This Is Why You Need to Start Your Day With Intent and Purpose

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One of my main goals at the start of this year was to begin each day with intent and purpose. I am so glad that I stuck with it; it has allowed me to appreciate every day and helped me focus on what’s important. My year has been full of setbacks, triumphs, accomplished goals, and shattered dreams. Without it all, I wouldn’t have been able to see that I can focus on my purpose every day no matter what is going on.

In order to achieve my main goal of living with purpose, I must focus on being intentional with my time and energy. There are small and simple ways of doing so, and I think everyone could benefit from some of them.

The first thing starts right when you wake up: stay unplugged.

Resist the urge to look at your phone. The emails, texts, and notifications will still be there in an hour. Take a few minutes and set your goals for the day, and make positive mental notes for how you want the day to go. You control your mindset and that affects how the rest of your day will play out. Make it count from the time you first wake.

Second, create a morning routine that works for you.

It’s easy to let ourselves go when we are so often taking care of other people. Setting aside time for myself in the morning has been my key to overcoming this battle. I wake before everyone else does, even when I am exhausted and sleeping in sounds so much better. My mental health needs that time each morning.

I start by feeding my cats and letting my dog outside. That way everyone is content, and I can focus on me. I like the quiet when I first wake. No noise at all and Lord bless the person who tries to talk to me before I have my first sip of coffee, the juice that fuels my soul. It is my breathe of fresh air as soon as I wake. (For you, it may be water, tea, or juice—just find something that you look forward to after getting out of bed!) After I grab my mug, I sit outside and take 30 minutes devoted to something that feeds my soul: my devotional, prayer, reading some of the current book I am working on. I also enjoy listening to the birds, taking deep, deliberate breaths, and stretching. You might even want to do a short yoga flow. Just get your blood circulating. Say your affirmations while you do this, and set the tone for the kind of day you want to have!

Use these simple suggestions to make your day count from the first moment you wake!

 

After your mind is in the right place for the day, switch the tone.

This is what I like to call “Wild and Ready.” I turn on upbeat, fun music. Whatever I may be in the mood for that day. Pop, Christian, Rap, Best of the ’90s… Just make it fun, do a jig, laugh at your dance moves in the mirror! Then commence getting ready while you sing to your heart’s content. And sing, girl! Don’t hold anything back; you are building the stepping stones for your day. Once my mini debut for America’s next big star (home edition) is over and I am ready to walk out the door, I check my agenda for the day, gather my things, and head to the car.

Maximize your drive time.

My time in the car in the mornings is dedicated to personal care. Let’s also call it mental health, personal development, and growing my mind. This is when I tune into my favorite podcasts. My top three favorites are This Grit and Grace Life, The Dr. Zoe Show — Redefining Your Superwoman, and She Thrives (if you find cursing offensive, this one probably isn’t for you). These are just my top picks that resonate with me. Listening to them helps me get out of my head, learn something new, and receive encouragement from an outside source. You may not like any of these, and that is fine. There are so many options; find some you like and tune in. I promise you this will become a great time for self-reflection and mental growth.

Find simple ways to make an impact daily.

Once I get to work, I check my emails and see what I need to tackle. Before I do that, I take a quick five minutes and send a thoughtful, positive message to the first five people who come to mind. You never know whose day you might brighten. If they message back and I don’t have time to respond, I get back to them on my lunch break or the next time I have a quick moment.

Ladies, I think a lot of us get tied up in the go, go, go and forget to find the joy in everything. We can get so much more out of our day when our attitude is properly set. Whether you use my tips, tweak them, or discover your own—find a way to find the sweet moments and create a hopeful, optimistic mood for your day. Your life matters, so make your time count!

 

Article was originally written by Myself for, The Grit and Grace Project Online Magazine

Please Check out their amazing site at thegritandgraceproject.com to read some amazing and inspiring articles for women who are living this Grit and Grace Life!

 

Love and Light,

Ashley

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Get out of bed… you are worth it.

12869717-785A-4609-9D3C-74699218E569.pngI have dealt with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. As a child I didn’t know what it was called but I knew how bad things would get for me at times. I felt very strongly about things. When things were good, they were amazing. When things were bad, they were really bad. As I grew up I heard from a lot of people that,

“It wasn’t that big of a deal.”

“That I was overreacting.”

“That I just needed to get over it.”

“There is no reason for you to sleep this much.”

“You are so blessed in life, you have no reason to be sad.”

The thing is, I felt bad for feeling. I knew something was wrong but I felt bad that I felt this way. I didn’t know that at the time I was fighting something dark within myself and that I had no idea how to fight it. Depression, as I later learned it’s name. And life crippling Anxiety with a small spectrum case of bi-polar disorder.

I was so embarrassed for years. I refused to tell anyone what I WENT THROUGH. I begin self harming myself at 11. At 11! I would cut myself in places where I knew others wouldn’t see and on the weekends I began to drink a lot. This is when I began my attempt at self medication.

 

As I grew I didn’t stop this habits I just got better at them. I of course added in other things to self- soothe. I never sought actually help until I was in my mid-twenties and I still never told anyone. My husband at the timed didn’t even know. I was embarrassed.

I never started to really realize and talk about my depression and anxiety openly until after my separation and then divorce with my husband.

Here are somethings depression has taught me.

It is debilitating. It is dark. It is lonely. It lies. It alienates you. It controls you completely. I begin my journey for the right medicine cocktail of anti-depressants and  anxiety control medication. This was a terrible journey. The meds that worked for me also caused weight gain, insomnia and you guessed it depression and possible suicidal thoughts.  After my divorce when my children would be at their dads for the weekend I wouldn’t leave bed aside from going to the bathroom. I wouldn’t eat. I wouldn’t shower. I wouldn’t talk to anyone. I didn’t care and I didn’t want to think, feel or be. I had some very scary close calls.

Depression is controlling. I remember everyday when I had good intentions. When I planned to be happy. When I wanted to change and when I decided I would be in control. Then I would make excuses to get out of whatever I had planned, had to do or whatever those good intentions were. I would roll over in bed and go back to sleep. Relieved and defeated that depression won again.

Then one day I remember being fed up. I remember saying to myself SCREW THIS! I AM DONE! I struggle daily with the easy way out. The path where I let depression win. I fight through it and get out of bed. I get ready. I do something that makes me feel good about myself and I make myself leave the house. At first I would literally just go to the gas station. Just made myself get out of the house. I knew I was done though. I was done with those patterns and letting depression win.

I don’t think depression goes away but I do think we can find healthy ways to deal with it. This is something that I plan to dedicate time to daily in my life for the rest of my life. I will do this because I am worth it and my kids deserve the most kickass momma that I can be!

So let me tell you this. You are not alone. This battle you are in isn’t just yours. We share it, others share it, our families and friends share it. How you deal with it is your choice though. You have to decide to be stronger than your disease. Only you can decide you are worth it. Only you can Get out of bed and fight!

Fight dear friends! Fight for yourself, your children, your parents, your siblings, your friends, your job, your pets! Yes depression sucks and is hard but life has way to much beauty to also offer us. Do it for me but mostly FOR YOU!

 

GET OUT OF BED!!

Love and Light

Ashley

Seasons Change

The older I get it still completely blows my mind how quickly the seems to slip past us. I swear Summer just got here and now it is almost gone. Let me tell you; I AM NOT READY! This Summer was one for the books with my crew and myself. We soaked up all the sunshine, water and even the killer heat was embraced laying in the river as much as we could. We adventured our little hearts out and this season has honestly been one of my all time favorites for my boys and me. We spent countless weekends in “The Wandering Poppy”, our new to us popup camper we got and have been working on all summer. Found some campgrounds we love and some we don’t. We have endured pain, hurt and sickness as well. I have personally went through so many changes this season.

 

Some were definitely harder than others and they all taught me some tough life lessons. As the seasons change, so do we. Y’all, I have grown so much! I have learned to freaking love myself again! I have learned I am okay being alone. I honestly have learned how to thrive alone; not just survive. I have went to work for myself and I am quickly growing a good business that will provide for myself and my kids like what I need to. I have rekindled an old love that I have always had with Nature and I have embraced that every chance I have had! I have become a mom who listens, slows down, loves hard and most importantly smiles and laughs with my babies again.

 

When you watch yourself go through tough season we tend to lose that smile and laugh. The first time I caught myself smiling for no reason I knew I was finally headed in the right direction. That direction was found all on my own with deep soul searching. Once you can find that on your own without depending on others you know you are finally healing from those bad seasons of life. As I sit here writing this reflecting back I truthfully have no idea how I did it some days when I was drowning in my depression. All I know is that each day I tried to push harder, do better and be present. Then one day I was there, smiling. With each passing day I just push back. Only I can control how I react to what life throws at me and I hope my boys learn resilience from me. I hope they know that even at my worst I was trying. I was trying for them in all my faults and failures.

As Fall quickly approaches and the leaves begin to change colors and fall from the trees that carried them so beautifully all season, I want to remember what this season meant for me.

This Summer and this season of life. How they have helped me grow in ways most will never recognize or realize and that is okay. I don’t need anyone else’s validation but I know in my heart how damn far I have come. How hard I have had to fight to get here and how hard I will have to fight to continue to grow. But I am worth it. My boys are definitely worth it and so is the future I will build for us.

The season approaching is already so busy and filled with promises. Things that I can’t wait to see fall into place. Growth that will be amazing to watch unfold. More healing and I am sure heartache. That is the beauty of this chaotic life though isn’t it. For everything that is taken away something gorgeous will come to pass.

 

It may be hard but it will be worth it! Hang on tight doll, the best is yet to come.

Shine Bright,

Ashley

7 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

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Winter is so hard for me. I grew up in Florida. Where our Freezing normally stayed above or close to actually freezing and it didn’t generally stay that way long at all? Life happened and now I am in Missouri where winter is normally beyond freezing, grey and yucky. I struggle with it and honestly it has been something I dread every year. Eight winters here and I am slowly learning how to make it through the bitter months that seem to drag on forever.
So if you also get the Winter Blues like I do then maybe some of these things will work for you as well. I am not saying it will make it all go away but these help it seem a little less brutal.
• Make a winter cleaning list. pick things to tackle during the winter that you maybe didn’t have time for during the summer months. Deep clean one room at a time. Organized all those closets that you hate digging through. It always helps me when I am organizing to make a keep, trash and donate pile. The purging of the old things and deep cleaning helps me feel like I am tackling winter in a productive way.
• Surround yourself with light. Warm lights, open curtains, lamps and when the sun is out bundle up and get some rays. Soak it up when you can!
• Get some house plants. Plants make you feel like you are bringing some of the outside in. They will give you a sense of spring. Not to mention they brighten any room and add filtration to the air in your home.
• Re-decorate or give rooms in your home a face lift. Who has time to have the winter blues if you are giving a room a fresh coat of paint. Moving furniture around or evening giving pictures and art work a new place to hang in your home.
• Make a winter book list and start reading. When you catch yourself feeling low or unmotivated pick up a book and get lost in it.
• Start a workout plan. You can do this at home, a gym, yoga studio or put on some warm clothes and hit the road. Hiking, running and walking can all be fun to do even during the winter. Exercising is going to help you feel better and get those happy endorphins flowing. Even if it as little as following a daily stretching or short yoga routine. There are so many free workout apps, Pinterest workouts or trainers out there that would love to get you on the right track. Trust me once you get started you won’t regret it.
• Find a new hobby! Contact your local art association and see if there are any classes. Start doodling, re-finishing furniture, knitting or sewing. Pick something you think would be fun and start taking steps to learn a new trade. This doesn’t have to be expensive and hey you may even make enough or be good enough to sell some of it and make some extra cash.

I know how difficult it can be to push through these cold and dreary months that seem to drag on forever. However, finding something to keep you busy is key. Not only could you be learning new things you will be starting spring out with a clean house, in better shape and ready to get outside and enjoy all that sunshine and warmer air when it gets here. So this winter instead of allowing yourself to get down in the dumps. Choose to get motivated. Make the best of your time inside and get caught up on all those things that we don’t get done when we are outside soaking in the sun during the spring and summer! Let me know if you have any other ideas. I would love to hear what pulls you through the winter!!

Much Love,
Ashley

2019 a year for Growth and Healing

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You know it is hard to sum up 2018 in my mind. I have tried figuring out the easiest way to do this and I am still at a loss. It was a year full of so much grief, hurt and pain for me. Yet it was also a year of so much self recognition and inner soul searching. I grew in my faith that had become dormant prior to this year. I made some wonderful new friends. I grew closer to family and friends. I worked harder to be a better mother to the three most precious men that God has placed in my life. I guess you could say that it was an emotional year. Full of many Ups and Downs.
The funny thing is. I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned more about myself and I am still learning more about myself. It has made me realize that no matter what we have planned. If it’s not God’s plan it won’t work. He has a big plan for me and though I am not sure just what that is yet I am trusting him and his process.
So here we are, “New Year, New me.” But not so much for me. I don’t want to be New I just want to keep growing myself. I decided a few years back to choose a word for the year. Last year was Embrace. Ironic right? I did try and embrace it all though. I felt it all strongly and processed it with strong will. I allowed myself to fall apart and I embraced how they felt too.
Now I am ready for more! I am ready for my “Growth and Healing”, it was to hard for me to just go with one word. New Year = Healing and growth for me. Inside and Out. Physically and Mentally. What exactly does this mean for me? Where in my mind will this lead me? What Goals will I build with these as my root words?
First of all if there was a tail-tale way for me to know what exactly was in store I would be soaring through this crazy life. 2018 clearly showed me I wasn’t boss in my life and I don’t always have control, but it did show me that I can choose how I react to the things that happen in life and grow from them.
Here we go though. Thinking about 2019 and all my main Goals for the year. Things I vow to work towards and push myself hard to obtain.
Weight loss. I don’t have a number for the scale. I just want to lose weight and become healthy again. My intention is to not have to take so many pills and to be a stronger and healthier version of myself.
Inner Healing. Continue seeking counseling and working with someone to get through my bad habits and past patterns.

Growth with God. This one is huge because I want to be able to truly trust him and build a strong relationship with him. Continuing my daily devotionals, prayers and getting to know more and more about the bible.

My Sobriety. Alcohol has always been how I dealt with anything hard in life. I don’t want this to be a cushion or way of life for me anymore. I am going to fully focus on cutting alcohol from my life 100 percent.

No dating or relationships. This is for me. I know in order for me to truly ever be able to open up or love someone ever again I need to heal completely. I want to find myself in the healthiest mental state then I have ever been before. I have so many things I need to work on within myself before I try to add anyone into that mix. (Disclaimer: God has proven I don’t always have control. If someone comes along it will be without a doubt a God thing!!)

Taking mini weekend retreats where I mediate, pray, write and read. This can be as much as focusing on these things at home the weekends the boys are with their dad.

Write my book. I believe God has given me writing as my talent to help other people. I hope that in finishing my book and getting it out there it can help someone. Even one person would make it worth it for me.

Take my boys on vacation. Somewhere fun and that we have never been.

Work on my finances and building my credit score back up.

Creating moments of happiness that enable me to grow and heal from the inside out.

Trust the process. Trust that what is put out in the Universe is what we get back and I am going to work to put out as much good as I can.

Read and Write as much as I can! These things heal my soul and help me so much. So this girl is going to do them as much as I can.

This never needs to be a Goal or a Resolution because it is simple a way of life for me but taking in every moment I get with my boys and helping them to learn to love the entire process. Raising them is such a gift and blessing for me and I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for us!!!
There it is y’all. My 2019 goals, all obtainable. All going to allow me to become a better version of myself for my boys and for me.
Grab a cup of coffee and join me as we begin this next journey of our lives. Your girl can’t wait!

Love and Light,
Ashley

Be the difference

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I have always struggled. To be happy, to rise above my anxiety, to push through the difficulties of life. I mean really, who hasn’t. Everyone “copes” differently though. From my perspective looking at other people I always wonder how everyone seems to do it so flawlessly when I am falling apart. I am sure this is farthest from the truth though. I am sure that others are completely falling apart on the inside even when they seem so well put together on the outside. I am also sure there is someone looking at me thinking I am strong and have my shit all together.

I don’t though. This point and place in my life has me feeling like I am constantly trying to keep my head above the waves that relentlessly pushes in over and over again. My heart is a constant dull ache and I have never felt more alone. I tell myself daily that I can do this. I am stronger then this. When in reality I am lost. How would life look if we were all more honest about how we feel? Would we be there for each other more? Would we check in on each other more? Truthfully I don’t know if speaking it out loud would help. In our society and society’s standards I think it would push people away. We don’t know how to help others that aren’t “Okay”. Think about it.

You ask your co-worker ” How are you today?”

They respond, ” Honestly, not great.”

How do you respond. How do you handle this? In my own reality most people ignore that you didn’t give them a positive answer in the first place or they respond with a half concerned, “It will get better.” “Keep your chin up.” or ” This to shall pass.”

These to me all undermine that the person could really be going through something and need  someone to really confide in. We live in a society with staggering suicide rates, the annual age adjusted suicide rate is 13.26 per 100,000 individuals per year in the U.S. it is the second leading cause of death in young people ages 15 to 24! How are we okay with that and how do we change this?

First, I think we need to stop telling people to get over it and show them we actually care. You may not see it but what they are going through could really be hard for them.

Just because you may not understand their situation doesn’t make it any less real for them. Everyone copes and deals with things differently. It is real, and hard and painful for them. You may not have to understand it, but you can be there for them and be supportive.

 

If each one of us took a moment to be kind when we are in a hurry instead of rushing through life you never know who you could touch and make a difference for them. I don’t say all this to say I don’t have people here for me. I do and they are wonderful and I love them so much for their support and love. I say this because not everyone has that same support system. I say this because maybe just maybe we all as a whole can stop and try and see what someone else is going through. View it from their perspective so we can be there for them more in a way that will make a difference in their life.

 

Maybe, just maybe we could make a difference in someone’s life who really needs it. Lift up those who are drowning and be a light for those who feel like they are in constant darkness. Sometimes all it takes is just giving a smile, a hug or listening when no one else does. Those tiny acts of kindness could make a big change for someone.

 

Dating after 30 sucks y’all

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Y’all I just turned 33 and I am recently divorced and now single again. Not how I seen my 30’s going or you know that 10-year plan of mine I had. It would be a complete lie if I told you I haven’t been an utter mess. Throw in hormones and the fact that I think I am having a mid-life crisis and that might sum up just how insane my last 6 months have been. Thank you 2018 you have really been full of jokes this year. Now I am at single mom status and trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Since that isn’t enough let’s throw in dating or thinking about dating, which is absolutely terrifying.

First of all, I haven’t dated since college and I was awful at it then too. I am an anxious mess when trying to date, I have word vomit of the mouth and I make terrible jokes to try and lighten the mood which in turns make me look like an idiot. I can own up to all of it truthfully. I know it is that bad. Here I am though, thinking about joining the dating scene though and it is NOTHING like it was 12 years ago. From what I can see that isn’t a good thing. It has progressively gotten worse. Like now when you are talking to a person they send a picture of their privates without you even having to ask?

The conversation can go from where you want to go to dinner and while waiting for a response…. “D**k Pic”, comes through your phone.
“No Sir, I would not like that for dinner. That is not even my choice for dessert!”
I am at a complete loss on how to handle this matter and actually find a person who is truly interested in getting to know each other. And truthfully what are the options here?
Going to bars to meet people…. Not for me
Dating Apps…. HUGE FAIL
Meeting people when your out and about… I am with my kids or at home
Dating Websites… Also, HUGE FAIL
Friends of friends… Oh, is that a great story (SMH)
Here is my question. What worked for you? I feel like I am looking for the lost city of Atlantis here.

I mean I am so damn picky I doubt I will ever find a man who is worth the time for myself or my boys and with what I have seen so far, I doubt that opinion will ever change. I guess I am going to shift my mindset from finding a man to be in my life and a person to date. Instead of that being the focus, because ladies we are better than a late-night phone call when the guy “Just needs to see you.” NO, I do not need to send you pictures of my body for you to be a part of my life. I am so much more then that. I am freaking amazing person and if any man isn’t willing to get to know me to see that. Then honey, you aren’t the one for me.

My new focus is going to be me. Finding out who I really am, what I really need and who I really want to be. Becoming the absolute happiest person, I can be for myself and so I can be the best damn momma I can for my boys.

I am going to speak my truth. I am not going to put how I feel in a corner so you can be more comfortable. “No one puts baby in the corner!” I am going to say NO when I know it will hurt me in the end. I am going to learn that I don’t always have to say Yes when I am exhausted and can’t take on anything more. I am going to be stronger. I am going to learn that not everyone is really there for me when they say they are, and that is okay, because I don’t need them to be.
I am going to be weird, funny and completely myself. I am going to sing terribly along with the radio and own every moment of it. I am going to dance like the uncoordinated white girl I am and I am not going to care what anyone has to say. I am going to weigh what I weigh and never ever let someone’s opinion of me either being “thick” or skinny bother me again.
I will never change who I am to fit in or make someone happy again. I will always be true to me because the right person wouldn’t want to change a single thing about me.
Look y’all I am so far from perfect it crazy. I am a hot mess more than I ever have my shit together. I make stupid mistakes, because you know I am human. I will never deny my faults or failures but I won’t have someone make me feel bad for them either.
Here’s the thing… I love my family and friends big! I will do anything for them. I have dreams and ideas. I am smart and sometimes funny! I have wit and I am super sarcastic. I love Jesus but Jesus knows I cuss a lot. If you are a true friend to me then I am with you till the end and I will never be upset that you are busy, because I AM TOO!
If a man can’t see these things and appreciate me for every single one of them then it will never work. These amazing traits and all of the flaws are who I am. Every single one of them.
So, here I am no longer focusing on being alone. Being hurt. Being jaded. If I will every find “The One”. Instead of focusing on those things I am going to focus on ME! That’s right I am going to be my own soulmate. Being alone isn’t what I should be scared of. Being in a relationship where I am not happy or appreciated is.
I also feel that when I meet that person, my person. It won’t be a lot of work. Things will just kind of work. I know God has that out there for me somewhere.
Shine Brightly Loves,
Ashley Vancil