Mental Health Tips for Software Developers
You’ll be able to find horror stories about burnout a google search away. Unfortunately, it’s something that affects professionals across all types of industries and software development is not an exception. And certain parts of software development really take the prize on this one, such as startup engineering, game development and open source, which are incredibly prone to burn out.
Burn out weakens you physically and emotionally, to the point where you don’t feel like yourself anymore. It’s the new age Dementor, sucking all of the joy out of your soul. The cause is usually related to long-term and unresolvable job stress, and although it can be linked to working on projects you despise or in a toxic environment, build up over time due to the lack of self care occurs frequently. Although we can’t prevent it entirely, there are some ‘rituals’ and practices you can incorporate into your routine to avoid ending up in the burnout bucket. Keep in mind that these advice are quite horizontal and can be applied to other professionals.
And, of course, please consider seeking professional help if you feel like there might be a clinical condition associated with the way you’re feeling.
Without further ado, let’s dive into some practical advice!
Sleep, don’t be sleepy!
Apart from keeping a good work-home balance, ideally you should do the same with your home-bed hours. If you thought bedtime and sleep hours were a past issue from childhood, you’re mistaken! Sleepless nights belong in your college years. As a working software developer, you must guarantee that you have a good night of sleep. Sleep deprivation has a major toll on your body and cognitive functions. It weakens your immune system and induces anxiety, besides, studies show that information recall and retention are linked to healthy sleeping habits.
Here’s what to do:
. Consider tracking your sleep patterns with the assistance of an app (of course we’d recommend an app!);
. Make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep per night,
. Keep Netflix marathons out of bed if possible – stay in your sofa if you’re about to binge watch one of The Office’s seasons once again;
. Turn off all of your electronics unless you’re a fan of ASMR or any other type of relaxing videos to help you fall asleep;
. Keep dinner light and avoid caffeine during the late afternoon and evening (something that can be pretty challenging in our office because we love coffee);
. Do more research on this topic to know what other tactics can help you set a good sleeping routine!
Drink Water and Eat Healthy
I know a thing or two about anxiety and one of the best pieces of advice I got for when I’m feeling especially anxious, is to remind myself to drink plenty of water. If you’re a software developer, chances are that you’re a big coffee drinker. I get it, coffee is amazing and gives some serious yummy energy boost. However, if you limit your fluids intake to exotic blends, things can go wrong real quick. Hydration plays a huge part on how we feel mentally and drinking water or tea throughout your work day is also a natural reminder that you have to stand up and physically move every once in a while instead of just sitting still at your desk coding away for several hours straight, even if it only means walking to the bathroom.
When it comes to good eating habits, the advice is similar. Make sure you’re surrounded by different snack options and take your time to properly eat. Personally, I belong to the ‘tupperware club’ at the office and always have my home cooked meal with fellow colleagues at lunch time. It’s a pleasant way to socialize and decompress after a busy morning. And even at home, it’s always good to make sure you have your meals anywhere else but in front of your work computer.
Don’t forget your veggies and fruit, listen to your body and don’t bring work to the table!
Move your body!
Exercise is an amazing tool to help with stress and other clinical conditions. Picking the right physical activity is key to feel excited about closing the laptop and getting started to sweat off the stress. Some companies even include gym passes on their benefits package, but remember that the gym is not an inviting environment for everyone. You can be more of a jogger or team sports fan. For many years I found myself crawling to the gym which made me even more stressed out, until I discovered my passion for Muay Thai. Learning something new will get your mind off what’s bothering you and once you get that serotonin pumping, you’ll feel so much better and prepared to tackle the next day!
Relax! Try Meditation.
I’m aware this is not everyone’s cup of tea. But the same applies to exercise or binge watching series. Everyone has their own mechanisms of relaxation. Yet, there’s a lot of folks that swear by meditation. Afterall, is a millennial practice deeply rooted in religion and philosophy that conquered fans all over the world. And since we have so many fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender in our team, I don’t think it’s impossible to conceive the image of a dev quietly meditating during a sunset. Or right before work!
It reduces stress, controls anxiety, enhances self-awareness and even lengthens your attention span. And no, you don’t have to dress up as an monk from an Air Temple (yes, another ATLA reference). You can try out Youtube videos or Apps such as Headspace and Calm that will guide you through the whole process.
And…Don’t bring work home!
Obviously we’ve been crossing that boundary considering we’re all working remotely – I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you it’s almost 8pm and I’m still writing this text because I have a big tendency of losing track of time working remotely. That’s okay. But be self aware and disconnect from work at the end of the day. As challenging as it can be, leaving work problems and stress at the office or shutting down that part of your brain once you hit the ‘OFF’ button can be the key to solving the challenges you’re currently facing. Take time for yourself, practice self care and surround yourself with the people you love, even if you have to do it by Facetime at the moment.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please seek help. Mental health is not something you can play with and there’s no shame in looking out for ourselves.
Comments are closed