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(OT) How do you relax and "recharge"?

by techcode (Hermit)
on Aug 29, 2005 at 13:23 UTC ( #487404=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

This is obviously off topic = not really Perl related, but as there are many programmers here I believe it's a good place to ask ...

I'm interested of various ways how you relax yourself. How do you recharge your energy when you need to work long hours in front of computer - say writing some application in Perl :)

I've tried various things. Like energy drinks - and except gaining weight - I haven't really spotted any effect like enabling me to work late nights. Coffee seems to be a bit better from the point that it seems to wake me up a bit and doesn't make me fatter :)

Maybe some music of even some sort of sound therapy? Say some breading technique? EDIT: Sorry, my English - breathing technique? Or something else? Whatever it is, I'm interested in hearing about it :)

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Re: (OT) How do you relax and "recharge"?
by xdg (Monsignor) on Aug 29, 2005 at 13:54 UTC

    Exercise is often touted for stress relief and increasing energy (though not in the minutes directly afterwards). I'm not very good about consistently exercising, myself, but in the past, when I have been on a regular workout schedule, I usually found that my overall energy and focus improved.

    As for other approaches mentioned, most energy drinks are sugar-heavy, which will give a short-term pop and then a low-blood sugar crash. I personally find that eating consistent with the Zone Diet to be very effective at helping maintain energy levels through the day. (It recommends balancing carbs, protein, fat at 40%, 30% to 30% of calorie intake and having a balanced snack between meals and at bedtime to moderate hunger swings).

    And as much as we all love our coffee (myself included), caffeine is a drug. Consistent, heavy use of caffeine can lead to insomnia and generally less-restful sleep, which only reinforces the "need" for caffeine the next morning. You may find that reducing/eliminating your coffee dependence leads to an increase in overall energy (after an admittedly awful withdrawal period with which I am quite familar).

    Do I always practice what I preach? No. Do I feel better and more energetic when I do? Yes.


    (Aside: For weight-loss, I highly recommend The Hacker's Diet by John Walker. I lost almost 50 pounds following its principles and the Zone diet calorie ratio.)


    Code written by xdg and posted on PerlMonks is public domain. It is provided as is with no warranties, express or implied, of any kind. Posted code may not have been tested. Use of posted code is at your own risk.

Re: (OT) How do you relax and "recharge"?
by talexb (Chancellor) on Aug 29, 2005 at 13:34 UTC
      Maybe some music of even some sort of sound therapy? Say some breading technique? Or something else? Whatever it is, I'm interested in hearing about it :)

    Music -- that's it!

    I sing in a men's chorus -- we rehearse weekly -- and that sure lowers the stress level because I get to perform and use the right side of my brain a little. It's so much fun that I always leave feeling great, no matter how crumby I felt when I arrived.

    On a less macro level, I find it's very useful to just go outside and have a walk, or even stand and watch the traffic flow -- I work near Jane and Bloor in Toronto, so that's four lanes of city traffic zooming around, the wind in the trees, usually a cup of coffee in hand.

    I haven't tried any 'breading' techniques -- the closest I come to that is using Shake'n'Bake on chicken or pork when I'm making supper. Cooking's fun, but except for kneading bread or pizza dough it's not exactly a stress-reliever. ;)

    Alex / talexb / Toronto

    "Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal research" ~ Linus Torvalds

      i totaly agree to music. either passive (listening) or better active (performing) music is a great way of compensating stress.
      but as usual, we are all individuals. so i turn up my guitar amplifier realy loud and play some heavy metal riffs. that realy frees my mind. when i shook off the stress and frustration, i usualy go over to my keyboard and play some piano (which i'm not that good at, but i'm learning).
      when i'm at work/coding i like to listen to music. but i prefer songs without lyrics, 'cause somehow that distracts me from typing. my favorite atm is Joe Satriani - Strange Beuatiful Music.
Re: (OT) How do you relax and "recharge"?
by japhy (Canon) on Aug 29, 2005 at 13:56 UTC
    Well, when I was a kid (sorry, perspective: I'm 23 now, and I'm talking about when I was around 8-12 years old) I played with LEGO sets a lot (primarily Castle sets). I still have a lot of them left over, and I've recently bought some of the new Castle theme sets, and stuff from eBay. Oh, and I found BrickLink where I can buy individual pieces!

    Ahem. As I was saying, when I was much younger, I played with Castle LEGO sets. And now, when I'm at home, if I need a coding break... I play with LEGO sets. I've come to the point where I can create realistic structures. And if I can't tear myself away from the computer, I can use a program like mlCAD to produce 3D representations of my LEGO structures, and produce step-by-step instructions for other people to use to build them!

    So I play with LEGO when I need a break. It brings me back to my childhood and uses a different part of my imagination (from the part that I use when coding Perl, that is).

    Jeff japhy Pinyan, P.L., P.M., P.O.D, X.S.: Perl, regex, and perl hacker
    How can we ever be the sold short or the cheated, we who for every service have long ago been overpaid? ~~ Meister Eckhart

      And for those with disposable income, and who prefer the modeling style of Lego play -- the Lego Death Star just shipped.

      If you prefer just free form building, the buckets of bricks are really cheap, compared to the model sets (about US$0.02 per piece, vs. US$0.10 per piece)

      As for other sorts of imagination -- I also play various computer games (I love the Zelda series, along with other puzzle games), and watch lots of TV (cartoons and educational programming, mostly).

      But as for the OP's question in it, there was the premise--

      when you need to work long hours in front of computer

      I'd say the most important thing is to not let yourself get to the point where you have a dire need for recharging -- I'm getting old (just hit another one of the 'x0' birthdays today) and I just can't pull all nighters for multiple days in a row like I used to. And I don't want to -- when I realize I'm not making progress, unless I have some major reason for pushing through, I take it as a sign to go rest. Often, my best ideas for a project come from when I'm not directly thinking about it.

      Work on your time management, and you won't 'need' to work long hours in front of the computer. (sometimes you will get in the zone, and 'want' to work long hours, but that's a different thing entirely).

      Update: As for 'breading' -- yeast breads take too much time and effort (even with a mixer that can do the kneading). I stick with banana bread -- when they start to go off, freeze them, and when you're ready to bake, you can defrost them in the microwave or the sink.

        As for 'breading' -- yeast breads take too much time and effort...

        Time, yes, but not much effort with a bread machine. Dump all the ingredients in, and 3 hours later, you can have Honey Wheat Beer Potato Bread (tm)(pat.pend.)(and breadsticks don't even take that long) (-:

        If you are going to take the steps of:
        disposable income
        then you *must* look into Mindstorms

        It takes more time than I've had lately, but its loads of fun.
        And for those with disposable income, and who prefer the modeling style of Lego play -- the Lego Death Start just shipped.

        *drool* me want's to have it ... it's ... it's my precious...
Re: (OT) How do you relax and "recharge"?
by g0n (Priest) on Aug 29, 2005 at 15:24 UTC
    I tend to use music & tea to keep me going during marathon techying sessions, although with reference to your question about "breading technique" I do, as regular CBers will know, occasionally break off to bake bagels.

    Shifting on to an unrelated problem for a while can also be a useful technique - a friend of mine works with 3d graphics to chill out (although IMHO the occasion I visited him in hospital and found him sat up in bed writing graphics code on his laptop may have been excessive.)


    g0n, backpropagated monk

Re: (OT) How do you relax and "recharge"?
by kutsu (Priest) on Aug 29, 2005 at 16:42 UTC

    Since nobody has meantioned a "breathing technique" yet, when my mind starts turning to mush and everything starts looking like 1s and 0s - I practice the Ibuki (similar to Chinese Qiqong) breathing techniques of Goju-ryu Karatedo. This mainly means Sanchin training but I've found the breathing and movements of Tai Chi and other "soft" styles of kung-fu and even Yoga to help in regaining alot of energy as well.

    "Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum - I think that I think, therefore I think that I am." Ambrose Bierce

      I'm not familiar with Ibuki, but I have done some Qi-gung practice.
      For me, the Dragon breath is very energizing; but it is *not* conducive to sitting and programming, its more for physical energy.
      What qi-gung form is Ibuki most like?

        Ibuki (or Ikibuki) is the combination of go (hard;Sanchin) and ju (Soft;Tensho) breathing of Goju-ryu. Sanchin would be like Tiger or Lion's breath (tensed and ready to attack/defend at any moment) while Tensho would be Dragon's breath (subtle with a hidden power waiting to trap and release).

        "Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum - I think that I think, therefore I think that I am." Ambrose Bierce

Re: (OT) How do you relax and "recharge"?
by robot_tourist (Hermit) on Aug 29, 2005 at 15:20 UTC

    music, generally. Singing is good wherever you do it, whether in the church choir or while mowing the lawn with your iPod on. I started bass guitar around this time last year and just messing around with 12 bar blues and three chords can be good fun (although the number of bars varies by how rigorously I count). Dancing is also good. I think you should try to dance as often as you can, whether just getting down to the grooves with your iPod or doing scottish dancing, preferably in a big ceidhli.

    How can you feel when you're made of steel? I am made of steel. I am the Robot Tourist.
    Robot Tourist, by Ten Benson

Re: (OT) How do you relax and "recharge"?
by Jenda (Abbot) on Aug 29, 2005 at 19:24 UTC

    If you need to work too long hours then someone probably underestimated the work involved. Most likely you. So first piece of advice: improve your estimates.

    Working long hours from time to time, when something breaks in production, when an important deadline is looming ahead, when ... is OK, just make sure you don't work long hours every day. Your life will suffer and the quality of your code will eventualy too.

    Exercise. Preferably in some fun way. Dancing for example. There's no way you could be thinking about coding while whirling through the ballroom in valse rythm with a cute girl ;-) Best exercise I know.

    XML sucks. Badly. SOAP on the other hand is the most powerfull vacuum pump ever invented.

      There's no way you could be thinking about coding while whirling through the ballroom in valse rythm with a cute girl ;-) Best exercise I know.

      <lewd thought> I can think of some better exercise that involves cute girls. ;) </lewd thought>

        That's exactly what you can't help thinking while dancing ;-) Or at least I can't.

        XML sucks. Badly. SOAP on the other hand is the most powerfull vacuum pump ever invented.

Re: (OT) How do you relax and "recharge"?
by radiantmatrix (Parson) on Aug 30, 2005 at 16:59 UTC

    There are two parts to your question, so I will address them separately first, then in synthesis.

    Stress reduction

    Stress is simultaneously remarkably simple and terribly complicated -- simple to manage, terribly complicated to really understand. As for managing stress...

    The first key is to recognize when you are reaching your personal stress limit. Don't wait to get there, be ready to take a break before you're "stressed out". The second key is to find a particular thing that de-stresses you; it's different for everybody, but with only a few exceptions there is a common thread -- ritual.

    Habits or rituals are how most people de-stress. Personally, I get up and stretch, refill my glass of water, and go for a short walk (this is at work, FWIW). Nothing is magical about any of those activities (though physical activity tends to be a de-stresser of itself for most people), it's the ritual of doing so. I don't have to think for a few minutes, and that calms me.

    At home, I've a different ritual: meditation. However, meditation is a skill, not something you can "just start doing" with positive effect, so it's not for everyone. Some people acheive the same effect with playing a few rounds of Soul Caliber. ;-)

    The important thing is that you find some non-stressful activity that you can develop a habit of doing when you find yourself stressed. And remember, habits take several days (some say as much as 10) of contiual work to form.

    Energy restoration/maintenance

    There is one simple "don't" here: DO NOT rely on stimulants for regular energy boosts. Caffeine is a stimulant, so are sugar and the active ingredients in "energy drinks". I'm not saying you can never drink coffee or have an energy drink: just don't regularly do so for the purpose of giving you a boost. Stimulants aren't good for you outside of moderate doses, and if used regularly, a moderate dose won't have the desired effect anyway. Once you build the tolerance you'll either stop and go through withdrawal or start consuming higher, unsafe doses.

    A good diet is the best way to maintain energy. What "good diet" means to you is highly individual -- hire a nutritionist to build a plan for you, it's worth it. And, the energy you have will be consistent rather than a high you have to crash from.

    Adrenaline-producing activities are useful for boosting your energy as well. I'm an overweight geek, so I'm not a "my body is my temple, and I will run 3 miles today" kind of guy. But, going for a couple-mile bicycle ride only takes a few minutes and wakes me up when I need an extra energy boost.

    And, though it may seem odd, my meditation regimen helps me here too. Meditation isn't a replacement for sleep, but with training one can learn to take "waking naps" that can carry you an extra hour or three on that demanding script you're working on. Also, the relaxation benefits of meditating in the morning and before lunch help keep me alert.

    Synthesis (Understanding Stress and Energy)

    Stress and energy are directly related: stress consumes your energy. When you're solving a difficult problem, notice how different muscle groups become tense (for me, it's my shoulders, neck, and jaw). You expend energy to maintain that tension, oddly enough, so relaxing and allowing it to release can keep you from wearing yourself out.

    Going for a brisk walk might help you reduce your stress, and will also cause your body to process stored energy (fat, protein, and carbohyrates) and produce adrenaline. So, it wakes you up a bit (adrenaline), provides you with sustainable energy (metabolising), and helps keep you from using your energy too quickly (destressing).

    Playing video games does this for my co-workers (sans the metabolic benefits), walking or meditating does this for me, and a tiny snack (a handful of popcorn, even) does it for my wife.

    The imporant thing is to find some pattern, habit, or ritual that supplies you with energy (safely) and reduces your stress at the same time. Everyone has their own triggers, so you have to become observant of your own stress-levels and responses.

    As silly as it might seem, keep a log of what you do and how stressed you feel, and what the physical symptoms of that stress are. If you go for a walk and feel more relaxed, jot it down. Do this for a month or two, and you should get a good idea of what things stress and destress you. Try to eliminate stressful things (not always possible, but I bet you could find one or two), and form habits that destress you. Forming the habit adds to the destressing quality of your chosen activity.

    I keep mentioning meditation, because that's what works for me. The principles might be available to you in other forms, though. I have friends who have meditative experiences by listening to music (that's actually very common), and get the same benefits as I get from more formal meditation. Again, experiment to learn what works for you and get in the habit of doing it.

    Larry Wall is Yoda: there is no try{} (ok, except in Perl6; way to ruin a joke, Larry! ;P)
    The Code that can be seen is not the true Code
    "In any sufficiently large group of people, most are idiots" - Kaa's Law
Re: (OT) How do you relax and "recharge"?
by tinita (Parson) on Aug 31, 2005 at 02:15 UTC
    AT - Autogenous Training
    before i tried AT i thought it was something esoteric, but now i think it's really worth trying it.
    i once bought an AT learnig book/CD, and didn't even finish all the chapters, but it was a great experience to learn how you can influence your body. so it can help you to learn some rituals which help you to relax, but first it will make you realize that you can influence parts of your body without doing anything but relaxing and a bit concentrating and some minutes of your time.

    things that also help me (during work):
    - headphones with my favourite music
    - playing a party of online chess
    - have an irc window open with your favourite irc channel where you can rant about the current bug you're trying to find whenever you need to (and hopefully hear some "i know what you mean" from others)
    - don't take work too seriously. yes, it's necessary to feel responsibility about your work, but whenever possible, try to remeber, you are not your work, it's just a part of your life
    - perl (yeah, now we're ontopic again). it's fun programming Perl, oneliners, JAPHs and perlgolf. it's fun because, like merlyn said in this post: "Because Perl's so durn easy to use we got time to play around impressing each other. :)"

Re: (OT) How do you relax and "recharge"?
by ady (Deacon) on Sep 01, 2005 at 18:38 UTC
    I'm interested of various ways how you relax yourself. How do you recharge your energy

    Funny, looking at my night table there's "Perl Best Practices" by Damian Conway, a printout of Extreme Perl by Rob Nagler... Must be how i relax at the moment.

    Then again, for deeper relaxation there's Yoga Nidra by Janakananda among a heap of other Tantric pranayama and yoga techniques... Plus Warriors of Stillness and the compendium of Liu He Ba Fa, which is the ultimate way of consciously flowing thru' emptiness
    allan dystrup

    As the eternal tranquility of Truth reveals itself to us, this very place is the Land of Lotuses
    -- Hakuin Ekaku Zenji
Re: (OT) How do you relax and "recharge"?
by seattlejohn (Deacon) on Sep 11, 2005 at 18:56 UTC
    For me, taking off into the woods for a good strenuous hike is a huge energy booster. I often come back feeling physically tired but very clear and focused mentally. I find there's something about getting into a completely different physical environment, especially one with relative quiet and solitude, that seems to enable my brain to let go and contemplate a problem more broadly.

            $perlmonks{seattlejohn} = 'John Clyman';

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