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Is it generally the case that getting stuck/working on a difficult problem means that you feel uncomfortable (i.e. you head hurt)? Or do some people feel like they are watching a movie and it is fun? In other words, is some sort of exhaustion inevitable?

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This is an interesting question, though I think you could work on putting it to words. I have found at some times working on problems exhaust and drain me, especially when I can't solve them. On the other hand, I have had times when I've enjoyed working on problems I can't and haven't solved. –  nayrb Apr 9 '13 at 19:52
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3 Answers

You can certainly exhaust yourself when up against a frustratingly difficult problem. A generally accepted tactic is to step away from the problem and go for a walk or do something else entirely unrelated to the problem. This often allows your brain to find other ways to get around the block.

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The only way to improve in anything is to do it until you reach the point of fatigue, but not exhaustion. As a trainer told me, run until you're too tired to sing, but not too tired to talk. Then stop.

This applies to just about every learning process out there. Never do it until you're burnt out, but push yourself until it hurts a little. After a while, you start to enjoy it and it makes you feel better. The joy is not quite like watching a movie.. more like riding a rollercoaster or drinking water on a very hot day.

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That's a classic example of stress. Do too much work like that, and you are bound to get a burnout. The ideal way is to either balance out the stressful and easier tasks, or to lessen the workload by talking with the manager. If it's just a single exhausting task, then you can split the task into smaller units, and work on just one part. Take some breaks too, as humans cannot concentrate for long periods of time. That makes solving hard issues difficult in one sitting. Often the solution pops into your head "in the shower" or other random locations.

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