s no getting around the fact that a Holiday away from friends and family stinks. If you’re facing a lonely Christmas and need someone to talk to you can email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323 to set up a phone or video session. You’re not alone this year, even if it may feel like it.

How to Respond to Invasive Personal Questions and Inappropriate Comments on Thanksgiving

This Halloween I heard someone say the most hilarious thing: “Let’s go to a haunted house but instead of scary monsters it’s 15 people asking you what you are doing with your life, who you’re voting for, and when you’re getting married…...oh wait, that’s Thanksgiving”. What is really sad is that that comment is very true! For a lot of people, Thanksgiving isn’t a pleasant family dinner; it is an uncomfortable evening filled with dodging invasive personal questions and inappropriate comments.

If you don’t have firm boundaries with your family, what is supposed to be a fun event can quickly turn sour.

Through my years as a therapist, I have found that there are usually 3 main categories where a family member can breach your boundaries at an event like a Thanksgiving dinner. Here are a few practical ways you can respond to these uncomfortable questions and comments that may come up this Holiday season:

Invasive Personal Questions:

Example: “When are you going to get married?”, “Why don’t you have babies yet, are you trying?”, “What does your love life look like these days?”

Response: “ I appreciate your interest but that’s a bit too personal of a question for me so I’d rather not answer. How are you enjoying your time tonight so far, I’m looking forward to those desserts!”

Politically Charged Questions:

Example: “So, who did you vote for this year?”, “Can you believe what Trump did last week?”, “I can’t believe you’re a (Democrat/Republican/Independent), have you lost your mind?”

Response: “Let’s keep tonight fun and light, you know how talking about politics can get. I’d love to discuss politics and policies with you and hear your views another time.”

Inappropriate Comments:

Example: “You’ve grown up so much, you’re looking like a full-grown sexy woman/man”, “If only we weren’t related, I’d have picked you up a long time ago”, “Look at you, give me a spin so I can see that body you’ve grown into”

Response: “I’m sure you didn’t mean it inappropriately but that comment makes me feel uncomfortable. Let’s talk about something else - the food smells amazing this year!”

Maintaining firm boundaries can be difficult and it doesn’t get any easier when it’s your own family. If you are afraid of going to family events for fear of facing these types of questions, I’d love to help you practice these responses and others. You can email leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323 to set up a time to discuss. With just a little help you can set yourself up for a fun and comfortable Holiday season.

Quarantine Insomnia: Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

Last week I talked about how many people are experiencing trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep specifically since the start of quarantine. We discussed a few different reasons as to why you may be experiencing this insomnia so now let’s go over what you can do about it.

Getting adequate rest each night is a crucial component of maintaining great physical and mental health. So, the next time you’re having a hard time falling or staying asleep, try a few of these tips to achieve a more peaceful night’s sleep.

  1. Reserve Your Bed for Sleeping - Sleep experts recommend that sleeping and sex should be the only activities that take place in your bed, this helps your body associate your bed with relaxation and sleep.
  2. Stay Active - The more active you are during the day the more tired you’ll be at night, leading to an easier time falling asleep and a deeper night’s rest overall.
  3. Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol - Both caffeine and alcohol too late in the day can disrupt your sleep patterns and reduce the quantity and quality of your sleep.
  4. Eat Healthy - Keeping a healthy and clean diet overall can actually promote a better night’s sleep, so watch what you eat during the day in order to reap the benefit at night!
  5. Avoid Screens - Avoid staring at screens before bedtime as the blue light being emitted actually blocks the production of melatonin in your brain preventing you from relaxing.
  6. Stick to a Schedule - Sleep experts have long recommended setting a strict bedtime and wake-up time routine to help train your body when it should be awake and when it should rest.
  7. Try Relaxation Techniques - There are many relaxation techniques you can try before bed including guided meditation, breathing exercises, and soundscapes.
  8. Take a Hot Bath - Studies have shown that taking a hot bath or shower 90 minutes before bed can lead to a better night’s rest. If you don't want to take a whole bath you can still get the same benefits by soaking your feet in hot water for 10-15 minutes.
  9. Upgrade Your Pillow - Sometimes getting a better night’s sleep is as simple as just upgrading your pillow or mattress.
  10. Get Outside During the Day - Getting outside and soaking up the sunshine during the day has been shown to greatly improve your quality of sleep by helping your body differentiate daytime from nighttime based on exposure to sunlight.

Getting a good night’s rest can either make or break your day. An amazing night’s sleep can set you up for a great productive day of work while waking up tired and unrested can really start your day off on a bad note. If you’ve tried some of these tips and are still having a difficult time shutting off your brain at night to rest, please email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323 to set up a time to talk.

Quarantine Insomnia: Why You’re Having Trouble Sleeping

Have you found yourself tossing and turning at night lately? Or maybe you can fall asleep but can’t stay asleep. Or maybe you’re technically getting your recommended 8 hours of sleep but you never wake up feeling rested and are crawling through the day exhausted. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Many people are experiencing bouts of insomnia and fragmented sleep, specifically since quarantine protocols began. 

In fact, some reports show up to a 21% spike in filled anti-insomnia, anti-anxiety, and antidepressant medications between February and March 2020 when the quarantine began.

Why Am I Having Trouble Sleeping?

There are many different factors that have all converged during this time that may be affecting your sleep quality.

Stress - Of course, the world seems to be a LOT more stressful these days. With a global pandemic raging, social unrest across the country, and a national election...there’s a lot to be stressed about. Stress is, unfortunately, a major contributor to loss of sleep. Increased cortisol levels in our body prevent us from easing into restful REM cycles.

Increased Time Indoors - Even if you weren’t a social butterfly before all of this, you most likely got out of the house at least every day for work and some social functions. Too much time inside can make sleeping difficult for multiple reasons, even if you actually find yourself having more time available to sleep. Lack of exercise, mental stimulation, social interactions, and even just something as simple as a change of scenery, all affect our ability to sleep well at night.

Extra Screen Time - With online schooling, extra exposure to news 24/7, and zoom meetings completely replacing in-person meetings, our time in front of a screen has increased quite a bit during this year. The blue light from screens tell your brain to stop producing melatonin (a natural sleep hormone) so the extended exposure (especially at night close to bedtime) can greatly reduce your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Sleep is an important factor in your overall physical and mental health so not being able to get adequate quality rest can really have an effect on your overall wellbeing. If you’re finding yourself restless at night with racing thoughts and anxiety please email me leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323. I would love to help you come up with a strategic plan to improve your rest and reduce your stress.

Crisis Fatigue - How to Cope

In my last article, I introduced the concept of “Crisis Fatigue” which is the fatigue that follows when a stressful incident becomes enduring or chronic. I explained what it entails and talked about its 4 stages (heroic, honeymoon, disillusionment, and fatigue).

Now that we have a good understanding of what Crisis Fatigue is we can start talking about how to cope while you’re experiencing it.

I always recommend starting by seeking help from a licensed therapist or counselor in order to have a trained professional guide you through your process of coping and healing. There are many practical ways to help mitigate the effects of crisis fatigue on your life, check out these 5 tips to get you started.

5 Tips to Cope with Crisis Fatigue

  1. Practice Mindfulness - practicing mindfulness consistently can improve your ability to cope with stress and lessen the physiological reaction that your body has while experiencing crisis fatigue.

  2. Be Aware of Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms - Negative coping mechanisms such as alcohol, drugs, or shopping sprees can feel like a great “quick fix” but they don’t actually fix the problem and usually create more harm than good.

  3. Embrace Grief - Crisis creates loss and loss always brings grief. There is so much to grieve right now - the life you had before the pandemic, lost loved ones, cancellation of important milestones like weddings, and more. Allow yourself to feel the loss of these important things and don’t shut off your emotions.

  4. Change the Narrative - We all tell ourselves a story in our minds and for many people that story becomes their reality. Be mindful of your own personal narrative and take every chance you can to acknowledge the sadness but also put an emphasis on glimmers of hope and positivity in this time.

  5. Maintain Perspective - This is an especially scary time because we don’t have any definitive “end date”...but we all know there will be an end to all of this. Maintain perspective during this time that while it may be very difficult right now, this too will pass with time and we’ll make it through to the other side.

We are all going through such a difficult time together as a nation and the opportunity for anxiety, stress, and depression to infiltrate our lives is huge. However, there is a way to make it through this time and come out on the other side mentally stronger and healthier - it just takes work and a little guidance. I’d love to guide you on this journey and help you every step of the way. If you’d like to set up a time to talk please email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323.