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:

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

www.ashleydavisbush.com

Will Your Future Self Thank You?

A miracle has occurred in my life.  After many years of eschewing rigorous exercise, I am now involved in a sport.  I’m celebrating three months of regular participation in the high intensity, constantly varied, functional sport  known as Crossfit.  Believe me when I tell you that walking on water or parting the red sea would be no more miraculous than Ashley Bush exercising.

How did this amazing development occur?  My husband led the way and my future self held my hand.  That is, I began  a relationship with my future self and I could see her as weak, sickly, and stiff.  I decided to help her out.

When I face the discomfort of pushing myself at the gym, I know that my healthier, stronger future self is thanking me.  When I face my anxious thoughts in meditation, I know that my future more peaceful self is thanking me.  When I stop my complaining and instead cultivate gratitude for my life, I know that my more content future self is thanking me.

In this season of Thanksgiving, look to see if your future self will be grateful to your current self.  Right now, you have the opportunity to lay the groundwork for your future health and happiness.  Your physical, emotional and spiritual self of tomorrow depends on the the choices that you make today.   Will your future self be grateful?  I know my future self is still shaking her head in awe that she can walk upstairs without getting winded – thanks to a miracle in 2014.

www.ashleydavisbush.com

What Door is Opening for You?

September is a mixed bag for me.  On the one hand, it heralds the end of those especially sweet long summer days.  The season’s playfulness starts to ebb away with the longer, cooler nights of September.

On the other hand, even as I zip up my fleece, I’m also aware of a new energy that sweeps me up in its realm of possibility.  The school year brings renewed routine, hope, inquiry.  Mosquitos are noticeably absent and the bounty of harvest is bursting forth.

With every transition, with every loss, with every closed door there is also a door that opens.  Often we spend so much time focusing on the closed door that our heart closes with it.  The closed door is real, to be sure, and needs to be grieved.  However, those who get stuck in their sadness tend to forget to turn their heads and look for the open doors.

When you make that shift in attitude and scan for new doors, you invite possibility.  What September doors beg to be knocked upon?  For me, door #1 is my chorus rehearsals starting up again.  Behind another door, the season premier of my favorite television show.  Behind door #3 the honking geese as they make their way south.  And best of all, a door a little further down the corridor . . . apple cider donuts.

What door is opening for you?

When Life Dishes Out the Unexpected – and it Always Does

Once upon a time there was a land where the people expected to find love, prosperity, and happiness . . . always.  They expected good luck and good fortune and were bitterly disappointed when the unexpected occurred.  The problem was that the unexpected did occur . . . always.

Guess what?  We live in that land of uncertainty.  We all have our story of what ‘should’ happen in the future.  For some, part of that story might be to find love, to do purposeful work, to have children, to stay healthy, and to live long.  Many things will happen as planned, but many other things will not.

I have lived for half a century, counseled people for half of that time, and these are just a few of the unexpected, unplanned, and unwanted aspects of life with which I’ve seen people wrestle:

  • Divorce
  • Clinical Depression
  • Cancer
  • Infertility
  • Death of a Child
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Being gay
  • Infidelity
  • Disabled Child
  • Bankruptcy
  • Substance abuse
  • Imprisonment
  • Car accidents

Almost every person alive has something in their life that they didn’t want, didn’t expect, and wished to be otherwise.  This runs the gambit from having a headcold during the holidays to visiting a spouse’s grave on their wedding anniversary.  Unplanned circumstances are part of life.

The rule of life seems to be curve balls and 180 degree turns.  The question is not “Will something happen that I don’t expect?’ The question is “How will I handle the unexpected?”

The wise and wonderful Byron Katie (author of “Loving What Is”) says that when you wage war with reality, you lose.  Every time.

Here are 3 strategies to accepting the unacceptable, to learning to live with every ‘inconvenient’ truth that shows up in your life.

  1. Intention – Every morning when you wake up, say out loud, “I will be open to anything and everything that arises today.”  Create an intention to be resilient, to be the person who rolls with the punches.
  2. Attention – You have a choice in what you notice.  Do you focus exclusively on the fact that you’re in an emergency room at 3am or do you notice that you’ve got excellent medical care, a kind nursing staff, and supportive friends?  Place your attention on what is going well and what you are grateful for.  Turn the flashlight of your attention on the good parts of your life, even during hard times.
  3. No tension – You will suffer less to the degree that you drop your resistance to what already ‘is’.  Resist it and you will suffer more.  So work on acceptance, acceptance, and acceptance.  Whenever you come in contact with water (the shower, the bathroom sink, a water fountain), say to yourself, “I go with the flow.”

Use these three guidelines to help you flow freely with the things that pop into your life without warning.  In fact, the next time the unexpected occurs, say out loud, “Ah yes, I’ve been expecting you.”

Are You A River or A Lake?

Life, like a river, can at times be rushing, wild, and swift.  You can have days, years, even decades that resemble the high intensity energy of a river.

Yet, life can also be like a lake — calm, spacious, and still.  Sometimes it takes an illness or a vacation before life’s waters calm and allow for a spacious silence.  Or sometimes life simply plateaus into a measured pattern of easy days that spread uneventfully over weeks and months.

However, if the stillness of the lake seems far away, if you’re in perpetual river mode, then I would suggest that you find ways to bring quiet moments into your river life.  Here are three ways to create spacious snippets every day:

Stop and breathe – the breath is an easy key to lake life because it’s always with you.  However, most of us breathe shallowly and unconsciously.  Take a moment to breathe in deeply from the belly.  Expand your rib cage and let breath rise up all the way into your collar bones.  Exhale equally as deeply, pulling your stomach back to your spine to expel the air from your body.

Stop and listen – Close your eyes for a moment and listen to the life around you.  Do you hear man-made sounds (people, car horns, doors closing) or nature sounds (dogs barking, birds chirping, wind in the trees)?  Listen and note how many sounds you can identify.

Stop and see – Spend a few moments examining an object in detail.  Look at something that you see often but don’t really take the time to look at.  Notice how the longer you look at an object, the more details you become aware.

Life has certain natural rhythms and cyclesThe river energy can be both exciting and overwhelming.  Injecting moments of lake time will keep you from getting flooded.