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[Mad Hatter] Braaaains for breakfast


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Hello friends. 

 

Sorry for disappearing. I got into a loop where the longer I stayed away the harder it got to put things down on figurative paper. I was hoping that my inspiration would come back and that I would come back full of enthusiasm but it’s not really happening, so here I am, saying hi and letting you know not to worry. 

 

Spoilering stuff because negative struggle bus, but I wanted to get it out of my system. Also because this got really long. 

Spoiler

I don’t know where to start, so I’m just going to pick one end to unravel. If you recall one of my big struggles is my job and trying to figure out how to change my career and feeling extremely stuck. As I was trying to figure out my next steps, I had the upsetting realization that I’m not anywhere near close to being in the right mindset. My motivation is so extremely low that even if the “perfect” thing came up I wouldn’t be able to recognize it, or I’d instantly dismiss the idea for one of a thousand reasons. Thinking about questions like “what am I good at?”, “what motivates me?” and even “what do I enjoy?” lead to the answers “quitting”, “nothing” and “I can’t remember, but if I did it would be something useless like handstands or drawing, and do I even really enjoy those when I can’t stick to anything?”. Clearly this is not helpful in a quest which I need to approach with curiosity and intuition.

 

Now it’d be easy to say that I’m depressed, but this feels different. I’m honestly having a lot of really good days, where I hang out with friends and having fun and climbing and playing games. When I’m in a normal funk I tend to retreat into a bubble. You could think that perhaps it’s some kind of job burnout, but I recently realized that my current job is possibly the best job I could have when thinking about a career change! I work remotely, nobody’s questioning my (severe) lack of productivity and the work is stress-free and mostly on auto-pilot. I could easily work a few hours a day and spend the rest of the time working on other things. Truth is if I manage a few hours it’s an achievement as it is, but it’s less a conscious choice than a cycle of guilt and not caring.

 

Ok I get that it’s not the most conducive mood for, well, anything, but I really do want to reiterate that I have a lot of good days too! It’s just that I seem to have lost any sort of internal motivation independent of mood and I’m not sure why (or have I’ve ever even had anything but fair weather motivation?) It’s become a real issue because right now, and this is a big reason why I’ve been off the forums, is that I just don’t see the point. I keep thinking what difference does it even make if I spend the day watching YT videos or if have goals and do “productive” things and I can’t tell, when in the grand scheme of things all I am is a pretty useless walking talking meat sack?

Tl;dr Motivation is MIA.

 

However. I’ve been on a kick lately learning about brains (Andrew Huberman has a lot of neat stuff!) and science says this walking talking meat sack is also full of chemicals that I can use to retrain my brain. My pet theory is that on a gross level my serotonin levels are decent (on good days), which is why I’m not unhappy as such and even content, but my dopamine system is out of whack, causing my motivation and drive to disappear. Yes it's reductionist and probably incorrect, but it doesn't matter. I made a challenge because goals give my chemicals something to work with:

 

B.R.A.A.A.I.N.S.

 

giphy.gif

 

Or…

 

Believe

Reward

Action

Activity

Appreciation

Internet mindfully 

Nourish

Sleep

 

Believe

 

I have no reason to believe that I’m a special snowflake. This is a great thing because it means that science teaches us that 1) it’s possible to change, given the right inputs and 2) that motivation is not something nebulous, but an integral part of human biology. Keep reminding myself this when needed. 

 

Reward 

 

Whenever I take action (next goal) and it feels hard, take a second to give myself a pat on the back. The process of rewarding myself for doing the thing staves off frustration and keep me going a little longer. Remember that frustration and discomfort are key components for learning and change, but rewards improve motivation.

 

Action

 

One thing Dr H likes to say is that it’s hard to change your mind with your mind. 

 

a) (Easy mode) Instead of telling myself to go do something useful over and over again, take a tiny action to change something in my current state/environment, and see if that helps with motivation. This something could be:

 

  • Change or put on music
  • Change environment
  • Change my posture
  • Change my breathing
  • Tidy up one thing
  • Take an eye break
  • Move - stand up, shake, smile, stretch
  • Silly reminder to self - make sure that I’m not cold and/or hungry. 

 

b) (Hard mode) Follow my impulses. My motivation and drive are so low right now that any glimpses of inspirations or “maybe that’d be fun/interesting to try/do” or “I really need to buy new socks” get pretty much instantly discarded or added to the “maybe later when the stars align” pile. Start something, even if it’s just a few minutes and see if it’s as difficult as I imagine it to be. When I do, reward myself. (Even if I don’t do it, write it down because it might help in future “figuring out what to do with my life” goals.)

 

Activity 

 

Brain_Training_Gif.gif

 

We all know that exercise is crucial for mood. But more importantly right now, when I do skill based activities like climbing or pole or handstand it’s a time when it’s relatively easy for me to practice focusing on rewarding the process, as well as celebrating tiny wins. It’s also relatively easy to tackle limiting self beliefs head on and prove to myself that I can improve. Note that when I say easy I mean it in the sense that it’s more straightforward and obvious than in other areas, and not that I don’t get frustrated or dejected.

 

a) (Easy mode) No matter how small, do some kind of movement after my first meeting and ideally the equivalent time on the weekends.

b) (Hard mode) Go to the climbing gym and do something to improve my climbing. I pick climbing because it’s an important part of my social interactions which makes it much easier right now than other activities that I enjoy. There’s also this concept of “try hard”, and while it’s not unique to climbing, it’s a huuuge component of it which is both really fascinating to me but also a good place to practice it.

 

Appreciation 

 

a) Each morning, write down something I’m looking forward to, to help practice optimism for the future.

b) Each evening, write down something I’m thankful for, to get some feel good chemicals before bed (see sleep)

 

Internet mindfully 

 

As my energy plummets my input becomes >>>>>> output, and it’s become too much. It’s not just the mindless internetting watching YT videos or scrolling through IG, but any kind of input that I consume in order to prevent action, like sometimes games or sometimes reading.

 

a) I don’t want to put any blanket bans on any of it, but when I do watch or read something, do so with intention and engagement.

b) Leave my phone in a different room when possible

c) Increase access restrictions for the worst offenders

 

Nourish 

 

tenor.gif?itemid=7255443

 

For my brain to function I need feed it the building blocks it needs. 

 

a) (Easy mode) Honestly I hate taking pills and supplements, but I’m going to add extra protein, make sure I take vit D (hello Finnish winter), Mg and try fish oil.

b) (Hard mode) Eat complete meals at regular intervals.

 

Sleep 

 

tenor.gif?itemid=13455166

 

Without quality sleep pretty much all the processes in the brain break down. My sleep is generally ok and I let myself sleep as much as I need, but lately I’ve had a lot of weird dreams, sometimes causing anxiety before falling asleep and now my sleep schedule is getting a bit out of whack.

 

a) (Hard mode) Go outside first thing in the morning

b) Manipulate light conditions in my flat, i.e. turn on the overhead bright lights in the afternoon, dim the lights in the evening

c) Avoid screens past 9ish pm

 

Ok so this is about a gazillion goals - but many of them don’t require any effort, and the ones that do I set the bar low. But rather than splitting it up into many months I’m going to throw them at the wall and see what sticks for now and later focus in on some of them. Just because the challenge is inspired by neuroscience doesn’t mean it’s a scientific experiment - this is an attack covering all fronts!

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Excitedly waving hi! Missed you and glad you popped in. I like your goal set up with easy and hard stuff. Your lighting goals seem similar to mine. They really are helpful. Not perfect, yesterday was gray and dark all day, and Had had zero mojo. But, overall it has helped, and it has helped with my sleep too. I also like your idea of writing one thing you're looking forward to that day, I may steal that

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Oh yes!

A zombie routine will always get you a long way :D

 

Great to see you about again!

 

Spoiler

 

2 hours ago, Mad Hatter said:

You could think that perhaps it’s some kind of job burnout, but I recently realized that my current job is possibly the best job I could have when thinking about a career change! I work remotely, nobody’s questioning my (severe) lack of productivity and the work is stress-free and mostly on auto-pilot. I could easily work a few hours a day and spend the rest of the time working on other things. Truth is if I manage a few hours it’s an achievement as it is, but it’s less a conscious choice than a cycle of guilt and not caring.

 

I'm just going to be a bit contrarian on that one. Although truthfully I do see your point (and also the money side of things) and it's not something I would generally advocate without a bit of savings and feeling ok on your 2 feet. But I do feel the need to challenge it because it seems that even just a few hours on the job are still bringing you down quite a bit, and it has been a recurring factor of low mood really and maybe not wanting to commit to actual change. The known is depressing but you know it, sort of thing.  What if you took a risk and left it now? Even if you don't know what comes next yet?

 

 

3 hours ago, Mad Hatter said:

b) (Hard mode) Follow my impulses. My motivation and drive are so low right now that any glimpses of inspirations or “maybe that’d be fun/interesting to try/do” or “I really need to buy new socks” get pretty much instantly discarded or added to the “maybe later when the stars align” pile. Start something, even if it’s just a few minutes and see if it’s as difficult as I imagine it to be. When I do, reward myself. (Even if I don’t do it, write it down because it might help in future “figuring out what to do with my life” goals.)

 

I really like this one!

 

 

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On 10/24/2020 at 8:08 PM, Elastigirl said:

Excitedly waving hi! Missed you and glad you popped in. I like your goal set up with easy and hard stuff. Your lighting goals seem similar to mine. They really are helpful. Not perfect, yesterday was gray and dark all day, and Had had zero mojo. But, overall it has helped, and it has helped with my sleep too. I also like your idea of writing one thing you're looking forward to that day, I may steal that

Hi missed you too! Glad the light's working out for you. I used to have a sun light but didn't find it very effective, now I turn on my grow light. 🤣

 

22 hours ago, Tobbe said:

So, are we sure this is the real @Mad Hatter and not just a zombie? 

It's a fine line.

 

22 hours ago, @mu said:

Oh yes!

A zombie routine will always get you a long way :D

 

Great to see you about again!

 

  Reveal hidden contents

 

 

I'm just going to be a bit contrarian on that one. Although truthfully I do see your point (and also the money side of things) and it's not something I would generally advocate without a bit of savings and feeling ok on your 2 feet. But I do feel the need to challenge it because it seems that even just a few hours on the job are still bringing you down quite a bit, and it has been a recurring factor of low mood really and maybe not wanting to commit to actual change. The known is depressing but you know it, sort of thing.  What if you took a risk and left it now? Even if you don't know what comes next yet?

 

 

 

I really like this one!

 

 

I don't think you're being contrarian at all, you make an excellent point. I have toyed with the idea of just quitting, but truthfully the idea freaks me out. There's a small chance that it would work out and it'd be like a weight lifted, but I worry that there's a much greater risk that I'll find out it's not just the job and I'll still not know what to do, won't have the drive to find out, and get myself into an even deeper pit. 😕

 

19 hours ago, KB Girl said:

Awesome challenge setup :) 

and it seems smart/effective too! Especially the action one, good reminder:

 

wish we could hug you all better. I hear that’s good for brain chemicals too.

Hope so!

 

I'd like that too! ❤️

 

7 hours ago, Epsilonte said:

Yay you are back!! :D

 

Love the challenge theme.

Brains are cool! And yay for you being here! 😄

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On 10/25/2020 at 12:02 AM, Mad Hatter said:

I wanted to get it out of my system

I see a lot in there that I struggle with too, but not to the same level/intensity.  The sentiment feels really familiar, though.  For the last few years I was doing my job I would spend most of the day thinking about how much I disliked everything I was doing, but on the other hand it was something that I was skilled and and paid well, and trying to do something else was a huge unknown.  Maybe I would find something I enjoyed, but what do I even enjoy doing for work?  I couldn't think of a single (realistic) thing so I just stuck with it until international politics made it meaningless and then the pandemic sealed it.

 

On 10/25/2020 at 12:02 AM, Mad Hatter said:

B.R.A.A.A.I.N.S.

I love this acronym, especially with the associated timing of Halloween just around the corner :) 

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20 hours ago, sylph said:

Also, I should try this myself.

TWO FACTOR AUTHENTICATION KEEPS RUINING THIS FOR ME, haha.

 

AND HIII! So glad to see your face over here today. I hope your try a bunch and see what happens approach finds you some good grooves.

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3 hours ago, raptron said:

TWO FACTOR AUTHENTICATION KEEPS RUINING THIS FOR ME, haha.

Yesss... but the only thing I really need 2FA for is work stuff, which I should not be doing while relaxing in the evenings anyway. So, here it is on the desk next to me during the work day, but I sure don't need it while hubs and I binge the rest of The Tudors later this week :)

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I like that you're thinking some deep thoughts about motivation, and its relation to making sure that the hard things you're doing actually have the capacity to make you feel good. It's easy to wonder why we're not motivated, not realizing that many things in our lives (like our jobs) demand that we maintain some level of motivation, but don't necessarily dispense a reward that we enjoy in return for it.

 

Here to vicariously live my existential uncertainty about my own life and career. And to let the adorable brain GIFs wash over me!

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On 10/25/2020 at 1:54 PM, Mad Hatter said:

I have toyed with the idea of just quitting, but truthfully the idea freaks me out. There's a small chance that it would work out and it'd be like a weight lifted, but I worry that there's a much greater risk that I'll find out it's not just the job and I'll still not know what to do, won't have the drive to find out, and get myself into an even deeper pit. 😕

Have you considered starting a (very small) side hustle? When I was going through a miserable time at work, the idea that I was working on something for myself, even if it earned next to nothing, was very freeing and gave me the hope I so desperately needed that things could and would be better.

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14 hours ago, juliebarkley said:

Have you considered starting a (very small) side hustle? When I was going through a miserable time at work, the idea that I was working on something for myself, even if it earned next to nothing, was very freeing and gave me the hope I so desperately needed that things could and would be better.

 

This is a great idea that I can vouch for!

But it does require one to have extra energy to spend on it. At least to get started. Then I guess the idea is that it will generate enough energy to fuel itself.

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On 10/25/2020 at 9:17 PM, sylph said:

Happy to see you :)

Great to see you too!

 

On 10/26/2020 at 4:50 PM, WhiteGhost said:

I see a lot in there that I struggle with too, but not to the same level/intensity.  The sentiment feels really familiar, though.  For the last few years I was doing my job I would spend most of the day thinking about how much I disliked everything I was doing, but on the other hand it was something that I was skilled and and paid well, and trying to do something else was a huge unknown.  Maybe I would find something I enjoyed, but what do I even enjoy doing for work?  I couldn't think of a single (realistic) thing so I just stuck with it until international politics made it meaningless and then the pandemic sealed it.

Well you seem to be doing great at life now! 

 

On 10/26/2020 at 5:50 PM, raptron said:

TWO FACTOR AUTHENTICATION KEEPS RUINING THIS FOR ME, haha.

LOOOL the number of times I've had to go hunting all over my flat for my phone trying to log in. :D 

 

On 10/27/2020 at 1:10 AM, Mike Wazowski said:

Gurrrrrl same.

 

Also, MH, welcome back!! I’ll be lurking / cheering sporadically, but I’m here!

Yay lovely to see you!

 

On 10/27/2020 at 10:29 PM, GoodDoug said:

Here to watch MadHatter Get Her Groove Back™

Fingers crossed!

 

On 10/29/2020 at 5:47 AM, PaulG said:

I like that you're thinking some deep thoughts about motivation, and its relation to making sure that the hard things you're doing actually have the capacity to make you feel good. It's easy to wonder why we're not motivated, not realizing that many things in our lives (like our jobs) demand that we maintain some level of motivation, but don't necessarily dispense a reward that we enjoy in return for it.

More like overthinking deep thoughts and digging myself into holes. :P 

 

On 11/2/2020 at 3:32 AM, juliebarkley said:

Have you considered starting a (very small) side hustle? When I was going through a miserable time at work, the idea that I was working on something for myself, even if it earned next to nothing, was very freeing and gave me the hope I so desperately needed that things could and would be better.

I think it's a great idea, but whenever I think about it I get stuck in the no skills/no ideas/no energy loop. 😕

 

Really glad it worked out for you! What was your side hustle if I may ask?

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On 11/2/2020 at 4:12 AM, Elastigirl said:

How's it all going?

Not awesome tbh, but I'm surviving. Thanks for checking in. 😊

 

I'm mostly focusing on the morning goals for now, a walk and eating breakfast, after that my motivation's been petering out.

 

I have been trying quite hard to write down a "thankful for" and a "looking forward to" every day, but while the first one is usually easy, the second one is usually not. Basically what it seems to be boiling down to is if it involves my friends or not. If yes, then that's a big positive. ❤️But anything related to just me leaves me cold. I've also tried to write down a "something I'm proud of" but that's really rather difficult most days.

 

The rest of the goals are sort of drifting. It's just hard when there's no real motivation. Like even if I did all these things to try and feel better, what would the point even be? I know that this sounds very much like depression, but this time round my "existential angst" LOOOL feels like it's more on an intellectual level than on an emotional level, if that makes any sense? It's very confusing. It's almost like I understand that there's an issue only because I don't check all the boxes of how to human, rather than actually feeling it. I don't know if I need a therapist, or a philosopher or a priest. 😜(Or all of them in bar...) 

 

Well, on Monday I sucked it up and tried the first option, for the first time since my one attempt at university (which... did not go well and put me off for a good decade). Before that I went to the doctor's for a referral and she leeched off a bunch of my blood for testing (thyroid, vitamin D, B12, inflammation markers, plus a whole bunch of things that I don't know what they are). I appreciate that, I wonder if that's common practice? It should be.

 

The therapy session itself honestly felt pretty useless, but I realize this stuff takes tiiiime. It mostly just felt exhausting and utterly uninteresting to talk about my feelings, which is something I find extreeemely difficult to put into words, especially with this random stranger who I've never met and have no reason to trust. I had to keep telling myself that he chose this profession to help, and not to judge. But at least I didn't bail midway through despite being tempted, and I tried really hard to listen when he had suggestions and not immediately argue back. That was particularly difficult. 😉

 

Not sure what happens next or how my insurance works, but I have a second appointment both with him and the doctor. We'll see. I also got some resources to look through and an exercise. 

 

That's about it for now. Sorry for the blah update. 😕

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No reason to be sorry, I asked because I wanted to know.Sorry you are struggling.When people talk about going to a counselor, I have those same thoughts you did; how do I talk about feelings with a stranger, and how rude is it too argue with them😉?

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Oh my, I keep hearing these stories about how psychology students are full of themselves here 😅   Like them trying to (very obviously) use very classic psych tricks on someone, or putting people in boxes like a person is not a complex being. Was your attempt at uni with a so-called "student pscyhologist"? 

 

Thanks for checking in 🤗

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