How to deal with occasional weird brain-fog.

One evening while browsing the internet and reading various blogs, I came across the revelations of a middle-aged businessman. He wrote how, outwardly, he was a successful, wealthy family-man – all good, supposedly; however, suddenly he lost all interest in work and life in general. Nothing whatsoever gave him pleasure any more. He seemed to be living on auto-pilot: simply carrying out daily life-functions as if he were some kind of bio-robot.

And what made this curiously interesting for me was that I realized that something like it had happened to me a few times for short periods.

Fortunately in my case, I managed to get over these days/weeks of the blues. I wonder if the businessman did? I hope so. But maybe he was suffering from something more serious like professional burn-out or clinical depression. Regarding such conditions there’s no advice I could give as I’m no doctor or therapist; however, regarding mere spells of lethargy and impassivity – just feeling down in the doldrums for while – I think and hope that just maybe my musings in this regard (particularly: how I pulled through each time) may be of help to you, dear readers, in case you ever feel the same…

I’ve fallen into a state of apathy similar to what the businessman described three (+1) times in my adult (35+) years. But before I get onto the first, here’s a pic with me in tired, fed-up mode! ->

// Btw: the video version of these musings is here.

The first time

In the year 2000, some friends and I traveled to a tiny island in the White Sea directly north of Moscow and east of Finland. It was August, but still the climatic conditions were bleak and harsh: overcast, drizzly, and with a biting, freezing wind coming down from the Arctic. Severe – yes; unusual surroundings – yes; but still all incredibly beautiful – and novel, since this was my first time ever up in the Far North.

The trip itself – wonderful. It was only upon returning home afterward when my first emotional funk struck. Something just happened in my brain – and I don’t quite know what. It was like the North had hypnotized me, and I didn’t know what to do to get back to normal. I lost interest in both work and life in general – in what was going on around me. It was like I – like the businessman – was living on auto-pilot, full of inertia, day after day. And I was both amazed and unsettled by all of this. It was like my usual – interesting, active – life had vanished.

Was I going to go on living like this – by inertia? Turned out – no…

I waited. A month or two passed, and I gradually started being my former self and got back in the flow.


The second time

Another such episode occurred in 2021…

Some colleagues and I drove for a month all the way eastward from Magadan, which isn’t far from Alaska, to Moscow, including via the village of Oymyakon – the Pole of Cold (one of the coldest places on the planet). It was simply fantastic – a winter-wonderland fairytale. The road just went on and on and on through the whiteness.

Again, my dip in normality came afterward…

Once we made it home, I felt like I’d stopped being a regular person. I lost interest in everything. I didn’t understand what was going on around me: “Who are these folks toing an froing?!”

Actually, this kind of thing always happens upon returning home after an expedition – no matter where from, be it Kamchatka, the Kurils, Altai, Indonesia, the Galapagos, Madagascar, or some other volcano-dense location. But it normally lasts just a day or two, and then I’m back to my normal self and routine. This time it lasted a whole week: walking around in a daze, little energy, despondent, baffled!

But then I remembered that I’d had this feeling before – after my time on the island in the White Sea in the year 2000. So I decided to do as last time: be patient and just wait a little, hoping that everything would return back to normal. Gladly, it did: I became an ordinary, active person once again!

And that’s already the second time I was able to climb out of strange personal gloom by doing one thing: simply waiting. All going well at work and at home – but still there’s some strange feeling gnawing at you?… Just sit it out; before long, you should be back on top!…

The above two times relate to emotional/mental/subconscious turbulence that seems to come from within. But there’s another type – caused by difficulties or even failures at work

I’m talking here about when you have some kind of dream – in my case a project, product or technology that you really want to work out but it doesn’t, time after time, project after project, sometimes year after year…


The third time

This happened with me in 2004. That year’s product version turned out to be sluggish performance-wise (we corrected it in 2006, but that was still two years away). It was an emotionally trying time, and at one point I fell into another one of my funks.

So what to do if there’s a serious hold-up at work, which stays stagnant way too long and eventually turns into a crisis? No – this time you don’t wait. This time (though this may seem obvious) you get all the more involved in trying to find the solution to break the deadlock – putting everything you have into it. Even if the situation looks desperate and grave – you carry on working away at it. And eventually things start to change and results start coming. In short, never give up!


Bonus track: the fourth time

This is the bonus track as it’s a hybrid period of emotional imbalance: it shares a solution with the above-mentioned first and second times I went weird – that solution being wait – while its cause it down to work issues – as in the third time…

Let’s start with the cause. For me, it’s when you’ve worked long and hard on reaching the right decision on what direction you need to go in: a project’s up and running, and the team’s working hard on it. Thing is – you’re not involved, since you don’t have the technical ability of the team. You simply can’t help in a hands-on way. Of course, you can approach the team and ask how things are going, but that’s about it. Everyone’s busy as a bee; you – not so, at least on this particular project. Result for you (me): getting down. And here comes the solution… Once again, it’s about being patient: trust the process, and simply wait.

So there you have it folks – three (+1) types of emotional turmoil into which I’ve fallen, but which I managed to pull myself out of. I hope that this might help should you ever fall into similar personal brain-freeze troubles.

Remember: never give up, find solutions, be patient!

Keep on going, keep trying, and never quit – whatever you do!…

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