When I started training for my first climb up Mount Kilimanjaro, I was overweight and living on a diet of fast food and soda. Working on Wall Street as an investment banker, I worked much more than I slept, leaving little to no time for taking care of my physical, emotional, and mental health. Once I started exploring the world from great heights (literally), that all changed, along with my entire perspective on life.

I attribute my success, positive attitude, and leadership style to consistently maintaining my health with exercise and a healthy diet. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it an inconsistent and an unfamiliar way of life. Six months in, and this crisis is looking far from being over. So how do we begin to adjust to our “new normal?” In my experience, the best way to succeed in anything—whether building a business or building a foundation of health—is to find a routine that works for you.

One of the most influential leaders of our time is Sir Richard Branson. In 2004, I was applying to business school when I read an article in Fortune Magazine featuring Branson. Branson is a self-made billionaire whose innovative ideas have led to massive entrepreneurial success. I was immediately drawn to him as I learned that he, like I, was diagnosed as dyslexic. Overcoming adversity is one of the great attributes of a successful CEO, and I was determined to overcome anything that stood in my way, whether a learning disability or the world’s tallest mountains.

In a 2017 blog post, Branson shares that maintaining a healthy and physically active routine is one of the reasons he has achieved such success. In the post, he says, “I’ve always believed that the fitter you are and the more time you find to look after yourself, the more time you’ll have for everyone else.”

After scaling the Seven Summits and maintaining that love for exploring the great unknown, I have seen the impact of being physically fit. Maintaining my personal health has helped me achieve some of the most physically daunting feats one can face. It has also helped me mentally, socially, and emotionally as I continue to build my business, develop deep personal and professional connections, and raise a family.

Whether your life has been turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or even if you now simply have more time to hone in on what is most important in life, there are a few things you can do to improve your overall wellbeing. Here are a few of the habits I have found most impactful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle:

Keep a Routine. Maintaining a consistent schedule is key to achieving both personal and professional goals. Make appointments with yourself and schedule your exercise, family activities, and other favorite pursuits by always placing them in your calendar. Treat your personal appointments like you are making an appointment with a top-level executive. You wouldn’t cancel that appointment, so don’t cancel your own.

Once you establish a daily routine, your body’s natural clock will be ready for the consistency you have built, and waking up, exercising, and eating healthier will all come a little bit easier.

Do What You Enjoy. I have a thrill for scaling mountains, navigating rapids, and exploring the unknown. Many other people prefer yoga, dance, or cycling. Whatever it is that you enjoy, or think you might enjoy, do that. A great example for this is running. Sure, running is a great way to shed a few pounds and tone your lower body, but if you simply dislike pounding the pavement, you are never going to maintain it. Find a way to move your body in a way that makes you happy, and just keep pushing yourself forward.

Get Adequate Sleep. I learned this one quickly from my days on Wall Street. Sleep is an essential part of maintaining your mental, physical, and emotional health. Without adequate sleep, your body cannot recover from the day’s mental and physical activities. Let your body refresh every night by getting 6-8 hours of sleep.

Choose Healthy Meals. Along with moving your body and getting enough sleep, you also need to fuel your body in a way that will make it work for you, and not against you. Fast, packaged, and processed foods wreak havoc on your physical and mental health and can cause many unwanted and unnecessary health issues. Choosing healthy meals, including lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, improves your overall wellbeing.

Stay Hydrated. Staying well-hydrated helps improve circulation, metabolism, and skin health. Aim to drink mostly water, and stringently limit sugary, processed beverages. If you feel you need some flavor, try infusing your water with fresh fruit, or drink sparkling water for some refreshing bubbles.

Cope with Stress and Anxiety. Many of us deal with stress and anxiety daily. The problem has exacerbated itself now that we are navigating our way through a public health crisis. Part of my daily routine includes 5-10 minutes of mindful meditation. There are many apps and videos available to assist, or you can try it by sitting and simply letting your mind relax and wander. This has become an important part of my day upon waking up, and also just before going to bed. Mindful meditation is linked to reduced anxiety and stress and has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression.

The key factor in each of these tips is to do what works for you and create a routine that fits within your own schedule. We are all wired differently, but we can all maintain our own health to live a positive, fulfilling life. I am constantly amazed at how much energy I have each day and, how after a good sweat, the creative juices start flowing. If you start building a healthy routine now, in three or six months’ time, you’ll feel great and have a more positive outlook on life, and perhaps we’ll have all gotten through this pandemic a little healthier than when it started.

About Bo Parfet

Bo Parfet is the founder and CEO of Denali Venture Philanthropy, an impact investment organization on a mission to drive positive social change. Bo is a philanthropist, mountaineer, naturalist, impact investor, and author. He is a member of the Explorer’s Club, an advisory board member for Adventure Scientists, and a member of the elite Young Presidents’ Organization.

Bo began his career as a Research Fellow at the Financial Accounting Standards Board, going on to spend several years with J.P. Morgan as an investment banker on Wall Street. He founded Iconic Development, a real estate development company that was listed as an Inc. 500 fastest growing company in 2012.

Bo’s personal accomplishments include the completion of the Seven Summits, reaching the top of the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. He documents this experience in his books, "Die Trying: One Man's Quest to Conquer the Seven Summits" and "They Lived to Tell the Tale: True Stories of Mountain Adventure from the legendary Explorers Club.

Bo has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Colorado State University, a Master of Arts in Economics from the University of Michigan, and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife and business partner Meredith Wilson Parfet, and their two children.

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