Feeling Stuck? A Step by Step Guide to Dealing with Anything & Everything

Last Saturday I spoke at the Phuket Mental Health Talk about the 4 ways you can deal with anything. These are from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and are as follows:

  1. Do nothing (Stay Miserable or Make Things Worse)
  2. Solve the Problem
  3. Change how you feel about the Problem, or finally
  4. Radically Accept that you can’t change what has happened / is happening.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) was devised by Marsha Lineham to work with highly suicidal clients and incorporates a skills section that the above come from. She asserts that “people want to get better but don’t have the skills to do so – let me teach you the skills”. Although devised for people struggling with their mental health, I think DBT Skills are useful for everyone and I am always pleased when I get the chance to talk at events like the one last Saturday.

If you are interested in learning more about these steps I have a pre-recorded course and workbook that is available to buy here currently on sale for $27 SGD.

How to find new friends when you move abroad

men and women sitting on concrete bench
Photo by Thoma Boehi on Pexels.com

One of the challenges of moving country is building your social networks. As much as many people have dreams of running off to a desert island to become a hermit, we can also hate to admit that we actually need people around us. Some of us come with ready-made networks – we get jobs in big corporations or in international schools and we are immediately linked in with people in the same circumstances. For others it is more difficult. For ‘trailing spouses’ who may be unable to work because of visa restrictions, or for childless people who don’t get the opportunity to meet other adults at kids birthday parties – sometimes moving abroad can be a lonely experience. So how do you find your people? Here are 3 ideas:

Use Social Media
Put a shout out in a local social media group and ask if anyone wants to hang out. Yes, it can feel a bit vulnerable but there will inevitably be someone else looking for a friend in there too. If you don’t want to do this yourself, wait until a newbie does a shout out!

Find (or start) a group around things you enjoy doing
This can be anything from joining a sports club to attending arts classes. I love reading non-fiction so set up a Non-Fiction bookclub and advertised it via social media channels. I remember sitting drinking tea and wondering if anyone would actually turn up but to my surprise and delight they did! I made some good friends who I would have usually have never met in day to day life.
What do you enjoy doing – how can you link in with others who enjoy the same thing?

Volunteer for a charity or a cause you believe in
Again, this is a common interest suggestion. Love dogs? Want to help children learn to read? By finding something you can get involved with can give you a sense of purpose (this also helps your overall wellbeing) first and foremost but it also will give you the opportunity to meet other people who care about the same issues.

What other ideas do you have? Let us know in the comments

Counselling and Coaching Services

I am pleased to announce I now have availability for new counselling and coaching clients throughout September.

What is the difference between counselling and coaching?

Counselling has a more mental health focus – we talk through what is happening for you in the present and things that have happened in the past. We work together to find ways for you to cope and to uncover patterns that may be contributing to how you feel.

Coaching is more future focused. You may have something you would like to achieve and need help with goal setting and accountability.

Sounds good – what do I need to do?
You can schedule a free 20 minute consultation with me to talk through what you would like help with, and to see if I am a good fit for you. Just fill in the info below and I will get back to you with my available times.

Take care of yourselves out there, Aylssa

“You’re sad because you miss your friends, hey?”

Starting a new school in a new country can be really daunting for your child and for you as a parent. Questions like, ‘will they fit in?’, ‘will they understand the curriculum?’ (or in some cases the language), ‘will they make friends?’, ‘will they get bullied?’, ‘who will they sit with at lunch?’ can swirl around and around in your head.

You have an image of who your child is. Maybe in their last school they were incredibly popular and outgoing with lots of friends, maybe they captained the sports team or won academic achievement awards. It is a mistake to think that they will drop into their new school with the same identity. They are a blank slate to their classmates and teachers – they have no sense of who your child is or was at their previous school. For some this is a blessing, a chance to start again; for others their sense of loss is immense.

Your outgoing child may become more introverted as they adjust to their new environment. You may worry that your child has changed and perhaps there is some bullying or nastiness going on. Check with their teacher, but often there isn’t – it is just there is a period of adjustment which can last, my experience up to a year. You may feel the same way yourself – that you have lost part of who you are. This is because we see ourselves reflected in the relationships we have with others. Who are we if no one knows our story?

It makes sense therefore that we hang on to the relationships and the people who know us from before. It may seem your child wants to spend all their time messaging friends from ‘back home’ rather than concentrating on building new relationships with people in their new country. You may do the same. It is like having one foot in each country. Your child may be physically in your new place but a good chunk of their heart and brain is still in the old one. We gain so much by moving abroad, but we can also lose things in the process – relationships, identities, even things as seemingly trivial as our pillows. By acknowledging what we have lost it helps us grieve the life we left behind and start to embrace our new one. If your child is homesick, simply acknowledging it with a hug can be powerful: “You’re sad because you miss your friends, hey?”

Allow them time to talk to their old friends while at the same time create opportunities for them to make new ones. Extra-curricular activities based around your child’s interests are a great way for them to meet new potential friends. Their new school should be able to inform you of the activities they provide. If they don’t have activities that suit your child’s interests check the local community – expat pages on social media can be a hive of useful information in this respect.

When I worked as a school counsellor, I asked students what advice they would give to a new student starting at an international school. One that had moved schools many times and seemed rather confident that they would be fine wherever they ended up next said:

“I spend about a week watching the other kids figuring out who ‘my people’ are and those who I need to avoid. At break or lunch one day I will approach the group who I think are nice and say “I’m new – could you tell me where the bathroom is please?” It works every time – they offer to take me and because they know I am new they talk to me and ask if I want to hang out with them”

This strategy is so simple yet so effective. By identifying who they thought they would get along with and allowing themselves to seem vulnerable they easily found new friends.

Another thing that new students worry about often is how they will navigate around the school; what happens if they get lost? Ask your child’s new school what they have in place to help support new students. They may have a buddy system where new students are paired with another child in their class, or they may have a transition program where all of the new students are placed together to help support one another. There may be a certain teacher or a place in school that your child can go to if they get lost. Letting your child know what will happen on their first day gives them a sense of security and control and gives you the opportunity to ensure they will have all of the stationary etc they need for the day.

As their parent you are their constant, their safety, their anchor. Therefore, you will get the brunt of their big emotions. They will storm in from school and hand you a big rain cloud of negativity then seemingly be fine 5 minutes later. This is called ‘emotional dumping’ and can make you feel awful. I have listened as homesick teenagers in boarding houses cry down the phone to their parents, only to wipe away their tears and are happily playing pool with their new friends 5 minutes later when their frantic parents call me to ask how they are. As parents you don’t often see how well they are doing, you are their comfort in their time of need and are left holding their big emotional rain cloud while they feel better.

If your child is having difficulties, a good strategy is to ask them to think of solutions instead of sweeping in and trying to fix everything yourself as tempting as that is. This teaches them that they have the resources within themselves to problem solve and be okay. Sometimes though things don’t resolve themselves easily and you and your child need some extra help – this can particularly be the case if you are both going through similar things like acute homesickness. Counselling can help process your emotions and find strategies to feel better. If you are struggling, please get in touch.

Exciting Times for New Teachers

It’s an exciting time of year for new international school teachers! You got the job 6 even maybe 10 months ago and all the planning and preparation is coming to fruition. Soon you will board your plane to your new school, new country, new life. Having done that same journey and having supported hundreds of new families and young people here is what to expect:

It’s going to be exciting. You will look at your new place with (hopefully) the eyes of a kid at Christmas. This is the honeymoon period. Then doubts may start to set in – can you really manage living here? You may feel anxious about how to set up your new way of life and you may feel homesick. Everything was so easy in your home country – you didn’t have to decipher every food label, or figure out how to pay stuff. In my experience as an International school counsellor, this hits a lot of people hard around January. Its mid school year and you’re missing friends and family back home. But this is a NORMAL part of the transition process. Most people bounce back out the other side. They start to realise the small wins they have. They start to believe they can do this! They begin to accept their new country and start to enjoy living there.

So if are are a newbie this academic year – good luck! And remember wonderment, doubt, sadness and acceptance are all normal parts of the transition process.

If you do find yourself stuck and struggling though and would like some online counselling support, please get in touch.

First Aid for Mental Health Training

There are 4 places left on the FAA Level 2 First Aid for Mental Health training I am delivering on Saturday 26th February 2022. The course will be held online from 9am – 5pm (GMT+8: Singapore) at the discounted rate of $197 (usual price in the UK is around $300). Price includes UK accreditation and e-book.

If you are in the right time zone and would like more information click here

SE Asia School Counselling Network

I am absolutely honoured and excited to be taking over as Coordinator of the South East Asia School Counsellors Network (SEASCN). Set up in 2011 by Hazel McLure & Ian Moody, both school counsellors in Singapore at the time, they realised that the unique problems and issues they were facing in their roles were best answered by others doing the same jobs. Over the past 10 years they have seen the network grow to over 100 members across the region and a much beloved annual conference.

As both are leaving the region this year I hope to carry on the great work they started and ensure this valuable space for school counsellors continues.

The 2015 Conference at Jerudong International School, Brunei

Support for Young People with a Disabled Sibling

Here in South East Asia, there isn’t always easily accessible support for young people so I was delighted when I came across the Siblings Support Project. Although they are based in the USA and Australia, they have a support group on Facebook called ‘Sibteen Support Project’ which can be accessed by any young person who can speak English from across the world (which will be limiting for some young people I know). The group is for siblings only – sorry parents and professionals you are not allowed in! – which allows them a safe and supportive space to ask questions and talk through things with other young people in the same situation as themselves. So if you or any of the young people you work with, could use a bit of peer support have a look.

You can find out more information about Siblings Support and the other work they do here: https://siblingsupport.org/