Fear is Contagious - How to Stay Calm During This Chaotic Time

We are in the midst of a very real public health emergency and to say “there’s nothing to worry about” would be irresponsible. As each country continues to take steps to prevent this virus from spreading further, we must also take steps to prevent fear and panic from spreading even more rapidly. From fights breaking out over toilet paper to the very real fear of losing your job, anxiety seems to be around every corner.

In order to get through this season together we all need to make sure we are taking practical steps to keep ourselves healthy and safe physically and practical steps to help keep ourselves calm and safe emotionally/mentally.

Practical Steps to Stay Physically Healthy:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Avoid large crowds when possible
  3. Clean surfaces regularly with disinfectant
  4. Avoid close contact with people who have flu-like symptoms
  5. Cover coughs and sneezes
  6. Stay home if you feel sick or display any flu-like symptoms
  7. Get accurate updates and information from accredited sources like WHO and the CDC

“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where the power is.” - Anonymous

Practical Steps to Stay Mentally/Emotionally Healthy:

  1. Phone a friend and talk about how you’re feeling
  2. Practice deep breathing and meditation
  3. Go for a walk in nature
  4. Snuggle a pet
  5. Engage all your senses with mindful eating
  6. Listen to calming music
  7. Do something with your hands (arts/crafts)
  8. Journal about your feelings
  9. Drink cold water
  10. Limit your amount of time on social media or watching the news
  11. Cuddle a weighted blanket
  12. Get accurate updates and information from accredited sources like WHO and the CDC

As we continue in this season of uncertainty, it is crucial to keep mental health as a top priority. Isolation (in quarantine cases) can be very difficult, especially for individuals who already deal with anxiety or mental health issues. If you are feeling severe anxiety or panic about what is happening in the world right now but are unable to get out of the house to see a mental health professional, I would love to set up a time to talk over the phone. You can email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323.

How to Cope with Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are, unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence. Many people experience a panic attack at some point in their life. What is important is to recognize what’s happening and how to cope in order to get through it safely.

The best way to cope with a panic attack is to train yourself to respond in a calm and accepting way. An easy way to remember the 5 steps to coping with a panic attack is by telling yourself to be AWARE.

A - Acknowledge

Verbally acknowledge, without judgement, the fact that you are starting to panic. When you acknowledge what it is, a panic attack, you are also able to acknowledge that while you feel like you’re in danger, the reality is that you are not. Accept the knowledge that you will be feeling uncomfortable for a little bit without trying to force your way out of the situation. 

W - Wait

It’s natural to want to jump into action the moment you feel a panic attack begin - it is part of your fight-or-flight instinct. However, one of the hallmarks of a panic attack is that it robs you of your ability to think straight. By taking a moment to breathe and focus your mind on what is happening, you will then be able to decide what the best next step is.

A - Actions

Your job during a panic attack is NOT to make the attack end. The panic attack will end no matter what you do, that is just part of the makeup of a panic attack - it is temporary. Your job during a panic attack is to see if you can do anything to make yourself a bit more comfortable while you wait for it to end. There are many techniques you can try such as belly breathing, talking to yourself, or meditation.

R - Repeat

You may make it through the first three steps feeling better and start to see the light at the end of the tunnel….then it all goes black again. Ebbs and flows during a panic attack are completely normal. You may start feeling like it’s almost over, then all of the original feelings come back up. Don’t worry - just take it from the top again!

E - End

This is the only step that requires absolutely nothing of you. All panic attacks end. Just like the beginning of an attack is something you can’t control, then ending isn’t something you can control either. Remember, your job isn’t to make your attack end, that will happen on its own. You just need to focus on making yourself as comfortable and safe as possible as you wait for that end to come.

If you or a loved one struggle with anxiety or panic attacks and need someone to help guide you through the process above, I would love to connect with you. Life isn’t meant to be lived alone and life is also not meant to be lived in a constant state of fear or panic. Email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614 - 0323 to set up a time to connect.

7 Tiny Tips To Become More Environmentally Friendly

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it feels like every morning I wake up to a new disaster on the news and an even scarier headline about the future of the earth. With everything going on, trying to do something good for the world can feel like an impossible uphill battle. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and give up because the problem feels too big to be solved.

That’s why I put together these 7 tiny tips to help you become more environmentally friendly. None of these tips alone will change the world, but when we all commit to making a small adjustment in our lives to help support the future, it can add up to something incredible.

  1. Invest In Reusable - Invest in reusable products like tumblers for your coffee, glass water bottles, and sustainable straws.
  2. Turn Off the Faucet While You Brush Your Teeth - This one really is a teeny tiny adjustment but all of that saved water really adds up over time.
  3. Try “Meatless Monday” - By cutting out meat from your diet for just one day per week you will end up reducing your carbon impact by over 1 ton of CO2e emissions per year.
  4. Ditch the Coffee Stirrer - Americans toss 138 billion straws and stirrers yearly. A clever alternative: Put your sugar and milk first, and then pour in the coffee— it’ll mix itself!
  5. Treat Yourself! - Shopping consciously doesn’t mean you have to buy second-hand all the time. Invest in that really nice bag, coat, or pair of shoes that will last you years as opposed to buying multiple cheap ones that you’ll toss over time.
  6. Shut off and Unplug - This one is easy and it saves you money! Simply shut off all the lights before you leave in the morning and unplug any electronics that you aren’t using during the day and while you sleep.
  7. Bring a Bag - Keep a few reusable tote bags rolled up in the glove compartment of your car so you’re always ready for any last-minute grocery run that may come up; plus it’ll save you money if you live in a state that charges for plastic bags. 

Making small changes in your daily routine can help you feel like you’re taking back control of your life while living in what often feels like an uncontrollable world. If you find yourself feeling anxious every time you turn on the news and hear updates on all that’s going on in the world, I’d love to take a moment to chat and help figure out a plan to get you back in control of your life and enjoying the world around you. You can email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323 to set up a time to connect.

4 Ways Traveling Can Improve Your Overall Health

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel
read only one page” - Saint Augustine

Travel is an important part of life for so many different reasons - it expands our individual worldviews, brings us all closer together as a human race, plus it’s downright fun to see new places! However, did you know that it can also be an important activity for your overall health?

Here are just a few ways traveling can improve your health overall:
  1. Stress relief - This one may seem obvious, of course vacations are great for stress relief. However, did you know that traveling can help reduce your stress even after you return home? A recent study found that 3 days after vacation, travelers felt less anxious and more well-rested. And, these improvements didn’t vanish after 3 days, they lasted for weeks afterward.

  2. Boosts your mood - This benefit of traveling begins even before your vacation does! Studies have shown that the anticipation that accompanies a vacation is oftentimes the leading factor in the happiness that comes with travel. That means that your mood can begin to improve the moment you decide to take a vacation, even if it’s months (or more) away.

  3. Good for your physical health - Travel exposes you to different environments that contain bacteria that your body may not be used to. This may sound like a bad thing, but in reality, it is actually very good for your immune system to be exposed to new bacteria. This exposure forces your body to adapt by creating stronger antibodies and the result is an overall stronger immune system.

  4. Mental Durability - Just like with our physical body, our brain becomes accustomed to our daily lives and routines, often lacking much-needed brain exercise. Exposure to new environments through travel helps your brain flex muscles that lay dormant during periods of relative monotony and new experiences increase cognitive flexibility, keeping your mind sharp. 

When most people think of traveling or planning vacations they oftentimes think of going to exotic far-off places. While, that can be very exciting and fun, just remember that you don’t have to go all the way across the globe to experience these same health benefits. Even booking a weekend getaway at a hotel in your own city and playing tourist for the day can elicit the same health benefits as a week away in Tahiti. 

The important thing to remember is to take time out of your busy schedules to focus on you.

If you have questions about any one of the topics discussed above or simply need to set up a time to talk with a healthcare professional, feel free to email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323.

Write it Down: Benefits of Journaling and How to Start

There are a lot of different stereotypes that come up when someone mentions journaling. There’s the classic heart-shaped lock on a book filled with “dear diary” entries written in sparkly gel pen. Or, there’s a vision of an old man on his deathbed scribbling in a feather pen all of the things he wishes he’d done differently.

However, journaling is no longer only reserved for teenage girls with school crushes or wise old men writing down their secrets to life. It’s a great practice to integrate into your daily routine that brings more health benefits than you may think.

Here are just a few of the benefits of journaling daily and some tips on how to start.

Benefits of Journaling:
  1. Mindfulness - Journaling, by nature, requires you to live in the here and now. Because your hands forming the words on each page move much more slowly than words forming in your brain, it forces your mind to slow down and meditate on each moment.
  2. Improved Immune System - Did you know that writing is good for your physical health? Studies have shown that those who journal regularly experience benefits such as improved immune system functioning and shorter recovery time from injuries.
  3. Better Mood - Writing about your feelings can help your brain overcome emotional distress and leave you feeling happier and more calm. This is due to the fact that writing reduces the activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for controlling the intensity of our emotions. 

How To Get Started:

  1. Commit to a Time - Start by simply deciding what time of day you’ll journal. Some people like to wake up early and journal before their day begins while others prefer to write down their experiences at the end of the day before they go to bed. Choose whatever works best for you and your schedule then commit to trying it out for a week.
  2. Make it Easy - You don’t have to go from never writing to an avid journaler writing for an hour a day! Start simple and make it easy for yourself. Commit to writing for 5 minutes a day or simply start by writing until you fill one page of your journal then stop for the day.
  3. Start with a Prompt - There’s nothing more frustrating than staring at an empty page wondering where to even begin. Start by picking a prompt and writing from that each day for a full week. Your prompt doesn’t need to be complicated, it can be as simple as “3 things you are grateful for”, “a memory from your day”, or “2 words to describe how you’re feeling at that moment ”. If you’re having a hard time thinking of one, a quick google search for “daily journal prompts” should get you off to a great start. 

One thing you may experience as you continue to develop your new habit of journaling is as you begin to dive into your current emotions it may start to unlock memories or emotions in you that you didn’t know you had (or have pushed aside for many years). Journaling is a powerful way to explore the deeper parts of your psyche and is a tool that many therapists recommend. If you find yourself discovering new uncharted emotional territory as you journal and would like to talk with a professional, I would love to set up a time to connect; you can email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323.

New Year, New Everything: How to Deal with Change

Everyone knows the phrase “New Year, New You” and I’m sure you’ve been hearing it more often than you may like lately. It can be a great phrase that inspires us to take control of our lives and be the change we want to see in the world. However, some of you may be looking into 2020 and seeing a whole lot of change that you didn’t ask for and may not even want.

Whether it’s a relationship ending, job transition, moving cities, or any number of different shifts in your life, change can be uncomfortable, especially if it’s not you initiating it.

If you find yourself facing a sea of new things in the upcoming year and are feeling anxious about all the shifts in your life, here are a few tips to help you embrace change and move into the new year smoothly.

  1. Don’t stress out about stressing out - Did you know that your reaction to stress has a greater impact on your health than the stress itself? According to studies on the effects of stress in the body, the way we view stress is the real determining factor of your health. When you find yourself stressing about the upcoming change, don’t freak out. Ask yourself what positive impact these feelings can have on you. Try to lean into the feelings of stress and use them as a motivator to take action and take charge of the situation.
  2. Celebrate the positives and grieve the losses - Change is almost never fully good or fully bad. Just like everything else in life, it’s a mixture of it all. Take a moment to appreciate all of the positive things that accompany the change in your life but also take a moment to grieve the loss of what is no more. Maybe you’re in the midst of ending a long term relationship this year - embrace the positive change that is coming with this fresh start but don’t forget to allow yourself to mourn the loss of what was such an important part of your life.
  3. Determine what you can control and let go of the rest - There is a quote by Maya Angelou that I absolutely love: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude”. I think that is such a great way to approach change. Determine what you can control and take charge to achieve the outcome you want. However, you must also realize that you can’t control everything and there will always be things that you simply need to let go of. Letting go of control doesn’t mean giving up - you can always work to view the situation through a new lens which may help you to organically change your attitude towards it as well. 

2020 is bound to have new and exciting adventures for all of us. Many of these adventures will be positive but some of them may be difficult. It is always good to have someone accompanying you on these adventures to help guide you through the ups and downs. If you would like to connect to reflect on your past year and establish a plan to support a successful year to come, you can email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323.

7 Holiday Conversation Starters To Go Below the Surface

Over the Holidays you tend to spend a lot more time as a family than you may be used to. After you run out of the tried and true questions about the weather and jobs you may find yourself just listening to crickets in the air. Keeping a conversation going can be a bit difficult sometimes, even with family.

Take this season as an opportunity to get to know your family on a deeper level by using these easy Holiday conversation starters to elicit more than just surface-level answers.
  1. What is one of your favorite childhood Holiday memories?
  2. Do you have a favorite Holiday tradition? If so, what do you love about it?
  3. Have you started any brand new Holiday traditions as an adult? If not, what would be a tradition you think you’d want to start?
  4. What is your favorite Holiday and what do you love about it?
  5. What was your favorite gift that you received as a child?
  6. What was your favorite Holiday movie growing up? Has it changed as an adult?
  7. If you were Santa Claus what country would you be most excited to visit on Christmas Eve?

Some of these questions may seem a bit surface-level at first, but each of them are crafted to elicit a deeper response if you follow it up correctly. Make sure you listen to their answers and find something specific to respond to. Use the phrase “I love that, tell me more” often. And, answer your own questions as well so as to make it feel more like a conversation as opposed to an interrogation.

No matter how close your family is, there’s always more to learn about one another. I’d encourage you to treat this Holiday season as an exciting opportunity to get to know your family members on a deeper level - this will not only bring you closer but may also help mend a family relationship that has a few bruises from the past.

I understand that extra time with your family may not always be a positive thing. Many of us have difficult family dynamics to deal with that oftentimes become inflamed around the Holiday season. If you find yourself thinking “Why would I want conversation starters that go deeper? I’m trying to avoid conversations all together!” then maybe take a moment to check out my recent article on navigating difficult family dynamics during the Holidays. Or, email me at leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323 to set up a time to talk.