Creating Mental Space to Overcome Stress

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but do your days feel merry and bright?

Here in the U.S., stress is on the rise. Forty four percent of us are more stressed today than we were five years ago, and it’s leading to everything from the common cold to heart disease.

Our modern lifestyle is often fast paced and busy. With online access 24/7, a constant overload of information, things to do, and people to please, chronic stress has become a part of life, and the symptoms related are often viewed as “normal”.

Here are some common symptoms to look for:

Cognitive symptoms:

  1. Constant worrying
  2. Racing mind
  3. Forgetfulness/disorganization
  4. Inability to focus
  5. Poor judgement
  6. Being a pessimist

 Emotional symtoms:

  1. Easily agitated, frustrated, or moody
  2. Overwhelmed, losing control
  3. Difficulty relaxing or quieting your mind
  4. Low self esteem and depression
  5. Isolation, avoidance

Physical symptoms:

  1. Low energy
  2. Headaches
  3. Stomach upset (stomachache, diarrhea, constipation, nausea)
  4. Aches, pains, tense muscles
  5. Chest pain and rapid heart
  6. Insomnia
  7. Frequently getting sick
  8. Low sex drive and/or ability
  9. Anxiety, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands/feet
  10. Clenching jar and/or grinding teeth

Behavioral symptoms:

  1. Change in appetite – too much, too little, not at all
  2. Procrastination/avoiding responsibilities
  3. Increased use of drugs, alcohol, cigarettes
  4. Nervous behaviors – nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing

Regardless of what symptoms you’re experiencing, I’m pleased to tell you that those unpleasant feelings are only temporary, and you don’t have to live the rest of your life suffering.

Awareness is key.

When was the last time you remember sitting in silence and doing absolutely nothing? A time when you didn’t have somewhere to be, something to do, or someone to please?

Can you think of a time like that? If so, that’s amazing, and I am happy that you are making your health a priority. If not, you have some work to do, but that’s okay. You’re definitely not alone.

The easiest way to take action today is by taking control of the lowest hanging fruit – your physical environment. This includes the physical spaces that you spend time in, the air you breathe, the sounds you hear, the sights you see, and light you’re exposed to. By intentionally making tweaks to your daily surroundings, you will increase your satisfaction, see a rise in your productivity, and improve your mental capacity to handle your responsibilities with greater peace of mind, focus, and clarity.

I want to highlight some changes you can implement today for each environmental category. Take a moment to order your stressors from least to greatest and tackle them one by one. I am confident that once you get started you won’t want to stop!

Here are 5 environmental stressors that could be impacting your life.

Crowding

When trying to clear space in our minds, the first step is to get rid of clutter. If it’s taking up space externally, it’s most likely taking up space internally as well. Clutter drains us of time, energy, and money. Here are some tips to make a clean sweep!

  1. Adopt a minimalist lifestyle. This will give you less stuff to manage daily.
  2. Get rid of anything that hasn’t been used in a year (and anything else that doesn’t bring you joy – read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. It’ll change you.)
  3. Stay organized by doing small tasks every day. And get the whole family involved!
  4. Find time and space to meditate. This will help you organize your internal clutter. For some of my favorite meditation guides see Danielle Laporte, and apps such as Head Space.
  5. Get outside and breathe that fresh air! Feel the freedom of endless space in the vast world around you.

Noise

Too much noise in our mind can cause feelings of overwhelm, nervous behaviors, and insomnia. Are you aware of the noises interrupting your natural flow? Do you live in an area where traffic noise is an issue, a loud household, or have you simply considered the noises in your space? To keep noise pollution in check, try to implement some of these tips:

  • Reduce TV usage (and get the TV out of bedroom as it can interfere with sleep)
  • Silence electronic notifications
  • Meditate
  • Listen to relaxing melodies – soft music/nature sounds
  • Invest in a white noise machine to drown out audible disturbances. I personally like this one.
  • Use ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones whenever necessary

Air

On average, 90% of our time is spent indoors. Considering that we all breathe nonstop, our air quality is very important to our health. Have you ever considered what harmful compounds or irritants could be flying around in your air your inhaling? From upholstery and carpeting to pet dander and personal products, many particles in the air could be causing eyes, nose, and ear irritation, and other allergic reactions which are messing with your internal systems. Here are some ways to promote clean air:

  • Include green plants in your home – the plants absorb gases through their leaves and roots! (NASA recommends 1 per 100 square feet)
  • Invest in air purifiers
  • Diffuse essential oils to clean air and promote relaxation. Tea tree, lavender, and lemon are a few of my favorites. I’m a huge fan and advocate of DoTerra. Please comment below or email me through my website if you’d like to add some essential oils to your medicine and cleaning cabinets.
  • Open a window
  • Go green! Consider making healthy and environmentally friendly swaps in your cleaning and beauty cabinets.

Color 

The use of color to heal, referred to as chromotherapy, has been used since ancient times. Colors can impact mood greatly and have the ability to reduce or exacerbate stressful symptoms. What colors are you often surrounded by? Do they bring you peace and comfort, or do they provoke anxiety and overwhelm? Here are some ways to take control with the use of color:

  • Use soft neutrals in your home and office. Blues, greens, violet, and soft shades of pink are best for promoting a calm body and mind.
  • Decorate with calming pictures. Waterfalls, ocean views, and forests are great options.
  • Make desktop background a calming photo or color. Use the beach, sky, stars, or an earthy tone, such as green, to cause less strain on the eyes.

Light 

In today’s age, we do not follow the patterns of the sun. We often wake before the sun rises, and go to bed far after the sun falls. Because our schedules do not coincide with nature, it’s important to make adjustments to our surroundings to establish a schedule and natural rhythm for our bodies to follow. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Get outside in the natural light. Nature is always the answer!
  • Invest in smart bulbs to create scenes in your home/office to reflect your desired energy level and mood. Warm tones will promote calm states, while cool tones will evoke energy.
  • Use a bright light therapy lamp during cold/dark months. This has been shown to ward off season depression.
  • Limit screen time, especially in the evening. The bright blue light in our screen sends the signal that it’s day time to our brain, and can interrupt our natural sleep patterns. You could also use blue light blocking glasses.

The best method of managing stress is to control what you can so that you can better manage what you can’t. Altering your physical environment will do great things for your mind, and clear mental space needed to successfully navigate through life’s unavoidable stressors.

If you enjoyed this read, please share to help inspire others to take back control and promote optimal health for their mind, body, and spirit.

Have a wonderful, stress-free day!!!

With love and gratitude,

Brittany

* This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend things that I personally use or that I fully support. Thank you.

Cook Once. Eat Twice.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In today’s world, people are busy. Between work, raising families, and everything in between, it’s no wonder why there has been a decline in home cooked meals. For many this is a struggle, but with a little planning it can actually be feasible for everyone.

What’s the solution? Cook once, but eat twice (or 3 – 4 times!). The trick is to prepare ingredients in bulk so that leftovers can be utilized for the rest of the week in other ways.

Here is a simple example of this plan being implemented:

Sunday:

  • Prepare bulk rice and/or quinoa (i.e cook for eight if serving 4)
  • Cook a whole chicken
  • Roast an assortment of vegetables (i.e. carrots, brussel sprouts, sweet potato)

Meal one:

  • Chicken, sweet potato, brussel sprouts

Meal two:

  • Tacos: Corn tortillas, rice, avocado, carrots, salsa

Meal three:

  • Chicken salad: pull apart chicken, mix with avocado, salt and pepper, and enjoy over a bed of arugula, and brussel sprouts

As you can see, by reusing ingredients and adding them to other items that require little or no preparation, we can create so many meals in minutes. Just plan ahead for the meals you want to prepare so that you have everything you need on hand.

Other ideas for faster meal prep:

  • pre chop veggies/herbs
  • use a crock pot or instant pot
  • pre cook meats
  • keep a well stocked pantry (rice, grains, some canned goods)
  • freeze bulk baked goods such as pancakes, waffles, and muffins
  • keep frozen veggies on hand for emergencies

Do you have any tips that help you throughout the week? I would love to hear! Please share in the comments.

With Love & Gratitude,

Brittany

 

“Reeses” Peanut Butter Protein Bars

Let’s be honest about something. Most store bought protein bars are glorified candy bars disguised as health food. They are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients, highly processed, and some even contain unhealthy trans fats! Eating most protein bars is the equivalent to reaching for a snickers – and does that sound like a good weight loss or body building strategy? I think we can all agree – absolutely not.

With this knowledge, could there possibly be a way to enjoy a protein bar while not sacrificing taste or sabotaging our health goals? I am here to tell you, YES. The best way to achieve this is to make your own at home. This way, you can select the best ingredients, you will know exactly what you are consuming, they will be fresh, and will not contain any preservatives (anything on a store shelf contains some level of preservative ingredients). But, of course, always enjoy in moderation to reap the most health benefits.

I never want my family to feel deprived, but I also put our health at the top of my priorities. Finding ways to enjoy all food groups with my children will hopefully result in a healthy relationship with food and an understanding of what it means to care for ourselves from the inside out. I want to instill healthy ways of cooking, baking, and daily living in my children while they are young, because these early developmental years are crucial for establishing their habits and preferences as they grow into adulthood.

This recipe was inspired by my family’s love for sweet treats, my desire for convenience, and my constant quest for healthy alternatives. It has minimal ingredients and is super easy to make. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

 

To start, make the bottom layer.

Peanut butter Dough

Ingredients:

1 16 oz jar organic peanut butter (or any other nut/seed butter of choice)

¾ cup coconut flour

¼ cup raw stevia or 3 tsp stevia extract (I used powdered extract)

Method:

  1. Blend ingredients in a high speed blender
  2. Spread into a baking dish. (I used an 8×6.)
  3. Put in freezer to set while you make the chocolate.

 

Dark Chocolate 

Ingredients:

1 cup cacao butter

1 cup cacao powder

¼ cup raw stevia or 3 tsp stevia extract

1 tsp vanilla

(Note: this makes a bitter dark chocolate. Add more/less sweetener to your taste preference)

Method:

  1. In a double boiler, melt cacao butter.
  2. Add cacao powder and stevia. Mix well. Add vanilla.
  3. Remove pan from freezer, and gently pour chocolate over peanut butter evenly.
  4. Top with any extras you’d like – coconut, walnuts, fruit, cinnamon, etc.
  5. Place back in freezer until chocolate hardens.
  6. Cut into portion sized pieces and enjoy!

 

(I often enjoy mine broken up into pieces over a morning smoothie bowl. How will you enjoy yours?!)

 

Always remember, you have the power to take control of your health. Think of how your food is serving you. Thank you reading.

With love,

Brittany

Clean Eating 101

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Clean eating is one of the simplest ways you can improve your health. But what is “clean eating” exactly? With so many theories on health these days, that is a very good question.

To eat clean is to consume foods that are closest their natural state. This may look different for each individual, but the goal for everyone should be to load up on fresh, whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limit sugar, highly processed/refined foods, alcohol, and sodium. Some people may choose to include animal products, but overall it is suggested to cut back on meat and dairy.

Here is an example of a clean eating shopping list:

  • apples
  • bananas
  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • pears
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • tomatoes
  • avocado
  • romaine lettuce
  • arugula
  • kale
  • celery
  • cucumbers
  • peppers: red, yellow, orange, green
  • sweet potatoes
  • butternut squash
  • onions
  • cauliflower
  • quinoa
  • rice: brown, wild, jasmine, basmati
  • oats (steel cut or old fashioned)
  • Plant-based milk: almond, coconut, flax, etc.
  • nuts/nut butters: almonds, walnuts, cashews, brazil nuts, pine nuts, etc.
  • seeds/seed butters: pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, chia, flax, etc.
  • oil: olive, coconut, avocado, sesame, flax
  • pasture raised egg
  • pasture raised chicken
  • grass fed beef

I encourage you to buy organic when possible, but definitely focus on the “dirty dozen”. This includes:

  1. strawberries
  2. spinach
  3. nectarines
  4. apples
  5. grapes
  6. peaches
  7. cherries
  8. pears
  9. tomatoes
  10. celery
  11. potatoes
  12. sweet/hot peppers

 

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I recommend mainly shopping the perimeter of the grocery store. There is where you will find mostly everything you need, except maybe your oils, grains, nuts, and seeds. The isles can be dangerous because that is where much of the processed, packaged, sugar laden junk foods hang out.

If you are used to eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), this way of shopping may be an adjustment. Once you’ve taken your clean foods home, you may think to yourself, “what do I do with all of this?” Well, I am here to help.

Here are some meal ideas to inspire you on your clean and healthful journey:

Breakfast:

  • steel cut oats with nuts and blueberries
  • green smoothie with almond milk, spinach, cucumber, pear, apple, and banana
  • sprouted whole grain toast with almond butter and sliced banana
  • pasture raised eggs with sautéed spinach and tomatoes

 

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Lunch:

  • arugula salad with apple, walnuts, red onion, and avocado
  • quinoa with sliced almonds, shaved carrots, chopped kale, and olive oil
  • rice bowl with roasted butternut squash, brussel sprouts, and dried cranberries

 

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Dinner:

  • grass fed steak with sautéed peppers and onions
  • baked sweet potato, roasted broccoli, and baked chicken thighs
  • grilled tofu, brown rice, and sautéed spinach

 

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Cooking at home will definitely help promote a cleaner way of living. Knowing how your food is prepared in what is in it is crucial for staying on track with your health goals. You may even find you enjoy your food even more when you prepare it yourself! Take your time, enjoy the process, and don’t forget to infuse everything with the most important nutrient – vitamin L, love.

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With love and gratitude,

Brittany

 

Carob Apricot Cookies

I am the type of person that often looks forward to something sweet after a meal. I like to enjoy everything in moderation, and I believe that life is all about finding balance.

Enjoying a delicious homemade dessert brings me happiness, and I think allowing myself to enjoy these things guilt free is necessary for my wellbeing.

It is also crucial that I help foster positive feelings around all food groups for my girls while they are young. Girls, especially, are susceptible to having anxious or negative feelings around eating, and I want to do everything in my power to help prevent that.

We bake every week, and I make my girls a part of the process. We talk about the ingredients, where they come from, and what they do for the recipe, and I allow them them to scoop, measure, mix, and get their hands dirty. I have taught them to sweeten their foods with nature’s candies, including whole foods such as bananas, apples, dates, and sweet potatoes, as well as honey, maple syrup, and agave.

Baking at our house is a bonding experience and a time for learning. The girls love eating what they have helped create, and I love that they feel like they’re being treated to something special, but also getting nourished at the same time. It’s a win win!

This recipe was made up after my daughter asked about buying doughnuts at Whole Foods, and I suggested an at home recipe would be better. We winged it, as usual, and the result was so tasty. Hope you enjoy too!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 1/2 cups oat flour

1 1/4 cups almond flour

1/3 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup carob powder

1/2 cup apple sauce

2 bananas mashed

1/4 agave nectar

1/4 cup almond butter (or other nut butter, softened)

2 flax eggs (2 tbsp flax, 5 tbsp water)

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup apricots

1 cup carob chips

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°.

Add applesauce, mashed bananas, and agave to standing mixer. Now add almond butter, flax eggs, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients together, then add to wet ingredients and mix well.

Lastly, fold in apricots and carob chips.

Place dollops of batter onto a greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Wholesome Sweet Potato Muffins

Hello there, welcome back!

Today I created another muffin recipe. They are gluten-free and filled with nourishing ingredients. Unlike conventional muffins, they are packed with fruits, veggies, complex carbohydrates, calcium, protein, iron, vitamins and minerals. They are dee-licious and perfect for the whole family to enjoy!

Here’s what you will need:

2 medium sweet potatoes, baked and cooled

1/2 ripe banana

2 generous handfuls spinach

1/2 cup applesauce

2 flax eggs (2 tbsp flax meal + 5 tbsp water – let sit for 5 minutes)

6-9 medjool dates (soaked in water for about 10 minutes for softer texture)

1 1/2 cups oats (gluten-free in necessary)

1/2 cup teff flour ( you could substitute another GF flour, or use more oats)

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

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For the sweet potatoes:

Preheat oven to 350°.

Clean potatoes and pat dry, then, with a knife, carefully poke holes or make small cuts all around the surface. Place on a sheet pan or directly onto wire rack and bake for 50-60 minutes.

For the muffins:

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a high-speed blender, or food processor:

Combine sweet potato, banana, and spinach.

Add applesauce, flax egg, and dates.

Now add oats, teff, salt, baking soda, baking powder, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla.

Once all blended, add spoonfuls into a 12 cup muffin tin (greased or lined) until equally distributed.

Optional: Top with dark chocolate, berries, chopped nuts, shredded coconut, or cinnamon. (Change up your toppings each time you make them, or top each one with something different to have a wide variety in just one batch!)

Bake for 18-20 minutes, then let cool for 10-15.

Enjoy often 🙂

With love,

Brittany

Nut Free Apricot Granola Bars

If you’re pressed for time in the morning, or frequently find yourself needing a snack to keep you satiated between meals, granola bars are great option.

While there are some store brands that I will have in a pinch, my belief is that homemade is always better because they are fresh and don’t require any preservatives. I often make bulk batches and keep them in my freezer. This saves time and energy and is super convenient.

These bars are loaded with healthy fats and fiber, keeping you fuller longer, and will hopefully deter you from reaching for any not so healthy temptations.

Just a tip before you get started.

You may want to soak your seeds for a few hours prior. Soaking nuts and seeds before consumption will increase digestibility, maximize absorption of nutrients by the body, promote greater enzyme activity, and initiate the sprouting process, which increases nutritional benefits.

Here you go!

Nut Free Apricot Granola Bars:

Preheat oven to 350°

In a large bowl, combine:

1 cup GF old fashioned oats (not quick oats)

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1/2 tsp salt (optional)

1/4 cup applesauce

1/2 cup agave (honey would also work)

1 cup apricots

Mix well.

Press mixture down into a 9×7 in pan

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

*Let cool for about 30 minutes before cutting to prevent crumbling.

Enjoy!!!

Xo, Brittany