Women In Wellness: Zoe Birch Of Physio Motion Limited On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

Women In Wellness: Zoe Birch Of Physio Motion Limited On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

Role model- It is great to have a role model to get inspiration and guidance from, but it is really important that you pick the right one or have a different one for different elements of your life and work. I initially just had one who had a strong work ethic, but he did not know about how to place healthy boundaries between his work and home life.

Today, more than ever, wellness is at the forefront of societal discussions. From mental health to physical well-being, women are making significant strides in bringing about change, introducing innovative solutions, and setting new standards. Despite facing unique challenges, they break barriers, inspire communities, and are reshaping the very definition of health and wellness. In this series called women in wellness we are talking to women doctors, nurses, nutritionists, therapists, fitness trainers, researchers, health experts, coaches, and other wellness professionals to share their stories and insights. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Zoe Birch.

Zoe is a Physiotherapist from Basingstoke, Hampshire.

She started her own physiotherapy clinic in London called Physio Motion.

Her clinic is aimed at helping people look after their health and wellness, and return to their activities as soon as possible.

She treats patients either within their homes or at one of her clinics.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Igraduated with a degree in Physiotherapy in 2008 from Brunel University. I initially worked in the NHS where I gained experience in community physiotherapy for a variety of conditions and worked closely with specialist nurses in MS and Parkinson’s disease. This provided me with a broad knowledge and experience. Working with the MS specialist nurse lead me to work within a private hospital after she recommended me to their physiotherapy manager. This work was predominantly orthopaedics but the hospital became a centre of excellence for a cancer called pseudomyoxma peritonei that I got involved in.

Whilst working in the NHS and private hospital I became frustrated. I found the NHS restrictive in giving my patients the care they needed. At the private hospital, I found the problem to be the opposite, with the priority being maximising the number of appointments for commercial reasons rather than dependent on the needs of the patient.

After discussing this with an orthopaedic consultant I was closely working with, I decided to set up on my own in London where I would be able to provide the physiotherapy service that met patients’ needs and to surround myself with like-minded people who cared about this as well.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

During the Wimbledon tournament, I was asked to look after an international tennis player. Because I was working such long hours, I often performed his treatment at his residence and would arrive to him making me dinner. He became aware quite quickly that I was not making time for meals during the day.

I continued working these long hours for a couple of years until one day I spontaneously started crying in front of a patient just because I was so exhausted. This is when I knew something had to change and I had to look after myself as well as my patients.

No structured working hours was one of the first things that I had to change, by structuring my day better and assigning myself to certain locations on particular days. I also made sure I gave myself time to eat breakfast rather than eating it whilst cycling to my first patient!

I employed an administrator and another physiotherapist that shared my values about patient-centred care. My earlier experiences ensured that my team had definitive working hours so that boundaries were in place for their self care.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about a mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I would take on all my patients’ problems, even ones that were outside the scope of my practice. I wanted them to feel fully supported by me. I constantly felt the need to return their calls and answer their messages at all hours. This meant I never had time to switch off and that I was mentally and physically exhausted trying to work out a solution for all their problems.

In February 2018, I recognised that I was burning out and losing my patience and enthusiasm for a profession I absolutely loved, so I sought help from a psychotherapist. This helped me learn about boundaries not only in my work life but also my personal life, and that is was ok and sensible to refer patients to other professionals or let them go if my care was no longer required. I learnt it was not my responsibility to save everyone, but I was still showing care by pointing them to the right person.

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

With my physiotherapy practice, we emphasise getting people back to the activities they enjoy and maintaining their independence. We provide them with the right information, guidance and support to achieve this.

Many people make lifestyle choices that result in them being dependent on others and that do not lead to happiness. Therefore with our treatment we do not just give people a list of dos and don’ts alongside a generic exercise programme, we tailor every programme to the patients’ needs and goals and ensure that they understand why we are recommending this.

We love it when our patients send us messages, pictures and videos of them enjoying their lives and activities we were working towards.

A great saying is “Doctors bring you back to life, but it is physiotherapists that make life worth living” and that is how we feel we work with our patients.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?

1 . Pick an activity that you enjoy- choosing the most trendy exercise or activity does not mean that it is best for you or your lifestyle. I often get asked by my patients whether they should take up Yoga or Pilates and I always ask them whether they enjoy that type of exercise. By choosing a physical activity that you enjoy you are more likely to perform it and make time to perform it — making it part of your lifestyle rather than enduring it and feeling guilty for missing it.

2 . Be realistic with your time for an activity- we cannot always perform physical activities every day unless you have made it part of your working day (like walking, running or cycling to and from work), but assigning a particular day or days and time to your activity means that you are more likely to participate in it. For me, I perform all my work related journeys by bicycle for my CV fitness and once a week I perform strength training in one of my clinics that I know I am able to achieve. Other activities such as climbing, hiking, running, swimming and dancing I enjoy when the opportunity arises and this stops me feeling like I have failed.

3 . Rest days are important- society makes us believe that we should be working at 100% all the time or that everyone else is able to achieve this, but actually it is important to have rest days to allow our body and mind to rejuvenate. I often tell my patients during their rehabilitation that at least 2 days should be low level exercises and activity-free to allow your body to recover and heal itself otherwise it is actually detrimental to your progress and the general health of your body.

4 . Manage technology better- we often complain about not being able to switch off or being constantly bombarded with the ‘ping’ of our mobiles. My phone was the constant in my life and was with me at all times due to the expectation I placed upon myself to respond to patients and referrers instantly. After placing boundaries around my work, my phone was included in this. I bought an alarm clock so that I could leave my phone at my desk at the end of my working day. This transformed my life with amazing sleep and improved meaningful interactions with my family and friends.

5 . Outdoor movement- Society has got into a habit of sitting for hours at a desk and making it possible to never leave the building unless going home. Movement is so important to our health and research has shown being outdoors is important too. On my home visit days I have the great advantage of getting fresh air between each patient. I find this really important to get my body moving, but also mentally rewarding to change my environment and be stimulated by my surroundings. Therefore on my clinic days I have had to make sure that I get this as well, as it is too easy to stay static. I have made outdoor movement part of these days by giving myself tasks to perform away from my work environment. Such as buying stamps, picking up food for lunch or meeting colleagues at a local coffee shop.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

We should try and engage with our local environments by shopping, eating and performing physical activities locally. Not only will this help build up relationships with the people that live in our area and feel more connected with our neighbourhood. We will also be supporting our neighbourhood in a positive way. Many people will drive 20–30 minutes to a large corporate business to get a pint of milk with people that they have no connection with. By keeping yourself local to your home, we will be actively visiting these places installing health habits into or lives from childhood to elderly age, and building up a network of people that we can have meaningful interactions with regularly.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Role model- It is great to have a role model to get inspiration and guidance from, but it is really important that you pick the right one or have a different one for different elements of your life and work. I initially just had one who had a strong work ethic, but he did not know about how to place healthy boundaries between his work and home life.
  2. Value- Understand your value in your profession with both monetary and time. People who value your expertise and time will be happy to pay for your services within the times and locations that you are available. I made the mistake of initially allowing people and insurance companies to dictate my worth. This resulted in me having to work hard to make the business sustainable.
  3. Social media- Do not compare yourself to your competitors on social media, as the glossy finishes and perfect captions do not always mean that their business is better or more successful than yours. It becomes an unhealthy obsession. With all businesses there are different emphasises on what they are trying to achieve even in the same field. I now get my feedback from how many new patients we are seeing compared to previous years, how they found out about us and why they decided to have physiotherapy with us.
  4. Change is good- We have changed our clinic location a few times. This was either because the company we were collaborating with was changing the way they wanted to use the space or the location did not have the right audience for our business. Sometimes I would recognise this straightaway, but other times I would try and make the location work with a financial implication. This is also relevant to your team as well, as someone might be perfect for the role at the start but as the business evolves if they will not evolve then sometimes you need to bring in someone new.
  5. Clueless- It is ok to not know everything and this will happen a lot, but patients will respect you more by saying I do not have the answer to that, but I am going to look it up or speak to someone who I know will have the answer.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Sustainability is very important to me. We have a culture of being wasteful and over-consuming that ultimately has a huge effect on our environment as well. Plastic and food are the two ways that I have become more sustainable myself.

I no longer shop in supermarkets that put a majority of their products in plastic and I attend my local farmer’s market with paper bags (that are reused!). This also allows me to buy the quantity of food that I require without any waste.

When I visit my favourite coffee shops during my home visits, I always have my reusable mug with me. Even though a lot of cafes are using paper takeaway cups, these cannot be easily recycled due to the coating on the paper and obviously need to be constantly manufactured.

Small changes in our behaviour is the first step towards making much bigger impacts on our lives and our environments.

What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?

Follow me and my company on instagram at @physiomotionlimited or visit our website for interesting resources and information at www.physiomotion.co.uk

Thank you for these fantastic insights! We wish you continued success and good health.

About the Interviewer: Wanda Malhotra is a wellness entrepreneur, lifestyle journalist, and the CEO of Crunchy Mama Box, a mission-driven platform promoting conscious living. CMB empowers individuals with educational resources and vetted products to help them make informed choices. Passionate about social causes like environmental preservation and animal welfare, Wanda writes about clean beauty, wellness, nutrition, social impact and sustainability, simplifying wellness with curated resources. Join Wanda and the Crunchy Mama Box community in embracing a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle at CrunchyMamaBox.com .

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