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Very well-written and SUPER relatable.

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Thank you so much Nicole! Appreciate it :) :)

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May 28Liked by Robert Yi 🐳

This is so interesting! Makes me think a bunch of thoughts.

First, on exercise, I have found that enjoying the feeling of exercise and the endorphins that result is the key to coming back.

I took my sister to the gym every other day for a month, and that encouragement and gentle consistency was enough for her to go from "yuck, this is so painful" to "yum, this is so painful."

There is a kernel of pleasure, joy, and satisfaction in exercise. And it can be different for different people — some for who weightlifting is always yuck might find cardio to be a godsend. In my case, it also took me time to learn to love cardio, and I still have to push myself to do it, because I'm large, lumbering, and slow. But, I can still find the enjoyment there, too. Have to dig a bit.

On energy levels, I'm surprised to see that your self-analysis was a complete failure, here. I did something similar, examining my energy and trying to figure out how to make it sustain throughout the whole day. I did find defeat there, too.

But what I realized more recently is that I'm an energy addict, and I use caffeine and hype to boost my mood to avoid the lulls or bad feelings. It became a "chasing the dragon" thing where I would pound a third or fourth coffee because I wasn't feeling "good" enough, and the feelings of frustration, doubt, or disappointment were creeping in and peeling up the caffeinated veneer.

After that, I realized that my "mood" and "fatigue" were two separate levels. My physical tiredness/fatigue is directly correlated to sleep — amount and quality — and my mood is *based* on that, but highly dependent upon brain chemicals, thoughts, and other stimuli.

To survive and become more effective, I'm trying to allow myself to operate at a lower baseline. Not using mood boosters (blue sky thinking, caffeine, etc) to give me enough energy to get over the hump of feeling things I don't want to feel or doing things I don't want to do. Plodding along *is* progress, and it's safer and more sustainable in most cases. There might be time that calls for drastic, energized action and focus, but if that's your norm, you might be doing something wrong like me.

Sort of if a team is always putting out fires. Something is dysfunctional.

Hype can be good. Constant hype is not so good...in my experience.

> Looming tiredness. Lack of motivation, felt as a heaviness in the chest. Stress, manifesting as a buzzing in the head.

This is the type of state that I instinctively reach for coffee or hype to help push through. And then it just comes back heavier and harder.

Funny you said that the cognitive blockers are not "you." On the one hand, I agree. What "you" are is really hard to pin down, but I would say it isn't really anything *in* your experience. "You" is probably the meta layer, the substrate on which the experience manifests.

But, from a more practical front, the idea that you have to "fight" cognitive blockers feels a bit too aggressive. This isn't some foreign entity invading your body/mind. It's a manifestation of your experience, conditioning, and emotions, and as a result, the best way to resolve it is to accept is. Don't resist. Just acknowledge how it feels and accept that that's actually how you feel.

I'd say that's what mindfulness means — just noticing — so I'm more just taking issue with the phrasing than your actual methodology. I think that's totally on point. The best thing to do when you run into resistance is to slow down, not scheme and grind and try to push through. Same thing you'd do with a team member who threw an objection: listen to them, acknowledge where it comes from, and give them the space and time to resolve the disconnect. You get a much stronger bond, that way.

On cognitive fatigue: it's totally real! And the more we push ourselves through it, the less we can see and control it when the bill comes due. That sort of thing can have disastrous cumulative effects. When we are in overwhelm (even when it's not obvious to us), we often make terrible choices, and undermine ourselves. It's good that you noticed that in your daughter! This is a great time to help her notice what's going on in her, and to teach her the effective strategies to monitor it, proactively recover, and take some space when she does spill overboard. Lucky!

For me, breaks mean cutting off stimulation (which is hard, because it's my default go-to). No YouTube, HackerNews, Twitter, etc. Actual quiet downtime between screens is hard to do, but it really, really helps. I love taking long walks in the flower-heavy part of the neighborhood.

Great post! Thanks for the stimulation!

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Love these thoughts, Joshua, thank you. It's really great to hear from someone else so thoughtful who's also gone through the same things, and come out with similar (but also insightfully different) conclusions on the other side!

"To survive and become more effective, I'm trying to allow myself to operate at a lower baseline. Not using mood boosters (blue sky thinking, caffeine, etc) to give me enough energy to get over the hump of feeling things I don't want to feel or doing things I don't want to do. Plodding along *is* progress, and it's safer and more sustainable in most cases. There might be time that calls for drastic, energized action and focus, but if that's your norm, you might be doing something wrong like me."

I love this -- perhaps the name of the game is to figure out how to plod along with a low baseline, then figure out how to gradually lift that baseline sustainably. E.g. you mentioned endorphins, which certainly can provide a sustainable way to increase your baseline. In another way, you could a lot of other activities through the effect they have on your baseline -- e.g. social interaction / touch for oxytocin, nature walks / mindfulness for serotonin, exercise for endorphins.

... though I suppose it's perhaps a bit ironic that I've taken your very balanced perspective of avoiding mood boosters for a more sustainable energy baseline and immediately tried to replace it with natural mood boosters lol.

In any case, really love the discussion, Joshua, as always!

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Thanks for the kind words!

I think all people are different. Your baseline may be dramatically different from mine. Your capacity for holding and expressing energy may be different from mine. I imagine myself unique (although maybe not that unique) in this, because I learned to use my energy as a coping mechanism to escape the grip of really old and really persistent bad feelings. Hard to feel unworthy and full of FOMO when you're getting yourself amped up about the big, crazy, world-changing shit you want to accomplish. I'm unlearning that, now.

At the same time, I recently realized that my effectiveness isn't constrained by how I feel, but by my orientation towards how I feel. Sadness, anxiety, fear, shame — none of these change my underlying ability to think and do good stuff. I actually have a classic core memory of thinking carefully and effectively about a problem when I was at my absolute lowest (at that point, I've hit lower lows since).

But...if I'm trying to avoid feeling a certain way, or trying to talk myself out of that experience, or trying to "let it be so it will go away on its own," I'm definitely affected. All of those things involve me throwing up barriers to my experience, and it really stifles me. My view of it is that half (or more) of my brain and body wants to feel a thing, and the other half wants to avoid the thing, and they get locked in this dumb deadlock that itself is uncomfortable (leading to more overt, outward coping mechanisms). And with that, I've basically tied up all of my cognitive and instinctual abilities in an inner war, and my capacity for abstract thought is basically gone.

And then I'll admit defeat, let the feelings just rush in, and the relief (amidst the discomfort) is palpable.

So, the whole "lower baseline" thing is about lessening the power that I need to go through this whole process. The thinking and work that I do on a normal basis actually doesn't take a lot of excess energy — overcoming my own resistance does. If I run the whole system at lower power, the resistance spikes less, and the inevitable rest, relaxation, and recovery period also takes less time and less power to get over.

If you're firing missiles across your borders at yourself, why not choose NERF?

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