Have you ever had an experience that was so great and so captivating that it seemed like anything was possible? Perhaps you were in a seminar, webinar, 2 day online event, a hike with your friends, a performance of any kind, a long race - anything intense and long in duration.
Do you remember the focus you had and the high you have felt?
This has been happening to me more often than I’d like to admit.
In the last 18 months of staying at home I have been learning almost non-stop.
This means - programs, seminars, 2 day events, week long stints of learning.
What I found is that gradually my flow hangover has increased and my tolerance has decreased putting me in burnout much faster.
You would think that the more you do something - the better you become at tolerating it. It does not seem to be the case for brain chemistry.
At the beginning of 2020 I was quite exuberant and optimistic.
By the end of 2021 it seems that I am becoming cynical.
Cynicism is one of the common symptoms of the burnout. And I have been negotiating with that state for quite some time.
But let me back-track a little to explain why flow hangover happens.
From purely chemical perspective - the more intensely we focus on something - the more chemistry and electricity that goes on in our brain. Neurones must fire in order for us to learn or create something.
Even if you take an electrical wire, as an example, you can think of how it sometimes gets hot, or the plug gets hot, after extensive use. (Some electrical things, not all, obviously).
Same can occur in the brain - the more electricity that runs through the brain - the more it “heats up”.
In the last 2 months I had a couple of online events where I was glue to the screen learning for 2 days straight. Not to mention strain on the eyes - by the end of those events I was a total wreck.
Meaning that all my good feelings and good emotions were used up. I had nothing good left. My mood was the lowest and there was nothing I could to instantly improve it.
This is something that you need to understand - flow hangover is a thing, it happens to anybody after any intense activity and it is the worst feeling. Completely opposite of the feeling that you have when you are in the flow activity of your choosing.
So what to do? Never to go to live seminars ever again? Swear off the online classes?
Its not possible for me, I love to learn and improve and progress. But after this recent occurrence and the depths to which I plunged, I have decided to put in the practice of radical recovery.
What that looks like is - first of all - remembering that it is flow hangover. It is critical to remember that, because assumptions made about this mood can really harm your relationships with your friends and family. You need to be aware that its not your personality flaw, its the chemistry in your body that is making you act that way.
Then, it is important to prioritize sleep to its fullest, because during sleep we flush away the toxins developed throughout the day. The more intense the day - the more things there are to flush.
And third thing, that is a must for negotiating with flow hangovers, is time in nature. Because when we are outside, our focus wides, this causes our nervous system to relax, and if we add brisk walking to it - we can also produce Nitric Oxide, which will flush away stress hormones from the body.
So next time you find yourself in a terrible mood after a really good and exiting event - remember these 3 things and you will surely improve relationship with yourself and those around you.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever experienced flow hangover.