Dear Creatives: Here’s why self-care is not selfish

Photography by JP Hanney

“May this season reveal to you that your identity should not be bound up in your productivity, but your perceptivity. You’re more than these roles you perform.”

I took a break from blogging on my website for a little over a year. At first, it wasn’t intentional. Then, weeks and months started to go by and I simply couldn’t fix myself to sit down and write; I dreaded blogging and it was no longer a fun hobby. It reminded me of how I felt in school when I had a paper or an extensive project due and I would procrastinate until the last-minute, every time. Once I mustered the courage and strength to sit down at the keyboard to type, everything was forced–each word, each sentence, each thought. When this happened, I immediately thought to myself–WHY are you doing this? If you’re feeling burned out, why are you forcing it? Let it flow or let it go! Self care for me in this moment looked like taking a short break from blogging. I’m glad I did. Message: Less forcing, more flowing.

Seasons of creativity

As a creative, I’ve learned that creativity comes in waves. Some seasons I’m overflowing with ideas, thoughts, ways to get ahead, and full of motivation and energy to get things done. No, I don’t feel like I always have to be motivated to do things I love. Sometimes, your passion and drive will motivate you and propel you forward. However, when you’re in the midst of a crisis, creativity flows and sometimes it doesn’t. In my case, it didn’t. Last year I had a lot to deal with in my personal life that required the majority of my time and attention. In addition, I was still grieving the death of multiple family members– the closest being my grandmother who I paid tribute to in a previous blogpost (here). It was all too much, but  it was only for a season. I suspect that there may be creatives out there feeling the same way during the COVID-19 pandemic and that’s okay. It’s perfectly okay to give yourself grace and compassion during this quarantine, whether God has put it on your heart to be productive or create, neither is wrong. Remember, trust the spirit, not what social media or the world guilts you for doing or not doing. Message: Know the season you’re in.

Self care empowers your best self

I preach this all of the time! Self care is giving the world the best of you instead of what’s left of you. You cannot pour from an empty cup. As a matter of fact, what’s in your cup is for you and your overflow is for everyone else. If you don’t have overflow, it’s okay not to pour out, because you need it! Yes, this is an example of radical self-care and an important factor in your overall well-being. It’s easy to pour out when we don’t want to deal with our own stuff. But, if you take breaks and take a step back to care for self… it will certainly propel you forward and empower you to give to others 100 times over. Message: Sometimes taking a step back propels you forward. 

Remember your why

I had to dig deep and figure out why blogging and sharing became such a job for me last year. At the core, I drifted away from my  “why.” Why did I even start this platform to begin with? I literally went back to reflect on my very first blog post (here). Upon completing my reflection, I was reminded that My Living Spree blog was created to motivate and inspire people by sharing my self-care journey, with hope that they too would embark on their own self care journey (living spree).

Purpose over perfection

In all honesty, these are the negative thoughts that ran through my mind– How can I empower and inspire other people when I am not empowered or inspired? How can I help people become the best version of themselves when I am STILL becoming? Then, I realized that there is strength in vulnerability and sharing the journey. There are other people in the world who need to read my message and hear my story. And those who are also on the same path of becoming as me! None of us have arrived. Why? Because we are constantly evolving. Even if my message is only for one person, one reader, one viewer…it will serve its purpose. That is the true posture of purpose. I came to realize that it wasn’t about me being perfect, it was about me operating in my purpose. 

Find strength in vulnerability

What I learned is, I have to first believe in myself and in my brand before anyone else. Growing up, we were taught that being vulnerable was a sign of weakness. “Don’t let anyone see you sweat.” “You have to be tough and be strong no matter what.” This is one of the biggest lies I told myself and honestly that all of us have told ourselves. Especially (black) women. On the contrary, what I’ve found is that there is strength in vulnerability. There is power in sharing your story, because that is how God gets glory. That’s the true posture of purpose. Someone out there is depending on you to step into who you were called to be. It is by no mistake that you went through what you did and came out unscathed. It’s not enough for me to post beautiful pictures online and not tell the story behind them. That is selfish and self-absorbed. 

It is my belief that sharing my story will help others, because they will be able to see parts of themselves in my journey. It is my hope that you learn from me by staying true to yourself (who you are at the core) and trusting yourself. That is the biggest lesson I’ve had to learn during this journey. I have to leverage my platform in my own expression and stay unique to who I am. Comparison will lead you out of your purpose. If I can’t trust in anything else, I can and will trust in myself. Moving forward, I am betting on myself. Message: There is strength in vulnerability.

Top: Nastygal |Pants: ZARA

A message for creatives

  1. You are more than what you make
  2. Your productivity does not determine your value
  3. It’s okay to do nothing sometimes
  4. Not everything you do has to result in a product/service/outcome
  5. Not everything you make has to be important, significant, or good
  6. You can choose to not share what you create and make things just for yourself
  7. You can keep secrets to yourself, whether it’s not sharing upcoming projects, events, or techniques
  8. You are allowed to say no
  9. You are allowed to rest
  10. You must take care of yourself so that you can create

I hope this posts helps someone realize that sometimes a step back is a step forward. No matter where you are in your journey… KEEP GOING! Know what season you’re in and give yourself what you need to help you fulfill your mission. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

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On a living spree with: Loren Sanders of Lavishly Loren

The Lavish Life meets The Living Spree

I’ve been following Loren Sanders (@lavishly_loren) on Instagram for a while now and I honestly fell in love with her content right away. We shared so many similarities and became instant supporters of each other’s platforms. Loren is uplifting, positive, and I love her transparency. Not to mention, sis can SLAY all day! Quite naturally, I wanted to share Loren’s incredible story because she is definitely on a living spree!

ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF

Lavishly Loren is a fashion and lifestyle blog authored by Loren Sanders, a frugal fashionista and an adventurous jet-setter. Loren is a self-proclaimed “trend-savvy and budget-friendly” fashion maven who loves everything travel, beauty, reflection, women empowerment, and slay. Her muse is the lavish lifestyle. She effortlessly creates economical but sumptuously rich, expressively styled “looks” without breaking the bank. She also loves to jet set to the next island or country whenever she feels the need to live lavishly. The goal of Lavishly Loren is to inspire, share and empower others to live their best “Lavish” life, frugally.

I launched my blog as a birthday gift to myself so that I could create a safe space to express myself how I saw myself. Here we are six months later. Lavishly Loren is live and in full motion! My initial blueprint or intention for my blog was to use it as a creative outlet and public journal in a way. Little did I know that by sharing my challenges and experiences, I would be encouraging other women as well offering styling services.

Prior to my launch, I sat and thought for months about how I wanted to express myself, what is my real purpose, and what tool or platform should I share both. Often times, social media has a funny way of making things look peachy perfect when behind the scenes it’s really creative chaos. I wanted to be sure I was being my true self because it’s important to be relatable and genuine to who you are. As a Blogger, you have this pressure to continuously produce content. Which leads me to one of my challenges as a new blogger.

OVERCOMING CHALLENGES IS KEY

One challenge is freeing myself creatively. As a Blogger, you want to be relatable and sometimes you can get caught up in the “am I sharing too much” or comparing your art to other Bloggers or Creators. Truthfully, this is a constant ongoing challenge. As a person and as a Blogger, you’re constantly evolving and offering a certain level of vulnerability that you normally don’t offer up. I think that requires a unique type of courage.

Another challenge is, balancing my 9-5, blog, social life, relationship, styling services, and still have time for me. The balancing act is overwhelming at times and you really have to be real with yourself, often. You can’t do everything, period. You have to say no, you have to take mental breaks, and you just simply have to put you first.

MANIFESTING, LUV ENJOY

I’m a huge believer of manifesting. My blog is a big part of my manifesting journey. I’m continuously growing as a person and my blog challenges me to continually self reflect and be aware. That’s something that I really wanted to be intentional about. I’m not a jealous person by any means, I love to see other women smash their goals. It’s funny because when I see other women accomplish something that’s on my goal list or that’s aligned with my vision, I’ll say to myself “I’m next” and then BOOM it happens!

I’m so thankful and honored to have an amazing tribe of people on and off social media that support me wholeheartedly. I’m also thankful to be a guest blogger or featured blogger for MY LIVING SPREE. It’s actually a great example for what I manifested to happen in my first year of blogging. Not only did I get to be a guest blogger but I’m featured on the exact Bloggers blog that inspired me to start blogging from jump. Look how God works!

If you’re ready to live your best “Lavish” life, I want to help you! Be sure to follow me Instagram @lavishly_loren and subscribe to my blog Lavishly Loren. Last but not least, if you are ready to Slay With Me, I am now offering styling services. Definitely contact me if you are ready to slay, live life, and love yourself. Until next time, I’m Manifesting Luv, Enjoy!

Lavishly Loren: Fashion+ Travel= Lifestyle

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The Secret of Maintaining Your Summer Body All Year Long

Photography by EmexFocus

“Nothing will work unless you do.”

The Journey

Exactly one year ago I completed a fitness challenge that helped me achieved some of my most amazing fitness results to date. As a matter of fact, you can read about #mylivingspree and my fitness journey HERE. For me, it wasn’t about transforming my body simply for a look, a photo, or finally getting into a bikini for summer. I wanted to transform my life and that’s exactly what I did.

Yes, I am proud to say that I was able to maintain my fit body for an entire year! Of course my fitness journey had its ebbs and flows and I didn’t appear “as lean” as I would like during some seasons. However, what mattered most is the consistency and effort with which I applied the principles I needed to succeed. Trust me, once you fully understand what it takes and commit to you goals day in and out, you will be well on your way to maintaining your fitness goals all year long. You must fall in love with the journey and the results will come.

Photography by EmexFocus

If you want to become the best version of yourself and maintain your fitness goals, you must develop habits that will eventually lead to lifestyle. Getting and staying fit isn’t about cutting carbs and calories, intense cardio sessions, avoiding restaurants, and drinking nothing but water. It is a lifestyle change that requires you to adopt a new, healthier mentality all around and ways to sustain and maintain in everyday life. I want to give you a few realistic tips on how to maintain and sustain your fit body not just for summer, but all year long. Please note, I am sharing tips that worked for me and my personal journey. It is my hope that they may help you as well, but ultimately always do what feels right for you and why works for you.

1. Establish A Mind and Body Connection

First, you have to commit to your fitness goals in your mind, then your body will follow suit. Therefore, understand that fitness is on a continuum and you are always actively working to maintain that lifestyle. Once your mind understands the importance of the new norm, your body will too! You will develop the desire to eat healthier on a daily basis, exercise more, and learn more about what your body needs and what it likes. This may seem simple, but trust me this is a major key!

2. Eat Clean

Yes, it is true that abs are made in the kitchen! Eating healthy is 75-80% of your overall fitness and it is the key to weight loss. No matter how much you workout in the gym, you likely won’t see much progress in your health and fitness until you learn to eat healthy. Having healthy foods readily available (or “meal prep”) is the easiest way to develop the habit of sticking to a nutritious diet.

Generally, I choose a source of lean protein (chicken, fish, turkey, etc.), a green vegetable, and a “good” carbohydrate (brown rice, sweet potato, etc.) for most of my meals. I plan to go into more details about sample meal plans, quantities and the best foods for maintenance in a future post. But for now, make sure to limit fried, greasy, and high fat foods for a “cheat meal” no more than twice weekly.

3. Cardio Exercise

Cardio is extremely important in maintaining your summer body as this is how you will stay lean. When choosing the most effective cardio for “leaning out,” you want to do something that will burn the most body fat. Examples of fat burning cardio workouts include 20-30 minutes of any of the following: riding the stationary bike, sprinting on the treadmill, climbing the stairmaster, rowing on a row machine, or performing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts. My personal favorite cardio exercises are sprints on the treadmill and the stair master. I usually average 30-45 min of cardio 3-4x per week. This may increase leading up to summer or depending on my personal goals, so that I can burn more calories and combat weight gain.

4. Stay Consistent

If you don’t remember anything else, remember that consistency is key! This means if you fall, get back up! When you mess up, start over! Generally, don’t allow more than 2-3 days go by without working on your fitness goals in some way.

Next, don’t get caught up in what the scales says. Focus on how you feel, how you look, and how your clothes fit. No, I am not saying to never weigh yourself, definitely do so if you would like. But, I am saying that just because you don’t see a certain number on the scale doesn’t mean that you are not achieving results or that you are not healthy. It is only when we give up that we miss the results we desire! DON’T QUIT!

Photography by EmexFocus

5. Lift weights

If you want to preserve the curves all year long and stay tone, weight lifting is the answer! Lifting heavy weights helps burn fat and calories long after your workout is done. No matter how much cardio you do, toning only comes as a result of lifting weights. Trust me, you will want to continue the toning process at all times because fat and cellulite can easily sneak up on you!

I always thought that weight lifting of any sort would make me look bulky and masculine. If anything, it was the exact opposite—it enhanced my curves! I usually weight lift at least 3-4 times per week with weighted bars, dumb bells, or kettle bells. If you’re not familiar with weight lifting, click HERE for a 20 min Weight Training for Beginners Workout. I also plan to go more in detail and give examples of good weight training workouts in a future post.

6. Drink water

Drinking water has countless benefits for weight loss and overall health. It helps you get rid of bloating and weight gain; especially when you add detox aids such as cucumber, lemon and mint to your water.

I usually drink 1/2 gallon to 1 gallon daily using this super cool gallon water bottle from Amazon as a fun, accountable way to track my daily intake. Check it out HERE! If that seems to be too much for you, aim to drink AT LEAST half of your current body weight in ounces of water.

Photography by EmexFocus

7. Get adequate rest

Yes, you can maintain those gains in your sleep! Your body repairs and rebuilds itself while you are sleeping, contributing to your overall physical and psychological growth and recovery. Sleeping is one of the best things you can do for your body, so it is important to get more of it if you can! In general, it is good to aim for about 7 to 9 hours per night. Don’t feel like you always have to stay in the gym to get results. Sometimes rest is the best thing we can do for our bodies to achieve and maintain the results we want.

Don’t forget this!

As you can see, maintaining your summer body takes just as much, if not more, hard work and dedication as achieving it in the first place. Trust me, I’ve learned this first hand and I am continuing to learn what my body needs to stay healthy and fit as the seasons change. The major take away here is that you must be committed to making a total lifestyle change. Trust me, it is normal to have some ebbs and flows in your fitness journey. But, the key is establishing a routine, staying consistent, and staying focused on your overall goal–a healthy life, healthy body image and healthy mind.

FREE DOWNLOAD FOR ALL SUBSCRIBERS!

P.S. because I love you and I am so passionate about you becoming the best version of yourself and maintaining a fit lifestyle, I am providing you with a free download: Ashley’s 10 Tips and Tricks to Get Fit!

NOTE: If you’re already subscribed to the blog… check your email! If you’re not a subscriber, follow the steps below to receive the FREE DOWNLOAD!

Step 1: Click here to complete the subscription form

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Step 4: Get started!

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post! Comment below if you have ever been on a fitness journey or thinking about starting one! I want to hear from you! And don’t forget to share this post on your social media using the share icons below! ?

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Disconnect to Reconnect: What I learned during my social media hiatus


“I feel like I’m constantly worrying about the next part of my life without realizing that I’m right in the middle of what I used to look forward to.”

The Wake-Up Call

If you recall from one of my very first blog posts, I knew that 2018 would be different–and it was! 2018 was simply an amazing year. I can honestly say that I seized every opportunity that came my way and attempted to maximize my potential in every area of my life. I accomplished (or at least attempted to) almost every goal I set for the year. However, I realized that I never had a chance to celebrate myself and express sincere gratitude to God for all He had done. I never actually took time to let it all sink in. And finally, I didn’t consider my needs and wants. I was definitely grateful and happy, but I would immediately start planning for the next way to progress. I realized that sometimes we have a tendency to place so much pressure on ourselves to be who we envision we should be, instead of acknowledging and celebrating the fact that we are evolving.

Hat: Amazon | Jacket: Ross Stores | Shorts: Forever 21 | Boots: Ego

The Hiatus

That wake-up call prompted me to take a 21-day hiatus from all forms of social media. I knew it was time to unplug from the distractions, express gratitude, and be more present in the moment. Social media was a major distraction for me, so I knew that eliminating it would free up much of my time. I was so “plugged in” that I was draining myself. I found myself pouring into others before I would even pour into myself. I was burned out and depleted and we all know that you cannot pour from an empty cup.

The Lesson

My 3 week hiatus taught me a lot! I completely shut everything down and took time to look within. I received so much clarity, developed a new outlook on life and even developed a new morning mindset routine that I plan to share in a future post ☺. I dug deep and had some great reflections on this year and God revealed the following takeaways to me that I would like to share with you all:

  1. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Fill your own cup before you pour into others. 
  2. Comparison is the thief of joy. Remember, Social media is only the highlight reel. Don’t lose sight of your journey by comparing your life to the “best moments” of others.
  3. It takes more faith to stop, than to keep going. It’s easy to continue operating in dysfunction because its comfortable. Interrupting toxic patterns is a huge step because it forces you to know that the temporary discomfort will be beneficial in the end.
  4. Social media is the handshake, not the end goal. Social media is a great way to connect with others, but you have to remember to focus on what you’re building for yourself (your self-concept, business, website, brand, etc.) It’s all about balance.
  5. It is important to embody your brand—in real life. I’ll use myself for example. How can I say I am “on a living spree,” when I am not “living” in real life? We have to stay true to ourselves, our morals, and our purpose no matter what. If you notice you’re compromising brand integrity, make a change!
  6. Gratitude is the key to living a powerful life. The more you’re grateful for, the more comes for you to be grateful for. Simple.
  7. Don’t look around, look within. Don’t seek validation from others. “When your worth isn’t based on their claps, you won’t be broken by their silence.”
  8. Self-care is also reclaiming your time. Everything will work again if you unplug it, including you. Take care of YOU!
  9. Purpose over popularity will always win. Don’t get the popular circle confused with the winner’s circle. Focusing on your purpose won’t always be the “popular” thing to do, but it is always the right thing to do.
  10. The only expectations you need to live up to are your own. Never feel like you have to live up to the expectations of others. Hold fast to your own beliefs and values and follow your own moral compass.

The Evolution

Above all, this hiatus revealed to me the evolution I have made throughout the past few years and I couldn’t be more proud! It is my hope that we quiet our minds and our hearts and allow ourselves to revel in our progress and process. No, taking a social media hiatus may not be the route for everyone to completely alleviate their distractions and reach within, but it was for me. However, I promise if you do take time to slow down and express gratitude, you will experience more fulfillment than ever before.

Photography: @jp.hanney_visuals

Stylist: @thefashionchase

Setting: Downtown, Houston, Texas

As always, thanks for taking time to read my blog! Do me a favor and share this with others who may find this intriguing and helpful. Until next time, let’s go on a living spree!

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Affordable At Home Teeth Whitening

     “A smile is the prettiest thing you can wear.”

Smile goals

I’ve always believed that my smile was one of my best assets! It’s something I always took pride in. People would always tell me, “you have such a pretty smile.” Recently, I fell in love with coffee and red wine and noticed my teeth were beginning to stain. I wanted improve my smile by making my teeth white and bright again. Teeth whitening seemed to be the best option to help me accomplish my #smilegoals.

Affordability

I wanted to try teeth whitening in the past, but cost was an issue. It can be really expensive at the dentist! All of that changed, however, when I heard of Smile Brilliant. I did my research and was immediately intrigued that it was the #1 professional at home teeth whitening company. Best of all, it was also very affordable and a convenient way to help me achieve my goals!

User-friendly

To be honest, I was a little intimidated about trying this at home by myself. I wasn’t sure about the safety of the gel and I was nervous about teeth sensitivity, which had been a problem for me in the past. However, it all worked out thanks to the detailed instructions and visuals included in the package. There were step-by-step instructions for every part of the process including making your whitening trays and also the teeth whitening process after you receive the trays. The customer service associates were also very helpful in assisting me with any questions I had prior to using the product.

The process

Smile Brilliant emailed me asking if I would like to try their product and after doing some research on the company, I agreed. They asked medical questions about my dental history, I signed and returned the consent form, and days later I received my whitening kit in the mail. Easy, right? I made my teeth molds right at home and sent them back in an envelope. Once they received my molds and made my whitening trays, they sent them back to me a couple of days later. The entire process only took a couple of days.

How to yield the best results

I would usually do the whitening at night after I’d eaten dinner for maximum results. Overall, I completed the whitening procedure every other night over the span of 10 days. I didn’t do it every night because I was afraid that it would be too harsh on my gums and teeth. Because I do suffer from sensitivity at times, they recommended that I coat my gums with Vaseline prior to applying the whitening gel. Thankfully, I ended up having little to no sensitivity at all.  This was a critical step that made for a much easier experience for me personally and I was able to leave the whitening trays in for more than the recommended hour. Also, I did not drink coffee or red wine during this time period because I wanted to make sure that my whitening would be noticeable and that the future staining wouldn’t affect my overall results.

The results are in!

Overall, I saw results! Although I wasn’t as strict about completing it daily and even missed a couple of days in between, I think my teeth were at least 1 shade lighter after I completed the process. I would do this more often over the next month to see if I can achieve even better results than before. I would definitely recommend this product as an easy, affordable way to whiten your teeth .

I appreciate Smile Brilliant’s convenience and the user-friendly kit. If you want to whiten your teeth, enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a FREE Smile Brilliant Teeth Whitening Kit! Give it a try 🙂

Comment below if you’ve ever tried at-home teeth whitening or interested in trying it in the future. I want to hear your experience!

Smile Brilliant Giveaway

Enter to win a FREE Smile Brilliant Teeth Whitening Kit by clicking here: Smile Brilliant Giveaway 

It’s really easy! All you have to do is enter your name and email address 🙂

ALSO….

If you don’t win, you can purchase your kit with the following 15% off coupon code: mylivingspree15

***The giveaway ends October 26, 2018 at 11:59pm and the winner will be announced October 27, 2018! Open to U.S., UK, Australia and Canadian residents only.***

Good luck everyone and thanks for reading!

<!– SMILE BRILLIANT ARTICLE WIDGET START –> <a id=”smilebrilliant_widget_article” ishidden=”1″ title=”Professional Teeth Whitening”>Professional Teeth Whitening</a> <script src=”//www.smilebrilliant.com/widget-article/mylivingspree” type=”text/javascript”></script> <!– SMILE BRILLIANT ARTICLE WIDGET END –>

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