Practice Better took some time to chat with Yoko Kawashima, Wellness Strategist & Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach, based out of New York City. Yoko works with a range of clients from those with autoimmune disorders, to others who are on the brink of burnout and want to improve their lifestyle habits to prevent chronic conditions in the future.
Her passion for functional medicine came from her own personal burnout and a series of health issues that came from working long hours in finance and neglecting her health. Today, many of Yoko’s clients are in the corporate space and have difficulty finding the time and the right approach to develop healthy habits on their own. Her mission is to help them bridge these gaps and empower them to enact their own transformation.
— A Conversation with Yoko —
Can you tell us about your transition from the corporate world into the health and wellness industry?
I floundered throughout my twenties to understand what wellness really meant as I worked long hours in finance and continuously neglected my body. Three autoimmune disease diagnoses later, at age 32, my whole world came crashing down. With Hashimoto’s, Sjogren’s, and rheumatoid arthritis, I was suffering from severe fatigue, inflammation in my joints and tissues, and at times could barely walk.
It had taken a life-altering medical diagnosis for me to begin turning my life around. This scary experience led me to the functional medicine approach. Having a framework for this nebulous “wellness” concept was important to me. I developed a deep passion for healing through a holistic medical approach and exploring the human drive of self-efficacy to achieve well-being, which is ultimately why I studied to become a functional medicine health coach.
What advice would you give to other practitioners who want to make the leap from a corporate job to running their own health and wellness business?
I myself prepared to make the transition from corporate to health and wellness over the course of a year and a half, by completing my health coach program at the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy and planning an exit strategy while working a full-time job in finance.
My advice to my fellow practitioners is to construct a clear vision of how you want your life and your future job to look like in a year’s time and then in five years. A part of this process requires planning to be comfortable with taking a pay cut for a while, as you build your practice! Rooting down on my true passion for helping people feel better, and getting in line with my long-term life vision helped affirm my decision to leave behind corporate, and I haven’t looked back since!
Supporting your own exhaustion ultimately led to your career transition of helping others heal their own personal burnout. What tools and systems do you have in place to avoid experiencing burnout again now that you are a busy entrepreneur?
I’ve created my own so-called toolkit to mitigate burnout as a solopreneur:
It’s so easy to get carried away with taking on too many projects and spreading yourself thin. I’ve learned to say no and draw boundaries around my time, limit the number of speaking engagements per month, and block off my schedule to manage client expectations. The boundaries extend out to my sleep hygiene too! I’m very protective of my 7 to 8 hour sleep schedule because it’s crucial for the health of my brain and immune system.
I remind myself that I own a business where I am doing all the marketing, discovery calls, administrative tasks, workshops, and coaching myself. So I celebrate even the smallest wins to keep myself in a positive frame of mind and don’t beat myself up if I don’t get to a project on my self-prescribed timeline.
My go-to stress relief techniques include:
- A 30-minute jog outside first thing in the morning, before I sit down in front of my computer. On a rainy day, I turn to yoga sequences to get my blood flowing and muscles warmed up. Movement always does wonders to clear my head and set me on a productive path.
- The 4-7-8 breathing technique at my desk when I feel the stress building up. It engages my parasympathetic nervous system and I instantly feel calmer.
- I draw a hot bath a few nights a week to help me decompress and lower my blood pressure, preparing me for a good night’s sleep.
I’m very conscious of what whole foods make me feel good. The fridge is always stocked with colorful veggies and fruits and I always have quality protein and healthy fats on hand to keep me satiated. Eating healthy consistently allows me to have a treat every now and then and not feel like garbage afterward. Nourishing myself with the good stuff has kept the brain fog and autoimmune symptoms at bay!
What Practice Better features do you utilize when working with corporate clients?
Corporate clients care about measurable outcomes and visual results so I’m using Practice Better’s Living Proof Institute Patient Progress Report as a template to keep track of my client’s progress.
When working with a corporate company, what kind of benefits should they anticipate their employees to experience?
There are studies showing the efficacies of health coaching and how working with a health coach has been known to effectively reduce healthcare costs for employers. When employees are empowered to take care of themselves with the help of a health coach and learn to elevate their well-being by improving their lifestyle habits, they mitigate chronic issues that would otherwise necessitate frequent medical attention.
Productivity levels of employees also go up with improved health!
How can other practitioners start building their own network of corporate clients?
Word of mouth has been essential for helping me scale up my practice and build up my reputation as a specialist in therapy for sleep. Don’t underestimate the power of good reviews on Google Business!
How can other practitioners start building their own referral network and encouraging word of mouth among their clients?
A great way to get hooked into corporate wellness is by attending virtual “health fairs”. Prior to the pandemic, in-person health fairs would bring corporate HR directors looking to expand their corporate wellness offerings and practitioners together. Now many of these have gone online.
Some co-working spaces have started hosting virtual networking events. Networking and speaking at these events is a great foray into meeting people who’ve worked at corporations previously and may be able to introduce you to new opportunities.
Do you have anything coming up that you’d like to share with the Practice Better community? Where can our community go to learn more about you?
I am crafting a group coaching program that focuses on living an anti-inflammatory life for those with autoimmune and other chronic diseases.
I’d love to partner with a practitioner who would be interested in integrating health coaching into their practice, either through this group coaching program or via one-on-one coaching of patients to help them implement practitioner-directed treatment plans and lifestyle modifications to improve their well-being!
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Yoko!
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