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Cover image for How do you get over bad days?

How do you get over bad days?

cilvako profile image Silvia Bogdan ・1 min read

I've been in the field for almost 8 months and the more I learn, the more I have the feeling that the amount of things I need to know is never-ending.

How do you get over not so good days? How do you stay motivated or get over the feeling you're not prepared enough?

[EDIT]: thank you all for the wonderful advice and for sharing your experience. I said it before and I'll say it again (as many times as necessary), I believe the support the tech community offers is very rare.

Image source: Nicole Wolf/ @joeel56 on Unsplash

Discussion

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My bad days, especially early in my career, tended to be VERY LENGTHY, and generally feel hopeless.

I’m the kind of person who can, in the face of a problem, stay attached to it until I break through. And sometimes that meant staying up all night trying to figure something out that I didn’t understand.

The most motivating thing I can do is to think about how much I tended to learn in these episodes of hardship so that when I am in the middle of something like that I can think of it as more than thankless agony. I can also remind myself how useful it can be to just go to sleep or take a break and come back with fresh eyes. This mindset helps me avoid these situations these days.

Bad days suck and teach you a lot if you’re willing to listen to the lessons.

 

@ben Yes, I guess it makes sense for the bad days to be longer when you're just starting out. Since we didn't yet learn how to cope with these situations, we'll probably repeat this cycle (I don't know anything -> this is not so bad -> I'm a genius -> I don't know anything) for quite a while. Just going to sleep when you think it's too much is such an underrated advice :). Thank you for your input.

 

@ben I can relate all too well to this. That tunnel vision, not even realizing you may have been on the right path hours ago because you're so simultaneously locked in and panicking and being harder and harder on yourself the longer it takes to figure out. Hellish.

 

The hardest thing on days like this is to follow good advice that you seem to know but at the same time don't believe in it at times when you feel bad.

I have an algorithm that I going to use in this moment. I have had this algorithm for some time, but as I said, I forget about it when I really feel bad.

  1. Detach from the problem for a period of time, take a walk is the best way to do that.
  2. As soon is possible explain your feeling to someone.
  3. Find a circle of things that you have control over.
  4. Put your efforts to solve, improve things inside the circle.
  5. Expand the circle.
  6. Repeat 3-6, if it doesn't work 1-6.

Two things also can help. Gratitude and a list of previous achievements.

If gratitude didn't work for you, as for me sometimes, then you can use a Zen practice to wish happiness and well being to someone with whom you don't have complicated relationships.

Keep or make a list of previous achievements. Stick to write to it every day. It will save some days in the future. When you read this list, you realize that the situation you are in is created in your own mind. That in fact you have already achieved a lot, and this indicates that you can achieve much more.

 

I like 3-6 a lot and I must admit, I have been doing that sometimes without thinking about it. "then you can use a Zen practice to wish happiness and well being to someone with whom you don't have complicated relationships." I've heard something similar to this. Is like say something nice to someone to make their day brighter?

 

Is like say something nice to someone to make their day brighter?

Here is the process:

  1. Find a seat
  2. Close eys
  3. You need to imagine vividly one person with whom you have not complicated relationships (a colleague, for example)
  4. Then you need to wish this person "may you be happy'
  5. "May you be safe"
  6. "May you be healthy, peaceful, and strong"
  7. "May you give and receive appreciation today"

You need to truly believe in what you are saying. Tim Ferriss said that this practice he recommended to couple of his friends and after a week of practicing they said "it was the most amazing week in my life". It is a powerful tool!

 

I've been in the field for almost 8 months and the more I learn, the more I have the feeling that the amount of things I need to know is never-ending.

20 years into my IT career, I still feel like that every day. There's nothing bad about that feeling.

I learnt a long time ago, that life is a rollercoaster. The ups are great, the downs suck, but they have to both exist for you to understand just how good the good moments are. Dwelling on the bad simply stops you enjoying the good so much.

Accept the bad days for what they are, days, and they'll pass quicker.

 

I am working for a bit over 10 years as a software developer and had some bad periods as well. Mostly attached to toxic work environmnents and my personal impostor syndrome. What I know 100% all the time is that I have a 100% track of successfully going through moments like these and be ok. I decided (after a long time) that I could actually learn from them: spot bad situations, how to approach something technical I don't understand, how to feel ok to not code in my spare time and how important sleep and mental health is.

I am passionate about coding in general, and it's more than normal not to be passionate all the time, especially for something that you don't have a stake in. It's a job. Taking care of myself helps me cope with bad and good moments.

 

Thank you for sharing, I like you approach when it comes to this kind of problems :). I suppose after I'll gain more experience I will be able to do all the things you're already doing and be more relaxed when not so good periods come.

 

Take everything with 'a grain of salt'. We all have bad moments that fall under the "exception" list. Just be kind to yourself and allow yourself to feel what you feel and move forward as you see best. Hugs.

 

Thank you for sharing this, you've been coding for 10 years (um...awesome) and that impostor syndrome is still there? I thought it was just me after 3 years. This makes me feel less isolated.

 

It depends on each person, but I know it's a common thing in our domain. Speaking about it makes it less taboo. :)

 

I personally more focused on the journey. Not only for my career but for every decision I make. Do you feel happy when you code? Satisfied when you learn something new? That's it. That's the beauty of being on an endless track. It never ends, comes with surprises, and full of excitement.

 

One thing I noticed, paradoxically, is that I start to be unhappy with work if a big amount of time passes without learning anything new. At the same time I wish things wouldn't move so fast :D. Oh, the struggle.

 

You don't.

In my opinion I believe that bad days are reason of stressing out too much on a problem, this can be a personal problem or a professional one, or even something related to code.

If it's something related to code like loosing confidence in yourself that you can't code anymore then I just play some music and go ahead an improve on projects I've already built
i've written about dealing with this in the past.

If it has to do with something that someone said or something that's gone wrong and is having an impact on your thought process then a better approach is to give up on work for that day and instead do nothing.

like literally nothing, sleep maybe or light music. That's mostly what I end up doing.

The post I mentioned earlier can be found here if you'd like to give it a read

blog.siddharthgelera.com/2020/06/2...

 

Thank you for your input, @Reaper. I see this advice to be given a lot: just walk away and come back when you're in a better state. I can do this at my job (supportive team, relaxed working environment and all that) but I can't stop wondering how many have this luxury. And yes, I am mostly talking about bad days related to coding :).

 

The thought of loosing a job or adding delay to the project shouldn't be any reason to let your mental health be at stake, the job will have a replacement within days , a person might need months to get back to a healthy mentality

 

the more I learn, the more I have the feeling that the amount of things I need to know is never-ending

This is true in a lot of fields. Unlike a lot of other fields, the software world is moving really fast and it still keeps accelerating. This is why you primarily focus on learning things which you (might) use in the near future.

That the things to learn is never-ending is also a great thing. Think of it as a journey where you can keep exploring new things. And at some point, you become part of the people who increase the world which people can journey through (if you like to).

If you get stuck. Take a break from that part and go do one of the many other things you can do. It doesn't help focusing on a single thing you cannot figure out. Walk away! and focus on a different thing. Quite often you get a eureka effect, and solve the thing you were stuck at.

"One of the best programming skills you can have is knowing when to walk away for awhile." - Oscar Godson

In a good team walking away from an problem is supported. If it's not, then you may need to consider walking away from that team.

 

I actually like your advice, especially the one related to team support. I am lucky to work with a very supportive and relaxed team, I think the pressure comes more from my side. Maybe with experience the bad days will be fewer and fewer and they won't feel so bad anymore. Thank you for sharing.

 

Coding is the path, not the destination.
Sometimes you might have to rest from walking. Sit down and take a breath and clear your mind. Use those moments to think of how wonderful the path ahead of you is 🙂

 

I usually take a nap, even if it's late in the day. I sleep for about 30-40 minutes and it helps switch my mood.

 

Do you work from home? I actually agree, this helps a lot and now that I work from home there have been days when I did just that - I took a nap. I don't know what I'll do after we go back in the office :D. Thank you for sharing.

 

Oh yes, I forgot to mention I work from home. That helps for the nap :D

 

My bad days are a bit of adventures. This is how I approach them.

  • Asking myself - Is it really a bad day? - I ask this question to switch my perspective to that of an observer. I recollect how I've been able to cross some worse days in the past. It makes my current problem look relatively small.

  • Zooming out - Bad days to me occur as a result of a problem which, in 80% of the cases, was fairly predictable. It is funny that sometimes I tend to look at them real close rather than looking at them wholistically. I zoom out of the problem and analyse what caused them in the first place. This gives the liberty to think of fresh approaches to achieve the same objective.

  • Looking forward to challenging days - I slowly started preferring challenging days because they demanded action. Usually those actions improve me and I learn something important from them. This shifted my mindset of problem -> challenges -> adventure.

I also believe rest is important to do whatever I wanted to do. I pull an all-nighter only if I do it out of passion & within reasonable capacity. In all other cases, I would not let it affect adversely. I retrospect and allocate time separately.

 

Thank you for sharing, sounds like very good advice. Still need to work on not feeling guilty I don't study enough on my free time :).

 

Hi there!

At the beginning of my journey in the field I had very very bad days. Two main reasons:

  • very bad manager (I quite after 1 year)
  • put too much pressure myself to learn a lot of things -> work too much

I've started terribly and it gets me a lot of time to recover.

I was in my tech world and nothing else! The best advice that I can give you is to do something (not coding) after your work that you enjoy! Today, when I have a bad day I know that something good is waiting for me after work! And thus, doing something else after work, help me a lot and may help me to have a good day tomorrow.

I know, it's very hard to disconnect from the tech world, but do yourself a favor for your future :)

 

when I have a bad day I know that something good is waiting for me after work. This sounds like a very good approach and I sometimes use it, not only when it comes to having a bad day at work, but bad days in general. True, we all need to learn how/ when to disconnect. Thank you for sharing :).

 

That's a good question! And a tough one.

Some bad days are really tough - I keep thinking about the event that made my day worse, and I repeat it in my mind over and over. It's exhausting and it does not lead to anything.

These days it happens to me less than it used to. I believe one reason is experience - I realize that with all the mistakes I've made in the past, with all the times I failed my own expectations, the companies that I've worked for still exist and do great; I'm still in good relations with the people I argued with; and the mistakes I made happened once, and I learned my lessons.

That also keeps me motivated - some days are really bad, but when I take bigger perspective I see that the whole week or month, or year was quite good. One day I didn't prepare well, I didn't do my homework. But I did it for all the other days that week and overall I made good progress.

And if you're looking for something that will take your mind away from work, for me team sports work great - if I try to read a book on a bad day, my mind constantly goes back to work, the same with gym or coding, but when I have to focus on running and throwing the ball to help my team score, I can really forget about everything else.

 

Thx for sharing. I think you're right, experience doesn't mean learning how to code only but also how to deal with bad days/ periods. It's funny cos' one week you can feel the smartest in the neighborhood and the next like you'll never gonna be a good developer. Team sports might be a good idea, I practice jogging but it leaves too much space to think about things.

 

This post forced me to create an account because I had to leave my thoughts regarding this topic.

I am 100% with you. I feel like just when I am about to start to specialize... It's time to learn something new, I am a big believer in always learning, but there is a point when it just isn't suitable, I hit that point six months ago.

How to deal with a bad day, if I had the answer to this question, believe me, I would share it with you rather I will share with you what I have found works for me.

Find somewhere you feel safe, and decompress. I reflect on the past day and ask myself some basic questions.

What was so bad about today?
Could have done it better?
Why is it not working in the way I hoped it had?
Etc... But then you need to reflect on the good too.
What was good about today?
What did I do that was amazing?

Doing this daily has shown me shortcuts in ways that approach issues on a daily bases. Let me be 100% honest it will not always work, but that is life.

Staying motivated is hard, but I have found setting myself small daily goals has been the trick to not losing motivation.

You can never be 100% prepared for anything the best thing you can be is aware failure is always a thing, and not knowing is 100% okay. You will find that as you grow in the technology space that a lot of your skills are transferable to other topics.

As my backend coding lecture told me, I don't know how to use Microsoft Word, but I do know how they coded and why they made the choices they did, and it is perfectly okay. Because I don't need to be prepared for knowing that because I have Google and I technical so a quick bit of reading and I can be prepared for that moment but once that moment is over, I don't need to keep that information.

And that is how I lived worked my whole life, focusing on the aspects that I need to at that moment.

 

Thank you for sharing. I absolutely agree that we don't have to know the inner workings of the tooling we're using and that we should be prepared to fail :). You left some good advice here.

 

Well for me, it’s about accepting the fact that in life, wherever and whatever you work, there will be bad days. It’s just work, it’s not personal. The higher your position, the more role you take, the more responsibilities you have, the higher chances that you‘ll have uncomfortable surprising situations thrown at you at work.

So accepting it is one thing.

The next thing is I put some ground rules not to bring work home or to work at home (OK, there might be some exceptions). Home is where my personal space is. I would like to relieve my stress and wind down at home. If I work continuously at home and have bad days there (due to work) then home will not feel a personal space to me anymore. Home will feel like a workplace where I’m mostly stressed.

So putting a bold line between home and work is important.

To wind down I try to do activities that are completely unrelated to my work. In the summer I like to bike, enjoy nature (particularly in the black forest region), and shoot some photos. Playing more with my little daughter actually is a therapy for me.

That’s why having hobbies that have nothing to do with daily work has helped me a lot to balance my stress level.

 

So putting a bold line between home and work is important.
I couldn't agree more.

 

So agree with this statement. Working on an MVP now while trying to synergize AWS Amplify and all its components plus ReactJS. Some days are overwhelming, other days I seem to be racing ahead. Have faith that exposure, focus and creativity will come together over time. And on the days when you can't absorb anymore, walk away for 24 hours and do something frivolous.

 

Thank you for sharing. Being able to recognize when to walk a way for a bit it's, I guess' a skill in itself.

 

I have been having a lot of similar periods. The important thing for me was to never give up. Just make some reflection for the past 3-6 months for example - how did you improve during this time, what things have you learned and achieved? This is something that has always motivated me.

Another thing is that you are not alone. There are a lot of people struggling and being involved in the tech community is great way to share those feelings and experience.

Take a proper rest and have a good sleep. I can’t stress this enough. It is very important and helps in the long run. Having some hobbies help is playing well as well.

Just know that you are not alone, programming is hard and it is OK to have such periods, don’t give up and consistently continue learning!

 

Thank you for sharing. The tech (programming) community is indeed awesome :).

 

"This too shall pass" has pulled me out everytime. Nothing is permanent in life and that holds true for bad days, moments and everything. Just give your best shot.

 

For me this process was tough as well, not only in the sense that I was struggling to learn the tech stack that I needed, but also that I was the responsible for that particular project as a new hire in one of my previous jobs, which started to become insane.

I think managing expectations with your team has to be one of the first things to try, so you can let them know that you need support/mentoring not only in the technical skills but also may be as well in some personal aspects.
On the other hand, biking back home after the office hours worked for me in order to reduce my stress levels of the day and set a before and after in the day. I'm a musical person so another thing I've tried as soon as I arrived home was to just relax and listen to some music. Always take into account that work-life balance is the cornerstone for your wellbeing and to have an optimal performance.

Regarding motivation, one thing that I just discovered a couple of months ago in my current job is that I tend to do this by getting small pieces of satisfaction out of the job done or what I learned during the days, let me explain.

First, what you say is crucial, you are realizing what skills you need to practice in order to handle the tasks in your job. What I usually do is to start thinking I need to learn X, Y and Z in order to collaborate in some project or get a feature done. What I do now is focus on making baby steps to learn what I need from X,Y and Z, by breaking it into modular topics and preferably applying this into a personal or sandbox project.So I make a daily plan in which a couple of hours before or after the office, I focus on learning or solving small doubts that I have regarding those topics by implementing them on a sandbox project.
I have been doing that for almost 3 months, and not only I have learned a lot in the process, but also I have recovered my confidence as a developer which I think is one of the most important things in our job.

 

As someone who came from another work enviroment I can say that any work enviroment is or can be supportive as long as it involves team work. I've had my good and my bad days but when I was 8 months in programming I felt the same way. Everything was too much and I was easily overwhelmed. It took me 3 years to get out of it a bit, this is how much I've been told it takes to at least grasp OOP a bit, since understanding it is a big word. I won't lie I wasn't always motivated and personally I don't believe anyone is. But I kept on pushing because I loved my apps and things were happening. Slowly but they were happening. So hang in there. Things will get tough and there is a long way ahead of you, but it can only get easier if you keep on trying. <3

 

I feel this is the default setting and the only thing that can help momentarily, or until the next project, is producing something that others use, thus making you a bit happier.

 

I'd like a good answer to that too...
For now, I just tell myself that I've done well and next time will be easier.
What helps me most is taking a long break (for an hour or so)

 

I just remember that it's a journey, and I look to back and see what I've learned, so I have proud of myself.

 

My past week was like a stack of bad days, just to come up with days I usually give my life time and play game's with freinds and chill🙂, and that is how I come up with hard time🙃..

 

Think of a day that has gone worse, then take comfort in the fact that today is not that day, and you have lived through it.

 
 

how I get over bad days? Back to my hometown, live with parents, do nothing, just sleep, eat, and work with mom and dad .... then everything will be OK!

 

Sounds like a good plan to me. Do you still have energy to do all these things even after a (bad) work day?

 
 

After I got brain atack and hemiplegia, I continued to say "Stay positive!" on a hospital bed.
And then, I could get back to work as a hemiplegia engeneer/manager.
Before getting sick, I had no idea to get married. However now, I am spending happy life with my wife.
Say "Stay positive!" 😊😊😊