This week Winder caught up with naturopath, chef, and author, Kimberly Parsons on Instagram Live about her experience during lockdown and how to preserve your well being whilst spending more time at home.
Winder: Hi Kimberly, how are you?
Kimberly: Hi! Really nice, actually. I've caught up with a friend in town already down to where I'm selling some of my local chutneys and jams so she picked some up at the local store. We had a little playdate for our children.
Winder: Today is really beautiful outside, really sunny and not that cold. So thank you for accepting our invitation to be our guest today. We are super excited to have you here to share your experience, knowledge and expertise. Today we're going to talk about experiences during the lockdown and how we can improve our well being while spending more time at home. We’ll also touch on what Kimberly has experienced and what recommendations she can give to us. So tell us a bit more about yourself. You're a naturopath and you’ve published a book, how did you get into this World of Wellness?
Kimberly: I grew up in Australia and I was lucky enough to grow up in the outdoors, so becoming a naturopath just felt very natural to me. I'd always seen a naturopath when I was growing up and so as soon as I finished school, I became a naturopath and then started consulting and seeing patients but I was quite young when I started. I was 23 when I was seeing my first patient and I think that's quite a lot for a 23 year old mind. Now that I’m older, I’ve realised you can take on people's stuff a lot easier. So I did that for two years and then went traveling, and I then fell into chef-fing because I worked a ski season to learn how to ski and they fired the chef. So I became the chalet chef at night and had to learn how to cook well. I knew I knew how to cook, but I didn't know that I could do it for 35 people. I absolutely loved it. What I found was that I was bringing my naturopathic knowledge into my cooking and so this healthy eating thing felt really natural to me. So when I landed in London with a private chef-ing job, in 2010, I just was cooking really healthy, lovely food for this family that I was working for, it just felt instinctual. After two years of that I decided to open my cafes. I had three cafes all in yoga studios, and they were the first gluten, dairy, sugar free, vegetarian cafes. I learned that running cafes is just a lot of moving parts.
Winder: As you kind of move into a different experience you gain so much knowledge not only about your science or your craft, but you get life experience as well. I started as a dietitian and more like science focused, but then as I started working, I realised that what’s more essential is having a more holistic approach to my practice. As the years go by, you experience different things and get a more holistic vision to your practice.
Kimberly: Absolutely. As a naturopath, you see the body in a very holistic way, I always have. I've always used the doctrine of signatures, which is that nature offers little signals and signs of its own wisdom that these plants have to offer us. So a gingko leaf is the perfect example of that, the shape of the leaf looks like the two hemispheres of the brain and the veins of that leaf go to the periphery, they don't go in a straight line, like a normal leaf. Gingko, as we know, is so good at helping the circulation to our periphery and especially to the brain which is why we use gingko to help with our memory and our cognitive abilities, so I always look to nature.
Winder: That is a great indication.
Kimberly: Growing up in nature as I did, I spent a lot of time outdoors. I always used nature as an inspiration in life. Now when I'm treating my patients, it's very instinctual to me to really listen, in a kind of different way to what they're just telling me, not just in terms of their symptoms, but listening more in terms of their body language, the words they use, how they hold themselves and where tension is being held.
Winder: Talking about like all things nutrition and well being, how was the lockdown for you? How did the whole thing impact the way you live?
Kimberly: As a new mother, I felt very isolated in the year before lockdown happened. My child turned one as lockdown happened. The first year, I actually had had that experience of no adult connection through the day my husband was out of the house about 13 hours a day, a long commute from Surrey into London. So for me lockdown was the experience of having this really beautiful family bubble at home all of a sudden. I got to experience my son having a relationship with his dad more than just on weekends, I get to have lunch with him, we can chat during the day. Actually lockdown for me has pretty much revolutionized my whole family experience and for my son, for my husband, for myself. So, for me, luckily, it's been very positive. I am a full time mom. So for me, it's just meant that we get to spend more time at home and luckily, we live in a place where we have a beautiful big garden. My reaction was to just use the opportunity of lockdown to really pause and slow down the pace of our lives, it was actually a really lovely experience.
Winder: Yeah, it makes such a difference to have a backyard, because I live in a flat in London fields and I live just next to Victoria Park, but it's not the same as having a garden. I went to Brazil recently, and the experience of lockdown was completely different not only because of the weather, but in having a huge garden at my house in Brazil, and all those trees and birds made the whole experience so different. Here in London, I live in a tiny flat next to Victoria Park, but it's not the same. I cannot handle another lockdown.
Kimberly: I know, I know. I really focused on creating community within our local area as well, because we only moved here back in November last year. I guess in those busy modern-day lives that we used to live, I just never knew who my neighbors were, and then all of a sudden because of lockdown, we weren't supposed to be traveling in our cars and we had to go exercise by walking in our local area. That's what we did. And obviously with my child, learning how to walk at that time, I was just meeting so many of my neighbors. Now I would say that 90% of my social interaction happens with my neighbors and the neighbors really, really battle for me. It has meant that we probably see each other several times during the week and on a day-to-day basis, we can catch up.
Winder: I think it's super important because the lack of social interaction affects our mental well being and knowing that you have people next to you that are easily reachable and that you can ask for help or offer help is really good.
Kimberly: Yeah and in the area I live, it's a new family area, but also, there's a lot of older generation people that have been here for a very long time. So, I've loved it, because it just made me feel like that thing that I was missing from before lockdown was community and now I have it. I don't even have to walk further than a couple of feet out of my door and I can already see someone, connect to them, and talk to them. I had the contrast of motherhood, where I didn't have any social interaction on a day to day basis to this year, and having the ability to connect people easily. It’s completely revolutionized how I check in with my mental health and make sure it's good.
Winder: Also lockdown made us realize who is important in our social life and social circle because then you kind of strengthen those bonds and those relationships with friends, or neighbors, or with family. So I have experienced that a lot, even though I'm a social butterfly. I'm always here and there but suddenly spending more time inside, I had to think about who I really wanted to have around me, who I wanted to keep in touch with and who I needed. You reach out to those people and strengthen those relationships. Relationships are really nurturing for your well being and for your mind and it’s really beautiful to see those relationships strengthen. So, still talking about lockdown, what about exercise? What did you do?
Kimberly: I do a lot of yoga. I just set up a place in our house where I was able to practice. I used to do netball with a team. I'm used to team sports, that’s sort of my thing. So when I wasn't able to join a team and do anything sort of came into contact with people, I decided just to get back on my mat, so yoga for me has been really great. All of a sudden, I didn't have to worry about not being able to get to a studio, all of these yoga teachers that I love were more accessible than ever, so that's been great for me. I've just been physical by being able to take bike rides around our local area and just being in the fresh air, bike riding. And in the garden, I feel like I've been really physical in the garden, I live on a hill, so every time I walk up and down the hill, I feel like I'm getting a workout. Yeah, so physical exercise, I guess was for me the missing jigsaw puzzle that I hadn't fit it into being a mum yet, you know?
Winder: Of course.
Kimberly: Postpartum exercise hadn't really found its place in my life yet. So lockdown gave me the opportunity to see when I could fit some in and how regularly I felt my body needed it and wanted it. So I'm sort of landing at three times a week now where I try to do it either when he's napping, like now or in the in-between time where he's just finished dinner, he's having a bath with his dad and I get that sort of half an hour to 45 minutes to myself before we both say goodnight to him, and we both go enjoy dinner together. So, I think lockdown did help me also find a schedule and a routine because I felt like I almost had to enforce some sort of schedule so that each day felt like it had some purpose to it rather than them just blending into the other and that was also important. I didn't realize I needed that, I'd always been a person that loves variety and I love every day to feel free.
Winder: Yeah, for me also, I think working from home was a good thing because it forced me to have a more structured day. So then I started running in the park. That's all I could do for exercise and it was really just for me. I always loved running, it helped me to cope with stress and anxiety. Some fitness people were offering classes online doing instagram live, so my flatmate and I were keen on doing that together, because it allowed us to spend time together while also helping our mental well being. So it was good to live with somebody that shared the same kind of lifestyle. So, what would be your top tips to keep your mind and your health on track?
Kimberly: I find being creative in some way is my absolute go to. So for me, being creative means that I will cook because that's my therapy. It's either with food, or I go into nature, because I think nature has a way of looking after us if we look after nature. The very act of growing things this spring and summer, and watching something grow and having to nurture it and look after it has nurtured me and helped me feel good about myself. I've been able to have all the beautiful produce to use, so it's just such a beautiful, cyclical, symbiotic relationship, when you work with nature in that way. In seasons, we have that ability to put faith into something. When lockdown happened and there was all of this uncertainty surrounding our lives, nature was my way of knowing that there's still a rhythm going on. Mother Nature is still there, I can put trust in that. Life still continues, life isn't going to end here. We haven't had to pause everything in the world, some things still do continue as per normal and nature was just, my number one go to for that sense of perspective. But yeah, creative anything, whether that's writing, listening to music, food, I mean, I've just basically cooked my way through lockdown, the spring and summer.
Winder: Yeah, I think I spent a lot of time cooking different things, experimenting and it was amazing. It was really good because it was something to look forward to. I love cooking and I love eating.
Kimberly: Yeah, when we don't have special places to go out to, we have to bring it into our own home. So you have to try and find ways of making it special and just even lighting a candle on your dining table, or just setting it beautifully.
Winder: I think people are also starting to realize how those tiny things like little luxuries, they have a huge impact. It’s so important to do those small things like lighting a candle, using an oil before going to bed, meditating, improving your surroundings and the environment that you're in because you spend more time at home. Everything we see, smell, taste and touch has such a huge impact on our well being. People are starting to pay more attention to those things.
Kimberly: Lockdown just gave us that opportunity to pay attention to those little things. So in that fast paced world that we used to live in, we were always rushing. I never really had those opportunities to do or find out what things actually make me feel really comfy, cozy, happy and content. I was always looking for external sources, where I found it all in my home during lockdown. One of the most important things I've realized during lockdown is that a little bit of kindness goes a really, really long way. We have to respect everybody's individual situations, not pass judgment, we can’t understand everyone's individual situations, it’s been one of the more mindful things that I've taken from lockdown. The judgment that would be passed on social media just felt so attacking and unnecessary during a time that I felt that we all should just be kind, considerate and understanding.
Winder: Yeah, but also we're spending a lot more time online and sometimes you feel irritated, sometimes you feel anxious and the phone is the easiest thing to kind of reach out through, even if it’s negative. How is your relationship with technology during the lockdown?
Kimberly: As a mother, my relationship to technology started to change a while ago. Anyway, my family all live in Australia, so to some degree, I always feel like I need to be connected via technology because I speak to my mom by WhatsApp. During lockdown, I probably called my mom more often than I normally would just checking in with her. That was nice, just knowing that I would connect to my family far more than I normally would.
Winder: Yeah, I think that's a great, positive benefit to have such technological development, just in reaching people. They're miles away and it feels they're part of your day to day life.
Kimberly: I also have instilled a little ritual in my life right after I've made dinner for me and my husband, that's when I put my phone away. So it will go on charge in the kitchen and then I go and eat my meal with my husband and I have my evenings phone free. That has been a really, really nice thing to do. So now I'll have a bath and I'll read a book or I will go and do a skin routine, or I'll get my laptop out and do some writing because that's one of my things that I love to do, or I'll just sit down and watch something on Netflix with my husband, but we're not sitting there on our phones ignoring each other or not being present in the moment. I'm just creating some sort of etiquette or system around my device that works for me. It’s quite easy for them to own you and actually, I need to have that mentality that no, I own you, I'm not allowing you to infiltrate my life in a way that's not right for me. I'm going to make sure this is right for me.
Winder: I think that’s great. Well, thank you for your time. I’m sure people loved the conversation. I enjoyed the conversation. I could keep going for another hour or so. I hope you have a great day and we will keep in touch soon.
Kimberly: Thanks, I hope you have a good winter and everyone's healthy and happy and we'll connect soon.