Is Facebook Bad for Your Mental Health?

Facebook is bad for your mental health.Ping. Ping ping ping. Swoosh. Ping.

Oh hi. Hello. I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there. Ping. Sorry. Okay, I’ll put this thing away. I posted a video of my dog on Facebook this afternoon; he learned to hula hoop. I had to share. The people love it. Ping ping ping.

That’s one way to start a conversation with a friend, a business partner or a would-be lover.

Personally, I prefer to communicate, to become acquainted with others in analog.

Since its inception in February 2004, Facebook has been used as a gathering place to meet like minds and to like faces; to stay connected with old friends; and of course, to share cat memes and argue over Dexter’s fate. But these days we argue over other things too, real life things with real consequences. Now, instead of bringing people together our collective constant presence on Facebook is tearing them apart.

Facebook might be bad for your mental health.

Arguments. The comments section. It’s all compounded by the comparisons. Your college roommate has it all: the husband, the house, the baby. Her life is perfect. Or it seems that way. Her life may be great, but yours is too. That’s hard to remember sometimes when filters so easily mask credit card debt and sleepless nights.

The truth is, Facebook is making us all pretty unhappy. A Danish research firm, the Happiness Research Institute, has the evidence to prove it. A study conducted among 1,095 Facebook users asked participants to not log in to the site for a period of seven days. A control group was instructed to maintain normal activity. At the end of the study period, those who abstained were 55 percent less likely to feel stressed and reported many fewer instances of restlessness or loneliness. Of the control group, 81 percent reported feeling ‘happy’ while 88 percent of non-Facebook users felt happiness.

“Facebook is a constant bombardment of everyone else’s great news, but many of us look out of the window and see grey skies and rain, especially in Denmark.” said Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute said. “The main takeaway from this study is awareness of the negative aspects that social comparisons have, and how we should be mindful of how Facebook and social media affect how we evaluate our lives.”

It’s true of Denmark, and of Washington DC and Bethesda MD too. When envy and conflict rise over community and the generous spirit of sharing good tidings, it might be time to consider taking a break — for seven days or longer. Spend the time you’d take to share the video of our friend’s hula hooping dog, and read a book with your toddler; linger a little longer over the dinner table; and take care to take care of yourself first.

Mindfulness & Self Care Are Key to Relieving Holiday Stress

Stress & Anxiety During the Holiday Season | Washington DC psychotherapistIt’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap-happiest season of all

For some of us, the holiday season dredges up more feelings of stress and anxiety than it does feelings of comfort and joy. The family gatherings, buying gifts and the travel to relatives: You may have every intention to celebrate, but something is holding you back. Maybe you just can’t wait for it to be January?

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can take good care of yourself without completely unplugging from your family’s ritual and tradition. Perhaps it means skipping an event or two to lower your stress level. Try to find your own way to enjoy family time the way you want to.

Talk to a few family member about how you’re feeling.

Do you have a trusted family member — maybe it’s that aunt, a sibling, or a favorite cousin — you can confide in? Confide with cheer. Share what’s on your mind and know you’re not alone if you feel stressed or anxious about spending so much time with the family. Make a plan to get away together; go out for coffee, pack your hiking boots, or download some relaxing meditations to help you let go when it all gets to be too much.

Get involved.

Sitting on the sidelines can amplify our anxiety. Sometimes our level of satisfaction is directly linked to our level of feeling invested, even though it’s more effort and work. Maybe this is the year you offer to host the family’s Christmas Eve gathering. Or perhaps you only do one part with gusto —,you plan plan the menu, find the centerpieces, or concoct the holiday cocktail. Think about your own interests and energy level, and offer to do something you feel good about doing.

Give back.

You don’t have to spend all of your time with your family. Take a few hours this holiday season, and spend them giving back to your community; volunteer opportunities may be available through local places of worship, homeless shelters, or animal shelters.

Be mindful of your own mental health.

Only you know your own triggers for stress. If going caroling with the family is going to put you in a sour mood, plan ahead and talk it through with family so they’re in the loop about what could make the activity more enjoyable for you. Maybe hire a car service to drive you to holiday parties or shopping? Maybe this is the year you decide to accept your uncle’s choices and let go of the burden of feeling responsible for his behavior. And if the general hubbub of the season leads to overwhelming anxiety that overtakes your daily thoughts and feelings, stop and reach out for help.

Everyone needs a little extra support every now and then; there is absolutely no shame in seeking out the help you need. Talk to a trusted family member or a friend, or:

Contact the experienced Washington DC psychotherapists at Keith Miller & Associates for an appointment to discuss how you can relieve holiday stress.

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Mental Illness Is Not a Four-Letter Word. Know the Warning Signs.

Washington DC Anxiety Therapy“Mental illness isn’t something that can happen to me. Not to my family.”

The thing is, it could happen. You might be surprised to learn just how common mental disorders are; an estimated 54 million Americans suffer from some form of mental disorder in a given year.

Even given these numbers, most families are caught unaware and unprepared to cope with learning their loved one has a mental illness. There will be challenges, physical and emotional, and you might often feel vulnerable to the opinions and judgments of others, but through it all, the most important thing to remember is this:

There is hope, and there is help for coping with mental illness.

Mental illness is not a four-letter word.

A mental illness is a disease, plain and simple — one that causes mild to severe disruptions in thought or behavior, and can inhibit the sufferer’s ability to meet life’s ordinary demands and routines. The American Medical Association recognizes more than 200 forms of mental illness, the more common of which are depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.

Such illness can be caused by, or related to any number of factors such as excessive stress, genetics, biochemical imbalances, or a combination of these things. A patient can often be treated to full recovery with the aid of an experienced Washington DC psychotherapist.

What are the warning signs of mental illness?

There are a number of physical and psychological signs that may indicate the presence of a mental illness. It’s especially important to pay attention to sudden variations in thoughts and behavior; review the lists of potential signs below, but keep in mind that it’s the onset of drastic change that might indicate a serious problem.

In Adults, Young Adults and Adolescents:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Strange thoughts (delusions)
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Substance abuse

In Older Children:

  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • Changes in ability to manage responsibilities – at home and/or at school
  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism
  • Intense fear
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death
  • Frequent outbursts of anger

In Younger Children:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. refusing to go to bed or school)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

If you or someone you know is in crisis now, seek help immediately. Call the experienced psychotherapists in Washington DC and Bethesda, Maryland for guidance and mental health counseling.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, the best place to go is to your nearest emergency room. You may also find these resources helpful:

National Suicide Hotlines USA
Toll-Free / 24 hours a day / 7 days a week

1-800-SUICIDE
1-800-784-2433

1-800-273-TALK
1-800-273-8255

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Can Meditation Help Your Relationship?

Meditation and RelationshipsIt is no secret relationships take a lot of work: communication, dedication, trust, and friendship. Successfully navigating these waters also centers around personal mindfulness, that is the act of staying active and present in a situation. Mindfulness allows you to observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance without inherent judgment on the situation.

Mindfulness meditation is an excellent step towards improving a relationship. When you are clear within yourself, becoming clear in a relationship is easier and more accessible.

Meditation dials down stress.

The most widely known benefit of meditation is stress reduction. Your body and brain, under great stress, falls into a constant state of fight or flight. Meditation allows you to slow down, evaluate your sense and presence of self, and relax your body. The stress reducing effects of meditation have been known to last several hours following a meditation session, leaving you more relaxed and in control of your body.

The impact of your more relaxed state will have an immediate effect on your relationship. When stressed, little things become big problems. Running late, not putting up the dishes, forgetting to return the latest Redbox movie, all of these things can become points of frustration when we are stressed. In a more relaxed state, we are able to better go with the flow and acknowledge that our partners are fallible human beings instead of the perfect person we inadvertently demand they be.

We are able to better communicate and empathize with one another, leading to effective conversations about issues in the relationship or solving misgivings that have occurred.

Meditation helps us understand our feelings.

Research on mindfulness meditation has shown there is an increase in the activation and size of our middle prefrontal cortex, or the mPFC. Neuroscientists believe the mPFC integrates our higher “intellectual” brain areas with our emotional areas. A well-formed mPFC better connects our intellectual being with our emotional being, resulting in a better understanding and control of our emotions.

Being tuned into our emotions, but not controlled by them, allows us to give a calm, rational response to incidents in our relationships. This brings about less misunderstandings and subsequent arguments. We remain in the present and can process what our partner is trying to tell us without letting our defenses flare up. When we enter a conversation from a place of defensiveness, our ability to listen and comprehend what our partner is trying to say diminishes. Our goal becomes to defend ourselves, not work together. Mindfulness meditation helps eliminate this kind of conversation for a healthier relationship.

Having this control over our emotional state also helps us better understand our own emotions and what is causing them. Often, we know we feel a certain emotion like anger or sadness, but cannot properly articulate why we feel this way. Why did we react the way we did to a certain situation with our partner? Mindfulness meditation, along with honing our mPFC, allows us to better understand what we are feeling, why we are feeling this way, and shows us a clear path to correcting feelings of hurt. We can speak to our partner rationally, with an in-depth knowledge of our inner self, and work together to correct any misgivings.

The professionals at the Keith Miller Counseling Center can help you take the steps towards a healthier mind and relationship with mindfulness meditation. Call us today!

Take Psychotherapy to the Next Level with Guided Meditation

Washington DC CounselingMeditation is an excellent way to achieve a state of mental calm and clarity. Numerous scientific studies have shown performing 20 minutes of meditation daily provide countless health and mental benefits. These benefits include: a decrease in depression and anxiety, an increase in disease immunity, and a huge jump in the ability to focus. Meditation creates what is known as a “super mind”, with better memory retention, creative thinking skills, decision making, and information processing. You gain a new control over your life and your mental and emotional states.

However, meditation can be difficult, especially for those suffering from anxiety or depression. The ability to channel your mind is a learned tool and can be overwhelming to start. How can you achieve these amazing benefits when you can’t silence your mind?

A Powerful Psychotherapy

Enter guided meditation, a powerful psychotherapy tool intended to aid in transitioning from hopelessness to empowerment.

Guided meditation is an excellent tool to guide you through the act of meditating without the stress and distraction of attempting to shut your mind off alone. A trained professional leads you through the process gently and confidently, helping keep you on track to achieve mental and emotional clarity and focus. Some techniques utilize written text or video, while others, particularly with counseling professionals, are done by verbal instruction. Music therapy may also be provided as stimuli for relaxation.

Why Use Guided Meditations?

Guided meditations are useful for unlocking emotions and feelings often trapped within. Your trusted professional takes you on a deep journey through your subconscious, where you will be more open to positive suggestions and life changes. The wall blocking you from achieving change is eliminated; despite your brain’s insistence it cannot be done.

What to Expect from Psychotherapy with Guided Meditations

Guided meditation begins with a series of relaxing visualizations. You are instructed on how to breathe, how to channel energy, and how to slowly uncoil the barriers between your conscious and subconscious mind. As you become more relaxed and still, the journey into the deep recesses of your brain begins, accessing your body’s natural relaxation response. Positive energy and thoughts are transferred to your subconscious, focusing on your inner strength. Everyone is equipped with the power to make change within themselves, it’s just a matter of honing those skills and retraining the brain to remember the positive, rather than the negative.

Each session can be individually tailored for the change or exploration needed. Importantly, previous knowledge of meditation is not necessary—you will be literally guided through the process to reach optimal benefits, even if you unable turn off your mind alone. With enough practice, these positive guided meditation sessions will become part of your everyday life. You will feel more confident, more capable, and stronger than before.

Meditate & Be Mindful: It’s Good for Your Health

In the 1940’s, if you told someone you were going running, they probably would have asked, “Who’s chasing you?”

Know what happened next? The scientists charged in, validated the benefits of exercise, and now we all do it – and if we don’t, we feel guilty about it.

Right now, meditation is at the point where exercise was a few decades ago. It is, as Time Magazine put it, a revolution in health and mental health. As a result of the new science, meditation is now being shown as effective at performance enhancement for such elite organizations ranging from Google, to NBA teams, and the US Marines.

The practice of mindfulness is one that is growing ever more widely talked about. The world is moving faster; stress levels are higher; and more and more people are coming to understand the benefits of meditation and mindfulness.

But what are those benefits exactly?

The practice—it is, in fact, something that one must practice—of mindfulness has been proven scientifically to improve the physical and mental well-being of all who take the time to stop, breathe, and meditate.

Mindfulness can diminish the severity of pain.

So much of how we perceive pain is mental; truly, some of it really is all in your head, and meditation can help. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience revealed that pain perception is cut nearly in half when the sufferer turned to mindfulness.

Mindfulness lowers stress.

Not only can the practice of mindfulness make us feel more relaxed and calm in the midst of a stressful situation, science has shown that it’s linked with markedly decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Mindful meditation makes us feel less stressed, because it changes the chemistry of your body.

Mindfulness increases our ability to feel empathy.

One study conducted at Northeastern University College of Science found even a brief period of mindfulness improved participants’ levels of compassion by as much as 50 percent; likewise, a different study published in the journal PLOS ONE, the practice of meditation showed more brain activity in regions linked with empathy while meditating than when not meditating.

Mindfulness can make us healthier.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Health found that people who engage in mindful meditation miss fewer days of work related to respiratory issues. When they do fall ill, those with mindfulness practice experience shortened and less severe symptoms.

Mindfulness is beneficial, even when you’re not in active practice.

Your brain’s emotional processing center, the amygdala, is “exercised” every time you meditate. The result is that your brain’s distress tolerance threshold (your “window of tolerance) is expanded, even when you’re not meditating. If you’re stressed or anxious mediation expands your emotional window of tolerance as much or more than anti-anxiety medication.

Mindfulness counseling

Keith Miller specializes in mindfulness-based psychotherapy for anxiety and stress.

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Fermented Foods May Help Relieve Social Anxiety Symptoms

Bethesda MD Psychotherapy | social anxietyDo you struggle with social anxiety?

Do you find it difficult to connect with people on a personal level in social settings?

Are you sick and tired of feeling uncomfortable at parties?

Did you know there’s food you can eat to relieve social anxiety?

It’s true, according to a research study to be published in the August issue of Psychiatry Research. Researchers at the University of Maryland and Virginia’s College of William and Mary have found that certain microorganisms in fermented foods actually increase the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that counterbalances other neurotransmitters involved with anxiety disorders.

take our anxiety quiz“It is likely that the probiotics in the fermented foods are favorably changing the environment in the gut, and changes in the gut in turn influence social anxiety,” said Matthew Hilimire, assistant professor of psychology at William & Mary. “I think that it is absolutely fascinating that the microorganisms in your gut can influence your mind.”

It’s all about how the gut and the brain interact.

Hillmire and his colleagues developed a questionnaire that asked more than 700 William & Mary students about fermented food consumption, neuroticism, and social anxiety. Participants were asked to indicate if, in the last 30 days, and how much they had eaten of certain foods, including:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir or food or drinks that contain yogurt
  • Soy milk
  • Miso soup
  • Sauerkraut
  • Dark chocolate
  • Juices that contain microalgae
  • Pickles
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi

What the researchers found is a striking correlation between the amount of good bacteria in the respondents’ gut, and the levels of anxiety in their brains. Those William & Mary students who ate more, and more servings of these probiotic-laden foods were less likely to report social anxiety symptoms such as sweaty palms or racing hearts. Fermented food consumption also had an interesting effect on those students who reported high degrees of neuroticism: The more fermented foods they ate, the fewer their symptoms of social anxiety became.

Probiotics have previously been proven to inhibit anxiety…

But this conversation is the first in regards to social anxiety, specifically.

“Probiotics have also been shown to modify the body’s response to stress, and stress response is highly linked to mental health disorders, such as social anxiety,” Hillmire noted. “In addition, consumption of fermented milk has been shown to reduce the brain’s response to negative facial expressions. By reducing the brain’s response to negative social stimuli, social anxiety symptoms might be reduced.”

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Mindfulness: There’s an App for That

Mindfulness: It can help easy your stress and anxiety. Ask Keith Miller & Associates how. | Washington DC psychotherapyThere’s no better way to ease the stress and anxiety that wreaks havoc on your daily life than with a little mindfulness and meditation. But shutting out the distraction, noise, and interruptions can be difficult, and it’s for that reason that smart software developers everywhere have — you guessed it — developed an array of meditation and mindfulness apps that range from free, to just a few dollars to help you gain a little inner peace, wherever you are.

There’s a mindfulness app for that.

In fact, there are a few we’ve tried on for size:

Headspace

Headspace is so much more than an app; it’s meditation made simple, an easy way to treat your head right. Using proven meditation and mindfulness techniques, Headspace will help you train your brain to lead a healthier, happier, more enjoyable life. The Headspace app experience starts with a quick body scan and a guided, mindfulness coaching session with the company’s founder: “Don’t force your breath, your body already knows how to breathe.”

The Mindfulness App

The Mindfulness App from MindApps can help reduce your stress and increase your wellbeing — in just 20 minutes today. Great for everyone, including beginners and experienced practitioners of meditation and mindfulness, The Mindfulness App is easy to use. Just choose between different types of guided meditations, or meditate in silence, and enjoy the scientifically proven health benefits that come along with the practice of mindfulness.

Stop, Breathe & Think

We’re big proponents of practicing mindfulness here at our psychotherapy practice in Washington, DC, and there simply aren’t enough good things to say about this particular meditation companion app. It’s all in the name of the product, really. Stop. Breathe. And think. The free app features a varied sampling of mindfulness exercises, ranging from short to long: Got just five minutes to clear your head? Or want to tune the world out for an hour? Stop, Breathe & Think is your go-to.

What exactly is mindfulness?

These apps sound great, and all — but they won’t help you if you aren’t sure what mindfulness is, or why it’s surging in popularity as a helpful practice for fitness and mental health resiliency.

Mindfulness is scientifically defined as “state, process and practice of remembering to observe moment-to-moment experience with openness and without automatic patterns of previously conditioned thoughts, emotions or behaviors.” It’s been shown to offer a variety of health benefits, including improved sleep, decreased anxiety, and turning on genetic markers of immune-system functioning .

More than anything, mindfulness is a practice — a habit — that allows you to experience more of life in its fullest. To learn more about mindfulness and meditation, and how its practice can improve the quality of your life, contact Keith Miller & Associates (with offices in Washington, DC & Bethesda, Maryland) for an appointment today.

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Stress Might Be Affecting Your Creativity

Teen taking test with DC Psychological ServicesAll day, every day:

It seems like we’re all stressed about something. Maybe it’s money, or your health, or your parents’ health, or your kids’ behavior, or an unresolved conflict with a coworker at your high-pressure Washington DC job.

Whatever it is, it’s there. Stress.

It occupies your mind all day. Stress.

It keeps you up at night. Stress.

It’s affecting your creativity. Stress.

Yes, really.

The burden of stress you bear may be affecting your creativity in ways you don’t even realize. Stress, and exposure to prolonged negativity can thwart your ability to effectively utilize that creative, problem-solving muscle: Your brain. Stress can also affect your productivity at work, which just leads to more stress.

More stress means less creativity; less creativity means lowered productivity.

Lowered productivity means more stress.

You’re starting to get my point here, yes?

The good news is this:

There are ways to minimize stress, and maximize creativity.

But before we can get to that, first we have to talk about how, physically, that pesky thing known as stress takes its toll on our bodies, on our psyches, and on our creativity.

take our anxiety quizStress is a totally natural reaction to a threat, or something perceived to be dangerous; this ‘fight or flight’ response causes the body to be flooded with the hormones cortisol and epinephrine, which in turn inhibit the brain’s ability to function as it does otherwise. Creativity is depleted, and we soon find it difficult to locate the most logical solution to the issue at hand.

It’s a cycle, and a vicious one. When stress disrupts the creative, and logical functions of our brains, we become tunnel-visioned; and when we become tunnel-visioned, we become fixated on one specific element or stressor:

“If I had just done this, he wouldn’t have done that.”

“If I change this, everything will be better.”

I’m here to tell you that that’s not really going to solve anything.

Whatever the issues at the root of your stress, chances are it hasn’t been caused by one mistake; something’s just not working. Get out of that undo-redo loop.

Work to minimize the effects of stress.

Take a deep breath.

It really can be that simple.

Becoming more conscious of the way you breathe will prove to be helpful in your fight against stress. Meditate, and be mindful. Take up a yoga practice. Adopt these, and other healthy lifestyle habits. You’ll soon find yourself equipped to minimize your stress while maximizing creativity.

You can also schedule an appointment with one of our anxiety and stress therapists to talk further about reducing anxiety and stress in your life.

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How To Tell If You’re Experiencing An Anxiety Attack in Washington DC

Worried woman: Psychotherapy for anxietyAnxiety (or panic) attacks are — well — they’re awful.

Anxiety attacks are periods of intense anxiety, or panic that often occur suddenly, and with no warning. They affect the mind, but more so the body, and can cause extreme fear for the sufferer — especially those who’ve never before experienced such a thing — as the symptoms mimic those of other, more severe maladies.

What is an anxiety attack?

To use the more technical term, a panic attack can be best described as severe dread or distress, often attended by painful physical symptoms that can include dizziness, sweating, a racing heart, chest pain, shaking, or numbness. And then there’s what’s going on inside the mind.

A typical anxiety attack will last five to 10 minutes, during which the sufferer will experience extreme thoughts that might lead them to believe they are going crazy, or that they’re dying — none of which is true.

What causes an anxiety attack?

Stress. Remember, last week, when we talked about stress, its effects on the body, and the subsequent ‘fight or flight’ response? The same concept applies here. Stress can lead to panic, which leads to a chemical reaction in the body, which leads to feelings of anxiety and apprehension.

Panic attacks often seem to come out of nowhere, but they can be triggered: By a lack of sleep; by traumatic life events, such as loss; by drugs, alcohol, or caffeine; or by specific chemical and hormonal imbalances.

If you believe you may be experiencing an anxiety attack, take a deep breath, and know that anxiety attacks are highly treatable.

take our anxiety quizSince most symptoms of a panic attack mirror those of a heart attack, most first-time sufferers end up in the emergency room. It’s always a good idea to rule out any physical conditions that might be causing the symptoms of an anxiety attack. Once you’ve determined that what you experienced in Washington DC really was a panic attack, a few simple lifestyle changes — such as adequate sleep, exercise, and the basic skills of mindfulness (detailed below) for as little as 10 minutes per day — will greatly reduce the severity of, or eliminate panic attacks altogether.

What is the best way to treat an anxiety attack?

The physiology of stopping an anxiety attack is incredibly simple yet profoundly elusive in a moment of panic. The scientific reason for a panic attack is this: Your brain and body’s natural defense system — the stress response — shifts into high gear.

See? Simple. Yet complicated.

If you were running away from your neighbor’s pit bull, the major stress chemicals, adrenaline and cortisol, would be needed to help you leap over the chain-link fence fast enough to avoid a nip from the dog. If you were a zebra, once the threat was gone you would mindlessly resume your activities of munching grass.

Zebras don’t get ulcers (or have panic attacks), because they have no prefrontal cortex — that part of the human brain which imagines or re-lives the experience of stress. When your thinking cortex hasn’t hijacked your body, your parasympathetic nervous system naturally kicks in, to soothe and calm your body with just the right cocktail of chemicals.

This is called the relaxation response.

The solution to a panic attack is already inside of you.

Comforted yet? We’re getting there.

You are not defective; your mind and body are not betraying you.

In fact, the opposite is true. Your mind and body are functioning perfectly during a panic attack — perfectly in response to stress, real or imagined.

Researchers and psychotherapists in Washington DC have uncovered the antidote to disorders of the mind and body caused by anxiety and fear:

A simple skill called mindfulness.

How simple is mindfulness? In the most basic form, mindfulness is the focusing of your attention with the goal of diminishing simulation.

To enhance the effect of mindfulness and engage your relaxation response fully, deepen and slow your exhalation and pull your next breath in deeply using rise of your belly to expand the bottom lobes of your lungs. For eight breaths focus only on the sounds of your breath, the feeling of your belly rising and the sensations everywhere in your body — without judgment or analysis.

Simply begin to notice what you are feeling.

Eventually your mind will quiet itself, and begin to wander less. Through the practice of mindfulness, you will learn how to not jump on the endless freight train of thoughts produced by your wonderful and imaginative neocortex, so you can remain still, calm and at peace.

Have panic attacks become a frequent, maybe even debilitating part of your life?

You may have panic disorder — and you’re not alone. Nearly six million American adults suffer from panic disorder. One of Washington DC’s leading psychotherapy and anxiety counseling practices, Keith Miller Counseling & Associates, can help you unlock the potential of your mind and body’s relaxation response.

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