Mental health challenges have increased dramatically throughout the past year and a half. COVID-19 has introduced a level of fear and uncertainty like nothing else. So, how can people help themselves not just improve mental health, but physical health at the same time?
John Oliver, a former aspiring professional athlete who suffered a career ending back injury, turned his own personal and professional challenge into a positive experience; ultimately ending up with the education, drive and passion to help others. John is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), is recognized by the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM) and was a Personal Results Specialist (PRS) for Tony Robbins. Currently, he splits his time between Minnesota and Florida, and owns multiple health- and fitness-focused businesses such as JOLT (John Oliver’s Lifestyle Training) and BLAST (Biomechanical Lifestyle Adaptive Strength Techniques). With his master’s degree in exercise physiology and multiple elite training certifications in wellness, personal development and nutrition, he has the knowledge and experience to guide through these stressful times and help people become even better than they were pre-COVID.
“We were told we were in lockdown and to stay away from people,” says John. “People need people, and we need that human connection, no matter how introverted we may be. During this time, some people were open to working on themselves and did some personal reflection, while others started struggling even more, and no one was able to see it.”
So, let’s make sure we’re connecting with people, he says, even if it’s just through phone calls. Also, focus on making yourself healthy from the inside out in order to improve your ability to cope. He recommends exercising, which might be as simple as getting outside and walking. And get some sun everyday too, if possible. “Go out, walk your dog, talk to your neighbors. We downplay Vitamin D, which is huge.”
In addition to exercising, nutrition also plays a key role in a healthy body and mind. Eat foods that are packed with nutrients and allow our bodies to function better as a whole.
Talk about your feelings as well; don’t keep them bottled up. “People should not be afraid to be vulnerable,” says John. “Say ‘I’m scared,’ or ‘I don’t understand this.’”
In direct response to the pandemic, John implemented a program called Courage United through Growth-U, a behavioral conditioning company started by Rod Hairston. “Our coined phrase was six weeks to living, growing, and leading in uncertain times,” says John. “The whole idea was to learn how to identify and conquer worry, fear and the unknown and then strengthen your communication skills and improve your emotional influence such as fostering resilience during challenging times. We wanted to show people that reactive and destructive behavioral patterns can really hurt people and instead taught them to become more empathetic, poised and proactive.”
One of the biggest obstacles of any self-improvement agenda is, of course, getting motivated to start. “First, sit down and figure out what you want – what is the goal?,” says John. “Second, people all want results, so they start with strategy. But no, we need to start with belief - belief in yourself, belief in your reasons for doing it.”
Once we get started, one of the things we often do is self-sabotage and/or have these unrealistic goals. “You cannot change your way of thinking overnight,” says John. “You have to align with people who have the same goals and values.”
He encourages people to find a support system, whether it’s one person or a group of people who are doing the same things (i.e., walking, riding a bike, or meditating). Next, verbalize your goal, write it down, and have someone hold you accountable. “Having an accountability partner is huge,” he says. “We can all say I want to lose 15 pounds, but unless you actually write it down and tell your best friend, then it’s not really real. Your partner can be someone who needs to do it themselves or not.”
You also need to have something that reminds you of your goal every day, which can be simply setting up reminders on your cell phone calendar to exercise, try something new, read a book, eat a piece of fruit, or whatever it is that will move you towards your goal. Also, he says, visualize how it’s going to feel when you reach your goal.
“Until you can physically put something behind it, you don’t know how it’s going to feel to get there. So what I tell people with health and/or weight loss goals is to think about what it’s going to feel like to walk up the stairs and not be out of breath.”
It’s also very important to ask yourself, “If I don’t change this behavior, what are the worst things that may happen?” It can be negative consequences to your mental and physical health, your relationships, or your career. This train of thought can be difficult for most people, but it’s an important part of the journey to living your best life.
Focus too on what’s good in your life and what you’re most thankful for, such as a home to live in, your partner, your children, and/or your job. John is most thankful for his daughter, Gianna, whom he calls a daddy’s girl to the fullest!
To find out more about John and his wellness programs, go to https://joltnow.com/.