Advice for your younger self

A friend posted this to Facebook recently:

Friends: What are things you do to take care of yourself at 40+ or 50+ that you wish your earlier 30-something self had known?

There were so many useful answers, I wanted to compile them here. This reflects life wisdom from dozens of people:

Pain is a messenger.

No matter if it is emotional or physical your body is trying to tell you something about how you are stressed so you can pay attention or make an adjustment. If you ignore it the message gets more persistent. If you push through it long enough your body will stop you dead in your tracks. Recovery no matter what it is means time spent proportional to the pain investment so pay attention and adjust earlier.

Trauma in, trauma out.

Expect a traumatic experience to follow you and relived as part of recovery. Be patient as cycles happen. Pushing back triggers shame; shame triggers avoidance; and avoidance slows actual recovery.

People are not their thoughts.

When you talk to a person keep it about the ideas in question, not who they are. Every one has ideas they have not spent real quality time with. You can disagree and make a case, but don’t make it personal.

Be present.

People feel it when you are not. It is not always easy to hold space for the right now but it is worth it if you can figure it out. It is easy to be present with the unexpected or with intense stimulation but doing it with the every day moments takes practice, so practice often.

Invest.

Buy Apple, Google, and Berkshire stock early. Buy property young, so you can spend your later years taking care of yourself.

Always be a friend to your future self. Compound interest started early is good, certainly. And per CJs comment, calculate that 1 hour of practice per week is 500 hours per decade.

Compounded interest in your interests:

A friend started guitar in his mid twenties. He is now considered one of the best old timey music guitarists in California. He didn’t practice hours a day, but he was very consistent with about practicing daily. Writing novels works the same way, as does exercise.

Listen: Therapy is a blessing. Don’t stigmatize your own.

Life coaching and therapy to understand one’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s like exercise– a bad form might be barely perceptible when starting out, but once you want to level up it can become your limiting factor. In one’s 20s mistakes can be covered up by, say, missing sleep to work longer. That’s a mistake always, but easier to do. By 40 you can’t, and the bad form catches up.

Be creative.

Having been more dilligent about something creative so the habit of a progressive activity is in place.

Exercise.

Have some good relaxation strategies – especially regarding sleep – in place, for when things get hard.

You can be stronger and faster and fitter overall in your late 40s than your early 20s, but you have to be smarter and more careful about doing it. Biomechanics is really important. Foam rollers are magic. Listen to your body, make a plan, then do it.

Your Diet:

Restrict sugar and carb intake.
Eat Paleo. Not kinda-Paleo, Paleo.

Your teeth!

Mouthwash daily. I literally went from having 2-3 new cavities per year to having 1-2 cavities per decade.
Dental hygiene is surprisingly critical. Sleep practices are critical. Stress reduction is critical (e.g. meditation). Building strong bones is critical. Don’t press hard on your abdomen or you might give yourself a hiatal hernia; I did this.

Stop washing your hair daily.

Turns out that the very reason I thought I had to wash it every day—being thin and unmanageable— had as its root cause… the fact that I washed it every day.

Practice self care.

Take care of your joints. When they hurt, stop doing what you’re doing. Just stop. The work will be waiting for you a week later when you’ve healed up a bit.

Ears – loud music – use earplugs at concerts.

Use an electric toothbrush – it does a much better job of cleaning.
Go to bed at a reasonable hour.
Stretch.
Hike more. Walk farther. Park at the end of the parking lot. The healthiest spots are always free.
Apply sunscreen.

Mindful journeys.

Never use a car when you can use a bus. Never use a bus when you can ride a bike. Never ride a bike when you can walk or run.
I’ve meditated for 30 minutes, 2x a day for 45 years, without missing a day. This has utterly improved my life at every level.
If you get a twinge in your wrist from repetitive stress, DON’T IGNORE IT AND HOPE IT GOES AWAY.

Perspective.

1. React appropriately to the situation: if the sky’s not falling, don’t react as if it is, especially don’t let your manager stampede you into this reaction and
2. Never donate your time to your workplace. If you burn midnight oil and if you don’t have a written agreement, it’s a donation.
3. Work is just business.

Don’t “volunteer” where you deserve to be paid.

The only time I’ve ever been “fired”- well, not sure if I quit or was fired, and it doesn’t matter- was when a relative was in the hospital. I offered to work remotely – the hospital had WiFi – but instead they wanted me to be in person in the office (an hour each way). I said no, and wow that felt transgressive at the time. It was just business to them, and eventually just business to me. I did consulting later on for one of them.
Don’t spend time with toxic people. “Junk food” people will make your brain unhealthy and uncreative. Similarly, limit your consumption of toxic media (toxic print/internet/TV), to as little as possible.

Stop caring what anyone else thinks, about anything, about me. With my upbringing, that hasn’t been easy.

Other advice:

Identify allergens.
Partner Dancing.
Time Restricted Eating.
Dry Sauna.
Get a CPAP for apnea.
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