Best Life Therapy Blog

Check out the helpful articles, tips and quizzes on the blog.

If you would like a free phone consultation click here.

Tracey Ashcraft, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Coach. She offers sessions via video conferencing and phone.

Helpful Articles

Please click on the articles that interests you the most to get more information

Do I Have Depression?

Are you dealing with Depression?

  • Do you have less energy for the activities you normally enjoy?
  • Do you find that you aren't enjoying these activities as much as you used to?
  • Do you sleep more than normal?
  • Are you having trouble staying asleep?
  • Have you noticed that you're not hungry?
  • Have you noticed you're eating more than normal?
  • Do your friends notice that you are grumpier than normal?
  • Are you feeling sad most days for most of the day?

If you answered yes to several of these questions and have been feeling this way for two weeks or more, you may be dealing with depression. Don't worry, there are many effective methods to help you feel better. Give me a call so we can talk. I am here to help.

"I have helped many people to understand what they are going through and to feel better fast. Sometimes just having a neutral person listen to you can help you feel more hopeful. I have extensive training on many depression treatment options. I can help you sort through these options so you can make the best decision for you."

Tracey Ashcraft, MA, LPC has been helping people break free of depression for over 10 years. Armed with a Masters Degree in Counseling, a healthy dose of down-to-earth humor and a strong passion for helping people really live their best lives, Tracey is here to help.

"When we work together I have no hidden agendas. I help you to see things that may be out of your awareness. My role is part detective, part puzzle builder, and part guide. Having me on your team gives you the room to get clear about what you need to do in order to be happy. I have a knack for helping people feel hopeful again. When people work with me they no longer feel alone; they have someone on their team. I want my clients to be free of the suffering they endure and to start living the life they are mean to live."

If you think you need more support, then I would suggest that we have a free telephone consultation to see if I am a good fit for you. I look forward to talking with you soon!

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.

Break Free of Narcissists

Are you in a relationship with a narcissist?

Narcissists can show up in more than just our romantic relationships; they can show up in parent/child relationships, with co-workers, members of groups, employees, friends, relatives.

Take this short true/false quiz to see if you are in a relationship with a narcissist:

  1. I feel energized after spending time with this person.
  2. My feelings are welcomed and often validated.
  3. Support around life's problems is offered equally.
  4. Frustrations are expressed in a clear, respectful manner.
  5. Insults or name-calling are not used in my relationship.
  6. I don't ever feel manipulated in this relationship.
  7. Sharing new ideas is welcomed and met with interest.
  8. My time is valued and respected.
  9. Physical boundaries are respected. We never physically hurt each other.
  10. I do not feel guilty taking care of myself in this relationship.

If you answered false to one or more of these statements there may be some toxic elements in your relationship. The more that you answered false, the more likely you are in a toxic relationship with a narcissist.

Here are some signs you may be in a relationship with a narcissist:

  • You feel drained after spending time with someone.
  • You barely can can get a word in during the conversation.
  • The person is critical of you and may even call you names.
  • You feel like you need to ask permission to do something.
  • You feel like you are walking on eggshells around this person.
  • You notice you change your behavior to avoid their wrath.
  • You feel less and less confident around this person.
  • You often feel angry around this person.
  • You sometimes feel scared around this person.
  • You do not feel safe to be yourself around this person.
  • You feel like you need to do things their way.
  • You find yourself wishing you were somewhere else when with this person.

OK, so you are in a toxic relationship with a narcissist. Now what?

You do not have to go through it alone anymore. At Best Life Therapy we help people break free of toxic relationships with narcissists and avoid entering into new ones.

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.

Can I feel joy after divorce?

Is it possible for me to feel joy after my divorce?

Life doesn't always turn out like we planned. When we get married we think we will be the couple that defies the odds and won't become a statistic. Ever wonder why people say they are "going through divorce"? It doesn't end quickly like finishing a chapter or switching off a light; is a grueling process for most.

In addition to meeting with lawyers, paying lawyers, dividing precious Christmas tree ornaments and heirloom china, devising a parenting plan for kids, deciding on living arrangements; some people deal with drama from their soon to be ex's. Drama can show up in the form of exaggerated truths or outright lies, parental alienation, threats of physical violence, and financial devastation. While you are going through this process, friends might not understand the magnitude of stress you are enduring.

You might feel more alone than you ever have in your life.

You might feel hopeless and lost.

You might wonder if you could ever be happy again.

At BLT we understand the complexities of the divorce process. We know that JOY in fact does exist after divorce. We know that you don't have to "go it alone."

If you can relate to what you are reading here and could use some support, we are here for you.

We offer guidance for your mind, body and soul in the form of:

  • Support during stressful times.
  • Ways for managing stress.
  • Confidence building.
  • Image consulting.
  • Help with dating readiness.
  • Career advice.
  • Life skills coaching.
  • Compassionate listening.

If you are tired of gutting it out alone, schedule your free telephone consultation today. I look forward to talking with you soon!

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.

Screw New Year's Resolutions!

Did I read that right? Screw New Year's Resolutions? But what do I do with all these good intentions? Don't worry; I am not suggesting you throw the baby out with the bathwater. I want you to imagine what would your life be like if you really did the best you could in each moment instead of setting yourself up for failure.

Think about it. Instead of vowing: to exercise 2 hours a day, quit smoking, eat nothing but fish and veggies, God forbid give up bacon, organize the house, keep the car washed once a week, pay all the bills on time; what if you allowed yourself to live more fully in the present? What if we are all ok just as we are?

Ok, so maybe you could live a healthier lifestyle and maybe the dust-bunnies in your house have dust-bunny babies. Instead of setting ourselves up for failure in 2019, I challenge you to accept yourself where you are now. Each day, try to do your best in any given moment. Let go of self-judgment. Quit the perfection trap. It doesn't work. Instead of giving up all the foods you love or driving yourself so hard at the gym the first day that you never go back, try being accepting of the positive things you are doing.

  • Congratulate yourself on parking farther away from the store than next to the shopping cart stand.
  • Smile at yourself when you eat one slice of bacon with your breakfast instead of 5.
  • Be happy when you recognize that watching movies all day in your pj's is exactly what you needed that day.
  • Start to believe it when you tell yourself, "I am good enough and I am doing the best that I can today."
  • Be proud of the de-cluttering the kitchen junk drawer even if every other drawer in your home is a "junk drawer."
  • Enjoy having your car washed on your birthday and the 4th of July whether it needs it or not.
  • Allow yourself to linger over coffee, look around in that funky vintage shop you always walk by, read a light book for pleasure, laugh with friends.

So this year, don't make the resolutions you probably won't keep. Notice all the good things you are already doing and once in a while add in some new ones. Now repeat after me, "I am good enough! I am doing the best I can today!"

Tracey Ashcraft is a licensed professional counselor & confidence coach and over the past 10 years has helped hundreds of people live their best lives.

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.

An Old Fashioned Kick in The Pants

2018 is almost over. What have you been dreaming of accomplishing but still haven't managed to make it happen? What is the story in your head that is getting in your way? Does it sound something like this:

"I am not smart enough, pretty enough, educated enough, rich enough, focused enough, skinny enough?"

When you notice these stories don't worry; you are not alone. It is human nature to have self-doubt. When you notice these stories it's time for an old fashioned kick in the pants! How do you kick yourself in the pants?

Do something. Just do something. Set a goal and make a list. Remember the goofy phrase "How do you eat an elephant?" One bite at a time. Force yourself (a.k.a. the old fashioned kick in the pants) to do one thing on the list towards your goal. Reading the list may feel overwhelming but picking one thing off the list and doing it is the trick to kicking overwhelm to the curb.

Soon it will be 2019. Why does that matter? It may seem contrived to start new projects and set goals at the beginning of the new year. However, why not take advantage of the mental clean slate? Quit making excuses and do something today.

Soon it will be 2019. Why does that matter? It may seem contrived to start new projects and set goals at the beginning of the new year. However, why not take advantage of the mental clean slate? Quit making excuses and do something today.

Tracey Ashcraft is a Licensed Professional Counselor & confidence coach. Over the past 15 years has helped hundreds of people live their best lives.

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.

The Best Gift You Can Give Your Sweetheart

"Listening?" You might think. "I already listen to my honey." Authentic listening is a learned skill. It is not listening for a break in the conversation so you can jump in and share your latest anecdote about the guy you saw wearing snorkeling gear and flippers at the grocery store. It is not hearing a complaint and responding with your 19 point defense. True listening is not nodding your head and mumbling "uh-huh's" while scrolling through your Facebook Newsfeed on your phone.

Authentic listening offers our loved ones a chance to be heard. Having someone intently focus on what we are saying to understand what is being conveyed, makes us feel loved.

Truly listening deepens connections. As humans we feel more connected to people that understand us even if they do not always agree with us.

Listening saves time and pain. When we really take a few extra minutes to hear what people are saying, we gather more correct data points. Instead of half-listening and hearing part of what is said, we hear the grocery list, the directions to the party, or the warning that the stove is still hot.

So how does one listen authentically? Here are some steps to listening based on the work of Harville Hendrix the creator of The Couple's Dialogue and the Imago Method.

  • Create an environment free of distractions.
  • Invite your partner to share thoughts with you. Let them know you are trying a new way to listen. Let them know you will be reflecting back what you heard. Ask them to keep the dialogue manageable.
  • Focus only on what your partner is saying and the feelings they are conveying.
  • When they are finished, repeat back what you heard them say. It is ok to paraphrase. This is not the time to interpret what you heard into your own words.
  • After paraphrasing what you heard, ask "did I get that right?".
  • This is where your partner has a chance to clarify if you did not get what they said quite right.
  • Listen again and then paraphrase what you heard. Repeat these steps until your partner lets you know you got it right.
  • Validate what they are saying even if you do not agree with what has been said. This step can be challenging but is part of the gift of listening. One way to show validation is to use phrases like "That makes sense to me as you say____".
  • Offer statements of understanding and empathy. An example of a way to communicate empathy is "I can imagine that _______ was ______ for you".
  • If your partner is feels really heard they may be willing to switch and be the listener at this point.

Note: It is important to be aware that you may have strong feelings come up while your partner is talking. Mentally set those feelings aside and bring your awareness back to what is being said. You will be able to express your feelings when it is your turn to be the sender. Remember, listening is a gift for your partner; it is not about you when you are listening.

Giving the gift of listening does not mean your darling will never want another token of your love on a holiday such as Valentine's Day. Listening does help us to be more on point with what gifts our partners would appreciate. For example you might have decided on the King Kong sized box of chocolate covered caramels to show your love on February 14th yet after listening to your partner, you learn that he decided to give up sugar this year and that he dislikes chewy foods that get stuck in his teeth. You also learned that he feels most loved when he receives personalized hand-made gifts. Listening is like having an owner's manual to your loved one's taste and desires. Helping your belle or beau feel deeply loved and understood beats heart shaped boxes of chocolate and overpriced roses anyday.

Tracey Ashcraft, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Coach. She has helped hundreds of people improve their relationships.

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.

Don't take it personally!

People want to believe that they don't care about what other people think of them. The reality is that we all care somewhat how others perceive us. We want people to like us. On a primal level we need other people for our survival; so if people don't like us we feel threatened. We may feel the need to defend our position. Sadly, doing this has a paradoxical effect. The very way we try to restore our survival actually threatens it more. Taking things personally and defending our position causes more damage to our relationships; it does not improve them.

What happens to us when we take something personally?

Taking things personally causes us to feel hurt, enraged, criticized, small, attacked, defensive and defeated.

Taking something personally immediately makes you an adversary of the other person. You are no longer on the same team. There is a disconnect.

When you take something personally, you make the scenario about you. Even if the words someone is saying are about you- know this - IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU. It's about them. This statement may anger you, but trust me, if you keep getting sucked into the content of what the person is saying, you will never be free.

Do you remember as a kid playing with Chinese handcuffs? Someone would challenge you to put your fingers in each end of a woven paper tube and escape the "handcuffs." The harder you pulled your fingers apart the tighter the tube would get. Finally after struggling for a while, you would try a new way. The answer to freedom was counter-intuitive. You needed to push your fingers together to loosen the cuffs and gently remove yourself from its grip.

When you are taking something personally and you defend yourself, realize that you are making the grip of negativity on you tighter. You are going in the wrong direction. You will need to try something different to get free.

How can you stop taking it personally?

  1. Don't get in the fight. When you notice you are defending yourself - quit it! It doesn't work.
  2. Don't get lost in the content level. Go to the feeling level. If you notice you are feeling triggered by the words that are being said, stop. Turn your awareness to the person's mood. Are they grumpy? Do they seem tired? Wonder about how they are feeling. If you shift your response away from the content of what they are saying over to concern about how they are feeling, you will witness an immediate shift. It diffuses the negative charge.
  3. Tell yourself -" IT'S NOT ABOUT ME." If you are really triggered and are having trouble making the shift to the feeling level, tell yourself, "it's not about me." Repeat this phrase in your mind over and over until your triggers have settled down. Make it your mental mantra when you notice you are taking something personally.
  4. Agree with the person. Initially this tip may be infuriating. It may not feel true however this tip is a very powerful one. It is very disarming to agree with the other person. You immediately are on their team again.
  5. Self-sooth. Walk away for a set amount of time. Be sure to let the person know that you need to take a break, that you will be back and offer an estimated time of your return.
  6. Meditate. There are many ways to meditate. One simple way is to download a free meditation timer on your phone and try a guided meditation. Meditation on a regular basis can help you stay more grounded in the face of a stressful trigger.
  7. Learn to trust yourself. The more you trust yourself and your own beliefs the less someone else's opinions will affect you.

Final words:

Remember it took time to develop this habit. It is going to take mindful practice to undo it. Congratulate yourself when you can choose not to take it personally. Be kind when you fall back in to old ways. You can try again.

Keep practicing. The more you practice the less you will feel sucked-in. If you can stop taking things personally your relationships will improve, you feel more empowered and free and you will have more compassion for others.

Tracey Ashcraft, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Coach. She has helped hundreds of people reduce stress. As a result these people are learning to take better care of themselves and are enjoying more fulfilling relationships and happier lives.

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.

10 Tips for Simplifying Your Life

Recently a friend posted a picture on Facebook of a large piece of Swiss cheese with a little mouse poking out of one of the holes. She said "I think I'd like to crawl in a hole and hide." This got me thinking. Does life really have to be so stressful? Is this why they call it a rat race? Can't we just watch the race?

We are conditioned in our culture to want more. More clothes, more food, more furniture, more gadgets, more money to buy more things… What if less is more?

As someone who left the corporate world and my steady corporate paycheck, I had to figure out new ways to make life enjoyable. While I was building my private practice I found that I needed to simplify my life. It didn't happen all at once; it was a gradual process. As I began clearing out the clutter, literally and figuratively, I noticed I felt more calm and happy. Here are some tips to help you start simplifying your life today.

  1. Get clear about your priorities. For example, you may realize that the most important thing for you is to spend more time with your family. Or you may discover that you are stressed because you can't find anything when you need it and it is making you unhappy. Once you hone in on what you really want in life, write it down.
  2. Assess what is getting in your way of achieving your priorities. You may want to have more family time, but see that everyone in the home is always running to meetings and practices. Days slip into weeks and no one is spending more than a few minutes a day with each other. Make a plan to create time each week to be together. If dinners together don't work, then get creative. Maybe you can have 15 minute - "tell us about your day" time before TV's and computers go on.
  3. Clean out the clutter little by little. Pick a section of your house to de-clutter each week. Remember the goal is to simplify your life and it can be simple in the process too. Start with cleaning out something small like one junk drawer. Once you have it clean and organized, you will need to commit to keeping it clean. If it was a junk drawer, then you will need to designate it as something else. It could become the drawer for pens and small pads of paper for lists. Over time you will notice that your house takes far less time to clean. You may also notice that you spend less time looking for things. All of this translates to less stress and a simpler life.
  4. Only allow things into your home that are useful or bring you joy. We can easily get caught up into buying something because it was a great deal or we think we will use an item "someday." Here is your chance to be mindful of what you bring into your home. Managing stuff takes work and complicates our lives. As you clear out the clutter little by little, you will notice more room in your home. Be sure not to fill it back in with new stuff. Before you bring something into your home, ask yourself, "Is this useful now? Will this bring me joy?" If you are unsure about the answer, then leave the item in the world for someone else.
  5. Create systems that save time. I have found that many people hate the mail. It comes everyday and it's usually bad news. People that don't like mail tend to avoid it. Avoiding the mail creates other problems and leads to complications. Here is a time saver for the mail. Open your mail as soon as you get it each day. Throw out junk mail immediately. Open bills and throw out everything but the payment coupon and the return envelop. Stick the payment coupon perpendicular inside the return envelop and stick it into a folder marked bills. Put cards, letters and magazines into a pretty basket. Go through the basket once a month and throw out anything you no longer need.
  6. Empower your kids to help. Even small kids can help around the house. My sister thanked me for this idea just the other day. If mornings are hectic getting everyone ready and out the door, encourage kids to have clothes ready the night before. For smaller kids, install a fabric clothing stacker in their closet. Some are even labeled with the days of the week. You or your child, depending on their age, can fill the stacker once a week with outfits for each day. Be sure to include, socks and underwear. Your child can choose which outfit he or she wants to wear each day.
  7. Learn to say no. This is an important tip if you are someone that easily gets overbooked. It can be hard to say no if you want to please others. If it is your priority to simplify your life then it will be important to be able to turn down requests to volunteer, go to an in-home shopping party, or talk to an energy vampire on the phone for hours. This also may mean limiting time with people that drain energy from you. (See my article on coping with the emotionally intense people in our lives.) It is ok and important to take care of yourself first. When you are rested and can notice space in your week, you will be in a better position to be there for your family.
  8. Limit screen time. Technology is fun and can help make our lives more enjoyable. That being said, too much of a good thing is too much. It is easy to have: a work and a personal voice mail box to check; several email accounts each with their own junk folder to manage; a Facebook account; Twitter feed to follow; news apps to read; e-magazine subscriptions to read; favorite TV shows saved on a DVR to watch; and Netflix DVD's to watch and return. Try to set up specific times to check these things each day. Once you have the time established, only check them at that time. Limit the amount of time you actually stare at a screen each day. Get outside for a part of each day.
  9. Appreciate the simple things. Instead of surfing on the internet for your next purchase, take a look at the things you already have. Discover them all over again. Enjoy making a meal with your family. On a nice day, make a pitcher of Arnold Palmers (half-unsweetened iced-tea, half lemon-aide) and invite a friend over to sit outside and talk, take a walk in nature with your kids. Gather pinecones, shells or whatever cool things you find and put them in a large Mason jar to display them. These are the moments that make up our lives. Keeping it simple actually is less stressful and more enjoyable at times that elaborately planned events.
  10. Have Gratitude.We tend to not feel satisfied. This drive for more can complicate our lives. When you notice yourself wanting more, make a mental list of all that you are grateful in your life. It is quite eye-opening and it can change your attitude.

Remember simplifying your life is a gentle process. You don't want to take this all on at once or you will be complicating things more. Little by little if you follow these steps, you will discover that yes your life can be more simple. You don't have to be a part of the rat race. You will be to busy enjoying your simple life.

Tracey Ashcraft, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Coach. She has helped hundreds of people reduce stress. As a result these people are learning to take better care of themselves and are enjoying more fulfilling relationships and happier lives.

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.

10 Tips for preventing Holiday Stress

UGH! The holidays are upon us. Sometimes it can feel like the luster of the season has worn to a dull primer gray. It's dark by 5pm; pressure's on to buy the perfect gifts, get them wrapped, find the correctly sized shipping carton, refill the packing tape gun, stand in line at the Post Office, order the holiday cards, pick up the holiday cards, address the envelopes, put the stamps on and get them in the mail before the New Year. That doesn't include standing on ladders to hang lights outside, trim the tree, deck the halls, and cook the traditional foods. Before overwhelm sets in and you turn to spiking your coffee with eggnog, check out these tips and relax!

  1. Set a budget Over the holiday season we are tempted to spend beyond our means. Make a gift list. Buy or make gifts for those only on the list. Set a price limit for each gift. Get creative within your budget.
  2. Get plenty of Rest. Holiday parties can run late so on those other nights plan on getting to bed at a reasonable hour. Lay out clothes and make lunch the night before. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night can increase energy during the day and keep you healthier through the holidays.
  3. Learn to say No. It is o.k. to say no. Over the holiday season our plates feel even more full than normal. When others ask us to do things that are not critical but will definitely overload the schedule, then politely decline. No explanation necessary!
  4. Strive for Imperfection. Yes, it says "imperfection." Cutting back on the details may reduce stress. Put out fewer decorations, send e-mail cards or order cards online that are already signed by you, buy cookies instead of baking them or bake cookies with a friend. Less perfection and a more relaxed you can make for happier holidays.
  5. Make time for Exercise. Make it a priority to get your body moving. Take a walk during lunch hour; begin your day with a yoga session; park further from the store. Getting the blood flowing can help reduce stress.
  6. Limit sugary treats. Don't worry, I'm not recommending that you cut out all the sweets. Over the holidays it seems that sugary treats are everywhere. Allow yourself one treat a day or decide not to take seconds of dessert. Keeping good blood sugar levels can help prevent stress.
  7. Don't take it personally with Family. You may not be the only one prone to stress during the holidays. Unfortunately sometimes family members can take it out on the ones closest to them. Practice saying to yourself, "it's not about me." Also remember forgiveness.
  8. Make a Plan. ake out your calendar and schedule in: shopping trips, days to ship packages & mail cards, exercise, massages, and parties. Follow the plan for reduced anxiety.
  9. Enjoy the Simple Things. Sometimes the simplest things bring the most joy. Sitting by the fire, drinking hot cocoa and reading holiday stories with loved ones is a good example of taking pleasure in the simple things.
  10. Get Support. If you find that you are overwhelmed, not enjoying yourself despite the festivities around you, or you notice you are feeling lonely - reach out for support. You can call a trusted friend or family member. If you find you need more support call a professional - minister, rabbi, doctor or counselor or coach. These people are trained to help.

Tracey Ashcraft, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Coach. She has helped hundreds of people reduce stress. As a result these people are learning to take better care of themselves and are enjoying more fulfilling relationships and happier lives.

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.

How do I know if I am TOO NICE?

In kindergarten we were taught to be nice to others. As we grew older we were taught to not be self-centered and to think of others. As humans we tend to enjoy the company of others, especially if they are being nice to us. So when does "being nice" cross into the more harmful "too nice"? If you are feeling like a doormat, being taken advantage of, or feeling manipulated then you may have fallen into a coping pattern of being too nice.

How do I know if I am being too nice?

Take the quiz here:

  1. I often let others choose the movie or the restaurant.
  2. When someone asks me to do a favor I have a hard time saying no.
  3. I have a hard time making decisions or knowing what I really like.
  4. I have a hard time asking for help.
  5. I find myself saying "I'm sorry" a lot even if I really didn't do something wrong.
  6. When someone pays me a compliment I brush it off.
  7. I feel used by others but I am afraid to say anything for fear of a negative reaction.
  8. I would rather go along with the crowd than be alone.
  9. I have noticed that no matter how much I do for others I often feel it is never good enough.
  10. It feels more appropriate to do things for others than for myself. I tend to feel guilty if I do things for myself.

If you answered yes to 3 or more of these questions you may be "too nice" or a people pleaser. This coping pattern may have started early on in your life. You may have felt the need to please a parent in order to feel loved. You may have felt the need to keep the peace at home by going along with what others wanted. Or you may have felt like there were people in your family whose needs were more important than your own. Whatever the reason you developed the people pleaser or too nice pattern, it is important to know that it has some harmful consequences.

People pleasers / too nice people get taken advantage of, bullied, manipulated and abused. They usually end up on the short end of the stick through a divorce. They feel resentment that they are doing more than their fair share. They are vulnerable to depression. They may get into debt while "rescuing" family members. Being too nice may lead to doing things one doesn't want to do.

In another blog post I will talk about how to "kick" the too nice habit. In the mean time if you are tired of being walked on then give me a call. We can talk over a free consultation and see how you can reclaim yourself today.

Tracey Ashcraft, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Coach. She has helped hundreds of people to break free of people pleasing and stop being "too nice". As a result these people are learning to take better care of themselves and are enjoying more fulfilling relationships and happier lives.

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Life is hard enough without having to put up with another's misery. If you are in a bad relationship and are struggling with whether to leave it or not, ask yourself these questions:

Am I happy?

Do I laugh with him/her?

Do we share similar life goals?

Do I find myself wishing if they would just change then things would be great?

Do I feel jealous of single friends or friends in happy relationships?

Am I the person I want to be in this relationship?

Am I a good partner?

What would my life be like if I were to wake up with this person 10 years from now?

If any of your answers scare you - keep reading!

There are many reasons people stay in a bad relationship: time already invested in the relationship, Catholic guilt, fear of being alone, fear of hurting the other, fear of the other's reaction, fear of change, staying for the kids. These reasons we create in our mind can become our own prison.

As scary as change can be, staying for the wrong reasons can be scarier.

Here are some steps to summon the courage to leave a bad relationship:

  1. Know that you Deserve to be Happy. Find friends that will validate this truth for you if you can't believe it yourself.
  2. Decide that you are not going to lose one more moment of your life in this bad relationship.
  3. Make a Plan. Decide what you want your life to look like and write it out.
  4. Get Support. Reach out to a trusted friend for support. Share your plan and ask for help.
  5. Set a Date. Be specific with a time and stick to it.
  6. Push through Your Fear and do it anyway. Know that as hard as these steps to leave can be, staying in a bad relationship will be worse.
  7. Congratulate Yourself! Many people feel shell shocked after leaving a bad relationship. Rebuilding may not be easy. Give yourself credit for saving your life.
  8. Allow yourself to be Happy. Find joy in the little things. Make your home reflect yourself. Be creative.
  9. Work with a Professional. A therapist or coach may be able to help you see how you may attract bad relationships. Removing personal roadblocks to happiness can help you attract happier relationships in the future.

Life is short; don't waste another minute being miserable.

Tracey Ashcraft, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Coach. She has helped hundreds of people reduce stress. As a result these people are learning to take better care of themselves and are enjoying more fulfilling relationships and happier lives.

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.

10 Tips for Improving Your Relationship Now

Ever wonder, "How can this person, who is supposed to be my best friend, be hurting me daily"? When you feel disconnected from and hurt by your partner, the relationship can feel more like a sentence than a sacred union. When you are experiencing disappointment and frustration in your relationship, you may find your thoughts drawn to escape. Before you throw in the towel, give these tips a try.

  1. Quit trying to get Love. As crazy as this may sound, trying to get love from someone doesn't work. It may even drive away the person of your desires.
  2. Start giving Love. It may seem counter-intuitive, to give love instead of trying to get love. But actually if you truly love someone you will want them to feel loved. Give them the love you wish to receive. It is important to give love with no expectations. Think of it as a pure gift.
  3. Don't take it Personally. Taking things personally is a relationship killer. Nothing disconnects you faster from the one you love than taking something they said or did personally. When you take something personally you feel wounded by them. You become an enemy instead of a partner. (check out article for more tips on not taking it personally.)
  4. Take care of Yourself. This step may seem selfish or individualistic. It's not. When you take care of yourself, physically, emotionally and spiritually, you have more to offer your partner. Think about what it is like when you work on your hobby and then share your excitement with your partner over dinner.
  5. Create a Routine Together. Carve out time in your daily routine for shared time and experiences brings couples closer. Some examples of daily opportunities for connection include: Coffee in the am. Walks. Folding laundry together. Eating dinner together daily.
  6. Help your Partner with their Passions. Encourage your partner to enjoy their passions. Perhaps you pick up some fly tying supplies or scrap-booking supplies for them. Maybe it is attending their art opening or music practice. Even if you don't love their passion, showing that you are taking an interest can really help to strengthen your relationship.
  7. Show them you are Thinking about Them. Get creative. In addition to texting or calling them while you are away during the work day, try and think of what might please your partner. Maybe you stop on the way home and pick up a slice of your spouse's favorite cheesecake. Leave a love-note on the bathroom mirror written in lipstick. Plan a surprise getaway evening. Little gifts, notes, texts. Etc
  8. Listen. Sadly listening is not an innate skill. It needs to be learned. Give your spouse 10 minutes of your undivided attention each day. That may not sound like much, but if you are truly focused on what they are saying, reflecting back a summary of what they are saying and must be feeling, it will improve your relationship. What better gift can you give your spouse than to have them feel really heard?
  9. Share. Sharing can be done in many ways. You may think that you already share your money, things, food and time with your spouse. Do you share your deepest thoughts, worries, dreams? Sharing these things increases intimacy and gives your partner the gift of knowing you more deeply. It also gives them a chance to show up for you.
  10. Truly Commit. This tip may seem irrelevant. Perhaps you feel that since you are in a relationship that you are committed to your partner. Spend some time thinking about ways you may not be fully committed. Do you spend more time on the computer or with friends than with your partner? Do you pull away when they make a mistake? Do you fantasize about being single again? Truly committing takes sealing all the exits. When you shift your beliefs to be that you are together for life, you will put more of yourself into the relationship.

Keep in mind that you don't have to do all of these steps at once to improve your relationship. Try incorporating one of these tips into your daily life each week. Also, your relationship can improve greatly even if you are the only one in the couple doing these things. It is not recommended to request that your partner do these things for you. Trust that by giving these things as a gift to your relationship that things will improve!

Tracey Ashcraft, MA, LPC is a confidence coach and relationship specialist. Over the past 10 years she has helped hundreds of people live their best lives.

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.

Benefits of Working With a Professional

Have you wondered if it would be worth it to work with a professional? Here are just a few of the many benefits of working with a coach or counselor:

  • Feel really understood.
  • Increase self esteem.
  • Have more satisfying friendships.
  • Restore intimacy in romantic relationships.
  • Improve family interactions.
  • Get clear about what really inspires you.
  • Increase motivation.
  • Set goals.
  • Be held accountable.
  • Learn communication skills.
  • Learn how to enjoy the present moment.
  • Learn skills to improve your mood.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Gain insight and understanding of old hurts.
  • Learn to process and understand your feelings.
  • Get support through tough times and loss.
  • Learn to set clear and appropriate boundaries.
  • Feel cared about.

Tracey Ashcraft, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Coach. She has helped hundreds of people reduce stress. As a result these people are learning to take better care of themselves and are enjoying more fulfilling relationships and happier lives.

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.

Learn to Laugh At Yourself!

A friend gave me this sign when I graduated from my counseling program. It was the perfect gift for a budding private practice therapist/coach. It is a reminder not to take myself too seriously.

When life gets hard it can be easy to take things too seriously. Learning to laugh at yourself can shift things instantly. It may seem counter-intuitive to laugh at yourself when so many hours have been spent on striving for perfection. Somewhere along the way on life we may have been taught to show our best to the people we meet. "What will the neighbors think? Clean up this mess. It reflects poorly on me. Never let them see you sweat." These statements reinforce the message that we need to strive for perfection to be liked, accepted, and respected. Since no one can actually achieve perfection, it tends to be disappointing work. Mistakes and blunders become painfully humiliating if we let them be.

Giving yourself permission to laugh at yourself can be liberating. Since we are destined to screw up, look foolish, or miss the mark, it is far easier to allow yourself to be human when it happens. Let go and laugh.

You can practice laughing at yourself when you are alone too. Take last week. I was getting ready for work. I checked out my curling-iron handy work and thought- "This is going to be a good hair day." I reached in the cabinet for the can of hairspray and went to town on my coiffed locks. It didn't register at first what was happening. My hair didn't have the hold it usually gets from the hairspray. The scent was different too. As my brain started to register these subtleties, I glanced at the can in my hand. To my horror I saw, not Suave Professional Hair spray but the jumbo sized can of Lysol aerosol. Yikes! I laughed so hard I had to tell others. I posted my blunder on Facebook and received an onslaught of fun comments and stories of others mishaps in return. You know it's going to be a good day when your hair is sanitized!

Laughing at ourselves actually brings us closer to others. It gives people permission to be human around you. You are no longer a stuffed shirt trying to be perfect. If you notice you are taking yourself too seriously, just remember at least you didn't spray Lysol on your hair!

I would love to hear from you. Please share your comments and stories here of laughing at yourself.

Tracey Ashcraft is a confidence coach and over the past 10 years has helped hundreds of people live their best lives.

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.

Longing is Not Good For You

Longing is an alluring place for the mind; like a drug it sucks you in and drags you through the gutter.

Longing is a lurker that returns when the lights go out. It is easy to invite in this mistress. Beware- she will take more than she gives.

Longing is the hope that someone or something will come to heal the ache in your heart. This hope is not the good hope; it robs you of the now.

Longing befriends us early in life when we have to wait too long for hugs and affection. Enduring neglect is too painful so the worlds created in the mind become better than reality.

Longing for the fantasy to become real becomes a practiced art. Someday everything will be wonderful. Sadly that does not magically happen.

Like getting high on drugs, engaging in longing is a temporary escape from reality where nothing good happens.

So how do you stop longing?

  1. Recognize when you are doing it.
  2. Tell yourself, "Longing is not good for me."
  3. Get aware of your surroundings. Notice how you feel physically.
  4. Notice your feelings. Write them down.
  5. Decide what you want in life.
  6. Make a list of steps to make it happen.
  7. Start working on the list.
  8. Repeat steps 1 -7 until you are living your life!

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.

It's Never Too Late To Restart Your Day!

"It's never too late to re-start your day."

I saw this saying on a decorative sign in a home-goods section of a store the other day. At first it just sounds like another annoying piece of fluffy advice dished out by a marketing company to make a buck. Then I gave it a second thought. I have had days where an interaction with someone goes sour, or I will get disappointing news. My thoughts about what has transpired can get pretty negative. I call it "kitchen sink" brooding. When one thing goes wrong, throw in all the other things you can think of that you are unhappy about into the pot including the kitchen sink. Before I know it, I am in despair.

Then, somehow I notice a bird singing or a kid giggling in a nearby yard. My life doesn't have to suck just because the previous moments did. I can reboot. When I do reboot my thinking and focus on the here and now, my life instantly improves. You can re-start your day anytime.

Follow the tips below for a better day:

  1. When something upsets you, feel it. We can’t all be Buddhist Monks. Things will upset us. We will get hurt, angry or disappointed.
  2. Notice your thoughts about the upsetting event. Tune your attention to what you are thinking. Are you kitchen sink brooding?
  3. Do nothing about the thoughts. Do not take action on the negative thoughts you are having. Just notice the thoughts like a scene out of a train window. You notice it and it goes by.
  4. Notice what you are feeling. Allow time to process the disappointment. Give yourself around 5 or 10 minutes to feel whatever your reaction is to the upsetting event and your thoughts about the event. I find a releasing a primal scream in the car to be very therapeutic.
  5. Decide to have a good rest of the day. Making this decision may seem hard in the moment but do it anyway. You can choose to be in despair or you can choose to have a good day.
  6. Notice the moment. Observe your surroundings. What do you hear? What do you see? In the moment are you safe, full, warm, clothed?
  7. Reboot your thinking. After you notice your thinking, you can choose to think more positive thoughts. Can you laugh at yourself? Is there something near you s that you can smile about?
  8. Choose to be happy. Once you reboot your thinking to more positive thoughts you can choose to be happy. The upsetting event is now history.

The way we feel in any given moment is up to us. Blaming it on something or someone else is a waste of time. I know, I have tried and it doesn't work. What makes us feel better is bringing our thoughts into the present moment. Try it. What's the worst that can happen? You might just have a better day!

Tracey Ashcraft, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Coach. She has helped hundreds of people reduce stress. As a result these people are learning to take better care of themselves and are enjoying more fulfilling relationships and happier lives.

To set up your free phone consultation call 303-668-5995 or drop us a line here.