Since our return from Florida last weekend, the weather has been pretty dismal. As we were flying home, we must’ve hit Lake Erie around Cleveland, OH, because we travelled along a brown lake for quite sometime before reaching Buffalo, NY. It would be days before the river would clear up.
I recovered from vacation for a day and because the Niagara was running muddy, I decided to walk the Lake Erie tributaries with my buddy, Tony Lohr. They were running a little high and off-color due to the snowmelt and a little bit of precip. Our little walk didn’t yield any fish, but it was good to hang with the Zone.
Then the storm of midweek – lots of snow, teens and 20s temps, HUGE wind, and muddy water everywhere. Bottom line, fishing hasn’t been an option and shack nasties are setting in – BIG. Anxiousness/anxiety, fighting off (and often losing) the urge to boredom binge on junk food, pasty skin, etc. – it’s all happening. Very similar to withdrawal symptoms.
I could rewrite a whole new blog about shack nasties – but I won’t. More and more people seem to be reading our blogs so I figured I’d repackage some of the old stuff. Weirdly, almost instinctually, I followed a path that was similar to the last time this happened. No less weird – the last incident was about a year ago today.
Why Even Try This?
Here is where the experiment began last time and it differed very little this past week. Here’s why I gave it a try:
1. To see how the other side lives
2. The weather was such that…well, it was almost unsafe to go outside. Schools shut down (my daughter was stuck at home with a bored mother and father), many businesses closed for a day or so, the roads were a mess, etc. – there was little incentive to leave the house. This is the ideal environment for a shack nasty epidemic by the way. BTW – Covid-19 doesn’t even come close to what the nasties can do so don’t bother making the comparison.
I’ll let you decide which reason had the greatest weight. Bottom line, it was a risky situation.
The following will describe, in a very fragmented way, what occurred during my bout with shack nasties. It’s choppy and bulleted because that’s basically what life was like when hunkering inside. For some, it’s a frantic quest for stimulation – to avoid feeling caged. High highs and low lows. For others, it’s a fast track to sedentary behavior – binge watching shows, savage “consumption” of social media, and eating garbage. Small pulses of consciousness to go to the bathroom, shove food into your face, or click “next” on our remote to keep the binge going is about all the stimulation you can muster.
Staying Sane by Getting Insane
The quest for stimulation when you’re stranded indoors can be a weird one. There are countless ways to stimulate oneself if left to one’s own devices. However, repetition or persistence of any one behavior/activity will eventually lead to adaptation/mindlessness/boredom. In other words, remaining stimulated over extended periods of time requires you to have numerous options for stimulation available. You also must have the mindfulness to know when enough is enough and it’s time to move on to the next thing.
Priming the environment with options for stimulation is relatively easy. For example, everyone has a “to do” list. It’s incredibly likely one can accomplish some of the items on that list while stranded inside. If you’re one of the rare few people that can’t work on something from your list, there are a ton of options to keep your mind and body engaged:
– Watching a Documentary
– Listening to Podcasts
– Writing a blog (hahahaha)
– Catching up with friends
– To name only a few
All you need to prime your environment is your mobile device and some things around your house you can use for resistance training. Bottom line, you must see being trapped indoors as an opportunity to accomplish something meaningful to you.
The Sedentary Pattern – Shack Nasty Precursor
Think about this for a second – when you leave your house and engage with the outside world, you interact with things that are completely out of your control. I’m just talking about simple things…like weather or other people. These interactions are incredibly complex and even though they aren’t always conscious, a stimulation takes place. A stimulation that requires a decision and action. No matter how small that stimulation might be, it’s enormous compared to anything you’re experiencing when you’re locked inside during a winter storm.
When you’re inside, you have immense control over your environment. You can influence, with little to any interference from the outside world, what you experience across all senses in your home/dwelling.
– What you see: Paint, artwork, furniture, general cleanliness, etc.
– What you smell: use of air fresheners, what’s in the trash, bathroom sanitation, cooking, cleaning products, etc.
– What you hear: volume levels on TV/devices, conversations in other rooms, appliances, etc.
– What you feel: clothing you wear around the house, choice of bedding, carpet vs. hardwood floors, etc.
– What you taste: pretty obvious – you’re gonna eat what’s around you.
With that amount of control, it’s easy to set it and forget it. In your home, you can create an ideal operating environment/maximize comfort in such a way that the requirement for thought becomes rare. Enter the shack nasties.
The Route I Took
For those that know me, the route I took won’t come as a shock. For those that know me well, the details of what I ended up doing won’t come as a shock either. The goal – deeper self-awareness. It sounds heady and it kind of is but not in obvious ways.
When I returned from Florida last week, I had what was referred to as a “rude awakening” by a couple of my friends and clients. Prior to departure, fishing had been great and I was looking forward to doing more as soon as I got home. It was warm in Florida and we had complete freedom to do what we wanted to do with our day. That all changed when we landed.
This shock gave me an excuse to hunker down and get caught up. However, I also knew I had to reacclimate to the cold while getting my body back into shape to endure the rest of the Buffalo Niagara winter on the water.
Getting Caught Up and Cleaned Up
Separating the wheat from the chaff in my inbox was relatively easy. The same goes for my social media notifications and trip requests so getting caught up with the rest of the world didn’t take much time. With that behind me, I moved on to consuming the dozens of pod casts and news articles I missed while on vacation. However, I didn’t want to just sit on my ass and listen/read. What else could I do from my house at the same time?
My answer to this question aligns with my goal for this period of confinement – self-awareness. I saw an opportunity to experiment on myself with a couple things I believe have a direct impact on the way I act/feel/think. Maybe you can learn from it too. Maybe not. Worst case scenario – the morbidly curious will get some deep insight into my psyche.
I am not going to give you definitive conclusions or even half-baked theories about some of these experiments. In fact, I’m not sure if I’m really using the correct word, “experiments.” Here it goes:
I think I first heard about cryotherapy on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast and since figuring out how to get used to the cold after returning from the jungle was on the to-do list, I started doing some research. It’s a relatively new thing some people are claiming has benefits for your mind and body. In fact, there are cryotherapy clinics popping up all over the place so there seems to be a demand.
I’m NOT a scientist and I DON’T have the time to do extensive research on cryotherapy. I AM a fishing guide with limited disposable income, and I DO have access to some extremely cold conditions. Plus, I’m always down to learn and experience new things.
While laying on the floor of my attic in front of an open window, I had a ton of time to think. Oh yeah, my attic isn’t insulated so it’s the perfect cryochamber…right? One of my revelations while lying there was that for me, being cold was like being angry.
It was a negative feeling that I could negotiate through relaxation and breathing exercises. There were times I was in near zero temperatures for over 30 minutes with nothing but a pair of gym shorts on. Don’t believe me? Ask my wife and daughter – the past few days confirmed their suspicions that I am insane.
What does this mean/what’s the value of this information? Not much…I guess that how we “decide” to perceive the world has some bearing on our reaction to it. The laws of physics, whatever they are, I’m sure apply/create limitations. I’m just not all that confident that we have the slightest clue what those limitations are.
Prior to starting this, I believed I’d freeze my ass of. Having finished it, I guess I’m better acclimated to the cold. Plus – I now know what it feels like to go from warm to near hypothermic and how it affects my mind/thoughts/physical ability/etc.
As a species, we evolved in harsh conditions that tested our mental and physical limits. Maybe those tests enhanced our connection to the natural world. Maybe those tests released hormones in our body that stimulated a survival response – one that made us think of ways to avoid feeling that way again. I think testing your own physical and mental limits, somewhat regularly, is valuable for getting in touch with something a bit more primordial than what we experience in our daily lives. Consider the alternative – acquiescence to the shack nasties/stagnation.
I was a supply chain manager and fiscal officer in the Marine Corps many years ago. I mention this because for years I’ve managed budgets big and small, complicated and simple – this includes my own. It’s in my nature to be curious about numbers so managing budgets is fun and interesting to me.
You might think the charter business budget is the most interesting for me to track considering it’s my livelihood. However, it’s still a very new data set and therefore difficult to get deep into determining trends. I maintain strict accountability of all earnings and expenses but for now, I’m still gathering and analyzing data.
In contrast to the business expenditures, our household spending trends are well documented across numerous years. What bothers me most is how much money we spend on food. We eat pretty clean around the Shea household and unfortunately, it seems to be expensive to do so.
I’m not going to get into the numbers but eating clean puts our monthly expenditures on food at an uncomfortably high percentage of our monthly income. Monthly expenditures for food, rent/mortgage, vehicle payments, investments, and healthcare are all nearly equal. This has been our “normal” for quite a few years now so I felt compelled to shock the system by fasting and not buying food until the entire fridge was empty (not including condiments).
The decision to do this was sudden. I looked at the budget last week and said, “Damn, I spent a ton of money at Federal Meats and Whole Foods the last few months. Did we need all that food?” So, without looking, I made the decision that I’d live exclusively off of what was in our refrigerator/freezer…until it was all gone…before going food shopping.
We don’t typically store a ton of food in our refrigerator/freezer so it only took 3 days to consume it all. However, I stretched the timeline by skipping meals and reducing quantities. Honestly, I could’ve finished off our stores in about a day.
Even though I reduced caloric intake during this period, I maintained excellent energy levels. I also got hungrier than I’ve been in recent memory but for some reason felt awesome at the same time.
Like the thoughts I had on cryotherapy – I think there’s value in subjecting your body and mind to adversity for all the same reasons. Try fasting sometime. Pay attention to when you’re hungry. What do you crave? Something sugary or fatty or salty? Look in the mirror – you’re an addict. How do you act? Getting cranky, can’t compose thoughts, tired? That sounds eerily like withdrawal.
Just like being cold, something as simple as what you eat and when you eat it can influence your mood. That’s probably something worth paying attention to or at least having some self-awareness about before engaging other humans…any activity for that matter.
It was interesting how much energy I had when I got over the mental hurdle of being/feeling hungry. Again, like being cold, there was a huge mental aspect to it. Sure, there is a physical limit – before performance decreases and general health declines. However, I’m still not sure I’ve ever been to that limit. Have you? You would think that once you determine how far/long you can go without sustenance, all you need to do is consume slightly more than that to optimize performance. For some reason, this is insanely hard to do today unless you make a concerted effort to do so.
Finally – forget about food for a second – what monthly cost can you “shock” just to see what happens? If food isn’t it, what about recreation, booze, drugs, investments, etc.? A good shock always creates opportunities to learn.
More Shack Nasty Avoidance Ideas
If you made it this far – thank you for reading. Hopefully it was a quick way to alleviate the shack nasties. Here are a few more experiments I messed around with:
Getting 8 hours of sleep every night – awesome! Gotta make this a priority.
Staring out the window – sometimes, I had to marvel at what was going on out there with the wind, cold, and snow. It was beautiful. I was also monitoring my driveway and trying to decide how often to shovel.
Checking in on the river – that was a daily thing. It’s been a mess but cool to see as a natural phenomenon.
Gearing up for the spring/summer – stocking up on bass and walleye supplies, purchasing new clothing and recycling old clothing.
Hope is in the Forecast
This will have been the longest string of days in the past 2 years that we haven’t fished. The forecast looks promising. Although I learned quite a few things during this “polar vortex,” none more important than the fact that shack nasties aren’t inevitable if you have a plan. Especially if your plan involves making it a point to get out of your comfort zone. Give us a call – we have the perfect way to help you out!