Breaking Free of Patterns

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Our lives are a series of patterns. Everything in nature goes through life in patterns, including humans. When we encounter obstacles, we have to learn to adapt to our new reality, or maneuver around it to continue to progress.

I have a really colorful past. I come from a very conservative christian background in a very small town in west Texas. I grew up believing untrue stories about magic beings in the sky that watched and judged my every move. I also grew up accepting sexism, racism, and classism as normal. Yet I had no idea, nor did my peers/relatives, that we were actually living in this strange reality. Most of the people from my past are still stuck there, but I have (thankfully) expanded my world view and understanding of different schools of thought. I can still recall some comments I made when I was growing up…slurs that were tossed around like standard adverbs. I had no idea who I was or how I was representing myself and my community. It’s painful to look back and remember the person I was before, but it’s also inspiring to know how far I’ve come.

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I know I’ve always struggled with feelings of unworthiness. I constantly tried to find love and acceptance by putting on a new mask in every crowd I surrounded myself with. I slept with people out of sheer craving for connection. I didn’t know who I was, I just knew who I thought everyone wanted me to be. This included everything from language I used, to clothes I wore, and even art I appreciated. It wasn’t until I was entering my mid twenties that I actually started getting a handle on who Brittany REALLY was.

I started experimenting with different substances to alter my perception, though I can’t fully attribute all my life changes to them. They were an important part of my growth on my path, though. I remember feeling like I had so many “a-ha!” moments and knowing such clarity around what I was understanding in those moments. I did my best to integrate the “downloads” I had received and worked on improving the areas that exposed themselves to me while I was under the influence.

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Eventually I found myself in the midst of heartbreak, defeat, and hopelessness – as is the case for many people. Hating my job, not caring for my body, and caught up in a whirlwind of useless connections with toxic people. Something had to change. I started reading books on philosophy, spirituality, self improvement etc. and ultimately signed up for yoga teacher training. During my 200hr training I had my world ROCKED. We were diving so deep into yogic philosophy and how it relates to the world around us all. I quickly learned that there was more to yoga than just stretching or exercise. This was a whole practice based around being mindful on your mat, so that you could bring that same mindfulness out into the rest of the world. Practicing things like compassion, patience, understanding, and acceptance are what always shows up for me on my yoga mat. The practice was some sort of salvation that I didn’t even know I was searching for. It drew me in and changed my life. From the fire that was lit inside me through yoga, my whole world went ablaze. I started caring more about my relationships, most importantly the one with myself – internally and externally. I started wanting to pursue a life of freedom, contentment, and happiness. Anything that didn’t allow for me to feel inspired and happy was immediately cut out of my life. I didn’t have time for anything that wasn’t serving my greater good. I was starting to gather momentum! I began surrounding myself with people who were knowledgable about movement, nutrition, and healthy life practices. I kept getting serious downloads from people I admired, read a bunch of books, journaled my heart out, and kept putting myself in uncomfortable situations that forced me to grow. All of a sudden I had ROOTS. I had security in who and how I was. I found love in my community, my relationships, and within myself. I thought this place was something that everyone else talked about but that I’d never experience…until I did. It lasted for a while, feelings of being inspired…like I was learning life all over again…but eventually, the patterns kept repeating themselves. I found myself in a loop. I was still progressing in minor ways, but I could feel that change was necessary and crucial to my continued development.

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Fast forward, and now I live in Denver. A whole new world! I was introduced to a new line of work that kept my pockets comfortable and allowed me to indulge in my favorite foods and activities. I was spending time with people who were fun and with whom I had enough in common to have a good time. We had great conversations about oneness and love and positivity. I felt inspired again by people and all that they had accomplished. This lasted for about a year before I noticed I was stuck in a loop again. I was having the same conversations with the same people…doing the same things…feeling greatly uninspired by the lack of progress I was witnessing all around me, and also within myself. Words are only a small part of progress…action is what I was looking for. I started trying to align myself with people and places that were more on the page I was hoping to be on. I wanted to be more active, I wanted to be doing what I loved and not just what was easy, I wanted to keep GROWING without feeling held back. So, on I went.

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Today, and for the past month, I have found myself in Costa Rica. I’m cooking regularly for yoga and wellness retreats. I am in bed early, and awake before the sun. I’m nourishing my body with nutritious foods and movement, I’m nourishing my mind with stimulating conversations and enlightening books, and I’m making connections with people who are inspiring me to do better…to BE better. Constantly. This is all that I could have ever hoped for when I first started my journey to become the best version of myself that I could be. Am I done? No. Am I still growing and progressing? FUCK yes! I’m learning so much about myself here and being challenged in ways I didn’t think were possible even just one year ago. I’ve broken free of another cycle of unhelpful patterns and relationships and feel like I’ve leveled up again. I can’t begin to imagine what life will look like in a year from now, but if I’ve found my way this far…I’m sure what’s in store is going to be exactly what I need.

I share this story because I hope to inspire people to keep moving forward. To keep following their hearts. To keep pushing through uncomfortable change until you find yourself in exactly the place you want to be. Recognize patterns, question everything, and keep trying to do better. There’s beauty in being content, and a balance between  that contentment and the desire to constantly improve. You’ve got this!

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How To Deal With Stress This Holiday Season

The holidays are a wonderful time for loved ones to come together. They are intended to remind us how blessed we are to have a community of support and love within reach. It can also be quite the challenge to put into practice all that we’ve learned around mindful living. It sometimes only takes one comment, one word, one look to trigger our emotional body into a place of reactiveness. Growing up in a conservative family from west Texas, it became very hard for me to stay grounded and loving throughout any gathering while being witness to so many things that challenged my current way of living. Many arguments, tears, and uncomfortable conversations later – I’m here to share some practices that have helped me deal with the stress that family gatherings can stir up around the holidays.

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Something that is super important to me in aiding to my stress response is making sure I’m properly nourished and well slept. These two things can play a huge role in how we’re feeling. Stress directly affects the nervous system, which, in turn, affects the digestive system among several other things. Getting foods full of B vitamins supports the nervous system and the production of neurotransmitters which are referred to as the body’s chemical messengers. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that can be produced when consuming leafy green veggies containing folate (like spinach), and can aid in keeping you calm, cool and collected. Additionally, you can reach for berries which are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients that help fight against stress related free radicals. The antioxidants found in berries can help reduce blood pressure, a significant contributor to stress. Speaking of antioxidants, these magical substances are also found in dark chocolate! Win! Having just a small amount of dark chocolate (not the whole bar) can reduce cortisol in the body in addition to helping regulate blood pressure. CBD is a great stress relief tool that can be applied topically or taken orally. Using CBD can help the brain and body access mood regulating chemicals like serotonin so they can be used more efficiently and return the body to a naturally balanced state. CBD has also been shown to increase the brain’s hippocampus, which can shrink when a person is really anxious, depressed, or stressed.

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Another factor that plays into blood pressure regulation is SLEEP. Getting adequate sleep in general, but especially during the holidays, is crucial. When you aren’t getting the sleep your body needs, stress hormones are produced and a vicious cycle ensues. The more stress hormones that are made by lack of sleep directly contribute to your inability to fall asleep the next night. They continue production into your day with the peak being in the afternoon/early evening when the body should be winding down in preparation for sleep. This can make you irritable and more likely to snap at your loved ones. So do yourself and everyone else a favor, get some sleep.

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If we can find the time and space to ourselves to practice yoga, breathing techniques, and even meditation – they can improve our body’s ability to handle stressful situations. Studies show that even as little as 10 minutes of meditation each day can help decrease anxiety and significantly reduce stress. Other studies have shown both increases and decreases in brain cell volume in different areas, one being a decrease in the amygdala which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and, you guessed it, – STRESS. There are a ton of benefits to getting into a regular meditation routine, and stress control is a key part of that. When we meditate, we are focusing on our breath, mindfulness, and controlling the brain from wandering off to unnecessary thoughts. When we begin to focus on taking deeper fuller breaths, our parasympathetic nervous system is activated and more oxygen flows to the brain. This lowers our blood pressure, slows the heart rate, and puts us in a calmer state. Yoga is a great way to combine both mindful meditation, breath awareness, and movement. All of these things together can create a sensation of calm and relaxation.

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So this holiday season, make sure you and your loved ones are all eating stress-reducing foods, taking deep breaths, getting adequate sleep, and taking some time to practice mindfulness & movement. These will all help everyone relax and enjoy each other’s company, the way the holidays are meant to be spent!

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