Dealing with low energy and fatigue

Last year I wrote a piece about dealing with low mood. Reason for that was my own struggle with emotional down-swings. This year I have discovered something very cool for myself and I wonder if it can help others. For a while I have been fighting with some sort of a fatigue. It may well be lack of motivation, however it was manifesting in a number of quite annoying behaviours. I had problems with waking up, every morning was a struggle. I stayed in bed up until the last moment, and didn’t have time to have a proper breakfast. Which then resulted in me starving and eating loads for lunch. Lack of energy also was obvious at work, I didn’t feel like doing much, and studying something new was a pain. Finally when back from work I felt exhausted and didn’t feel like doing anything else in the evening, my recreation was in watching YouTube all the evening and going to bed late just to start the vicious cycle again.

What I want to share is obviously not whining stuff but a solution that worked for me. And the solution is surprisingly something that I hated all my life, – to wake up early. My experiment was to wake up early enough to have at least 30min sport session. I am lucky to have a gym in my building, but it can easily be some morning exercises, yoga or chi-gong which doesn’t require a gym. Then take shower and have a proper breakfast before launching into an office rat-race. And it worked, I felt boost in energy almost from the very start.

The first thing I noticed was that I felt energised and not soggy like after bad night sleep. I think doing exercises properly wakes up my body and switches it into productive mode. Then, as a result of having a good breakfast I wasn’t craving at the lunch time and avoided over-eating. And finally because of an early start I went to bed earlier, so that the virtuous cycle starts again.

But don’t take me wrong, it is not easy. I started at the beginning of February and already broke this habit twice in 2 months. Both times it happened due to an exhausting weekend. I haven’t figured out how to deal with these instances yet. Once the habit is broken it may take me a couple of weeks to get back into it. My thinking is along the lines of finding an excuse that breaks the habit and work around it. For example if it is a physical tiredness, maybe I can substitute gym by a chi-gong session. So it is pretty much still an experiment that, so far inconsistently, yields with positive results.

It would be interesting to hear your stories about making your day-time more effective.

Yours,

Human Alex

Trip into the Wilderness 02 – New Forest

Quite typical to me I started something last year but did not quite commit to it. Though this is somehow a continuation of last year idea to share some of the moments in nature. This is a day walk in New Forest to immerse in nature and fully rest from the city.

Something that was supposed to be a generic day in nature turned out to be a nice little adventure with some foraging, wild life and river crossing.

I always wanted to go and scout New Forest, never been there and didn’t know what to expect. In summary I am a little bit underwhelmed by lack of actual forest. But I only seen a part of it, and maybe real forest was somewhere around a corner. Another reason to go there was to find two sticks for my shamanic circle. We were supposed to make a ceremony of setting intentions by burning a stick that represents old/unwanted stuff in our lives and a stick that invites new/wanted stuff into our lives. Finally, there is a wildlife centre in the New Forest, and they had a lynx and wolves, I just could not miss that!

Getting there was easy, I took a train from Waterloo to Brockenhurst and my extraction point was from Ashurst. It is the same line and is very convenient. I don’t like looped hikes, for me it is less interesting to go in circles, so I prefer to have a destination in mind.img_3999Preparation wise I plotted a route in ViewRanger, it was about 16km, perfect. I took with me rain gear, battery pack for phone, some food and 2l of water (also for emergency I took a folding saw, a whistle and a fire-starting kit). Wearing leather hiking boots, thermal under trousers, walking trousers, walking t-shirt, fleece jumper, some generic warm jacket (not for hiking), warm gloves and a hat. For navigation I used my phone ViewRanger app.

I took 8:30am train and at about 11am was in Brockenhurst, lovely quite village. Weather was beautiful, sun was still low and temperature was about -4°C. Very fresh. The lighting in the forest is absolutely stunning when sun is low. Long shadows of trees and very crispy contrast of greens and browns.img_3998

It took some time walking a tarmac road to get out from Brockenhurst, but it was nice to warm up on a suburban road. Roads, even small ones, are pretty busy out there, so look out for cars. Though on tracks I met just several groups of people, mainly dog walkers. As soon as I had a chance I sneaked into a forest and stayed there for as much as I could. Which was not easy. First of all, the forest has a grid of logging roads, it is very difficult to stay away from them. Then there are fences, maybe against animals, so they are sometimes in your way and you may need to climb over or walk along seeking for a gate. It was still possible to stay off the track and enjoy the forest. There are many ponies out there (or just small horses) roaming around. They are not very social unfortunately. I saw a couple of deers too but they saw me earlier and hurried away.

I started out in the oak forest, some of the trees were there for a while. You could tell by how thick their trunks are and how wide are the branches. Only after the hike I learned that new forest was initially an oak forest to supply for for ship building. I always thought that ships are made of pines, apparently not. Then there were some poplars and birches and pines.

Somewhere in the oak forest I found very old oak branch on the forest floor. It was there for a while, you could tell by how dark it was, almost started to rot. Its bark was flaking and it attracted my attention. I decided that it is a great stick to represent things I want to let go. So I took out my folding saw and took a piece of that branch. The idea then came to me that a birch branch will represent a new beginning. But I did not want to collect an old branch instead I needed a sapling. I was very aware that to take a sapling is a big deal, it is a new life and normally I never fall/damage young trees. But I took the decision and was going to find a place where birch saplings are too dense, and wouldn’t survive all. It took me a long time to find one, but finally I got both branches.img_4013

After about 7km of walking I found myself sitting on a fallen tree having lunch. Some salami sausages, nuts, dried berries and a protein bar. Next part of the hike was supposed to bring me to yew tree heath. Unfortunately the trail led to somebodies farm with gated entrance. I wasn’t sure if I can go through because it wasn’t a normal farm gates but more of a courtyard and houses. So I went around and ultimately my way was blocked by a river (well, a wide stream, about 3-4m wide). And this is when the fun began.

Just to set the scene: in June 2016 in Scotland (smh that I need to write up too) my mates and me crossed a lot of streams wider and wilder than the one I was looking at, so I was determined that I can cross it. The fact that it was -4oC and I was alone didn’t hinder my enthusiasm. I found a large log laying across the stream and conveniently there was a branch hanging to hold while crossing. The crossing began with almost an immediate failure. The seemingly stable log was in fact semi-floating and went directly under the water and the branch, that was supposed to save me, betrayed me and broke off.img_4021

Suddenly what was quite an ordinary walk became an adventure. I found myself down to my waist line in ice-cold water. Then my mind started playing tricks with me and I lost some of the memory. Last thing I remember while being in the water was “**** I am in water”, next memory was when I was already on the shore “hypothermia, I need to keep myself warm”, next memory was of me running across the stream trying to warm-up and scaring whole crap out of wild ponies, who were grazing on some bushes. Once I got warmer I thanked myself for wearing thermal skiing under-trousers which started to work like a wet-suit letting my body to warm up retained in them water.img_4002

Shortly after a stroll I stopped to quickly take off hiking trousers and get the water out from them. Once done I put them back on. Boots were soaked, obviously, but I decided just to tie them tighter and go ahead. Surprisingly I didn’t feel too cold. My phone survived only by luck, it was in my jacket pocket. I ate some stuff to keep that fuel burning. And. I was still on the wrong side of the stream. I was angry and still on adrenaline, so I ran. Like a wild animal through bushes and forest jumping from rock to rock, avoiding bogs. Two more crossing points were not good enough and I ran further. Finally I wound a stoney-island in the middle of the stream and crossed it in two jumps. All the way with two sticks. It was like a price for my future, a little challenge the forest decided to give me, to spice up the walk. Once on the other side I faced a field and wind, which meant – more food and more running. In about half an hour I reached a road to the wildlife centre, at that moment I was very warm and already calmed down.

The centre is quite cool, they have typical European animals, but I came to see two of them. I saw a tail of lynx, because it decided to be nasty and stayed in the furthest part of her enclosure. But wolves were marvellous. Three girls and two boys, I think all brothers and sisters. They were waiting for food and there was some electricity in the air. They were so focussed and were tracking people walking in distance to see staff with their raw chickens. I had an hour of my time to watch them, and only then I started to feel cold.

It was time to go back, exhausted, happy, with two sticks.

Yours,

Human Alex

P.S. lessons learned

  • prepare accordingly, if it an off-trail walk alone, take more emergency gear
  • if reliant on phone to navigate, definitely put it in waterproof sleeve
  • thermal under trousers and synthetic trousers still perform when wet
  • when crossing: use long stick to check that debris are stable
  • when crossing: use dry bag to each your gear before crossing
  • if in water: if possible exit the side you need to be not where you came from
  • if in water: depending on the depth, decide whether you can keep yourself warm
  • if in water: burn food to get heat, do exercises while looking for help

How I bough Raspberry PI Zero #1

Or, a noob’s journey into Raspberry Pi. Here I will write what I wanted to read before I started all this. So I assume that for some reason you want RPi, be it a robot project, or a media project or just to have some “fun” as far as linux and programming can be called fun. So there are many versions of RPi out there, I chose zero because of its price and because the final gadget must be autonomous and should not consume too much power. The negatives of zero is that it does not have Wi-Fi, and has only one USB port.

What you need to buy/have handy:

  • RPi (I got RPiZero it from Pimoroni and in my case I had to buy pins as well)
  • Micro SD card (about 4GB but now they are so cheap that I got 16GB)
  • Adapter microSD-full sizeSD (usually it comes with the card)
  • Powered USB2 hub + WiFi dongle + keyboard + mouse

Soldering pins is quite easy. The only thing to mention is that I had a trouble soldering some of the pins with 25W soldering iron, but 60W one did the job much better.

Now you need to flash the SD card in FAT32 and burn Raspbian operating system on it. This is Rasbian download. And this is a guide how to do flashing on Mac. I work on Mac, so all the rest setup is for Mac.

  • Search and open Disk Utility and erase SD memory card using FAT32 format
  • Search and open Terminal, run diskutil list, remember what is the name of your SD card, mine was /dev/disk1
  • Run diskutil unmountdisk /dev/disk1 to unmount your SD card
  • Go to the folder where you downloaded your Raspbian, in my case cd downloads/, you can always check where you are by running pwd command and check if the file is there by running ls (L not 1), really handy for control freaks.
  • Finally burn the image by running dd if=2016-05-27-raspbian-jessie.img of=/dev/disk1 bs=4m (Name of the file can vary; obviously type in the one you downloaded. Similarly with the disk address; use the address of your SD card. Double check the command before executing, it can erase stuff from you favourite hard drive if disk chosen incorrectly) It will take some time, so if it seems that it crashed just wait.

Now you would normally place the microSD in the raspberry pi, connect it to the screen, to power and to the hub (with mouse, keyboard and wifi) and start setting up WiFi. BUT. I don’t have a usb2 hub, and my usb3 hub did not work wit Pi zero.

I have two options now. Connecting via USB, which is apparently only works with RPiZero, or to get USB2 hub. We will try both. So it is to be continued…

Yours,

Human Alex

How I switched to Relish Internet – AirPlay doesn’t work!

Hey guys, I want to share my experience switching my internet provider. For about 3 years I was with BT fibre optic. The Internet was great but recently I decided to cut my bills and £50 for internet+phone is too much for me. So after some research I found these guys that provide 4g home internet for £20 and with no need for a landline telephone connection (which I never used anyway). Even more, it was possible to get a refurbished router and the bill would go down to £15. The downside is that 4g is affected by weather and by location of the router.

To make a switch:

  • Called BT (0800800030) to cancel my account, it was quite simple but it takes about a month to go through and there is a penalty that I have to pay of £31. Customer service was great, they offered several deals to keep me in, mostly bundles with TV/internet/phone/hotSpots. Since I live alone and a reason to leave was to cut expenses, I said no.
  • Then called Relish to arrange for a contract to start about 2 weeks before  my BT account is closed. Relish provides 2 weeks of cool down period when it is ok to return the router and cancel the contract without penalty. Customer service was extremely polite, maybe a bit over polite, but everything went through real fast and easy.
  • Once the parcel with the router arrived setting up was very quick, basically plug into a power socket and  it works. Speed in my area is 20-40Mbps for download and 3-7Mbps for upload, which is good for me.

The big problem for me is that after switching to Relish router my AirPlay music stopped working. I spent about 3hrs of shamanic dances and couldn’t make it work.

Calling customer support didn’t help neither. Firstly they didn’t want to help at all, saying that AirPlay is a third party product and I should call Apple. Then I persuaded that they sent me a router that does not do what BT router did, and customer service escalated it to a technical team. When they came back the response was the same, they can’t do anything.

I find it dissapointing that Relish uses equipment that they don’t understand and there is no technical support for to resolve issues.

So if you do decide to use Relish, mind that AirPlay doesn’t work out of the box.

I will be looking for a solution though and post an update here.

22/08/2016 UPDATE: Good news and good news.

First good news: after I wrote a complaint to Relish they did call me, a very helpful and knowledgeable guy from Indonesia called me and stayed with me on the phone for 2hrs trying literally everything, including chanting and PaloSanto wood smoke. NOTHING helped, it seems that it is just a limitation of Relish router, and AirPlay will not work.

Second good news: I fixed the issue by running two routers. It is not elegant, I kind of hate it, but it works. BT didn’t take their router, so I plugged it via cable to Relish router, made it static (DHCP off) and made sure that it has same IP configuration as Relish router. Then I connected my amplifier and phone to BT router, and all the rest directly to Relish. So now I have 2 wireless networks running, one for AirPlay and another for laptops and so forth. And it works perfectly well.

Finally, so far I am with Relish for 6 weeks, and I like it. Speed is good, it is twice cheaper than BT. Yes, sometimes at night signal disappears for no reason, but it is good indication to take a break or go to sleep.

Yours,

Human Alex

 

 

Trip into the Wilderness 01

I think it can be a good idea to have several not-so-long stories about my friends’ and me exploring the nature. Both nature surrounding us and nature of our own.

The first story will be about my long walk in south England. Mainly the purpose was to try new hiking boots in advance of a 4 day self-reliant Scottish hike.

The idea was to find a nice place not too far away from London, so here is a track:

Train took me to Billinghurst, then a bus to Midhurst where 20km walk began (I didn’t know it will be 25km instead).

It was great to get out from London: landscapes were amazing, air much cleaner and weather not too bad! The first third of a walk was across farmland, routes were marked on the map and usually were the outlines of farms. I was surprised that I didn’t meet that many people. I think there was one family not far away from Midhurst but next time I saw people it was after 10km walk.

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I was walking light; just a bottle of water, some snacks and anti-rain cover. Maybe 2-3kg in total. So the walk was pleasant and quite forgiving for my not experienced in hiking body. I decided to have two stops for snacks and rest, the first one was once farmlands were over and I climbed a hill where found a very nice place to rest.

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Next part was to go through a timber forest, which was a great change of the scenery. But I was a bit distressed because of continuous gunshots. Apparently it was a time for sqiurrel hunt. In the forest there were many strange observation platforms, saying that unauthorised people should not climb on them. Well it didn’t stop me. Evidently the forest was in use, there were stacks of timber laying on sides of dirt roads, probably drying or just waiting to be collected.

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Once the forest was over there was another part of the route along the farms and some local roads. Next stop for rest was just before entering Kingley Vale forest, the final destination. Kingley Vale is a very old Yew Tree forest very popular among druids and witches. There is an interesting place there, called Devil’s Humps. At that point I realised that 1 litre of water was almost gone, and that next time I will need more.

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Once I entered the forest there was a blast of thunder out of nowhere, but the rain didn’t start for a while. The forest is beautiful, it is quite dark and it is interesting to explore the world below yew tree branches. Just doing so I found something hanging from a branch. A quartz crystal on a string. Someone left it there to signify a completion of something in their life and I found it to mark a new period of mine. Some believe that crystals are entities with their own will and that they enter our lives to guide us or to protect us. Before use they should be cleaned from all the old energy trapped in them. There are many ways how to clean crystals, but most common are by placing them in running water, or in the sun/moon light; by holding them over a fire or a smoke from sage leaves, as well as bury them in the ground. In any case, once the crystal is clean one should set intentions as to what role the crystal will play: a protection or a guidance or anything else.

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Once out from the forest I found out that the last bus to Chichester has already left, and I have to walk another 5km along a road to get there. This last bit was boring and tiring. So do check the timetables 😉

All in all it was a great route, great day out away from london. I have discovered beautiful land, get acquainted with a crystal which will be my companion on the trip to the Burning Nest and Scotland later on.

Yours,

Human Alex

PS. lessons learned
– being out in nature is liberating, especially when prepared for a rain
– if hearing gunshots go away from them, if unsure, be brave and bright
– check your return routes carefully and have an open time return ticket
– snacks and breaks are very important, it is great time to sink into environment
– 1 litre of water is not enough for a day hike, it feels bad to run out of water

Checklist to save you from low mood

Who would guess that the first real blog post will be about low mood and pooing? No-one! Joking aside it is a serious matter! I find myself once in a while in that down state which is hard to deal with and I am sure I am not alone.

I want to share a list of easy actionable things that anyone can do to get yourself out of the sticky place of sadness/loneliness/misery/anxiety etc. I am not a doctor (actually I am, but not medical) so my use of all those terms may be absolutely incorrect. The fact is that to get yourself from shitty mood there are several things you absolutely MUST check. First three are essential.

  • Sleep well.
    Not a surprise, is it? But, when under stress we tend to sleep less. Either it is job that keeps us occupied, or an anxiety or in my case self sabotage. It must stop and your own healthy amount of sleep should be maintained. I need about 8-9 hrs.
  • Have enough water and good food.
    I am genius am I? Check what and how much you eat. You need energy to live, good energy not ice-cream energy. So please make sure you have three meals a day and keep yourself hydrated. Dehydration affects you brain really bad. Try to avoid sugar and alcohol, these are great quick fixes but they will kick you out from shit but then you will fall in it deeper. Just be mindful how much of these two you consume and consciously accept the consequences.
  • Have a great poo.
    Seriously! When under stress our digestion system is under stress. You may feel inflammation or pain in your tommy and bowels do not work properly. All the stuff you ate will rot and toxins will pollute you. Just make sure you get shit out of you if you want to get out of shit yourself. Very important!

These three are the three pillars, once they are checked, the foundation is there. Then there are some ancillary steps:

  • Move your body
    When we freeze the energy inside us does not move. Regardless whether you believe in it or not, you have to move. Walk, gym, any kind of sport will do. I prefer rock climbing and yoga. If in doubt, just go for an hour walk! If going to gym, try not to exhaust yourself. Prolonged gym sessions actually affect badly your immune system.
  • Meditate
    Again, whether you believe in it or not, it is important to have a quiet moment of stillness to reflect on what is going on in your mind. There are 2 exercises that I do. One is a breathing meditation, when I am focussing on breathing and  try not to think about anything. The other is just stillness, it is more or less the same but I am allowed to let thoughts float through me and I am aware of them. Some old worries can pop out and may help to make sense why you are stressed. Don’t try to set records in terms of how long you meditate. Start with achievable 10 min and move towards longer sessions. I find anything longer than 30 min is challenging for me.
  • Meet friends
    We are social creatures and it is important to have another human nearby to chat and ideally to share your emotions. But even if your close friend is busy, some company will definitely help. Be mindful though not to use socialising as a way to escape.
  • Take care of yourself
    It may sound silly, but whenever you do something solely for yourself it helps to get out of shit. It can be a new toy, a massage, maybe a sauna session. Basically anything that nurtures your mind or body.

So what do we have here; 7 items on the check list. This is something that works for me. Sometimes it takes a couple of days, sometimes up to 10 days to get out of shit. But it works and knowing that it works makes it easier.

Yours,

Human Alex

First blog post

Hi Everyone, I am the human No. 4,785,700,377, I was born in a loving family in Moscow at the exciting time of leftovers of Communism and lack of food in the stores. I was lucky to be surrounded by great people and now I am a grown up man in London.

I have tried to start writing bout many things which I though can be interesting to others and potentially can either make other people’s lives easier or open up some subjects for discussion. Each time I started writing on a specific subject I hit the point when I either was too busy or not so much interested in it any more. But the desire to share thoughts  and discuss interesting topics remained.

So I decided to blog on a random subjects in one place instead of having several blogs. It will be messy, chaotic, spontaneous but also fun. The name of the blog will be “A journey of the human No. 4,785,700,377” This is the corresponding number of me when I was born. Interestingly it isn’t a unique number, because if population will suddenly decrease, there will be another person with the same number.

So anyway, what you can learn from this blog? I am interested in a variety of stuff including #drones, #renewableenergy, #climatechage, #sustainability, #spirituality, #rockclimbing, #wilderness, #hikes and I hope to continue this list.

Welcome on board, lets do it!

Human Alex