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Caring for your Health as a Developer

wangonya profile image Kinyanjui Wangonya Originally published at wangonya.com ・3 min read

“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.” ― Herophilus

Let's face it. As developers, it's easy to let things get a bit out of hand health-wise. Many times we find ourselves in front of screens for hours on end. We sleep really late (or not at all) sometimes. Unless you're disciplined enough to follow a schedule, you might find yourself not having time to eat proper meals so snacking becomes a habit. All these are usually sacrifices made to fix some bug or find the most efficient solution to some problem. Usually, our health suffers as a result. While this might seem to work out just fine for the moment, we don't look at the bigger picture - how it will affect us in the future.

I think, if healthier practices were adopted, developers would be much more productive and would be able to accomplish some tasks in less time simply because the brain is much clearer. I might here quote surveys and researches conducted to prove this point but simple personal experience will suffice. It's hard enough to get anything done when you're down with a cold. There is an intimate connection between the mind and the body, and when one suffers, the other no doubt feels it. Below are some points to watch out for if you're looking to keep fit physically and mentally.

Watch what you eat 🥘

Just like your car wouldn't run without the correct fuel, our bodies also need the right fuel to work efficiently. Make sure you find time to eat a properly balanced meal - preferably a big breakfast to give you enough energy for the day, a good lunch, and a light supper. This is, of course, assuming a regular daytime 9 to 5 type of schedule. When working odd hours, you can adjust accordingly.

Have some exercise 🏃🏽‍♂️

I won't go as far as some have to say that sitting kills 😄 but it's definitely a good idea to wake up and stretch at least once or twice every hour. The Pomodoro technique is great for this because you can take your breaks to get off your chair for five minutes. I have found that taking walks is a great way to refresh your mind especially when you're struggling with something. You can also take advantage of the fresh air of early morning jogs.

Stay hydrated 💧

If you wait until you feel thirsty, you've waited too long. Always have a bottle of water around to help stay hydrated throughout the day. As it turns out, staying hydrated can improve our reaction time, make us more focused and alert, and improve our problem-solving skills.

Take a break

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We've all been there. Sometimes our minds work best when we step away from it all and take a break. Again, taking walks work great! I took a course on Coursera some time back called "Learning How to Learn" that explains the science behind how this works. You can check it out.

Get enough sleep 🛌💤

According to this study, sleep helps clear the brain of toxins that build up while we are awake. Depriving yourself of sleep only builds up these toxins and your brain gets all foggy. This only leads to spending more hours trying to figure something out, which leads to more sleep deprivation, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep but if you can clock in 7 or 8 hours, that should be enough. Again, this assumes a regular daytime 9 to 5 type of schedule. I understand that some people find it easier to work late at night and that's cool. I'm a morning person myself so I'd rather sleep early and rise early.

I might get into more details on each of these steps in future posts in the series. Topics of interest include taking a closer look at coffee and energy drinks to see if they really make us more productive. Probably a few discussion posts coming up too!

Discussion

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sebby profile image
Seb

Great post!

Here are a few more things that I like to do:

  • Use a standing desk. I have a standing desk attachment that can be raised to any height. This way I can alternate between standing and sitting. I find that too much static standing can also have negative effects.
  • I use a floor mat from this company called Topo, which reduces the strain on my legs while standing.
  • Use the f.lux app to reduce the amount of blue light emitted from the screen. On top of that I wear glasses by this company called Felix Gray that block blue light too.
  • Set the text in most apps to be much larger than the default. I find that most text on the web is too small and can strain the eyes over time.
  • Use this app called Speechify to speak out text that I select. This way I can listen to most of the stuff that I would otherwise have to read and use my eyes for. That's another good way to give a break to my eyes, plus over time I find that I can get through an article much faster by listening to it rather than reading. (Speechify lets you fine tune the reading speed, and I'm now used to having it pretty fast)
  • Use an mac app called Time Out that reminds me to give my eyes a 20 second break every 20 minutes. I also try to use that micro-break to move around a little bit and maybe do some air squats.
  • Limit distractions and context switching, so no email or notifications while I'm actively working.
  • When I need to be focused I like to play binaural beats instead of regular music. Helps put me in the zone.
  • Use the Colemak keyboard layout. That one was a steep learning curve, but it now pays dividends, saves me time and energy typing.
  • Turn off wifi and bluetooth and use the internet hard-wired instead. I use a wired keyboard and mouse to accommodate for the no bluetooth. It may sound woo-woo, especially to tech people, but there's more and more evidence that our current level of exposure to EMFs can have health consequences.
  • Try to spend some time outside everyday. I like to go out and read, and I make it a point to read from an actual printed book or from printed pages, again to give my eyes a break from screens. Time outside is also a good way to get some much needed vitamin D.
  • Try to meditate every day.
  • Try to watch learning videos while I eat instead of doing regular computer work. I noticed that if I try to work and eat at the same time, I'm not as mindful of my food and tend to eat too fast.
  • Use a good quality air filter in the room where I work. Some research has shown that indoor air quality can get much worse than the air quality from outdoors. The one I like to use is from this company called Molekule.
  • Work in a room that has lots of windows so that I can work under natural light conditions. Plus, it lifts my mood to see outside.

Most of these things I do are good for anyone working long hours on the computer (which is most people these days), and I'm always looking to find new ways to improve and incorporate new healthy habits into the mix.

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Kinyanjui Wangonya Author

Wow, great list! You should do this as a whole post in itself. Really nice tips here

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sebby profile image
Seb

Glad it's helpful! 😄 That's an interesting idea to do something like that as a post in itself, I'll think about potentially doing that!

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Khalyomede

Thank you for raising an important subject as this one! Great tips, I know bad habits are easy to stick with so this reminder comes very handy!

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Kinyanjui Wangonya Author

Glad you found it useful!