Epistemic status: A collection of things that seem to help based on non-calibrated trial and error on a study of N=1. Note also that I am not a doctor and this should not be considered proper medical advice.
This is a combination of things I find useful when I am feeling in a state I would describe as “generally out of sorts”. Possible incomplete symptoms of this are:
- General soreness/stiffness
- “Foggy head” – difficulty thinking, focusing, etc
- Restless energy/jitters making it difficult to focus
- Mild to moderately bad mental health day (depression, anxiety, high irritability, etc)
Or, as I like to call it, “It isn’t 16:00 yet” (I am only being somewhat facetious. the expected number of symptoms from the above list I experience on a given day is > 2, and they tend to be especially severe until about mid afternoon).
This is often triggered by having slept badly, but that’s somewhat definitional for me: If I wake up feeling this way then I consider myself to have slept badly even if I’ve had 8 hours of apparently solid sleep.
(Yes this is probably a sleeping disorder of some sort. No it’s probably not sleep apnea. Yes I do now have a referral to a sleep clinic).
Anyway. Regardless of the cause, with a combination of effort and tactics this is a relatively fixable state. The fix doesn’t take me to “WOO I FEEL GREAT” but it takes me to “WOO I FEEL ACCEPTABLE” more often than not, and significantly more often than regression to the mean seems to.
I cannot guarantee it will work for you, but it seems to work for me.
The Basic Protocol
- 400mg of ibuprofen
- 200mg of caffeine
- 300mg of theanine
I am not certain of these proportions, particularly the suitable amount of theanine (on the one hand it’s a bit low for the amount of caffeine, on the other hand it’s a bit high in absolute terms). You may wish to tinker with the quantities based on your individual sensitivities.
These drugs are both good cures for the symptoms (caffeine + theanine for alertness and fatigue, theanine for reducing jitters both in baseline and from caffeine, ibuprofen for headache and general stiffness, with caffeine having a synergistic effect which makes the ibuprofen work better).
The following are also essential parts of the basic protocol:
- Drinking a large quantity of water. Somewhere in the 1-2 liters range.
- Eating food. Something high in both sugar and protein works well here. I like peanut clif bars.
Dehydration and low blood sugar are both contributing factors to feeling out of sorts for me. Waking up very dehydrated is in particular very common for me, and it takes a while to recover from it.
This works relatively well on its own, but is best followed by:
The Advanced Protocol
The most effective thing on top of the above is this:
- Go for a run.
- Have a long shower.
“A run” needs to be intensive enough to get up a good sweat. I don’t know what about runs helps here, but I’d expect it to be some combination of endorphins and increased blood flow. I do not find that low cardio strength exercises are an adequate substitute here, but other high cardio things might (people have suggested jumping jacks to me, but I haven’t tried that). A long walk is also an improvement although less so.
The shower is at least partly because if I’ve done running adequate to enact the advanced protocol then I really need one, but I do find they also help.
The normatively correct shower for this is hot then cold then warm enough to recover from the fact that I’m now freezing. I am not good at following this because I hate cold showers and usually my actual shower is warm but not too hot (very hot showers on their own seem to exacerbate things).
After this I will usually feel OK enough that I am able to be productive unless something more serious turns out to be wrong, but there are some fall back plans:
- If I still have a headache I follow up with a paracetamol + codeine mix. Paracetamol on its own is rubbish and does nothing for me (and is scary), but it has a synergistic effect with codeine that makes it a magic headache-be-gone. Paracetamol + caffeine is supposedly not a great combination for your liver, but it’s sufficiently ubiquitous that it’s probably not that bad. I don’t deliberately delay taking it after caffeine, but usually the “wait and see if the ibuprofen works” period is enough of a delay.
- If it’s the evening and I haven’t had any paracetamol then sometimes having a drink fixes things.
I’m considering adding a few things to the basic protocol drug regimen:
- 3g of glycine. I take this before bed currently on grounds that it’s harmless and there are good studies showing it improves results for people who experience moderate sleep deprivation. There are also studies showing it improves fatigue, but it’s unclear to what degree that improvement is just because it improves sleep. Also it’s cheap and harmless.
- An antihystamine and a decongestant. Anecdotally this feeling seems to be correlated with being stuffed up, but it’s unclear to what degree that’s just because I’m usually stuffed up (yes this is probably related to my sleep issues, no a steroid spray doesn’t help).
- Some form of anti-anxiety med. One of the benefits of theanine is that it is a mild anti-anxiety drug, but it’s not a very powerful one. Given that a number of the symptoms of this are mood issues this seems like a thing worth investigating.
Anyway, this is just my protocol, and may not work for you, but it’s been refined enough over the years and continues to be modified over time that I figured there might be some useful knowledge for other people in it. I hope some of it is helpful.
Similarly, I imagine other techniques will work for other people, and maybe there are some that work for me that I don’t know about! Please feel free to use the comments section to share suggestions (or let me know elsewhere and/or privately if you prefer)