When we talk to Jenny Sylvén, she has not yet moved up to Hemavan for the winter, her folkboat, Sia, needs to be equipped for the winter and Jenny is studying psychology full-time at university. “I want to fit her out in the autumn so that she is ready”, says Jenny of her boat, “now it takes a bit longer because I am studying as well. It usually takes me 2-3 weeks to cross everything off the list. I’ll head up to Hemavan in December”.
Jenny first came to Hemavan to visit a friend. “I just knew that was where I wanted to be. At that time, I hadn’t been on skis for seven years”. Jenny's friend helped her get two weeks of lessons with a dog-sledding entrepreneur, “and after that it just snowballed. I fell in love with this place. You could say I am a restless soul – when I got to Hemavan, I felt I was home!” The year after, Jenny packed up her things and moved up.
Jenny is settled in Hemavan and has spent the last ten winters there. During the summer months she works painting boats in Stockholm. As a qualified masseur, during the winter months, she has a business that provides massage services. Gradually the idea came to her to focus on stress management combined with outdoor activities in the mountains. In the spring of 2021 Jenny will combine running her business with her university psychology studies. “At first, everything was about the corona virus and I felt I needed a bit more knowledge. It works well, better than I thought. And I am getting a taste for learning. I am not really a person who sits still”, laughs Jenny, “but I love to learn!’ In addition to psychology, she is also taking a course in the biochemistry of the brain and a course on the conditions faced by wild animals in a changing world. “That's linked to what I'm going to do. Because it’s in nature that I work. I will, of course, also impact them”.
“At the beginning, I worked as an employee in different places. But I didn’t feel it was what I really wanted to do. But I thought it would work, because I want to be outdoors. I wanted to be outdoors as much as possible, that was my goal. I was trained as a masseur, so I thought I would start a massage business. And then I noticed that so many people are stressed. I have been on a stress-management course and from there I came up with the idea that I want to be outdoors and do these things. I know what helps me, just coming to Hemavan and being outdoors. For me, mindfulness is being outdoors. To be outdoors is to be present. I want to combine massage and stress-management activities outdoors. You can do things indoors too, for example, you can do light yoga exercises indoors if you have a weekend retreat”.
Just walking in nature is what gives Jenny a sense of peace. “I want to be outdoors, there should be movement, it should be heavy and hard – but that is what makes me calm”. There are others who work in the same way and Jenny reflects on whether this group is not easily overlooked when it comes to stress management. There are people who get stressed, who just grit their teeth until it is too late – but for whom a particular stress-management model may not be suitable and they may simply stop looking. This could include, for example, men working in trade. This is also a group I would like to target. We could take them on a ski tour. I want it to be challenging, exciting, then maybe I can perhaps pull in that person. Then I can incorporate things that add a different dimension – or it's just a ski tour. I want to reach those who need reaching but are not there yet”. Jenny reflects on the fact that hunting can be an important recovery activity: "You are present and outdoors. The focus is on the hunt, you sit and watch. You could say it’s also a kind of meditation”. There are many ways to use nature for recovery. “That's what I want to access, it doesn't just have to be about thinking!”
"People are different, it may be depend entirely on the biochemistry of the brain. If you think it's hard to go out and run, well I think it's hard to sit still! There is not one concept and one thought that fits all. Society places such emphasis on what we have to manage. You must always be driven, you must be aware of so much. I think it becomes difficult to manage for anyone who has difficulty sorting things out. I don't think the body is made to sit for eight hours every day. It's made to move, more or less. I am passionate about that!”
The coming winter is of course different from other winters. “It is what it is. It opens up new doors and new opportunities. Now I have time to study, and to get a dog. As people, we are versatile, we can actually change ourselves. I think it is important to try to adapt, and not be fixated with what cannot be changed.”
/Text: Sara Kåll-Fröjdö & Maria Hofman-Bergholm, Yrkeshögskolan Centria, november 2020.
/Photo: Jenny Sylvén
The entire conversation with Jenny can be found here (in Swedish)