Biohacking Emotional Work

290 and Self Care

I’ve feel like I should have an entire category on the blog dedicated to “maintenance” as I’ve got loads of posts on my struggles to balance the activities of staying alive with well, the rest of my life.

All of the activities that go into keeping a human alive and functional are so damn time consuming. How does anyone ever get anything done when so much of life is dedicated to keeping our meat sacks from spiraling out? I’m pretty sure these are the things that actually make up life and I’m supposed to treasure this time in my body. But until I become as enlightened as the Buddha, I feel like this whole embodiment thing is just getting in the way of what I should be doing. My therapist likes to call this “human doing” instead of “human being” and I don’t love the joke.

I had a terrific day of doing things this Sunday. I woke up at 7am and didn’t finish all of the various routines and self care activities till 1pm. I went for an hour long walk (which is pleasurable since sunshine and mountain air but also low impact cardiovascular activity) I lifted weights (alright fine, I love squats). I meditated (mindfulness doesn’t count when you quantify it). I showered, shaved & washed my hair. I did the grocery shopping and meal planning for the week. I did three loads of laundry. I made lunch. I cleaned up. I juggled supplements (I’ve got a spreadsheet to track them all with 8am, 10am & 11am slots) which are completely separate from my medications (I have 7am and noon spots for those). And only then at 1pm did I finally get a chance to settle into work. There was so much work just to get to work.

And while I know all of those things that keep me balanced and healthy are the stuff of life, I also resent their necessity. I have elaborate fantasies about what other people get done with their time. Other people don’t need to exercise, meditate, take vitamins, or watch their nutrition right? Well alright I said it was a fantasy. If you also spent your Sunday doing chores and self care it would make me feel better to know that.

Biohacking Chronic Disease

Day 287 and Routines

I haven’t figured out how to incorporate my routines into my busier workdays. I feel like I’ve written this blogpost at least 3-4 times but somehow I never seem to find balance easily when I make big changes to how I spend my time.

All the self care efforts that has become comfortable rhythms go by the wayside as soon as I add in new obligations. And then my body gets pissed that I’m not taking care of it and I get into the same pattern of two steps forward and one step back.

You’d think after experiencing this issue multiple times I’d be better at ramping change slowly but I remain the sort of person that loves to dive into shit head first.

After much enthusiasm and progress I’m writing todays post from a physically mediocre places. My stomach is upset. I am fighting off a migraine. My muscles are tense. I’m anxious about all of these symptoms turning into a messy cascade. So I’m turning to my pharmaceuticals, taking a mess of prescriptions, and going to bed. Maybe tomorrow is another chance to find a better balance.

Biohacking Emotional Work

Day 215 and Leisure

I’ve got a bad relationship with work. Since I was a teenager I’ve been compulsive about the idea of hard work. I don’t know how I got to have a problem with the Protestant Work Ethic but it seems likely I developed it long before I read Max Weber and found it’s comforting rationalizations about work’s inherent morality.

I’m fascinated by things like commodity aesthetics, the history of consumption, and theories of leisure & status. Partially because I got a kick out of supposing I was a better person than those wretched lazy types. I wasn’t so sophisticated to sneer “rentier” class as kid but I was well on my way to veneration of hard work and productive capital. An economics degree finished the job.

This was compounded by growing up in a family that worshipped the culture of Silicon Valley. The innovation of computers and the people that worked all hours to bring their creativity to the world were the most important people on the planet. They hadn’t quite crossed the cultural rubicon of power that the tech industry has now, but the power of making the future was hard work and heady stuff even before it captured the mainstream. I wanted to change the world like the people my father admired

There was a time when computing and automation raised questions of a new era of leisure. If we could move all of the work we’d previously done manually to automated systems perhaps humans could ascend to The Culture of Ian M Bank’s novels. In a distant future of abundance, sentient AIs run industry and production, so humanity can do, well, whatever it likes.

But we haven’t achieved a post scarcity world. If anything accumulating resources and showing you’ve done it by the rules of the meritocracy makes hard work even more crucial. You’ve got to play and win two games. You’ve got to make the money and show you’ve demonstrated the proper status while doing it. It seems like leisure is losing the battle quite soundly.

I’ve been pushing all year to get back to hard work. I’ve worked hard at my health. I’ve committed myself to biohacking. But really what if the obsession with working myself to the bone is killing me? I’ve been completely relaxed as I prepared for a medical procedure this week. I’ve never felt better. Which forced me to ask myself if maybe I better come to live leisure like the way I have loved work. It might be a much better life for me. The future sentient AIs might approve as well.

Biohacking Emotional Work

Day 211 and Laughter

I miss being able to enjoy time out in the world. You know that feeling when you’ve spent the last two hours at your favorite bar with your friends just talking about nothing? The ease that you feel being with your community and enjoying being together? The casual camaraderie and easy laughter that comes from no expectations time together has been lost to many of us. I miss it.

It doesn’t seem like those days are coming back for some of us in the near future. If I give too much thought to the impact of things like the pandemic I think I just spike my cortisol. That’s a stress hormone. The stress of reactivity is killing all of us. Constant panic over floods, heatwaves, outbreaks and all their downstream effects is overwhelming our capacity to live. And yes, granted a more globalized war with a changing climate is capable of killing us. But we don’t have to let futility do us in early. We can find our way into solutions. But only if we stay alive to do it.

I’ve been coping with apocalyptic nihilism by shitposting on Twitter. Yes I realize this is a popular upper class pundit class past time. I’ve got some self awareness. But it’s also the only thing that mimics being out socializing with your friends. And I think that’s worth a lot. Shitposting is good for the soul.

You don’t have to shitpost, but if you cannot find a way to lower your stress response, as we say in crypto, ngmi. Everything may be going to hell but you aren’t there yet. You’ve got a life to live, people to love and who love you, and a chance to be happy.

Fuck cortisol. It’s not good for you. That’s some metabolic poisoning eating away at you and you chose to let it kill you. There is no reason to give yourself unnecessary stress. Some stress is good. It makes you resilient. But stuff you opt into? Fuck that noise it’s only going to make you sick.

And despite whatever family trauma circuit you may be playing out in your head, YOU DO NOT DESERVE THAT SHIT. No I’m seriously disease and suffering aren’t a moral good. Everything might be rough but you need to find a laugh. It might just save your life.


Day 210 and Expensive Piss

I used to be pretty mixed on supplements. I was sure that good nutrition could get you everything you needed in terms of micronutrients. But I think that was naive. Agribusiness is hard on the soil, humans lean on packaged easy foods, and it’s quite hard to stick to a good diet everyday. Depending on your unique stresses, biochemistry, and genetics it’s possible you could use a little help.

I take a shit ton of supplements now and I’ve got very expensive piss. But I also feel a lot better so far I must be absorbing some of it. I track their impact with my biohacking stack. Here is my beginner’s guide to setting one up.

B Vitamins – best bang for your buck for energy. I take a liposomal methyl B complex in liquid form from Quicksilver. But I also like Pure Encapsulations Homocysteine Factors too.

Vitamin D – a proven winner that absolutely everyone should consider. I do 10,000 IU which is about 10x the recommended dose.

Minerals – Humans need calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride and sulfur. Plus trace minerals iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride and selenium. Don’t believe me? Harvard folks break it down. It’s actually a good synopsis. I personally get my trace minerals from Cellcor CT Minerals as I like liquids for fast absorption and bioavailability but this Pure Encapsulations Mineral 650 is pretty good.

Collagen – makes you look younger but apparently but it’s legit good for bone health. I haven’t cut my hair in almost a year, I look like a mermaid without any split ends.

CoQ-10 – tasty brain goodness. Consider combining it with some green tea. Mayo Clinic says it’s good for your heart and also maybe migraines (that’s why I take it)

Resveretrol – banger of an antioxidant, good evidence it’s an anti inflammatory that helps with aches for say rheumatoid issues. Polyphenols help you recover.

Magnesium – technically this is already in my minerals but I take an additional dose of magnesium glycinate an hour before bedtime.

This isn’t my entire stack but it’s the list of stuff that isn’t too esoteric, most people would benefit from, and won’t fuck you up. Obviously I’m not a doctor I’m just a hacker of my own body but if you want a place to start on supplements this is pretty good.

Biohacking Chronic Disease

Day 162 and Reactivity

I’m sensitive to everything. Physically I mean. I’m surprisingly tolerant of emotional volatility, which means I’m well suited to entrepreneurial nonsense and financial chaos. Physically, on the other hand, I’m a hot house flower. Orchids have a wider band of tolerance than I do. If you don’t feed, water and rest me on a precise schedule I will cascade from blooming to dead in a few hours. Only a slight exaggeration.

I’ve got endless examples I can share. I can go from zero strain & a low heart rate when working out at 65 degrees to vascular distress and heart rate spikes at 75 degrees. When I was younger I would get drunk from one drink and now I can’t even have a sip of wine without turning beat red. If a drug has rare side effects I’m virtually guaranteed to get it. My doctors are pretty familiar with this now and like to make jokes about it. “Well .001 of patients experience thinning hair so you will probably go bald!”

On a day to day basis I hate this because it means I have a lot less flexibility to fuck around. I will find out. I need to keep strong rhythms and routines. And I can often spot when even a planned and positive therapy has negative consequences almost immediately.

For instance, I take an immune suppressing biologic every two weeks to keep my immune system from getting too worked up and causing inflammation. I’ve got ankylosing spondylitis which means the swelling shows up in my spine. It’s good to keep this suppressed. This drug lets me walk and live normally which is awesome! Yay! But on the day of my shot and about 24 hours after I feel like shit. I can literally feel my immune system getting shut down in real time. I’m sniffly, tired and slow today. While this is good in the long run, we want to keep my immune system down, I’m grumpy as fuck that I feel the effects of this drug.

The upside to this reactivity is even modest changes show up in my tracking tools. I can leverage many subtle therapies, diagnostics, treatments and supplements to significant effect. It’s probably a factor in my affection for biohacking. I can see results quickly. The feedback loops tend to be short and noticeable for me, which thanks to tracking many variables over a long time span, means I can isolate effects within relatively short order. So while I’m a pain in the ass patient I’m also a pretty emotionally satisfying one. If you make a correct diagnosis on me you will find out pretty fast. That’s so satisfying.

The irony of this short feedback loop reactivity is that I mostly work on longer term horizons and on extremely volatile things. Maybe it’s because I get the benefits of compounding because I have built up so many positive habits? I don’t get worked up by any individual data point because I’m used to seeing extreme reactions in myself. No big deal. I don’t mind chaos at all because I don’t have much chaos in my daily life because I’m constantly managing my own biology. Maybe I’m actually perfectly suited for my professional life now!

Biohacking Chronic Disease

Day 138 and Positive Reinforcement

All my health apps think I’m dying. Which like no duh guys I’m an avid biohacker because I’ve got some health challenges. This is a persistent issue across most tracker apps but a compelling example is the Gyroscope app which relies on a health score system. Because I have a high resting heart rate due to chronic pain from ankylosing spondylitis I get served persistent alerts like the one below. “Warning you are more likely to get sick right now”

Of course, the issue is if you are always getting flashing red lights your inclination to do anything goes down. It’s the “boy who cried Wolf” problem. If I’m always being told I’m more likely to be sick now why would I ever modify my behavior to try and improve things? It’s always “now” so there is no point in doing anything to make a better future.

We see this problem across so many areas where our future selves would benefit from our present selves being more responsible, from personal finance to weight loss. If everything sucks now and nothing we do seems like it will improve the situation by a meaningful margin why bother?

App designers need to take note of this tendency of despair based on the gap between short behavior loops and long term goals. Nudging us towards improvements required positive reinforcement that rewards us for who we are now even as it seeks to compound the positive effects for significant change over time for a future outcome. If you’ve got 50lbs to lose you need to be rewarded for each small decision that helps you lose your unwanted weight, not be told everyday by an app that you are at risk of disease.

Overwhelming human minds with the enormity of a goal or a gap between our current stare and our long term goals doesn’t lead to positive short term behavior. If it did we would have solved climate change and racism by now. If we think a problem is within our power to solve we will try but fuck it why bother if it’s a parade of impossible scenarios.

If you are designing systems for people that need to make changes keep in mind this gap. You will see better results and happier humans if you lay off the doom and gloom. Positive reinforcement works.

Biohacking Chronic Disease Chronicle

Day 120 and Naps

I’ve always been prone to energy dips in the afternoon. I wake up immediately ready for the day but after lunch and another of work or activity and I’m heading off an energy cliff. If I allow myself a burst of sleep I’ll be back and feeling as energetic as I was in the morning right as my body insists on an energy dip as it is dinner time. Two hours later and it’s basically bedtime just as my second energy burst is coming on. Not great timing if I’m honest.

I used to force myself through afternoon lulls with caffeine or attempting to slot in a workout to push for energy. Neither really worked well for my rhythm or energy. Once I went on medical sabbatical I was able to test out the afternoon nap. The Mayo Clinic agrees it has proven benefits for cortisol levels and stress. WebMD has a long roundup of benefits like lowered blood pressure. The only thing you have to look out for is if you are an insomniac then late afternoon naps might push your bedtime back.

This is a concern for me as I regularly get too worked up to fall asleep easily. I practice all the sleep hygiene best-of hits like blue light blocking, dark cool rooms aand magnesium and still I find myself longing to find my phone and doomscroll Twitter. My biohacking efforts on the most restful night of sleep are easily derailed by the need to dunk tweet or reply guy.

I long to find the ideal balance of nighttime rest and day time napping to make my ideal circadian rhythm shine. I wonder if I should be one of those types that breaks their sleep pattern into two blocks. Biophasic or segmented sleep always seemed like a cool hack for maximizing energy. I just don’t know if it would accidentally break me.

As much as I want to go on some sort of sleep optimizing spree my gut tells me I just need the sleep that I need. I probably need the eight hours at night along with an hour during the day. It’s just fine that I sleep more. It’s literally the best thing anyone can do for their health.

The tricky workaholic part of my brain fantasizes about having an even block of productive work that shifts my bedtime so I have a six hour evening block to match my six hour morning block. I get indignant that after my nap in the afternoon instead of rising into a second workday my energy is consumed with practicality like dinner and sleep hygiene routines. I should not push my body for my workaholic fantasies but the bio hacker in me really wants to try.