Episode 092: Start a Self-Awareness Practice to Get Unstuck Says Elana Miller

Listen on iTunes or Stitcher for daily updates.

Elana Miller Zen Psychiatry

Elana Miller

Elana Miller, founder of ZenPsychiatry.com, says starting a self-awareness practice is key to getting yourself unstuck. She also tells us how mindfulness has been a critical tool for helping to deal with her stage IV cancer.

Last December Elana was in the process of finishing up her residency at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California when she was diagnosed with Stage IV Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma at the age of 31.

She says her super power has been her capacity for self awareness. She started ZenPsychiatry because she is passionate about integrating Eastern philosophy with Western medicine. Now she is living it.

Elana wants you to know that developing a mindfulness practice is a powerful way to not only reduce your stress levels, but to help get you unstuck.

Key UnStuckable Takeaway

You don’t have to wait for a crisis in your life to happen in order to develop a self-awareness practice! 

Elana believes everything she has learned and experienced about mindfulness before she was diagnosed with cancer has helped her better handle the disease. Cancer doesn’t allow you to think about the future, it makes you focus on the present.

Developing a self-awareness practice is also a powerful tool to understand when you might be getting stuck and how you can get yourself unstuck. It helps you tap into your feelings and emotions, so you can respond to your stress in a more positive and constructive way.

Quick Action to Get Unstuck

Start building self-awareness by trying one of these three mindfulness exercises for a week.

  1. Meditate for at least five minutes a day by focusing on your breath or by repeating a mantra in your head.
  2. Try being mindful about one of your activities each week. You can try mindful driving, dish washing or even brushing your teeth. Focus on each movement and thought as you perform the task.
  3. Leave no trace and build awareness with your physical surroundings. Leave one room in your house exactly as you found it each time you leave that room.

UnStuckable Quotes From Elana

“Meditation has been the most important coping skill for dealing with my cancer.”

“My mind treats me more kindly because of the meditation practice I did in the past.”

“There is purpose to my work, therefore I have a purpose.”

“I feel much less ambitious about work than before I got cancer.”

“Work is something I do, but it’s not going to be everything about me.”

“Cancer has forced me to slow down”.

“Whatever you feel is what you feel. Don’t add any suffering to it by letting someone else telling you not to feel that way.”

“Whatever your individual story might be, it  is OK and valid.”

“Mindfulness is being aware of what’s going on right now without judgement.”

“Mediation helps you develop a spotlight you can use for other challenges or opportunities in your life.”

“Don’t think of mediation as a relaxation tool, but a tool of inquiry.”

“Integrate mindful activities into your day.”

“Our mind tends to run to the future or to the past, so we need a little practice getting to the present.”

“When I think of someone who is stuck, I think their mind is frenetically trying to figure something out.”

“There is nothing inherently wrong with being stuck.”

“Don’t wait until you get cancer to appreciate the life you have.”

“It’s OK to put yourself first.”

“Sometimes we work too hard to meet someone else’s needs and they don’t even realize they are taking from you.”

“If you are aware you’ve not stuck and even if you are, you’re OK with it.”

More Habits & Actions

  • Elana’s relationships and the meaning she gets from her work help her to look forward to her future.
  • As much as she enjoys setting professional goals for herself and living the “entrepreneurial mindset,” having a family one day is the most important goal for her right now.
  • Elana has developed a habit for mindfulness, which means having an awareness about your current mental state.
  • Elana says she has become more self aware about parts of herself she doesn’t like.
  • As part of her self awareness process, Elana has learned to accept and recognize all of her positive and negative feelings with authenticity.
  • The first step in becoming more self aware is allowing yourself to recognize your feelings and the next step is not letting yourself feel guilty for having that feeling.

Alternative Perspectives

  • Cancer has given Elana a reality of not having a sense of control over her life.
  • Accept and recognize your negative thoughts as part of who you are as a person. Let them out, instead of burying them deep inside yourself.
  • Express your feelings, positive or negative, on your own terms.
  • Mediation is hard when you try it for the first time, but as you practice, you’ll get better at it.
  • Thinking about a problem even more won’t necessarily solve your problem, but giving yourself a break from it just might.
  • When someone says they are stuck that means they feel uncertain, lack confidence or feel a clear path in life should be laying before them.



Elana Miller on Huffington Post

Elana’s Blog Post About Being Diagnosed With Cancer

Tony Robbins

UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center

How to Train a Wild Elephant by Jan Chozen Bays

Questions & Feedback

Have a question or feedback for us? Email getunstuck@unstuckable.co or Tweet @unstuckable

Thank you for listening. If you like something you heard in the show, let Elana, Chris and Stephen know by tweeting us @unstuckable

If you’re a big fan of the Unstuckable podcast and think it can help other people get unstuck in their careers, please rate and review it on iTunes by clicking here.

Thank you for for your support and let’s get unstuck!