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Lessons Learned from Life & Leadership

Ashley Kellner

When COVID-19 Changed Everything

When COVID-19 hit the United States in March of 2020, everything changed. As the world shut down – schools, restaurants, bars, gyms, churches, even playgrounds – daily life shifted dramatically.

That was all true for Ashley Kellner, a Retail Account Manager for Edgewell Personal Care. Ashley, who already worked from home, abruptly had all work travel cancelled. Like most parents, she was also juggling the responsibility of supervising her daughter’s education.

In addition to the upheaval caused by the pandemic, Ashley’s family also moved in 2020 and found out they were expecting. Suddenly homebound and facing additional personal stressors, Ashley had to build new routines. She needed new routines around her own self-care, which suffered in the early days of the pandemic. “Traveling [for work], in some respects, gave me that [break],” Ashley explained, “because I was in a hotel by myself, so I could catch my breath and rejuvenate and focus on myself.”

Practices to Reset

Ashley began waking up 45 minutes early, “before the chaos erupted.” She used that time alone to drink coffee or to “literally sit in the darkness for thirty minutes, just breathing.” She purposefully chose not to think about what she needed to do that day.

“Literally just sitting and being at peace with myself was what helped me…to do whatever it was that needed to happen that day,” Ashley said. “I always thought I needed more sleep, but in reality it turned out that I just needed that time with myself to ground myself before everything [began].”

Ashley also practices what Joy Baldridge, author of The Joy in Business, calls the “Purple Break.” Ashley explains how this practice, which helps to beat the afternoon slump, works. “There is a protein in your eye that begins to break down over the course of the day. As this happens, fatigue sets in…. [During a] Purple Break you cover your eyes completely, creating total darkness for one minute. During this one minute, relax and breathe. As you breathe you count back from 15. Once you have reached one, you remove your hands from your eyes, but keep your eyes shut. As you do this you tend to see the color purple – hence the ‘Purple Break.’ You shouldn’t open your eyes until a full 60 seconds have passed.”

Lessons Learned from Leadership

Ashley has worked in the Consumer Packaged Goods industry for a decade, and she has always managed employees who were older than her. Some of her direct reports had more experience than she did, which could be intimidating. However, Ashley realized that she received leadership roles because she was qualified. That realization helped her to lead with confidence.

The Pain of Infertility

After her first daughter was born, Ashley experienced secondary infertility. She faced an inner battle as she grappled with the pain of infertility. “I found myself saying that I didn’t deserve to be sad or frustrated that we couldn’t get pregnant because I should be happy and satisfied with my first daughter.”

Although the pain of that season meant that Ashley was often surviving more than thriving, she learned that she was not alone. Her therapist encouraged her to find a support group. Ashley connected with women who understood “the guilt of wanting more, the depression that came with every negative pregnancy test, the hope that this next month would be different, the loneliness of this battle, the frustration that your body won’t do the one thing you feel it was built to do.”

Lessons Learned from Life

When Ashley was 19, her dad died, and the next couple of years were difficult for her. “I really beat myself up for a lot of things…in that time,” Ashley said. “If I could go back to me at 19 and impart any knowledge, it would be all that stuff I went through, that made me who I am now, to be able to do the things that I do now, to be able to be the mom I am, to be able to be the person in the workforce that I am. [All] that I experienced in that time was something that grew me to be the person that I am now.”

Ashley would also like to tell her younger self that asking for help is a strength. “I grew up thinking that I had to be self-sufficient. I had to be able to do everything by myself…not to lean on people for things.  One thing I would go back and tell myself is it’s okay to lean on people; it’s okay to look for mentorship.”

Ashley now makes a practice of finding people who are successful in a particular area and learning from them. “When I was younger, I didn’t want to acknowledge…that I might not be the best at something. I wanted to be the best at all things because that’s what I was told I had to do. Going back and removing that [pressure] would have made life much easier.”

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