“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.)

Therapy for Winter Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in Stockholm

candles

candlesDepression? Seasonal Affective Disorder? The cold and darkness of Sweden at the end of the year is one of the hardest issues for expats. For those of us from relatively warm countries (take note Aussies and South Africans) and others who have never lived this far north, the Swedish climate can be a real shock.

 

In Stockholm in December it is dark by early in the afternoon. I’ve talked to many expats who really struggle at this time of year. Some have even internalised the problem and have started to think they are depressed or have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Actually, it is really normal and natural to have trouble with the Swedish winter even if you have been here a long time. I’ve gathered the advice of a range of expats and long term visitors to Sweden who I have met in my counselling work as a therapist. Here are their practical suggestions.

1. Get Active

Jawbone Up BandIt’s natural to not be as active at this time of year but it’s also good to still move your body. Too cold outside? Try training indoors. Friskis och Svettis offer lower cost fitness memberships that include classes for around 3000 crowns a year (even less if you are a student). That’s not even the cost of 1 glass of wine each week! And you don’t have to be particularly athletic to get something therapeutic out of a gym. Try a 30 minute brisk treadmill walk while listening to your favourite music on an iphone or mp3 player. Taking in the scenery of everyone else working out while you go at your own pace can make you feel alive again. Get a Jawbone and set a goal of 10,000 steps a day on your Jawbone. There are plenty of sports you can do in winter as well, like indoor volleyball and swimming. This is the time of year that hot saunas are really appreciated.

2. Rug Up

Feeling colder can make a difference to your mood so it is worth making the effort to be as warm and cosy as you can when you are walking around outside. We lose most of our body heat through our extremities so pull on a wooly hat that covers your ears (called a mössa in Swedish), gloves, warm footwear and a scarf. Have you discovered the advantages of long underwear yet? A decent winter coat is also helpful of course.

3. Go easy on the grog (and the glögg)

The end of the year is a time for celebration but keep in mind that alcohol is a depressant. Bottled spirits tend to lift our own spirits for a short time but the after effects can pull us down the next day or for several days after a few too many. Drinking more than usual will lead to swings in mood and, in the absence of other helpful strategies, some people develop a dependency on alcohol that can create real problems for them, their partners and families (and I am not referring to Systembolaget being closed on a Sunday). Other ways of picking yourself up include exercising regularly, spending time with friends, attending expat group events and…

4. Getting yourself into the light

phillips wake up lightFortunately Stockholm is not completely dark in winter (some places in Sweden are). But the daylight doesn’t last for long. Make sure you make the most of the light and walk around in it during the day if you can. There is some evidence that even a few minutes a day direct daylight on exposed skin (i.e. your face) can make a difference to your physiology and mood. It costs nothing but your time (most of which involves putting on and taking off your warm clothes). Some people use wake up lights and special desk lamps that reproduce the tone of daylight to enlighten their winter days. For example, the Philips Wake-Up Light (available here from Amazon) has a number of settings to replicate sunrise and and even a selection of natural sounds.

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5. Make plans and look forward to them

Fellow expats agree there is nothing like a break for a week or two somewhere warm and sunny to change your perspective. Swedes know the advantages of travelling during the darker months and flock to the Canaries (no pun intended!), Egypt and even farther destinations like India, Thailand and Vietnam during December and January. Book your tickets early to get the cheap deals. If you don’t mind the snow, there are some great ski-fields within Sweden. Or you can jump on a party boat to Helsinki, Tallin or Riga. If you can’t afford the time or cost of getting away, make plans to do some exotic activities at home or treat yourself to some special meals. Apparently the restaurant Koh Phangan on Skånegatan makes you feel you are really in Thailand.

6. It’s okay to hibernate a little

Winter is a time of closing down in contrast to the expansiveness of summer. In many ways we have lost touch with the natural rhythms that we see in the animal world. So what if you want to sleep 10 hours instead of 8? That’s how it goes with the cold and darkness. You aren’t depressed and you don’t need medication just because you don’t feel like going out and want to stay in bed more than usual. Lower your Expectations and stop giving yourself a hard time. You can make up for it in the Spring. That brings me to…

7. Embracing the experience

Canon CameraIf you can’t beat it, make the most of it. Not all the Swedes take off to sun and sand in wintertime yet they still manage to stay sane and get on with their lives. It might take some time to get the knack of it but those who emigrated to Sweden a number of years ago tell me that there is something to be said for embracing the climate at this time of year. They have taken up photography or cross-country skiing (even with the skis that use little wheels when there is no snow), planned Melodifestival parties, visited the Christmas markets, lit up their apartments with small candles, played and recorded music, painted, drawn, read and written books. The Swedes are a nation of creatives. Even if you just document what you are seeing or hearing around you and how you are feeling in a journal or blog you will be in the company of many who have gone before you in the great musical, literary and artistic traditions of Scandinavia.

8. Remember: It will pass!

From 22 December the nights are shorter and the days start to get longer. When the snow arrives, it can make a difference as well, reflecting daylight or streetlights and generally making everything a bit brighter. Many people do find January is the worst month for them simply because they have endured the darkness and low temperatures for so long. So even getting a sense of the length of winter can help and this often happens for expats once they have been in Sweden for a couple of cold seasons.

If being in Sweden has lost its purpose for you at this dark time of the year, maybe it is time for a meaning-recovering conversation over a hot cup of tea or coffee. Narrative therapy and other collaborative counselling practices can provide you with the opportunity to reconnect with your motivation and find a new lease of life to last through winter. If you want some practical help, together we can construct a plan or strategy to get you through to lighter times. Contact me through the website or call and leave a message on 08-559 22 636 if you would like to make an appointment.

Thanks to Elin, Steve, Evelyn, Barbara, Marie, Matthew, Janet, Paul and Rob for their contributions as well as to all my clients who have found or are finding their own ways of dealing with the darkness and cold.