Welcome to The Wellness Edit, a new podcast & Blog series by 360 Botanics
Over the coming months I will be talking with a diverse selection of small Business owners who are connected by way of having some form of Wellness at the heart of their business models; from Yoga teachers & Mindfulness Coaches to Plant-Based Chefs and Small Business Entrepreneurs, all making a difference with their holistic brand values & offers.
Today I am in conversation with Zara Simmonds, a Mindfulness & Resilience Coach based in Teddington, Middlesex who happens to also be an old friend of mine!
Zara, can you tell the listeners a bit about your background and how you came to be in the Wellness Business?
I retrained about six and a half years ago, previous to that I had a very frantic, hectic career in TV as a Series Producer in charge of some really big entertainment & music shows. I absolutely loved what I did, it was really creative and I was surrounded by amazing like minded wonderful people. But the hours and the stress, the not knowing when the next job would come in, it all took a hold of me, and I had a young family to think about, it was just too much!
When I had my first son Milo 21 years ago I found some wonderful mindfulness meditations CD’s by a woman called Marneta Viegas, who actually went on to launch 'Relax Kids', which some of you may have heard of. I played these beautiful CD's to Milo every night along with Classical Music, and he was just a brilliant sleeper from the get go, straight off. Subsequently any friend of mine who had children got a copy of one of these CD’s from me as a gift! I also used the CD’s for my daughters when they were little and we used to do baby massage as well, so I was kind of interested in a holistic approach to nurturing them.
Marneta's 'Relax Kids' programme incorporated amazing visualisations and meditations for teaching children calming strategies and I'd been watching and thinking about how great this system was when I finally took the jump and retrained with her, I seriously haven't looked back since! The starting point was to help children feel calmer and that's grown into helping young people and their families and I now teach the elderly, so there's no demographic. I teach whoever needs it - and I'm telling you everyone needs it!
Given that all things ‘Normal’ have gone out the window right now, how has the pandemic affected you and your business?
Well it goes without saying that the Pandemic has been incredibly stressful, especially the first three weeks. We think my daughter had it, so we actually went through real stress, but luckily it didn't escalate. She managed it herself by self-isolating in her bedroom, she’s only 15, so that was really hard, especially when I knew that she needed comfort and care. Having gone through all this, I decided now was the time to move all of my sessions on-line via Zoom. I reached out to the parents of a children’s club I was already running at a school and asked ‘do you think your children are ready to have some sessions?’ and it was a resounding ‘yes’. I did a free little trial group and it has just grown from there. Lockdown has meant that everything that I can't do in person, I now do online - it was a big change but it’s working well!
How are people finding out about you and your offer right now?
I've got a website Zara Simmonds people can find all my info on there and they can contact me direct, but essentially it's a word of mouth thing, I'm not advertising.
I think a lot of people would like to know 'What is the difference between Mindfulness and Counselling?'
I am very clear about this when I meet new clients that it’s not counselling, and it's not therapy. If things do get too deep in my sessions, which of course they sometimes do, I immediately let the family know that they need to look for more help. My sessions are based on Neuroscience, which is fundamentally about settling the Amygdala in the brain and using breathing techniques. It’s also about being in the moment, being completely committed to that moment, so it's actually quite a simple concept, but the practising side is a bit more difficult, especially with children, but I've got loads of wonderful ways to teach them. Mindfulness is also about positive thinking, so, in that sense, CBT is very closely related to it, some of the techniques used are really similar.
How do you find your work feeds into your own Self-Care and Wellbeing, has it affected you and your family in a positive way?
Absolutely, we've been challenged quite a bit as a family by some 'big life' challenges and we've all used Mindfulness techniques to get through them, my children will tell you that they've really helped. I know, hand on heart, if you meditate it really helps reset your brain, and that's the important thing, you're not going to be able to sort out a situation if you’re in a constant 'negative loop state'. It's obviously a really difficult time right now for young people…
What advice would you give to parents to help ease some of these worries their kids are experiencing?
The first thing I would say is to talk about it, I mean that's fundamental. Total open communication, always, with all things, not just with a pandemic. I'm not a parenting expert, but I have got three of my own and I deal with a lot of teenagers in my work. Another thing, and this is coming up quite a lot right now, is I wouldn't go too hard on the homework. I know that's going to sound controversial, but I mean, if they're dressed, they're happy, if they're talking to you, they're calm, they're sleeping, then you're doing a brilliant job! Don't forget we are in the middle of a crisis, there should be no pressure on them to actually be succeeding right now. The best thing they can be doing is just surviving and coming out of it unharmed. I think we're going to see lots of children who are quite traumatised by this, even if they don't know it at the time. So it's really important that we give them space.
Tell me Zara - what are you curious about right now, within your own field and in the midst of living through Covid-19?
I really want to help as many people as I can, especially as we exit out of lockdown. There will be huge adjustments to be made and I want to be there to help and guide people. I'm curious to see how we as a nation and the world in general embrace the pandemic exit. We've kind of given the world a moment to breathe, you can hear birds that you haven't heard before, you can definitely see nature breathing a sigh of relief. I would hope that we don't just scurry back outside and go hell for leather. We've shown that we can cope without lots of stuff, so maybe we can just be less consumer led, be more thoughtful. Hopefully the kindest element will still keep going, it's really been amazing to see that. So I'm curious to see how human beings can prove that we have got that it in us to not be so selfish.
Tell me a bit about your future plans, how can you see things evolving for yourself and your business?
That's an interesting one. When I retrained and launched I did everything really organically. So it's only recently that I've actually set up my website, which sounds crazy, but I was trying to build everything grassroots up. So lots of my work is by recommendation and word of mouth. Just before lockdown I was starting to reach out to corporate clients, as previously I've been like, 'oh no' but actually they are still people, struggling and stressed and they need help too, so that's definitely an evolving area for me.
It’s been really interesting to hear more about what you do Zara, and how you're helping to promote Wellbeing within your Business. Thank you so much!
I like to end my Wellness Edit Podcasts with six quick-fire questions - Here goes!
Tell me what inspires you?
I'd say I'm very passionate about helping people find more balance in their lives.
Being creative, spending valuable time with my friends and family and doing things that nurture me. So visiting art galleries, reading, all those sorts of things.
What was the last book that you read?
So that was Ruth Ozeki, ‘A Tale For the Time Being’, a really amazing book. I've also been listening to 'Becoming’ by Michelle Obama, on audio book, which is incredible!
What is your favourite flower?
What's your favourite scent?
The top of a new baby's head!
Your favourite 360 Botanics product?
I love the SPA Aroma Mist , I usually douse my workspace with that before starting a session, my girls love the SLEEP Aroma Mist and I love the gorgeous Soy Candles especially ‘Tigers Eye’ - and oh yeah, my dog Ponyo uses the Pooch Spray!