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Five life changes that ... uh ... changed my life

I would like to share some changes I've recently made in my life that have made things easier for me, a parent of a five year old, and a sufferer of a mood disorder that got worse, oh, about five years ago. :-) (Disclaimer: I deeply love and support my wife and child, but I have to say that, for me, becoming a parent at 40 has kicked my behind.) Now on to the goodies!

Problem: Generalized anxiety in life

What helped: David Allen's Getting Things Done discipline for personal productivity. It's helped get things out of my head, which has made me happier and more creative. (This is now a major focus of mine; more on it as it develops.)

Details: Allen's approach of 'getting everything out of your head' really helps people like me who repeatedly work things over unless they're nailed down tight. As I said below, the best short summary of Getting Things Done I've found is here:

"To consistently stay on course, you’ll have to do some things that may not be habits yet: 1. keep everything out of your head; 2. decide actions and outcomes when things first emerge on your radar, instead of later; and 3. regularly review and update the complete inventory of open loops of your life and work."
However, it's not for everyone - it requires a lot of discipline, and the learning curve is nearly vertical for 100% adoption.

Problem: Severe lower back pain

What helped: Applying the book Back Sense (web site here), in addition to taking lessons in Alexander Technique from a local center.

Details: The book's perspective is that most (>90%) back pain is caused by stress, not structural problems. At first glance this is a "sure, right" idea, but it's very deep, with significant treatment implications. A mind-blower, but it required a big change in my view of back pain. The Alexander lessons are helping me use my body more efficiently, and are increasing my awareness of situations in which I'm tightening up. Somewhat steep investment, time- and money-wise.

Problem: Feeling physically heavy, tired

What helped: Loosing some pounds by keeping a food diary, and continuing strong aerobic exercise. Also, I'm getting back into Taekwondo (after 20 years).

Details: I was only a bit over weight, but tracking what I put in my mouth was an eye opener. I now take in between 1300 and 1800 calories a day, and I feel much better. I've lost about 12 pounds eating the same food (lots of vegetables and fruit), but less of it. Also, I've cut back on "emotional eating," especially during stressful times - times when I'm full but want the comfort of eating tasty/filling food. When I feel the urge I look at my diary (in my Hipster PDA of course) and think about the numbers. If I have the "budget" for extra calories I might go ahead and eat something (but not too much). Otherwise I skip it.

Problem: Insomnia (esp. trouble falling asleep)

What helped: This great post: How to Become an Early Riser. The idea is simple, but what a difference it's made: "If you simply go to bed when you're sleepy and then get up at a fixed time, you'll cure your insomnia."

Details: It worked for me (7:00am in my case), and was a simple change. Requires Self-Discipline, though.

Problem: Colds, other minor health issues

What helped: Using a Neti pot (we bought this one) every morning and evening.

Details: Any easy one, but not something you do in public. Depending on your background, this sounds either reasonable and not uncommon, or 'woo woo' (imagine the canonical alien landing whirling sound). Makes sense if you think about rhinoviruses, though.

I hope this helps!

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