Deciphering my mental state

TLDR; I’m tired.

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I’m quite confused about my mood and emotional/energy levels lately. There have been mixed signals.

  1. I’ve been tired from writing, even if it’s for fun or social purpose. And yet I have a strong desire and impulse to write.
  2. I’ve been having logical nightmares that I can’t remember because they’re unfamiliar and don’t make enough sense. I also haven’t been sleeping well.
  3. I’ve been exposed to over five times as much social interaction in the last week than a normal week, so in theory I should be socially exhausted.
  4. I’ve been quite emotional overall, meaning that it’s been hard for me to think things through logically or follow my past judgments without doubt. I’ve been confused and grateful and inspired and many other things.
  5. It seems I mostly recovered from a fever, but it left me physically and mentally exhausted. The unbearably hot weather hasn’t helped either.
  6. It seems like I’m forming a squish, which is probably a bad thing in this situation. For the first time ever, I used flattery in a situation where it felt normal. It was surprising and it feels dangerous.
  7. I’ve been a bit restless and unfocused due to only meditating once this week.
  8. I haven’t been able to run for weeks due to injury and at least once or twice I’ve noticed a restless desire to move around and expend energy.
  9. I usually crave music on a daily or hourly basis, but lately everything I’ve been listening to has been underwhelming, including my favorites. There are no songs playing in my head or any new obsessions.

I think it’s safe to say that I am socially overwhelmed with all the activity that’s been going on. Almost all of it has been high quality interactions, which explains why I’ve been quite emotionally affected by it. However, the fact that I haven’t succumb to the Ti-Si loop probably means I haven’t had the emotional energy to worry about anything too much.

Writing is primarily a logically taxing task for me. Writing too much goes hand in hand with logical nightmares and late nights. It also explains my lack of focus recently. When I have a productive day in terms of my studies, it usually means I don’t have much energy left for writing so in the past I’ve restricted writing to once or twice a week. So it’s a limited resource that has to be managed.

The musical apathy thing is very rare, and I think it must indicate lack of both emotional and logical resources. The emotional tiredness renders me unaware of what mood I should be catering to and what mood I might want to shift into. The logical aspect is that the music just passes me by with me hardly noticing.

I think when the emotional tank is empty, it replenishes steadily given time and space. However, when accompanied by intellectual exhaustion, I’m completely unable to sense my own emotional state. I tried to do this when writing just now and there is simply no access. This must mean that my logical circuit requires a moderate degree of activation in order for me to parse and interpret my emotional circuit.

Now, my being emotionally drained is also a consequence of decisions I made one or two weeks ago, when I had an adequate supply of emotional energy and greedily committed it. In this process, and comparing real-life interactions to online interactions, I’ve discovered something. First of all, engaging with less familiar people in a big room environment takes the most emotional energy. No surprise there. But in terms of online correspondences vs friendships and smaller group interactions with partial familiarity, the former category seems to have higher maintenance and latent costs in many cases. I never realized how serious it was until I decided to bite off more than I could chew. I need to balance my allocation of online and offline commitments more carefully.

I’ve been unsure whether I should consider that there’s a separate theoretical tank for social energy, but so far I haven’t needed it. However, the need to expend excess physical energy or reduce stress with physical exercise is probably something tangible. Physical wellness and exercise help to replenish the intellectual and logical resources.

I think it’s suddenly clear what to make of all this.

  1. I need proper rest. I’m physically, emotionally, and intellectually tired.
  2. I need to reorganize or restructure my social commitments to achieve better balance and recovery rates.
  3. Even when I’m tired, I need to keep up with physical activity.

Putting all these things together should help my logical tank to fill up, which should enable the emotional tank to replenish too.

 

 

Scenario in my head

I haven’t communicated in any way with my ex since the 10 or so months ago that we broke up. Although we’ve passed each other a few times, it’s a good thing she has never noticed or pretends not to. We could never simply be good friends given what we’ve been through and the fact that she never did have the virtues of a good friend. If we ever did bump into each other and exchange a word or two, we, or at least I, would probably laugh uncontrollably. It’d be a helpless laughter, perhaps not so different to the kind a soldier would share with his enemy if they had a brief moment together just after having killed each other. That laughter: a recognition of mutually assured destruction.

Cold Shower Challenge

I’ve been getting complacent lately, so it’s time I took on a new challenge to keep things in check: the 30-day Cold Shower Challenge. Taking cold showers to improve motivation and discipline is a well-known and very popular technique. What are the purported benefits? We could consider the possible effects biologically, psychologically, medically, and so on, yet the most convincing argument remains to be “try it for 30 days and you’ll see.”

I still remember what it felt like to take an ice-cold shower on a snowy day in Romania. I’m going to do it, starting today. Luckily it’s almost summer.

Tracking dreams and nightmares

Does sleep tea work?

As a semi-lucid dreamer, dreaming has always been a bit part of my life. A rather sudden and weird change happened to me in terms of dream activity, so I’ve been recording my occurrences of nightmares for the last two months.

Earlier this year I went overseas for a break off study. In a strange new continent. Alone. Trying to find myself, discover how I really feel and what I truly believe. Meeting strange people, eating strange food, observing and experiencing strange ways of life. English speakers not always being available. I had only 3 nightmares during those 70+ days.

I came home to having nightmares every other night. At first, the most twisted nightmares I’ve ever had; ones that are not safe to share or remember. I was confident and ready to confront my problems instead of trying to hide from them. Were these nightmares just out of stress, adjustment, or was my subconscious trying to tell me something? Perhaps it was just the nine hours of jet lag and my body complaining about it. Actually, I do know of one major influence: that house triggered my tinnitus. (In fact, I could almost reasonably blame my having tinnitus on living in that house.)

My friend recommended I try sleep tea to reduce nightmares. I bought sleep tea with chamomile and peppermint. Sleep tea is not only meant to make you sleep better, it’s meant to calm you and relieve stress in a manner that one might imagine conducive to suppressing possible nightmares. Whether it was effective or I was simply benefiting from the placebo effect (which is not a bad thing either), I felt like it made a big difference. I tended to wake up too early due to jet lag but sleep tea was able to keep me knocked out sometimes. I set out to prove or disprove the effectiveness of sleep tea on suppressing my nightmares: using statistics.

Two months data

  • I had at least 19 nights with nightmares and up to 41 nights without nightmares. I only tested sleep tea on 8 of these nights for various reasons such as not wanting to wake up late and not finding nightmares to be a tangible disturbance to my mental health except with regard to sleep quality.
  • My average recall of nightmares probably lies somewhere between 40% and 99%. The number of recorded nights with nightmares is therefore an underestimate and the nightmare-less nights is an overestimate.
  • It is easier for me to remember whether I had a nightmare than how many distinct nightmares I had on the previous night. In any case, I had more than 40 nightmares over these 60 days.
  • I encountered new forms of nightmares so it sometimes became difficult to distinguish what was a nightmare and what was just an unpleasant dream.
  • A nightmare is also known as a “bad dream,” but I generally don’t consider dreams that are both good and bad or just mediocre to be a nightmare unless the bad part is disturbing enough that it wakes me up.
  • I did not track dreams, but I certainly had dreams (including nightmares) on the majority of nights.

Results

The experiment failed; I’m pulling the plug. Temporal factors were too significant. The assumptions of probability might have been reasonable for an earlier period of the experiment, but are no longer reasonable. I “lost” (overcame?) my reliable “source” of nightmares. I also don’t have enough data for nights where I drink sleep tea, but even if I did, the results would be skewed in favor of the hypothesis that drinking sleep tea makes a huge difference, when in reality it is most likely the result of other interfering factors too.

Discussion

It would have been an interesting experiment, and I’ll admit it: I just wanted to do it cause I find applying statistics fun sometimes. I wanted to compute a 90% confidence interval for the minimum percentage of dreams supposedly being suppressed as a consequence of drinking sleep tea. But my results are now incredibly biased. The frequency of my nightmares has decreased significantly, and I don’t need statistics to confirm this. For one thing, I moved out of the house, started flatting for the first time in my life, and have been constantly challenging myself to face my problems. Unfortunately for my craving of practical applications of statistics…

All manner of manners

I was raised to have relatively good manners. I’ve followed some rules of etiquette for many years without necessarily understanding their significance. This conditioning resulted in some subconscious expectations for me. Good people tend to have better manners, right? People who seem to deliberately ignore the basic rules aren’t all that civil, are they? Everyone is aware of these rules, after all?

I’ve had this funny feeling from my travels that I’ve only just understood now. Good manners are not universal. The rules behind manners are not the same across different cultures, even those that speak the same language. They vary from culture to culture, upbringing to upbringing, person to person. The fact that someone does not ever say ‘thank you’ does not mean that they are an ungrateful person. Sometimes I even get the impression that it’s my good manners that are unwarranted or unwelcome.

Having good manners is not an inherently bad thing, but to expect good manners from others can lead to disappointment or misunderstanding. This realization makes me want to adjust some of my behaviors that seem unnecessarily polite. My personality is polite in some ways and rude in other ways, but I should just express myself naturally. I feel like using good manners is a form of protection against discrimination, and yet it is also a fundamental basis for discrimination. I don’t want to actively take part in that anymore. Intention matters more to me than whether people follow the arbitrary culture-specific rules that I was taught.

Easing back into WaniKani

My main challenge for today was to force myself to sit down and knock out 200 reviews on WaniKani without taking breaks. Since I used to use WaniKani as a form of “productive procrastination,” I think my focus eventually degraded to the point that it had no connection to any specific goals. Furthermore, I’m not sure I currently give much of a damn about that box containing the fantasy called “Japan.” But learning a language is still a long-term investment that I see many subtle benefits of making.

200 reviews took me just 58 minutes. I wasn’t even rushing. But if I hadn’t set a specific time for it with a specific measurable goal in mind, it would have taken much longer. Or more likely, I wouldn’t have gotten very far before quitting. But after this session, there won’t be any more legitimate excuses, because it’s not a serious time commitment as long as I learn to discipline my mind.