Programmer’s Mental Health

(8 minutes of reading time)


Nowadays there is not a single professional in any area of activity who does not live under a lot of pressure and stress, even more so in this pandemic period.

Stress isn't all bad. In the initial phase, it gives energy, vigor and makes the person more productive. However, when it reaches deeper levels, it can trigger physical and mental problems.

The line between good stress that helps productivity and bad stress that has bad consequences for our health is very thin as you can see in the chart below.

Source: vistratess.com

In the life of a programmer and/or a tech student, stress is always present, as they spend many hours in front of computers solving one problem after another. And there are many problems that take away a good night of sleep and increase stress in the developer's life. In the pursuit of exceptional results by celebrating and meeting the needs and demands of customers and users, developers' concerns also need to be heard


IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE CRAZY

In the book “It doesn't have to be crazy at work” by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried, the authors take a stand against what has become common sense in the business world, which is madness at work, with long hours, excessive interruptions, lack of time to think, overcrowded schedules, etc., which prevents workers from doing their best at work.

The book criticizes the “new” way companies work and that companies don't have to be crazy to be successful. Organizations must reorganize the way they work so that their employees do not deprive themselves of hours of sleep and quality time with their families.


THE RELATIONSHIP WITH WORK

Far beyond the spheres of the organization, which involve the company's culture and development practices, programmers’ mental health is directly related to their own experiences. After all, everyone has their own way of dealing with everyday stress and problems.


LEARNING IS PART OF THE JOB

It is very common in the programmer's work to receive new challenges, something that has never worked before or that involves some different technology. This should not be a cause for concern or demotivation, as the developer does not have to know everything and respond quickly about any programming language or technology. This is humanly impossible.

Studying and learning is all part of the job. So, you must accept that you will often need to stop and study some subjects from the beginning of a project, you will have to test and fail many times, to deliver tasks and move on.


THE IMPOSTOR SYNDROME

“Impostor syndrome” describes a pattern of behavior in which a person does not feel capable enough to perform a task, even with evidence to the contrary. This syndrome causes the person to minimize his accomplishments, and not expose him/herself for fear of revealing to be a fraud.

Imposter syndrome manifests itself in several ways:

1) Feeling of not belonging: often, people who suffer from imposter syndrome may think they don't deserve to be where they are. When this occurs, it is common for there to be a feeling of not belonging to the places which, consequently, leads people to move away from the groups.

2) Procrastination: the individual feels insecure to perform everyday tasks.

3) Self-sabotage: they create mechanisms to escape certain experiences in which they do not feel safe to play a good role. Therefore, they tend to miss good opportunities and end up regretting it very regularly.

4) Self-depreciation: if you talk bad about yourself very often, be aware or attentive: this is also an important sign. In fact, people with the syndrome tend to minimize their qualities and characteristics, becoming bitter and toxic with themselves.

5) Excessive self-criticism: it is valid for people to critically analyze their actions. However, this cannot become completely excessive with unrealistic evaluations. It's as if the person lost the ability to find good lessons from mistakes and punish themselves all the time.

6) Comparison: this is the main characteristic of the imposter syndrome. The individual can only find good traits in others and never in himself.


PERFECTIONISM

Developers love talking about programming best practices, studying different approaches to dealing with problems, testing new technologies, etc. The big problem is that all of this can be used for self-criticism or criticizing the work of other people programmers. These characteristics should be used to improve the work and never detract from it.


MENTAL HYGIENE

Mental hygiene refers to care and maintain the balance of our mind. Among them are maintaining a healthy diet, moderating the intake of psychoactive substances, such as alcohol and medication, avoiding toxic relationships and establishing future projects. Mental hygiene strengthens self-esteem, which is so necessary for us to perform the activities we have in our work with quality and for there to be harmony, calm, and cooperation in socializing with other people. There are several habits and many strategies to keep the mind healthy, such as: practicing yoga, meditation, exercising, having contact with some form of art, among others.

The point is, we often don't realize when we're reaching burnout, so don't wait for things to get worse to take the time to take care of yourself.

Some causes of stress and anxiety in a programmer's life are unavoidable. The programmer's day-to-day learning process is naturally frustrating and intense. But unfortunately, there is not much to do, you must learn to deal with these situations in the healthiest way possible.

The programmer doesn't have to work on the verge of burnout. It is already known that this is unhealthy and harms the project more than anything else.

Excessive stress is often caused by a lack of understanding and trust in other areas about how the developer's activities work, and the programmer feels obliged to meet impossible expectations. When the time that projects need is not accepted, and pressure begins to generate unrealistic agreements, the programmer's job is not to make miracles, but to communicate in the clearest way what is possible to get accomplished.

A healthy project delivery cycle leads to healthy relationships at work, which allows for good mental health for developers.


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References:
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