Dr. Ola Orekunrin: Winning the Wellness Race

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Ola Orekunrin

Dr. Ola Orekunrin is a British-Nigerian medical doctor, healthcare entrepreneur and founder of the Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Group and Director Greentree Investment Company. In this piece, Maduabuchi Ubani writes about the entrepreneur’s wellness practices which should act as a guide for people who are intentional about staying healthy, even at old age

It’s not every time you see successful entrepreneurs in Nigeria who are willing to share their business journey or even bring to limelight the wellness practices that have worked for them over the years.

So when I got the invitation to join a webinar where Dr. Ola Orekunrin, a healthcare entrepreneur and founder of the Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Group and Director Greentree Investment Company, was scheduled to share her wellness blueprint, I just knew it wasn’t going to be a waste of my time.

In fact, I saw it as an opportunity to add a thing or two into my knowledge bank; even if it’s something I’ve come across before, then it would be a reminder for me to take my health seriously.

I got to know about Dr. Orekunrin In 2013. Her amazing work as founder of Flying Doctors Healthcare Group has been all shades of brilliance and awe. And even her move in to the world of finance and investment as director at Greentree Investment Company goes a long way to explain that anyone can learn anything, if only they can put their heart and mind to it.

Even with all the respect and regard I have for her, somewhere at the back of my mind, I had this tiny thought that her online session would have too many slides and little explanations. I’m sure you’ve seen those zoom sessions where you had to drift off in the middle of the class due the speaker’s lack of connection with the participants.

But I was wrong. In fact, it turned out to be far beautiful, enlightening and engaging than I even envisaged. She shared relatable insights in a professional and engaging style.

First, she recalled that in the light of COVID-19, some of her friends have reached out to ask for her opinion on what to do when it comes to
getting healthier or boosting their immunity. This for her goes to explain that irrespective of the global pandemic, health and wellness should be a lifelong pursuit and obviously something that everyone needs to get conscious of as they get other.

“Some 70 year old function like 30 year olds, and some like 90 year olds”, she stated matter-of-factly, “a lot of the factors that influence the category we fall into, whether we’re going to function like people that are 30 or 40 years younger than us or whether we’re going to function like people forty years older than us are things that we can control; habits that we pick up and practice every day. A lot of the things that affect our health are things that we can take charge of, modify and influence”.

The Role of Mentors
Dr. Orekunrin’s journey in wellness started in a very unusual manner. In fact, the main reason she got interested in wellness and started her wellness journey was because of her mentor.

It happened that her mentor who is in his seventies had a speaking engagement outside Nigeria, and so, she had to attend. However, due to his tight schedule, her mentor couldn’t meet up with her. The only time he could squeeze to meet her was if she could come out and jog with him. She was taken by surprise.

“I was disturbed on how I’ll start jogging with him, considering his age. I wasn’t sure if he was going to cope. In fact, I contemplated taking extra water and things like that.” She noted.

It wasn’t until they started running, that within 10 minutes, she turned out to be the one who was out of breath; she couldn’t keep up with him.

Afterwards, she had to sit with him and ask how he was not only able to outrun her, but also able to memorise large chunk of information. The insights he shared with her assisted her to take a conscious decision around wellness and healthy living.

Maintaining a Healthy Mind
One of the top formula for healthy living on Dr. Orekunrin’s guidebook majors heavily around the mind. Not just the mind, but also around the things can enable the mind to be at the peak of performance. Meditation as a mental exercise gives a sense of calm, peace, and can benefit one’s overall wellbeing and health.

“You don’t have to necessarily meditate or have a sort of meditation schedule, but you should have to do it constantly. If we’re looking out for ourselves and we’re looking out for our minds, then hopefully, we’ll be able to think clearer , think better and innovate more effectively,” she advised.

The Power of Sleep
She went on to recall that one of the things her mentor warned her about hammered heavily around sleep. Not only has she learnt that sleep is serious business, she has also imbibed the habit of keeping screens out of her room, and ensuring she has a routine before going to sleep.

“Sleep is important, and it’s necessary you make sure your bedroom is for sleep and not for work. Those are habits that can improve your sleep for the health of your mind. It’s really paramount we get enough sleep.”

Learning Never Ends
In this time and age where we have online platforms for people to learn new skills and grow in expertise, Dr. Orekunrin sees learning new
things as one of the way to embrace wellness and healthy living. These days, there are lots of websites and e-learning opportunities where one can stay engaged and grow in brain health.

But apart from brain health, learning new skills enabled her to overcome one of the challenges she struggled with at the beginning of her business.

“I struggled with self-awareness, especially at the beginning of my business journey. I had the technical skills to do a really good job with building my business. But as I continued, I realised that those technical skills alone can’t take you anywhere.

“Self-awareness is such an important component of emotional intelligence. Understanding your strength and personal weaknesses, self-management, being able to control your emotions in high-stress situations and still think

logically in those situations, being socially aware and being able to understand how the people are thinking, relationship management, ability to settle conflicts and so much more. These are some of life’s most important skills, and I think that embracing wellness practices can help a lot.”

Physical Exercise to the Rescue
Orekunrin is a living example when it comes to reaping the fruit of investing time and energy in physical exercise. She has come to understand that adding activities like running, yoga and even walking kind of slows down the body clock.

“Things like endurance exercises and strength training are really important components of any exercise regimen. Being able to exercise on a consistent basis really helps in terms of our wellness journey,” she added.