Soooo…has anything got you stressed lately? Anything at all? These days it seems impossible to not be worried about something, whether it’s in the news or in your own backyard. But while it does seem like the world is overwhelming, it helps to remember that it’s possible to make anxiety disappear, or at least lessen, with the right guidance.
Beth Freschi is a relaxation and life coach based in St. Paul, Minnesota and through her training and education has developed a set of techniques that are aimed at helping people find peace through relaxation. We interviewed Beth and spoke about how she became interested in the field, what she does to make her business a success, and what the future might hold.
So sit back, relax and just…breathe…
Tell us about your work. What is it that you do and who are your clients?
As a relaxation and life coach, my goal is to help people learn new ways to relax, explore possibilities, manage stress and experience more personal and professional satisfaction in their lives. I do two main things with clients—relaxation training and life coaching.
Relaxation training is for anyone who is interested in managing their stress level with pleasant, useful relaxation techniques. I work with both groups and individuals by guiding them through breathing, muscle relaxation, guided imagery and meditation. For in person sessions, I create a relaxing atmosphere by dimming the lights and using candles and background music while I guide people through the session.
People usually come to me because they are struggling with learning how to relax and/or meditate. They say something like “I need the guidance to keep me from worrying about the million things I have on my mind!” I provide a safe, peaceful space for them to let go of preoccupations and tension and just be for a while. As I guide them through the relaxation techniques, it’s so rewarding to see them decompress and experience serenity.
My guided relaxation recordings are very much like my in person sessions, so people can practice the techniques at home. I’ve recorded four albums so far, and I will record one with a healing theme in 2017. I also plan to create a library of relaxation classes that people can download from my website. Over the years I have gathered a treasure trove of relaxation techniques that I want to share with the public. It’s helpful to have a variety so you can try out different techniques and styles of relaxation.
The other part of my business is life coaching. I work primarily with artists and creative individuals to help them explore possibilities and figure out what really matters to them. They can talk to me about all areas of their life—career, relationships, health, future goals, ideas they have, spirituality, self care, schedules, special projects, self confidence, purpose, stress management, special interests, and anything else that is on their minds. They appreciate having an objective, nonjudgmental person to discuss any topic they wish, and to know that the time is just for them. I take an active interest in my clients so that I can listen deeply and provide a safe place for them to express themselves freely and figure out what they want out of life.
What made you choose this path?
I began my career path in psychology, and worked for over 15 years in mental health. While I was working on a psychiatric unit of a hospital, I started seeing a life coach. Almost immediately I decided that coaching fit my personality much better than being a therapist. I liked the idea of being a sounding board for clients’ hopes, dreams and plans instead of treating symptoms of severe mental illness. I have great compassion for people who struggle with their mental health, however I feel I work better as an encourager, a coach, for people who are ready to move forward in their lives. Since I have such a strong background in mental health and know many great practitioners, if I come across people who need therapy I can refer them with confidence to someone who can help them.
Insomnia also played a role in my career path. Over the course of five years, I developed increasingly severe insomnia, and for a long time I didn’t do much about it. Working in a hospital with changing shift hours, I didn’t have a set sleeping schedule, and for me this created a cycle of almost sleepless nights. Instead of feeling exhausted, I felt hyper and restless, so this convinced me to believe the lie that many insomniacs tell themselves “I must not need as much sleep as most people.” I should have known better, because I had a masters degree in psychology and plenty of experience working in mental health, but at the time I was better at taking care of other people than myself. I learned a hard lesson as my sleep deprivation ended up causing me to drive off the highway and I ended up in the ER. The doctor told me “You are not mentally ill, you just need to learn better coping skills.” I realize now the irony of someone who had a job teaching coping skills to others had to learn to use them on herself. Or relearn them—I had somehow lost my way, and needed to resume the healthy habits I practiced when I was younger. So I started practicing relaxation techniques, developed a regular sleep schedule, and started seeing the life coach who became my mentor as I switched careers. They say that to be successful you have to be passionate. Why do you love what you do?
They say that to be successful you have to be passionate. Why do you love what you do?
For the coaching side of my business, what drives me is my fascination with people’s stories, and a big part of my job is listening to them and reflecting on what people tell me. My clients trust me with their innermost thoughts, and I appreciate that they can confide in me. The best way to describe my coaching work is holding space for my clients. What that means is truly being there for a person—not jumping in and trying to fix things for them, not analyzing them or trying to change them. Rather, it’s being so present for clients that they can talk through things in a way that allows answers to come in a natural flow that feels right for them. I am facilitating a process of self-discovery for clients without “making it happen” for them—they arrive at their own decisions. I am there to support them, not tell them what to do. They probably have enough people doing that for them, ha ha! ;)
For the relaxation training side of my business, I feel thoroughly rewarded by seeing people go from being tense and stressed out to feeling calm and at ease. That is total job satisfaction! When I add up all of my in person sessions and album sales, I estimate that I have relaxed almost a million people in the last ten years. And I’m just getting started—I would like to guide the world’s largest relaxation session and continue to help more and more people relax and let go of stress. Soothing people with the sound of my voice and guiding them into a deeply relaxed state is a very good use of my time, and I never tire of doing it.
Has it been pretty smooth sailing so far or have you had to overcome adversity?
In the beginning, people were still buying a lot of CDs and MP3s, and those sales funded my business so that I could concentrate on my work with people. However, the increasing popularity of streaming services has decreased my revenue at an alarming rate, so I am in the process of reimagining my business. I am focusing on gaining more speaking engagements, developing stress management programs and finding new markets for my recordings.
We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
There was a time when I was providing classes at a center, and one night I was ending the relaxation training session when something happened that jolted the group out of their deeply relaxed state. A staff member appeared in the big picture window, and because it was dark outside and she was wearing dark clothing, it looked like there was a floating head peering in at all of us. A few group members jumped about 3 feet into the air and cried out—they went from feeling completely tranquil to scared out of their minds! I recognized the face and was certain that she was not some undead creature, just a clueless coworker. So I wasn’t scared, but I was mad that she disrupted my clients’ relaxation. Later that night she realized what she had done and apologized profusely, but while it was happening things were pretty crazy!
What do you do with your time off? I imagine you’re pretty good at relaxing!
As much as I love my work, I value and savor my time off. Since I am a relaxation and life coach, I am very familiar with this concept because it’s part of what I do. I encourage people to take regular breaks to renew energy and enjoy life. There are piles of studies that show how taking breaks helps people become more productive and feel a whole lot better as they go through life. I believe it’s so important to follow what I suggest to people, otherwise I wouldn’t be a very good coach. :)
When I have time off, I like a combination of pure relaxation and fun activities. For example, if I go on vacation, I choose big cities that also have nearby nature retreats. Whether it’s in the U.S. with cities such as San Diego, New York, San Francisco and Portland or abroad in cities such as Paris, Rome, Athens and London, it’s fun to soak up the culture and then retreat to nature. I also enjoy time off right here in the Twin Cities, where I can walk along the Mississippi River or around the many lakes in this area, get a massage, hang out with my kitties, see movies and plays, check out the museums, have chai with friends, listen and dance to music, stretch and breathe.
This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?
I think it is very important to be present on social media as a resource for people who are looking for ways to relax and enjoy life. I am working on posting more regularly, but when I do post people respond very positively and connect with my message of taking time for relaxation and self-expression. I am interested in providing valuable tips and techniques instead of pushy ads that don’t relax anyone. ;)
One challenge I have is finding images that reflect what I am saying and are meaningful and engaging. I must confess I spend hours searching for the right images, and so I would like to find a great source for images that is affordable (or free) and unique. If anyone has ideas for me, I would love to hear from you!
Do you get involved in your local community?
Individuals and organizations in my community reach out to me when they need education, support and practical help with stress management. Whether they are nurses wanting to incorporate guided imagery in their work with patients, college students needing ways to cope with the demands of their studies, employees needing a boost in morale and skills to handle stress in the workplace, family members who find relaxing together to be a wonderful bonding experience, individuals struggling to establish a regular relaxation/meditation practice, or people who are looking for tools to decompress after a long day, I am there to offer an enjoyable, effective program to release stress and tension and feel refreshed and ready for what comes their way.
What does supporting local mean to you?
I happen to be a member of a non-profit organization called MetroIBA, which is dedicated to supporting locally owned, independent businesses in the Twin Cities, where I live and work. Since joining, I’ve learned that on average, every dollar spent at a local, independent business generates at least three times more direct economic benefit than a dollar spent at an absentee-owned business. As someone who makes a point to seek out independently-owned restaurants and other businesses, I have been supporting local for most of my life. I’ve always been attracted to unique, independent businesses because they reflect the character of my area and offer a one-of-a-kind experience. While I do buy certain items at big box chains and feel they serve a purpose, I am much more enthusiastic about independent, local businesses.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
The need for stress management services and products is very high, so I think if I can reach enough people with my message and make it known that I am here as a resource, my business can grow and help more and more people who could use a break from the hurry and stress of life. Being a true resource for people is as important to me as running a financially successful business—if I can manage both, then I can continue to do the work that I was meant to do.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
I suggest being careful about collaborating, making sure you choose people who are in line with your vision and values. During the first few years of my business, I let my enthusiasm to collaborate lead me into associations that later turned out to be disappointing. I needed to take more time to get to know these people to make sure it would be a good fit. I now surround myself with people who are excellent in both skill and character. This takes time, research and paying attention to your impressions of people, but it’s totally worth it. I also recommend finding at least one mentor, because mentors provide valuable support, suggestions, experience and perspective that will help you navigate through the process of starting and growing your business.