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How To: Manage Stress As A Developer

Stress has become an epidemic amongst those starting out- or in the midst of their career. We are currently seeing 42% of employees across North America identifying with stress and anxiety at some time in their professional journey, and whether it's merely a more prominent topic of conversation or if people are genuinely under more strain within their workplaces is uncertain. What we are certain of, however, is that more and more people are eager to find ways of managing their stress levels to increase the longevity of both their careers and life. We are even seeing hundreds if not thousands of new companies popping up that are dedicated to finding cures or alleviators for the current stress epidemic.

Stress often gets ignored as the majority of us assume that it’s just part of life or an indefinite part of our jobs, and although it’s merely impossible to escape life having never experienced stress, this doesn’t mean it should be a common theme amongst your everyday experiences. Identifying stress is a great way to begin managing it, such as when and where it’s coming from. The more we can examine and explore stress, the better we become at predicting its arrival and using tactics and tools to remove the uncomfortable feelings.

There are two different types of stress. Acute Stress & Chronic Stress. Acute stress is short-term and often goes away pretty quickly. It helps you manage dangerous situations by triggering your adrenaline and will even occur when you’re doing something new and exciting. Chronic stress lasts for much longer periods and will begin to affect different areas of your life. Chronic stress may be based around money, health, marriage, career, etc. and you may find yourself becoming used to this feeling, so much so that you don’t notice it as a problem anymore. Unfortunately, this form of stress often leads to health issues as it’s causing other areas of your body to overcompensate and to no longer work harmoniously. This includes increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and rapid aging. It’s also important to note that stress and anxiety are two different things. Though they are both emotional responses, stress is typically caused by external triggers, whereas anxiety is brought on by persistent and excessive worries and thought patterns that do not simply go away in the absence of triggers. You must understand the difference between the two should you want to dissect your own stress or anxiety further. It’s important to say that not all stress is bad. As we previously mentioned, stress is an ancient biological response that lets our bodies go into flight or fight mode and it has a long history of saving us from predators and other forms of danger. It’s only when we feel this way consistently that it begins to negatively affect us.

Why is stress so common? And does stress affect everyone differently?

Most professions nowadays involve a certain degree of stress as we have a lot of competition and can theoretically be easily replaced, not to mention that technology follows us home and we’re available to work around the clock. There are also time constraints for projects, new software, and languages to master, the pressure to rise above the noise in your industry, presenting your work to clients or colleagues, and the weight of supporting yourself and/or others. These are just a few of the reasons why stress is so common in today’s climate, and if you’re someone who has spoken to others about the experiences of being stressed, then you may have noticed that it manifests differently for each person. While some people may respond to stress in ways of which it shows up physically, others may turn inward and struggle internally. For many programmers and developers, stress can show up as ‘burnout’ which is the result of working too hard for too long without focusing on self-care. Other forms have been identified as stress on the body from sitting at a desk for extended periods, or brought on by the feeling of isolation or taking on too much work all at one time.

Here are some ways that have proven to help people (particularly programmers and developers) manage and decrease stress.

Take Breaks
No seriously, take breaks. Although it seems like an easy enough task, 99% of you who read this won’t take scheduled breaks which is extremely harmful on your body and mind throughout the course of the day. When we allow our brains to rest for a few moments every few hours, it helps to relieve unnecessary tension and increases our productivity in the long run. Try and stay off your phone or computer during your scheduled break and remove yourself from your workstation. When done correctly, this looks like 10 to 20 minutes every 1.5 to 2 hours throughout your day.

Communicate With Your Team
Working completely solo can take a toll on your mental health which often results in various forms of stress. Asking for help or input from your team will help alleviate any extra responsibilities you may be taking on. If you are a freelancer and don’t work with a team, find a community online and nurture those relationships in order to create a more fulfilling work experience.

Exercise & Nutrition
It’s true what they say, eat better, feel better. Eating correctly and exercise are quite possibly the two most important things you will ever do to ensure success in your life. It might sound strange as they have nothing to do directly with programming or software development, but when we help our bodies function at maximum efficiency, we do better work and see better long-term results. Think of it like maintaining the health of your car by ensuring it has the right gas and enough oil.

Find Ways to Enjoy the Work Day
First of all, you should always enjoy what you do! Especially considering there are so many great opportunities within programming and software development. If you’re finding that your days are a little too repetitive or you’re getting frustrated more easily than ever before, plan and organize your day to get the hard parts over first and finish with doing the things you enjoy. Try creating daily routines in which you look forward to and actively seek out opportunities that could enhance your current role. Studies have proven that the more you enjoy your daily tasks, the less likely you are to feel stress or anxiety. Remember, working within the coding industry has a lot of great benefits, not the least of which is that you have the ability to choose from a ton of different directions within your career path.

Speak to Someone (Find The Source)
Sure, stress and anxiety can go away on their own, but if you really want to get to the source of the issue and resolve it once and for all, consider speaking to a professional or someone reliable within your job or company to help you. Whether you believe it or not, talking about your stress, the triggers, and what you’re currently experiencing will help prevent further discomfort or suffering from stress. So, consider confiding in a friend or speaking to a trained professional.

Check-in With Yourself
Sometimes, you may be feeling anxious or stressed and not even know why. Checking in with yourself and making a mental or physical list of the things that are currently on your plate will help clear them from your brain and you can begin to tackle each item one by one. Try and wrap your head around the fact that you can’t do 100 things at one time, so by picking one thing on your list and completing it, you can rest assured that you will finish everything you need at a reasonable pace.

Extend Your Deadlines
Sometimes, we think we can accomplish an unrealistic amount of projects or tasks because when we put our minds to it, we can be extremely productive and proficient. The truth is that things will often come up and you will inevitably experience setbacks. Be sure to give yourself some breathing room and allow your work, employer, or client to know that the deadline you’ve set is completely fair given your reasoning. Remember, giving yourself a short deadline or time frame to complete your work is asking to induce stress.

Top comments (2)

harryshamles profile image

Developers aren't the only ones facing stress. I think that it is present in everyone's life, so you need to try to reduce stress levels in order to feel good. I can suggest Vibes CBD supplements which I use for just this purpose. I find that if I take CBD in any form, I sleep better and feel calmer. I find it easier to deal with stressful situations.