“Tools for Better Living”: 6 English Speaking Coaching Sessions for Expats in Stockholm and across Sweden

This fall I’m offering a flexible course that combines both coaching and counselling in a short series of consultations. These sessions are designed specifically for expats and other English speakers seeking direction. Are you looking for some tools for dealing with change or adjustment? Interested in taking a series of sessions to kick-start your motivation? Read on!

Those of us who have been expats in Stockholm for a number of years know the winters can be tough. Swedes know it too and, although most of them have grown up with the darkness and cold that comes with a Swedish winter, many still struggle. Whether you are in your first few years of living in Scandinavia, or you have lived here all your life, there is good sense in using the autumn to prepare psychologically and emotionally for what is to come.

6 Sessions of Coaching or Counselling, 5 Suggested Themes

This series combines the approaches of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Narrative Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Life Coaching, Relaxation Strategies, Skills Training (including Stress Management and Communication Training) and Mindfulness. I’ve based it around a presentation of the most common psychological tools I use in my practice but will tailor it to suit your circumstances.

My approach is based on the idea that, through conversation based meetings, we develop ideas and strategies together that neither one of us might have envisaged using before. In this way, you bring your skills and knowledge as a contribution to the sessions and I also introduce theories and tools as possibilities for you to start using. Of course all the sessions and everything you say to me is confidential.

The plan below is a guide only and we can modify it according to your needs.

Want to know more already? Email me!

#1   Who Am I?

Our sense of identity can be quite important to how we manage in new situations or cope with change. Who are you and what has contributed to your sense of yourself, particularly since you moved to Sweden?

The first appointment is a kind of assessment where together we discuss what you would like to cover in the course of sessions and share whatever aspects of your story you would like to tell me. You also have the opportunity to ask me any questions you would like answered. At the end of the session I can give you an interesting identity-based task to take away and complete in your own time, if you like. ‘Homework’ is always optional. Some people want it and some don’t, so you can make the choice.

If you would like to know more about me in advance, read the About Ash Rehn page on this website. And I welcome you to contact me prior to the session if you would like to know anything more about me. It is important that we can work together and for you to feel a sense of comfort during our meetings.

#2   Recovering Energy, Motivation and Establishing Routines

It is not unusual for people to want to meet with a coach or therapist when they are at, or have been at, a low ebb. I’m used to seeing people struggling with motivation, lacking energy or feeling like they have failed. At the same time, it is not always that way. It can be more like chaos that needs sorting out. So part of our work together might be looking at what you want or what you appreciate about your life or what you need. Sometimes this involves considering your ‘vision’ for life. Sometimes people feel stuck, sometimes they feel lost, sometimes they just want me to help them sort through ‘stuff’ or ‘issues’. Whatever the case is, we can discuss it together.

#3   Managing Stress, Coping and Empowerment Strategies

How you deal with change often depends on your past experiences, the techniques you have learned or the resources you have at hand. In our sessions we can consider the skills you are using now as well as what you might need to recover or discover. If you are caught in some Mind Traps (cognitive distortions in thinking) we can identify these and determine alternative psychological strategies to help you escape or re-establish balance. I can also show you some physical practices you can use at any time to reduce anxiety and your stress response.

#4   Career / Relationships / Friendships / Family: Planning and Goal Setting

Would you like to show me what your life looks like now and what your ideal life would be? Often this can be a way of envisaging the future as well. Collaborative consultations can offer the first steps forward to making changes across a number of the aspects of our lives. Together we can explore changes you want to make in any or all of these areas and what might be required for moving forward. It tends to be much easier to do this in collaboration.

#5   Improved Communication for Relationships

Frustration and Anger are two of the most common emotions I discuss with people who meet me in Stockholm or online. If our needs are not being met, we can find our emotions about certain events and incidents spilling into other aspects of our life. And that affects our relationships. Taking an alternative approach to your standard way of communicating is one way to lower the frustration you are experiencing. I can show you some other possibilities and we can practice these in the sessions.

#6   Awareness, Acknowledgement, Acceptance and Building Resilience

It is not generally possible to change everything overnight. Meeting and having a conversation about what concerns you can also be a way of tapping into some other perspectives. Part of this work is about holding onto what you have learned or discovered. Part of the coaching can even include awareness-building techniques like Mindfulness. In these 6 sessions, I offer a start to a process that can take you in new directions. You might decide to continue with something new we discover together during our work or you might even decide to continue with me. With your permission, I will follow up by email at least twice over the 2 months following the series. If you want to continue, we can discuss the possibilities to keep going, what you have achieved and what might remain outstanding.

Pay as You Go or Save with a Package of Sessions

This flexible course is offered as pay as you go or you can receive 6 sessions for the cost of 5 if you pre-pay the series. You can attend just the first session and decide if you want to continue with no obligation to pay for more. You are welcome to decide a few days after the first appointment whether you want to pay for the whole series or pay as you go. I do ask for a deposit of 200 crowns for the first appointment but you have 7 days from the session to pay for the balance. Please contact me for further details of the fee.

No Guarantees or False Promises, but Possibilities, Opportunities and Open Dialogue

It would be quite unethical of me to make false promises about how successful this short series of appointments will be for you, particularly when I have not yet met you. So I don’t offer a guarantee that you will achieve everything you ever hoped for in just 6 sessions. But I do offer to be fully present with you for the sessions and to work collaboratively with you in ways you find comfortable.

It is my professional experience that once people start talking, what they are struggling with often changes or even dissolves. It does not happen at the same pace for everyone, but making a start will give you a better understanding of what might be required. I have chosen a framework of 6 sessions as many people find this is just enough to launch them into self-sufficiency. The relief of talking to a professional in a confidential setting can be influential, as can the possibilities for dialogue, acknowledgement, exploration and even confession.

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Ash Rehn QindsmBook Now to Secure Appointment Times

  • A limited number of these sessions are now available daytimes and evenings during September and October.
  • Sessions are available both in-person ‘face to face’ in Stockholm and ‘face to face’ by Skype webcam (or audio-only if you prefer).
  • Possibilities for continuing include the option of email counselling once the course is concluded.

Make an enquiry about available times and fees now through my contact page.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Ash Rehn BSocWk, MA, MAASW (acc.)

Swedish Culture Shock: 5 Practical Ways to Deal with Stress

man with stress

Providing counselling services for expats in Stockholm, I’m often helping my clients to manage and find ways to relieve stress. This stress might be related to cultural factors including the difficulty many report in making friends with Swedes or it could be to do with a close relationship or marriage. It can be associated with a combination of factors, for example work pressure, unfulfilled hopes or plans, perceived expectations or the adjustment to a new life in Sweden. The impact of stress isn’t always obvious.

People come to me wanting new ways to think or ‘mental tools’ for dealing with their circumstances. But regularly I meet people who so stressed-up, they can’t think so easily, in new ways or old. This article is about some very basic things you can do to manage stress. If that interests you, read on.

Stressing out? Ask for a consultation now!

5 Ways to Manage Stress

Here are 5 fundamental steps you can take to start getting back in control of the stress in your life. These tips are recommended by doctors, psychologists and major organisations like the British NHS (National Health Service).

1. Eat well.

When we don’t refuel our bodies regularly, our physiology can go into a stressed state and our more subtle cognitive (thinking) capabilities can be adversely affected. It’s much harder to problem solve when hungry, for example. On the flipside, using food to numb emotions can lead to overeating and unintentional weight gain. Aim for a balanced diet and regular nourishment.

2. Ensure you get enough sleep.

Sleep is regenerative and gives us a chance to let go of tension. It’s the body’s passive way of regularly relieving the effects of stress and becoming refreshed by allowing the brain to go into ‘quiet mode’ so we regain physiological balance. Of course sometimes stress can also interfere with sleep, in which case we don’t get the regular physical and mental refreshment we need. If your sleep is affected, develop a routine to support sleeping (google ‘Sleep Hygiene’). Sleeping tablets are not an ongoing answer, but if you are severely sleep deprived, you might need to discuss this with a GP. There are also gentle herbal treatments that some people find helpful.

3. Take regular exercise.

Exercise is a great way to shake out the effects of stress. When we exercise, we are directly working on our physiology and we can reverse the automatic stress response that happens to us when we are under pressure. For those of us from warmer countries, in the winter it can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise in Sweden and not everyone lives in central Stockholm or has access to indoor gyms and fitness centres. But even a short walk can make a difference and is better than nothing.

4. Put some structure in your day.

We all need to offset work with rest and play. Again, this can be difficult for expats without strong social connections. When we are trying to do the same thing for too long each day, the consequences are usually boredom, frustration and irritability or depressed mood. Everyone has chores they have to do (things like shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing etc), but without the balance of imaginative activities, our stress reactions can take over. Planning some exercise, social activities and time for creative interests around your work and non-negotiable commitments will help to make sure you stay on top of stress.

5. Talk about your problems.

It might sound like a cliche, but sharing problems and feelings really is a release valve for stress. It works differently for different people. Writing in a journal or diary can be one way of expressing thoughts and feelings but it doesn’t necessarily give the sense of a listener being present. Talking with friends can provide an outlet for emotions. However many English speakers tell me they find it difficult to make friends in Sweden and you might not have been here long enough to establish trusting friendships. Or perhaps you want to discuss something you feel you can’t share with a friend and need someone who you can be sure will remain impartial and maintain your confidentiality. That is where a counsellor comes in.

Some people tell me they just want to ‘dump’ what is happening for them, to ‘get it off their chest’ or make a confession about something they have been thinking about or doing. Others want a sounding-board (boll-plank in Swedish). Others want to have a good cry and to express how they feel. Some expats ask for help with decision-making or problem-solving. All of these are fine with me. The most important thing is: Don’t keep the problems to yourself!

Vulnerability to Stress and Building Resilience

Our vulnerability to stress and our coping skills for dealing with it can change with our circumstances. For example, people who have experienced trauma or child abuse when young sometimes have a heightened stress response to day to day events. But moving to a country like Sweden and adjustment to a new culture can involve a lot of stress as well. Building resilience to stress takes time. Don’t leave it too late to get help. If you are struggling with stress, make an appointment to discuss ways forward. If you are not sure, but think that managing stress might be a problem for you, contact me to find out how we might work together.

Email for an appointment time

Adjustment to Life in Sweden and Therapy in English

Image of a man with stress associated with cultural adjustment

Image of a man with stress associated with cultural adjustmentFor most expats, relocating to Sweden means adjusting to a different culture. Reactions associated with the stress, uncertainty and the upheaval of relocation to another culture are very common for those from English speaking countries. These reactions can include experiences of anxiety, withdrawal, low mood, depression and other mental health difficulties.

In my therapeutic work with people who have moved to Sweden, we often talk about how unexpected these reactions were. After all, Sweden appears to be an orderly place and most people, particularly younger people and those Swedes living in the large cities, speak English. At first it was easy to imagine that life here could be easy and that it would not take long to settle in.

But the expats I talk with tell me they were unprepared for the differences in culture and climate they encountered. They describe low mood, difficulty sleeping, anxious thoughts or constant worries as well as the impact of such feelings on their relationship with partners.

Some people confess a lack of energy or enthusiasm or say they are finding it hard to enjoy life. Some people increase their use of alcohol to help them manage these feelings then find drinking causes further problems or takes them away from what they want from life. Occasionally people tell me they have an unexplained sense of panic they want help to overcome.

So what can you do if you are experiencing difficulty adjusting to life in Sweden?

5 Ways to Take Action and Get Help to Adjust to Living in Sweden

If you are struggling with feelings associated with depression or anxiety after moving to Sweden, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Share your feelings

Talk about your feelings instead of bottling them up. Trying to contain or hide emotions can be useful at times but, when they aren’t released, emotions can become explosive or leak out in inappropriate situations.

2. Connect with others

Talking to your girlfriend or boyfriend or sambo might not be enough. The emotions around cultural adjustment can also be a pressure on relationships so it is important to share your experiences with people other than your partner. The language barrier can be difficult but there are also a number expat groups, particularly in Stockholm. Remember that there are plenty of others who have been through similar hard times after moving to Sweden and if you can connect with them it can be helpful to hear other perspectives on how to make it through.

3. Exercise regularly

Particularly as it gets colder, the freezing temperatures and darkness can have us slowing down, staying inside and not being as active. But thoughts and emotions and even sleeping patterns can be positively affected by physical activity. Whether it is bodypump or working out at the gym, football, a regular yoga class, swimming or just a long, brisk walk everyday, keeping up exercise can help.

4. Try to find balance

If you are indoors a lot, make sure you get outside regularly. If you are only spending time with your partner or on your own, make an effort to engage with others. If you are working or studying, give yourself some downtime doing things that are fun or relaxing. If you aren’t working or studying, look into some volunteer work to give yourself a regular meaningful activity.

Trying to adjust to a new culture sometimes has us putting most of our energy into the familiar aspects of our lives but this can result in imbalance. Generally, the Swedes understand balance through the concept of ‘lagom’ and will be more understanding if you tell them you are trying to find balance in your life.

5. Do something today and stop delaying

The most important thing, in my professional experience, is to start to take action right now and not just hope the feelings will go away. They might go away, in time, but they are more likely to disappear when you are expressing how you feel, involved in activities with others and looking after your body and mind.

If you are stuck, meeting with a counsellor, coach or therapist is one way to get on track with the changes you are making. Make a start today on doing something to improve your life in Sweden. Call me now on 08- 559 22 636 or send an email through the contact page. Usually we can meet within a week.