Written by : Transcript – Move From Surviving to Thriving With Brandi Sellerz-Jackson 

Transcript – Move From Surviving to Thriving With Brandi Sellerz-Jackson

Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Move From Surviving to Thriving With Brandi Sellerz-Jackson




[0:00:02] PF: Thank you for joining us for Episode 459 of Live Happy Now. If you feel like you’re merely surviving instead of thriving, this week’s episode could be just what the doctor or the doula ordered.


I’m your host, Paula Felps, and today I’m talking with Brandi Sellerz-Jackson, a life doula and author of the book, On Thriving: Harnessing Joy Through Life’s Greatest Labors. Brandi learned to thrive despite her own traumatic past, and now she walks others down the path of healing and self-nurturing to help them find true joy in life.


In this episode, Brandi sits down with me to explain why it’s so important for us to learn to practice self-care, and she offers tips that will improve both our physical and our mental health. Let’s have a listen.




[0:00:48] PF: Brandi, thank you for coming on Live Happy Now.


[0:00:51] BSJ: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here.


[0:00:55] PF: You are, unlike any guests that we’ve had. You are a life doula now. So, to set this up, explain to us what that is.


[0:01:03] BSJ: So, I started my work initially in birth and birth, in postpartum doula work, which means, I was there to support families as they give birth. But during 2020, something happened. It was this little small little global pandemic thing that happened.


[0:01:19] PF: Yes. There was a hiccup that happened.


[0:01:21] BSJ: Yes. It was a little small hiccup. No big deal. No big deal. That happened and shook our world of course. So, long story short, what ended up happening is, I had a conversation with a friend many years ago, a dear friend named Aishat HaSati who’s a healer, who I talked about in the book. She was saying how, “Man wouldn’t be great if we had some doula through life?” And we’re like, “Yes, like a life doula.” We kind of just were joking. But basically, what happened is I ended up finding myself in that work, and I was like, “Oh, that’s what a life doula is. It’s someone who supports you through various transitions and various moments of rediscovery in your life. So, yes.


[0:02:04] PF: With this book, first of all, I feel like you have a lot of books in you. I wondered why On Thriving was the one that you wanted to do first?


[0:02:15] BSJ: Oh, my goodness. I wanted to write the book that I needed.


[0:02:19] PF: I love that.


[0:02:21] BSJ: Yes. I wanted to write the book that I needed. In the book, I share various experiences that I’ve had. Very hard, hard, hard, hard experiences that I’ve had. And I really wish there was something that I could tangibly go to, almost like a guide, and how to navigate those really hard moments. I didn’t want to read something that just tells me to go take a bubble bath, or go drink some water, just go and like –


[0:02:57] PF: Breathe. Just breathe, Brandi.


[0:02:58] BSJ: Just breathe through it. It’s things that are very vague, or opaque, or very just okay. I wanted something that would hold the hand of the reader, so whatever part of their journey that they’re in, they didn’t feel alone in it. Because I feel like that’s a huge part of the journey is that feeling of aloneness during –


[0:03:21] PF: What you do remarkably well is you share your own experiences, very honestly, very heartfelt. But you don’t overpower the reader with those experiences. You still manage to make it about the reader, which is really a gift with your writing. Because a lot of times, the things that you’ve shared would come off more just like a memoir, and you managed to sidestep that and turn it into just, really, a teaching guidebook and saying, “I’ve shared this with you. You can do this too.” It’s really like sitting down with someone who’s saying, “Come on, I’m going to give you a little bit. You give me a little bit. Let’s go do this together.” I have to commend you for that. It’s just remarkably well done.


[0:04:05] BSJ: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. That was the goal. I really wanted that. I didn’t want it to be a thing of people reading it and it feels like, I’m just unloading. Let me tell you about my life.


[0:04:21] PF: Sometimes too, in a book like that, people can end up feeling, “Well, gosh, I haven’t been through anything nearly as bad.” And you’re very careful to avoid even – you have a lot of horrific experiences to drop on, but you never make the reader feel like you’re playing on top of that. Whoa, it’s beautiful.


[0:04:39] BSJ: Because we all have our hard. We all have our version of it.


[0:04:42] PF: Right. Now, in the book, you talk about the four labors of our lives. So, tell us what those four labors are.


[0:04:52] BSJ: Yes. The first one is the labors of relationships. Our relationship with our self and others. I’ll say this too, before I name them. I really tried to think of four things that we are all going to go through. I don’t care how much money you have. I don’t care your nationality, ethnicity, your color, your sexuality. Everyone’s going to be touched by this. Everyone’s going to be touched by these four laborers.


So, the first one is relationship. Figuring out our relationship with ourselves and others and the humans within this world. Mental health, how do we hone in on our healing? Many of us have experienced a pretty traumatic past few years. And then you pair that with our own personal stuff. It’s a lot. So, how do we cultivate our mental health and thrive during those hard moments?


Grief. They say death is the great uniter. No one escapes it. None of us get out of it and none of us are not touched by it. I really wanted to share what that looks like, grief. Not even just grief, as in like the death of a person, like the physical death, but even just the death of a relationship. The death of a career, the end. More so, the end of things. How do we thrive when it is the end of things and begin to reframe our ideas from it being purely just the end, as opposed to also the beginning?


Then lastly, thriving well-being othered. We all get a seat at the table. I don’t care where you come from. We all get a seat where we look around, and we realize we are the only in that moment. How do we thrive and not shrink and feel like, “Oh, my gosh, I don’t belong here.” How do we thrive in those moments? So, I really wanted to find four things where we, just being human, this is what’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.


[0:06:46] PF: Yes. You do that really well. You walk us through that. That’s another thing that’s great about this book is someone can jump in. You don’t have to sit down and I’ve got to start on page one and I’ve got to go through. You do build on stories from previous chapters, but you could jump in like say, it’s grief. Say, grief is the thing that’s frontmost. You can go and just start there and pick up and get that same help.


[0:07:10] BSJ: Yes. I totally agree. I wanted that. I really wanted each section to offer the reach or something where it’s like, “Oh, this part is for me. I need to start here.”


[0:07:21] PF: Yes. You do acknowledge that all these labors just like birth, they have incredible pain, but they also have incredible reward. The key is staying present during this. Talk about how you teach us to stay present, during the pain, during this very difficult time, so that you can truly experience it and gain the best reward out of it.


[0:07:46] BSJ: Yes. One of the things I say is, “Breathe.” I do connect it to our breath a lot of times, because it’s the first thing that we hold when things are like – we hold our breath. But also, too, I try to walk the reader through practical steps. So, one, reminding you, yourself, of where you are, that although this may feel like it, whatever it is, is happening again, this is totally different and is more than likely is different. So, how do we stay present when we’re triggered? How do we stay present when it’s a hard moment?


So, reminding ourselves of where we are. Another thing is reminding ourselves of our agency. That is the first thing that I write that goes when we have experienced trauma is our sense of agency. A lot of times when hard moments, difficult moments, stressful moments come up, it’s the very thing that I feel like goes out the window again. It’s like, “Freeze.” It’s like that flight, fight, or freeze. You freeze because you’re like, “Wait, I don’t know what to do.” You go back to that seven-year-old, eight-year-old, nine-year-old child that’s like frozen in that moment. So, reminding yourself that you have agency, you have a say. You may not like all the choices. You may not like all the options. But you do have a say in how you choose to move forward and grabbing back that sense of agency is, is one of the most powerful tools that we have.


Another thing that’s very practical. I say, hold your own hand. I do this exercise where I literally close my eyes and when I feel a little girl Brandi feeling triggered, feeling a lot, feeling the residue of what I’ve experienced, I hold my own hand, and I envision myself holding little girl Brandi’s hand and saying, “Okay, let’s do this together. We’re okay. Everything’s okay. And if it’s not, it’s going to be okay.”


So, those are things. I try to really be practical, because I really, really, really hate, I hate all the catchphrases that are out there nowadays with self-care, self-care, self-care, boundaries, blah, blah, blah, and none of us really know what that means when it comes into practice. So, I really wanted to write a book that showed us how to practice these things.


[0:09:59] PF: You do that quite well. I think it’s wonderful that someone can read this. They can take these tools and learn them when they don’t need them. Because that’s really when you want to refine this. Not when you’re in crisis and go, “Oh, crap. What did Brandi say I’m supposed to do?”


[0:10:15] BSJ: “Well, I forgot.”


[0:10:17] PF: “If I got to keep this up.” But yes, that’s what’s so wonderful, it really gives you tools and practices that you can just use daily and build on and make part of your being. So, when that crisis does hit, when that labor is there, you can walk through it.


[0:10:32] BSJ: Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. Listen, these are all things that I’ve had to learn and implement. I’m not exempt. There are moments where I am just like, I feel the most, and I’m like, “Okay, what did I say? What did I write?” Go back to that.


[0:10:53] PF: Yes. It’s a journey. We’re all learning. Of course, you’re talking about thriving, and that is a word we hear a lot, and I think it probably means different things to different people. So, explain where you’re coming from? What does thriving look like, feel like to you?


[0:11:12] BSJ: Yes. I agree. I think it looks different for everyone. One of the things I do say, I say define what thriving means to you, because what I think is thriving, could be totally different. It can be different on any given day too. For me, today, thriving looked like getting all three of my kids out the door, wrestling with a five-year-old, who was determined on probably not wearing shoes. Then, I finally talked him into wearing shoes, because it’s rainy here. That’s thriving. It worked. Whatever happened, it worked. Every day is different.


So, thriving, though, I think in a nutshell, I would say, it’s showing up as is, being open to unlearning and learning, and not being this destination. This sad destination, but more so this ongoing work that you’re doing. It’s ongoing. It’s ongoing. And being very keen to what it is that you need. So, what is it that I need in this moment to thrive? Not just survive. It’s a response. I think of thriving as a response, as opposed to a reaction. It’s a pause. It’s an exhale. It’s a deep breath. That’s what it is, as opposed to this clenching.




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[0:13:45] PF: You work with a lot of different people and have talked with a lot of different people. So, you’ve seen their struggles in their obstacles. Are there some common obstacles that you see to thriving? Are there things that we’re just putting in our own path, or just can’t get past that you see over and over with people?


[0:14:04] BSJ: Yeah, I would say I don’t think a lot of people believe that we’re worthy of thriving. I think when you’ve been in a rut of survival, that’s what you’re used to. So, I think the first step is knowing that you’re worthy of thriving. I opened in the book about taking psychedelics and doing psychedelic therapy, and I did it because I want it to live my life. I want it to cease looking at it as if I am this house sitter, just collecting packages for the actual person that lives here. Right? I wanted to actually live my life like I actually live here, like it’s mine.


So, I think a lot of people, when you’ve experienced trauma, after trauma, after trauma or just even small traumas, small t, big T trauma, whatever. I think that knowing that you are worthy of thriving is the very first step. It’s the first thing that you have to really just grab a hold of.


[0:15:12] PF: If you’re in survival mode, you’re not even thinking thriving. So, how do you get someone, first of all, to recognize that they are in survival mode? And then to realize that there’s a something called thriving? And then to get them to take that step out of survival into thriving? Because it’s a short journey in some ways, but it’s a huge step.


[0:15:35] BSJ: It is a huge step. I think the way to get them to do that, I don’t think anyone can do it for you. That’s the hard part. There’s no switch, I think, again, it’s daily. Daily telling yourself, “I’m worthy of this life. I’m worthy of thriving.” If you’re in a hard moment, this too shall pass. It’s going to pass. I’m worthy of thriving.” It is that knowing. Now, I’m going to be honest, I don’t think it’s one of those things that you know immediately. I don’t think it’s just like, “Oh, yes, I’m worthy of thought.” It’s not, “Looks like, and go.” It takes time. If you’ve had years of trauma, it takes time. I mean, and that’s just not like a sweet thing to say, because it’s nice. But really, our brains, trauma changes the brain.


[0:16:32] PF: Exactly.


[0:16:34] BSJ: So, to work with that neuroplasticity of it, and to get into habits of changing it, and unlearning, it’s going to take time. So, I think the biggest thing would be, give yourself grace, give yourself time. This is not an overnight work. This is a daily work.


[0:16:58] PF: As you said before, it’s a journey. It’s not a destination. You’re not going to get to this ticket station. You get your passport stamped and –


[0:17:05] BSJ: No. I wish it were that way. That would be great.


[0:17:07] PF: Wouldn’t it?


[0:17:08] BSJ: It’d be so wonderful if we just decided something and it’s like, “And boom.” That’s not the way it works. It’s not the way life works, unfortunately.


[0:17:17] PF: It’s not. What if we know someone who is stuck in survival mode, and they’re doing the best they can, and they can’t see their way out of that, and they can’t see into how they could ever thrive. How do we gently nudge them? Because as you said, they have to do it. But what are some of the prompts that we can offer as friends, as family, to help them realize you don’t have to stay here?


[0:17:42] BSJ: Yes. I would really validate their worthiness. Every time I get a chance, you’re worthy of it, you’re worthy of thriving. I would also too – I mean, I love therapy. I think therapy is great. If they’re into therapy, if you’re someone that they trust, I think that’s something good to kind of recommend, and not like a thing of, “You need a therapist.” But more so like, “Hey, if they see you even doing that work, I think that’s another thing.” I think, example, example, thriving by example, I think that is the biggest thing you can show for friends and family. Because I think people remember what they see, and the work that we’re doing versus of what we’re saying.


[0:18:32] PF: Absolutely.


[0:18:34] BSJ: Right. If they see you, because I have friends that have seen me in hard moments, and they’ve seen me in moments where I was like, “Oh, I don’t know.” They see me doing this work. They’ve seen me do this work consistently, and I think my example of doing the work, doing the hard things is bigger than anything I can ever say out of my mouth. Actually, even anything I could write out in a book, because they’re seeing me in real life.


[0:19:05] PF: Absolutely.


[0:19:07] BSJ: So, I think that would be the biggest thing is, think about your life. If you see a friend that’s struggling, think about your life and how you’re showing up for your life and what you’re modeling to. Because people are watching. And if you really want them to get the support they need, then make sure you got the support you need. Because they’ll notice it, they’ll see it.


[0:19:28] PF: Yes. That is tremendous advice. I love that. One approach that I really like is where you talk about taking care of yourself like a house plant. I have to admit, I once killed an air fern. So, I’m not sure if that is going to apply directly to me. But I love this. Explain what you mean by that and how we take care of ourselves like a house plant, because this is so relatable. I absolutely love this.


[0:19:53] BSJ: Yes. I mean, well, it’s the same thing. We’re not that much different than plants. We have more complicated feelings. That’s basically it. But water, they need water, they need nurturing, they even did a study where if you talk to your plants and watch how they grow, I don’t think we’re any different. We’re not different. So, I think of it, for me, the biggest lesson was how I was pruning my plants and all this stuff started growing. Watering plants, things start growing. Paying attention to them, giving them the right soil, fertilizer, all that. It’s the same thing with us. We’re not this thing where it’s like, “We don’t need anything.” Every living thing needs something. We need things to keep us living and thriving.


[0:20:39] PF: You explained it really well, in the book, too. I really enjoyed that part of it. You probably don’t know that one of the things we talked about all the time, here at Live Happy Now, is gratitude. You talk a lot about how gratitude has a role in our happiness. But also, kindness can have the same effect. So, for everyone who’s tired of hearing me talk about gratitude, let’s switch it over to kindness. Talk about what that does for our physical and mental well-being when we start practicing kindness and live with kindness.


[0:21:09] BSJ: It’s everything. I mean, there are studies that show that people who practice kindness, it affects our health in positive ways. It affects the way we live, in some studies, how long we live. I mean, it’s literally everything. I write about how even just going kindness watching. You’ve heard of people watching, but kindness watching. It will inspire you in so many ways and inspire your own demonstration of kindness.


[0:21:36] PF: Tell us more about that. Tell us about kindness watching. That’s so cool.


[0:21:38] BSJ: Yes. I write how, one time I saw this farmer at the farmer’s market, he just gave these boys some honey sticks, and it just made me feel all the things. I was just was like, “How lucky am I that I got to witness this moment of kindness?” Everything that’s happening in the world in this moment, and in the past, and everything that will happen in the future. I get to witness this one moment of kindness. It made me emotional and it made me grateful for my life. So, it’s basically where you just you actively seek out moments where you are arrested by kindness, and you watch it and you witness it. You’re like, now think about how that feels for you. Because it will inspire you. I mean, it did for me. It just made me be – it made my day. I mean, it’s sticks. You would have thought that this man gave them a million dollars. It was like, “No, it was just some honey sticks”, that probably had a plethora of. But it was like, “Oh, my gosh. That’s so kind.”


[0:22:41] PF: That’s very cool. Did you have to originally remind yourself to do this and then it becomes a practice? Or how do you start doing this kindness watching?


[0:22:51] BSJ: In that moment, it just hit me. The weight, the endorphins that it gave me. I was like, “Oh, this feeling is just” – it’s like, looking at a cute baby. It’s watching Elf for the 20th time during the holidays. It’s one of those feelings. It’s grandma’s favorite soup. It’s all of those things that make you feel so warm. So, for me, I try my best to actually do it and just be aware of it. When I see it, I hold on to it, I don’t let it go, and I just let it does wash over me and feel all the good things about it.


[0:23:31] PF: That’s terrific. So, I know we have to let you go. But before we do, you have three tips for cultivating joy that I wish you would share with our audience.


[0:23:44] BSJ: Oh, my goodness. I’m trying to remember, but I feel like, well, one I would say, definitely go kindness watching. That’s the first thing. That, right there, will just feel your joy cup in so many ways and it will make you feel so happy. You’ll feel so happy. Another thing is make sure that you’re watering yourself. Put the water in, make sure you’re watering yourself, and yes, drink water. Sure. Yes. You should drink water. But make sure you’re watering yourself, the people that are around you that they water you and they don’t deplete you. They water you. Make sure that you are watering you. So, that means if you need to take a nap, go take a nap, please go take a nap.


No one has gotten anything by working themselves to the bone that more tired. I would say lastly, know that you’re worthy of joy. I say, know that you’re worthy of thriving, but know that you’re worthy of joy. I know that when it’s hard moment some of us can feel like it’s sacrilegious to feel joy in those hard moments, but that’s the thing that is the wind in your sails. That’s the thing that carry you and keep you breathing, is enjoying those joyful moments in the hard moments.


[0:25:02] PF: I love it. Thank you so much. Brandi, thank you for coming on the show. We’re going to tell the listeners where they can find you, where they can find your book, where they can discover more about you. You give us so much to think about and I appreciate you sharing it with us today.


[0:25:15] BSJ: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited.




[0:25:22] PF: That was Brandi Sellerz-Jackson talking about how to move from surviving to thriving. If you’d like to learn more about Brandi, read her book, follow her on social media, or read her blog. Visit us at livehappy.com and click on the podcast tab. While you’re there, be sure to sign up for our weekly Live Happy newsletter. Every Tuesday, we’ll drop a little bit of joy in your inbox with the latest stories, podcast info, and even a happy song of the week. That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode. Until then, this is Paula Felps reminding you to make every day a happy one.


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