Amazing shifts (Published in March 2018 in Access Magazine for expats)

By Katarina Gaborova

Before I moved to the Netherlands I lived in warm climates. My friends knew that I loved the sun so they couldn’t understand what could I possibly do in a country full of wind, rain and grey skies? Well, a few years back, one innocent April, I joined a friend to Scheveningen beach. It was 20 degrees Celsius and sunny. Dutch people were walking around and excitingly commenting on how warm it was. To my surprise, some people even brought a chair out and soaked in the sun, sitting half naked in their tiny front gardens. I thought to myself, “It’s not that bad. This country is actually quite fun. What on earth were my friends back home talking about?”

It all hit me a few days later as the skies turned grey. Suddenly the country got cold and the wind was blowing so strong that I couldn’t possibly keep the hair out of my mouth.  Okay, I got my friends’ message! After that, everything seemed so gloomy.

 Shifting attitudes

How had I gone so quickly from a positive to negative outlook? Many of us expats and immigrants regularly experience such amazing shifts in our new country. We face various struggles and pitfalls: the language barrier; lack of physical and emotional support; living far from our roots, the known, loved ones, or from everything built by previous generations. Add to the equation peoples’ other general challenges like having the flu, helping the children manage busy schedules, keeping the household duties organized, cooking, etc.,  and there you are, having a day or two when you can’t help but think about what you miss tremendously or notice everything that saddens you.

On top of that, we have been given the evolutionary capacity to emphasize the negative rather than the positive (known as negativity bias). It is our inborn critical survival skill to be aware of and to avoid danger. Did you know that negative experiences or the fear of them has a greater impact on us compared to positive experiences? Or that our attitudes are more heavily influenced by negative news as opposed to the positive? Then it will also not surprise you that, according to a prospect theory (Kahneman & Tversky), we make choices primarily based on avoiding losses rather than on gains.

Luckily, we can get around it. We can train our mind to consciously start focusing on the positives in our environment. It takes practice and effort but the result is surely worth it.

Shifting to the positive

Try one or all of these tricks to help shift your attitude:

  • Write in your journal for a week about how much you are complaining and what annoys you the most. See for yourself whether anything can be changed or improved immediately. Complaining is venting; however, it may also focus attention to the negatives. Replacing one negative thought with three to five positive ones helps to compensate. , you may have just started studying Dutch. You may feel embarrassed to speak this new language, fearing that others will make fun of you. Encourage yourself with statements like: “I am brave to learn a new language; I am improving my cognitive abilities; I can pull myself out of my comfort zone and my confidence grows every time I do so.”
  • End each day by exercising appreciation. Write down at least three positive experiences and spend two minutes describing them in detail. Such as a surprise from a friend, enjoying your puppy on the sofa, or a smile that came your way.
  • Do something nice for others. Random acts of kindness give a sense of belonging, and nurture our mirror neurons (which ‘mirror’ the behaviour of others). By making others happy, you become happier too.

Now, if there is a grey sky, rain or wind or you are put to the test to see how fast you can climb out of yet another hole, pause for a moment. Look at the scenario as a challenge rather than a hardship. Even though you may not find a solution immediately, you certainly have the power to find the silver lining.



Stress and how to deal with it

Almost everyone knows that stress is “bad” for us. Although, biologically speaking it has a very important function to prepare us to perform, to stimulate, or even motivate us. No matter how much we try to fight it, it is way too often a general part of our every day life.  We just may not be aware of it.

Did you for example know… that we may feel stressed even though we are involved in activities that are perceived to be “positive” ? Such as partying, our own wedding, having a new and exciting addition to our family etc. It is because stress is characterised as a mental or emotional state, related to strain and tension due to novel or highly demanding circumstances.

Here is the good news though, the recent research shows that stress as such is not as damaging as it once was thought to be. It’s mostly our own thoughts and believing that stress can eventually “kill us”.

So, next time when you feel the pressure, you may benefit from evaluating your thoughts. See the reasons behind your actions. Observe the fascinating way your body prepares you for your next big challenge. Note that whatever your body is doing, it is amazingly helping you to cope. And in case, that it gets too uncomfortable, there are many ways how you can support yourself. Just as an inspiration, I will list a few suggestions how to become a better friend of the stressful part of yourself:

1.) First of all, coming from the holistic point of view –we can not possibly function mentally if we are not taking the best possible care of our body physically. So, as a start you may want to eat healthy and nutritious meals. Here is an idea how to battle some of that stress with food.
2.) Drink enough water (to be on a safe side try to drink approximately 2 liters per day).
3.) Exercise regularly (minimum 3 times per week, for at least 30 minutes each time. I would suggest an aerobic exercises in order to increase your heart rate). It is also a great way to release some endorphines or so called “happy hormones). So you will end up being fit, happy and stress free. How great is that?
4.) Sit down, define and mark down stressors in your life and try to either alter them or avoid them.
5.) Schedule some fun activities and if you can, do it with people whom you love spending your valuable time with. You may end up laughing a lot. Laughing therapy is a great energiser, pain reliever and yes it does remove some stress levels.
6.) To increase a physical relaxation, get a full body massage at least once a month.
7.) It has also been repeatedly shown how important it is to be aware of positive psychology .The main focus is on positive emotions, thoughts, and our strengths instead of our weaknesses. One way how you can train your mind is to focus on what you already have. Be thankful for that (practice appreciation). Instead of searching and telling yourself what is wrong with you or what you are still missing.
8.) Accepting certain things may also release some accumulated pressure rather than feeling like not having a control. Of course you may want to use this as a last resort after you have tried to change them. This may also include letting go of anger and practicing some forgiveness. And for that we have meditation or mindfulness techniques.

Try it and please feel free to let us know if the above suggestions helped you to change something.




Sometimes people ask me “what is life coaching?” When working with life coach, you will find out that he/she works as a facilitator.  In the client/coach relationship the client is an expert of their own life. Coach provides new skills, techniques and motivates the client to achieve specific goals. This approach is quite different from psychotherapy. Mostly, because in coaching, the main focus is on solutions and not on the problems. In coaching you predominantly focus on the point right now and from this point forward. This is not to belittle the fact that you may have developed certain behaviours or patterns based on your previous experiences in life. Which may also be briefly explored in the sessions with the goal of learning from these experiences, and use whatever was useful or change whatever was perceived as limiting and get a fresh new start to shape the future.

Please watch this short video that explains life coaching in more details. Once you enjoyed it and you would like to know more or set an appointment please feel free to contact me.  I offer private coaching sessions online, on the phone or in my office.


Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)

This short video talks about Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). NLP offers a set of various tools that can contribute to change of specific behaviours quickly and easily. This can be done by examining person’s structure of subjectivity. We can teach our clients new ways how to re-program and bring a change also on a neurological level.

Please watch this short video that explains Neuro-linguistic programming in more details. Once you enjoyed it and you would like to know more or set an appointment please feel free to contact me.  I offer private coaching sessions online, on the phone or in my office.

Emotional Freedom Techniques

This video and emotional freedom techniques (EFT) were created by Mr Gary Craig. Emotional Freedom Techniques is a form of counselling intervention that combines various theories of alternative medicine including acupuncture, neuro-linguistic programming, energy medicine and thought field therapy.

Please watch this short video that explains Emotional freedom techniques in more details. Once you enjoyed it and you would like to know more or set an appointment please feel free to contact me.  I offer private coaching sessions online, on the phone or in my office.