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Drinking from the Firehose and Avoiding Burnout

Front-end development, painter, and punk rock enthusiast- I like strong flavours and solving communication problems.
・4 min read

Burnout is defined by three criteria by the WHO

feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion

increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings negative towards one’s career

reduced professional productivity.

You can usually identify the end stages of it- once productive members of the team now staring at their screens for large chunks of the day; less energy for interpersonal interaction, and a marked reduction in quality of the work that is completed. More than just feeling tired or unproductive, burnout can last for weeks or even months.

exhausted gif

This is such a pervasive issue in our modern world that the WHO has updated their definition is an effort to provide a better level of acknowledgment and support around this feature of our society.

As a software developer one of the realities of the job is burnout- but it's often not really spoken about. There's a lot of value in being able to push a project through or just keep grinding away on a problem until it's done and Americans are have mastered the art of exhaustion flexing. Just think back to the last conversation you had where sleep came up- Was is someone declaiming how little sleep they got? Were they inviting compliments for their hard work and dedication in the same breath?

My bootcamp experience with Flatiron has been incredible- I never would have believed that I could learn two different languages and a library of each in 3 months and become proficient in creating front and backend apps for the modern web. Over the last few weeks though I've noticed the enthusiasm of my once cheerful and energized cohort flagging though. We're all hanging in and we keep showing up everyday to school- most of us an hour or two early and staying an hour or so afterward to finish extra reading. Our dedication is apparent and the commitment we've made is carrying us through.

It's been an intense program and all of us are learning to deal with the never ending process of learning and churning out another deliverable every three weeks. We're all coming to the realization that this is, in fact a key piece to the work that we're choosing to get into. As such, dealing with it in the long run is going to be about creating good habits now and building those into our lives and careers. Honestly, through all the reading I've done on the subject the key points are consistent-- Treat yourself like you'd treat your favourite pet!

  1. Feed yourself- preferably foods that are high in healthy fats- like fish, nuts, cheese, or my personal favourite breakfast food- chicken liver mousse.

  2. Exercise- even a twenty minute walk will help reduce your stress levels, but a hour of cardio/weight training a few times a week will dramatically improve your life and ability to rebound from stressful situations

  3. Water- I know you know this, but still- get a water bottle and keep it on your desk. 32 oz a day will go a long way toward keeping yourself happy and functional.

  4. Sleep- even under normal circumstances adults NEED between 6-8 hours of sleep a night. More and more, studies are explicitly discovering connections with lack of sleep and chronic diseases. If you don't have time to sleep- you're probably fooling yourself about the quality of work you're putting out.

  5. Social- We're mammals, we're at our best when we have meaningful emotional connections with the people we interact and work with. You don't need to be besties with your desk mate, but it helps everyone to feel seen to take fifteen minutes and trade stories about your day or anecdotes from your life. Schedule time to hang out with the people who are important to you as often as you can, find something fun to do and make sure you're getting a least an hour or two a week.

  6. Self-care- I usually list this as hygiene and remind people to shower every morning, but it really goes further than that and includes whatever somatic/grooming/replenishing personal care that you find restorative. If you can't think of anything in that category- definitely take a shower every day and maybe wear that new shirt that you like.

  7. Ask for help from your team- talk to your team about what's going on for you and don't try to power through it for more than a week or two at most.


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