The #1 Strategy for Improving Your Health

Illnesses such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia feature a heterogenic patient population, and therefore you never know if a treatment that worked for one person with the condition will also work for you.

Experiment with solutions until you find the ones that help you get better.

Experiment with solutions until you find the ones that help you get better.

For person A, taking nutritional supplements might have helped the most with getting better, for person B, an antiviral medication might have made all the difference, and person C might have recovered using mind-body techniques, such as the Gupta Amygdala Retraining Program.

Therefore, the big question for anyone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or Fibromyalgia (FM) is, “How do I find out what treatments will work for me?”

The answer to this question is that you have to find out by trial or error or by “conducting experiments.”

I wish there was an easier way, such as asking your doctor, but unfortunately there isn’t. So let’s tackle it; I promise to make it as easy and fun as possible.

Step 1: Pick a health problem you want to solve

With an illness such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia you have lots to choose from when you decide what aspect or symptom of your illness you want to improve, with an illness such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia you have lots to choose from. Depending on your symptoms, you might decide to work on resolving your malfunctioning digestion, your inability to leave the house without worsening your symptoms, your cognitive symptoms, or your inability to exercise. Or, you could work on trying to cure your illness altogether.

When I first got sick, I tried to cure my CFS altogether. I went to all kinds of doctors trying any reasonable treatment that promised to improve my condition.

Once I’ve had CFS for a while and therefore a complete cure became less likely, I focused on improving sub-aspects of living with the condition. Instead of trying to cure my CFS with a magic bullet, I worked on improving a particular symptom or particular challenge, such as:

  • Recurrent inflammations in my stomach
  • Sore throats
  • Not feeling happy with my life
  • Not being able to work full-time
  • Sleep Problems
  • Computer work aggravating my symptoms
  • Procrastination due to lack of energy
  • Overexerting myself going to the grocery store
  • My wife not being happy with my contributions to our household
  • Aversion to take showers
  • Inability to and lack of exercise

The exciting thing is that using the approach you’re about to learn, I’ve been able to overcome all of the challenges listed above. When I first got ill, I would have paid a million dollars to be able to say this about myself a few years down the road!

The good news is that anyone can improve their condition by conducting experiments. I can’t promise that you will see the improvement I saw, but I am confident that you, too, will find that conducting experiments will have been well worth your time and effort.

Example of picking a challenge, or symptom to resolve.

Ever since I started working several hours a day on creating this e-course, I have very vivid dreams and wake up three to five times a night. As sleep is widely considered a key symptom to address in overcoming Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, I will conduct an experiment on how to improve mine.

What aspect of your illness or symptom would you like to work on? Choose one, write it down, and then move on to step two.

Step 2: Brainstorm solutions (explore possible remedies)

After you’ve selected a problem or symptom you want to overcome, the next step is to brainstorm remedies.

The first rule of brainstorming is that “anything goes”. No idea is stupid; what counts is quantity, not quality. Write down anything you can think off that could possibly help serve as a solution to your problem.

I’ll apply the brainstorming process to my sleep problem and take you along with me to show you how it works:

Example:

Here I go brainstorming solutions:

  1. Don’t do any thinking-intensive work on my computer for a few hours prior to going to bed.
  2. Go outside for thirty minutes every morning to correct my body’s melatonin cycle.
  3. Take Ambien.
  4. Take melatonin.
  5. Have a guided meditation session with a friend before going to bed.
  6. Make love every night.
  7. Exercise every day.
  8. Avoid all stimulating activities during the day.
  9. Go to a sleep center and to check out what’s really going on when I have all those dreams at night.
  10. Create a nine hour long mp3 file that wakes me up every three hours and then guides me through a mind-calming meditation before I fall back asleep.
  11. Try the “lucid dreams” functionality in my “Sleep as Android” smartphone app.
Now it’s your turn again. Take a few minutes and brainstorm your own solutions on a blank sheet of paper.

Good work! The next step after brainstorming is to tap into your past experience by writing down anything that has helped you in the past or that you are presently doing.

Example:

Things that have worked for me in the past or that I’m presently doing:

  1. Take Ambien or Valerian
  2. Practice the Soften and Flow technique from the Gupta Amygdala Retraining Program a few times a day and before going to bed.
What remedies have helped you in the past with the problem you’re trying to overcome?

If you run out of ideas for remedies, you can either just use the ideas you came up with by yourself, or, if you suspect that your own ideas won’t be sufficient to overcome your problem or symptom, you may want to request outside expertise.

I recommend that you turn to the following resources for outside expertise.

Researching possible remedies can be an overwhelming task. To make it manageable, please consider asking a loved-one for help and getting personalized support from a nutritionist, medical doctor, and/or health coach specializing in ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia.

If you think that you might benefit from my help, like these beautiful people did, feel free to book a free Health and Happiness Clarity Session to get my perspective on your situation.

Example

I have studied the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Treatment Guide, 2nd Edition in the past, and, as a health coach specializing in ME/CFS and FM, already know about the many mind tools and lifestyle changes for improving sleep.

The outside help I’m currently getting is from a psychiatrist who helps me experiment with prescription drugs. I learned from the psychiatrist about the following possible remedies that I’m excited to try: Ambien, synthetic melatonin, and going outside every morning to reset my melatonin cycle.

What outside expertise could you benefit from? Think for a moment and write it down.

Next, to make sure that you will try the most promising treatments first, evaluate and prioritize the possible remedies you just discovered through your brainstorming and calling on outside expertise.

The following questions can help you evaluate each of the items on your list:

    1. Will I actually do it?
      Example

      Exercising is one of those things that would be really good for me, but which I have not done in the past. If I choose to experiment with this remedy, I know that succeeding will take some focus and determination.

    2. How likely is it that it will work?
      Example

      While Ambien is a very easy remedy to try, it might not have as positive of an overall effect as exercising each day.

    3. Do I have the resources to do it? Is it realistic that I will actually be able to try this remedy?
      Example

      While I quite like the idea of making love with my wife every night before going to sleep, I fear that she won’t go along with it. Implementing this possible remedy from my list is not feasible at this time.

Here is an the example of my evaluating each item from my list.

Example
Possible Remedy My thoughts and feelings
Make love every night While I quite like the idea of making love with my wife every night before going to sleep, I fear that she won’t go along with it. Implementing this possible remedy from my list is not feasible at this time.
Exercise each day Exercising is one of those things that would be really good for me, but which I have not done in the past. If I choose to experiment with this remedy, I know that succeeding will take some focus and determination.
Don’t do any thinking-intensive work on my computer for three hours prior to going to bed I’ll try this a bit later. At this point I’m just too excited about my work.
Go outside and expose myself to daylight each morning to correct my melatonin cycle I could manage this if I combined it with exercise. I could just exercise first thing in the morning.
Take Ambien While Ambien is a very easy way to improve sleep, it might not have as positive of an overall effect as exercising each day. But I might as well try it now while I’m seeing a psychiatrist.
Take Melatonin same as with Ambien
Have a guided meditation session with a friend or coach before going to bed I’ll try this also a bit later as it takes some effort, time, and possibly money to set it up.
Avoid all stimulating activities during the day This would be my last remedy to try, if it’s any remedy at all. I’d rather not sleep well than not live my life.
Go to a sleep center to check out what’s really going on when I have all those dreams My sense is that they might be able to find out what’s going on, but unable to help me do something about it. Maybe later.
Create a nine hour long mp3 file that wakes me up every three hours and then guides me through a mind-calming meditation before I fall back asleep. I have an easy way to do this with Audacity, so I might do that if my first series of remedies doesn’t deliver satisfactory results.
Try the “lucid dreams” functionality in my “Sleep as Android” smartphone app. This is so easy to try that I’ll try it tonight.
Now it’s your turn. Take a moment to write down your thoughts about each of the possible remedies you brainstormed. Again, the goal of this exercise is to determine which of your solutions are most promising and which ones you want to try first. Let your thoughts flow…there is no perfect way of doing it.

After I’ve poured out my thoughts regarding each of the brainstormed solutions in the previous step, I’m ready to decide which solutions to include in my experiment. I’ll make a list of the items in the order I will try them:

Example
  1. Exercise each day
  2. Go out into the sunlight each morning after getting up.
  3. Take Ambien and Melatonin
  4. Do the Soften and Flow when going to bed

    Anything below here, I’ll not include into my first experiment but will save it for later in case the first remedies don’t solve my problem.
  5. Don’t do any thinking-intensive work on my computer for a few hours prior to going to bed.
  6. Have a guided meditation session with a friend before going to bed.
  7. Avoid all stimulating activities during the day.
  8. Go to a sleep center to check out what’s really going on when I have all those dreams.
  9. Convince Erin to make love with me every night.
It’s your turn again. Write down the order in which you’ll try things.

We now have an ordered list of things to try, which brings us to Step 3.

Step 3: Experiment with solutions

This step is where the magic happens. You will actually notice whether any of the strategies you’ve devised and treatments you’ve discovered will resolve your challenge.

When you try out which of your possible remedies will actually work, you have the following two options:

  1. Sequential Subtraction. With the sequential subtraction method, you implement all of the solutions at once and after a few weeks time subtract one solution after another in sequence, watching out for whether your problem worsens again after you subtract a remedy.
    Example

    If I decided to use this method, I would implement all the nine feasible solutions above at once. After a couple of weeks of doing all eight of them, I would stop one of the solutions and see if I notice a difference. If my sleep gets worse, I know that the technique worked; if it stays the same, I know that the subtracted solution didn’t make a difference and I can disqualify it as a possible remedy. Then I would move on to the next possible remedy until I’ve discovered the effect of all of them.

  2. Sequential Addition. With this method, the reverse of the first method, you add a new possible remedy every few days, looking out for what effect it has on your symptoms.

What method to use when?

The big benefit of the sequential subtraction method is that it will give you the quickest results. Its minor drawback is that you won’t know immediately which of the many solutions you just implemented will have made the difference.

The sequential addition method, on the other hand, lends itself best to harder-to-implement solutions, such as forming a new behavior and lifestyle changes.

Note: If you notice side-effects or worsened symptoms after you’ve added all of your possible remedies all at once using the sequential subtraction method, you will want to switch to the sequential addition method instead to identify what remedy causes the worsened symptoms. Leave about a one week gap between adding new remedies in order to gain clarity about what remedy is the culprit.

Example

With my sleep example, I’ll choose a mix of the two methods. I’ll try exercising each day, a difficult to try solution, together with taking Valerian and Ambien, which are easy to implement solutions.

Once I’ve built the exercise habit, I will add the next difficult-to-implement item on my list, for example going outside into the sunlight after waking up or having a guided meditation session with a friend before going to bed.

What method will you use? Think about what remedies you will add to your experiment at what time and note it on your piece of paper, just like I did in the above example.

Why keeping records is essential

While keeping records may seem bothersome at first, it is essential because it will provide you with the data you’ll later need to analyze and learn from your experiment. Keeping records is what makes conducting your experiment worthwhile.

One of the most important things with tracking experiments is keeping it simple. If you don’t, you run the risk of creating a frightening amount of data that you’ll never look at again. I know this because I have years of data I’ve never looked at ;).

Example

For my sleep experiment, have a look at the tracking sheet I posted on my fridge.

tracking-sheet-for-cfs-and-fm

As you can see when you click the image to enlarge it, I only have to fill in about ten numbers each day, which takes me less than two minutes each morning.

I posted the tracking sheet on my fridge and put a pen next to it to make sure that I really fill in the tracking sheet every day.

Now, it’s time for you to decide on the data points you want to track in your experiemnt. Feel free to adapt my or Bruce Campbell’s data tracking sheet to your own needs. Your tracking sheet doesn’t have to be perfect; you can always fine tune it as you go along. Just spend a few minutes to create the first version now.

When you’ve created your tracking sheet, I recommend that you post it on your fridge immediately.

Ready? Start the experiment.

By now you have all the pieces in place that you’ll need to make your experiment a huge success. Now you just need to start it. Starting it means that you do the following religiously, every day of the experiment:

  1. Apply the possible remedies you are testing in the current phase of your experiment
  2. Fill in your data tracking sheet
Example

My experiment has run for three days and so far I’ve been good about exercising each day and keeping records on my data tracking sheet. It feels good to be doing it, knowing that it’s the best thing I can do for my health at this time.

Kick off your experiment! And feel free to let me know about it by emailing me a picture of your tracking sheet, or just a simple, “Yes, I’m doing it!” It gives me great joy to know that you are utilizing this powerful approach to regaining your health and happiness!

So what’s next?

I haven’t spoken about evaluating the experiment yet. I’ll teach you how to do that in our lesson two weeks from now when we’ll have gathered enough data to gain valuable insights into what makes us healthier and happier. I look forward to connecting with you then!

P.S.

If you’ve got here without being subscribed to the CFS Recovery Project E-Course, you’re missing out. This is lesson #9 on how to reach your maximum health and happiness potential if you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia. If you’re not already a subscriber, click here to learn more.

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