Ashley Davis Bush, LICSW

  •  Are you living with passion and purpose?
  • Have the strains of loss, stress, or conflict sapped the joy from your life?

Ashley Davis Bush can help you.   She offers articles, videos, books, and one-on-one counseling (via phone, Skype, or in-person) to help you experience a deeper, more satisfying life.

Ashley is a psychotherapist, Huffington Post blogger, a self-help author, and radio personality with over 25 years of professional experience. Ashley believes that each of life’s challenges offers us opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.  Ashley is passionate about providing simple, specific tools to help deepen and enrich your life, starting today.

Latest Blog Posts:

A 17 Year Blink

She sat across from me, her eyes tearing up. “I am at the end of an era.  My youngest child just graduated from high school and my life will never be the same,”  she said.  This wasn’t an expression of sorrow from a client or even a friend.  She was a stranger at a charity dinner.  It was 1998.

I was on the other end of the child rearing spectrum.  At the time, my children were 5, 3, and 1.  My oldest was yet to start kindergarten.  My dinner companion smiled, “It will go quickly; time will fly,” she said.  I remember being unable to imagine it.  I was in the trenches with peanut butter sandwiches, diapers, play groups, sippy cups, and preschool snacks.  My days were fulfilling but exhausting and endless – how could it possibly go fast?

Now, 17 years later, I am the older woman at the table, reflecting on the end of my parenting era.  My youngest child has just graduated from high school.  A stepdaughter has also graduated from high school.  Did it go quickly?  Yes and no.  The years were filled with many changes and events . . . a whole lot of living occurred.  And yet, yes, there is a sense of having blinked and then it was over.

As with all endings, there is sadness, a poignant wistfulness.  But there is also a sense of hopefulness.  Even as a door closes on my child rearing years a window opens elsewhere.  I have yet to look out of that window but I know that I inevitably will.  Meanwhile, today there is a woman with a baby somewhere, about to blink her eyes and flash forward 17 years, wondering where the time went.


Are You Selfish?

Recently I was at an exercise class (yes, it is a miracle that I’ve stuck with it for 6 months now!).  A woman came running in at the last minute and said, “I just had my babysitter stay later so that I could come to this class.  Does that make me a bad mom?”

Why is it that women, and men, often feel guilty for taking time to exercise, to go out with friends, to have a date with their partner, to — in short — take care of themselves?  So often we (or the people around us) see such self-care behaviors as selfish.

The truth is that when we nourish and nurture ourselves everyone benefits.  When your well runs dry, everyone you care for and support suffers. When you take the time to fill yourself with physical health, spirit, joy, playfulness, and love, your well overflows.  Then, there is much to share.

As my friend and I embarked on our afternoon fitness class, I said, “I think you’re the best mom ever.”  We both smiled.

Thawing the Frozen Heart

After your heart is broken, what happens?  The natural reaction is to shut down, contract, and protect the remaining shards.  In fact, for many people, after experiencing the searing pain of loss, their hearts begin to freeze over.  Eternal winter.

Unfortunately, living with a frozen heart is only half living.  The truth is that life only becomes rich and meaningful when the heart is warm, open, and expansive.  But how do you thaw a frozen heart?

Try this exercise.  Place your hand over your heart and breathe deeply.  This simple gesture activates the parasympathetic nervous system (our calming mechanism) and also stimulates oxytocin (our bonding hormone).  Next, while still keeping your hand over your heart, imagine a scene in which you were happy and feeling full of love.  Notice how it feels in your body.  Summon, expand, and absorb the feeling of love within you.

Thawing the frozen heart doesn’t happen in a single instant.  It happens by degrees and with intention.  Let spring into your heart, bit by bit, so that beauty and love can begin to grow once again. 

How are You Taking Care of Yourself?

Recently, two people told me that they’re finally going to start taking care of themselves this year. They had let themselves get run down and run over after decades of thinking that self-care was selfish. I applauded their efforts to begin prioritizing themselves.

However, when I asked them about the changes they were going to make, I heard about plans for exercising, taking time off, getting massages, and getting more sleep. Now, while taking care of our bodies is undeniably important, taking care of our inner worlds, our mindset, is equally so.

Self-care, at its core, is as much about tenderness, forgiveness, gratitude, and compassion as it is about action. Max Ehrmann wrote, “Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe.” Can you say that you are gentle with yourself, that you talk to yourself as a dear friend would? Do you cut yourself slack when you make a mistake? Can you recognize when you suffer and offer yourself a kind word?

I have a new book coming out this year called “Simple Self-Care for Therapists,” so self-care is very much on my mind. Of course, regardless of our work in the world, we all need to cultivate the soft center of self-love. So, by all means, pull out the stops on your healthcare. But don’t forget to tend to your inner world. It could make all the difference.

When it’s NOT the most wonderful time of the year: strategies for sanity

Look around you.  Does everyone else seem joyful, festive, and full of holiday spirit?  Everyone, it seems, but you.  Perhaps someone important is missing from your life and you’re drowning in deep sorrow.  Perhaps you’re absolutely miserable.

The truth is that under the tinsel and behind the bows, this time of year can be particularly challenging for many people, especially grievers.  Your heart is broken even as you’re supposed to have a heart overflowing with good cheer.  So, how do you get through the holidays if you’re one of the millions of people who are grieving?  Use these strategies to help you navigate the darkness until light comes again.

Just Say No – If you don’t feel like doing it, DON’T DO IT.  Don’t go to the party.  Don’t buy gifts this year.  Don’t put up a tree.  Every year is different and you absolutely have the choice to say no.  And if you find yourself in a situation that is uncomfortable, then excuse yourself.  Leave early and get in your pajamas.

Breathe – Frequently stop and take long, low deep breaths.  Set a timer and enjoy sixty seconds of silence.  Use that time to just notice your breath:  breathing in and breathing out.  Enjoy the single minute of stillness.  You can also download a free app:  “one-moment meditation” offered by my friend Martin Boroson.

Notice a Little Magic in the Mayhem – Find a thread of magic every day that brings you a little comfort:  a favorite ornament, a light in a window, a song that makes you smile, a cookie.  Look for the one pleasant thread that will keep you tethered to this day.

Talk about your Loved One – Don’t be afraid to mention your loved one when you’re at a party or with friends and family.  People are reluctant to mention the deceased because they are afraid to ‘upset’ you.  They don’t realize that your loved one is always on your mind and that it’s healthy to reminisce.  Be the one to share memories and to encourage conversation.

Express your Feelings – Holding in pent up emotion is not healthy.  If you want to cry, let yourself cry.  If you need to express anger, write in a journal.  Try creative arts to express the many feelings you’re experiencing.  Use on-line sites such as Transcending Loss to connect with other grievers and talk about your feelings.  Letting yourself feel the pain and then finding expression for that pain is an important aspect to healing.

Light a Candle – Light a memorial candle at the holiday dinner table to honor the light of your loved one.  Remember that although their physical form has gone, they are very much still a part of your life.  Hold that love close to your heart and remember that your life has been enriched by their love.

Imagine – Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a beautiful and calm place.  Maybe it’s a favorite vacation spot, or even an imagined place of bliss.  Maybe you picture yourself with your deceased loved one at your side.  Place yourself in your mind’s eye in an environment that brings you peace.

Think Ahead – This season will pass, and then what?  Maybe the new year will bring some relief and maybe it won’t.  Imagining a year ahead without your loved one can be daunting.  So decide to do something nice for yourself right away in the new year:  schedule a massage or lunch out with a friend.  Or you might choose to invest in a program of wellbeing such as the one that my friend Rick Hanson is offering in 2015.

You are not alone if you’re wishing for the holiday season to be over.  Darkness is all around us . . . and yet, having just passed the winter solstice, you can know that light is returning.

Blessings, Ashley