7 Tips to Stay Healthy as a Software Developer

Written By Rabia Malik

The rewards of being a software programmer can turn into a pyrrhic victory if issues such as untackled job burnout, fostering of imposter syndrome, and working late hours are left unchecked.

Greg Baugues, a developer who has struggled with bipolar disorder, explains in his speech “Developers and Depression” how depression specifically impacts the developer community due to the associated stigma.

Therefore, restoring and maintaining sound mental health is a difficult task for software developers.

But when considering mental health and physical health, the two should not be thought of as separate. Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems. Similarly, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health, leading to an increased risk of some conditions.

As a business analyst, I have worked throughout my professional career with software programmers, and as a result I have acquired some unique perspectives on the issue. Here are some tips that can help you as a developer keep your mind and body sound and healthy.

Bring Physics Into the Picture

The longer the developers sit, the better the software, but it is highly destructive to their health. In step with Newton’s first law of motion, developers prefer to be in a state of constant rest unless disturbed by some external factor, such as family members asking them to complete some household chore.

So, as you can guess, it’s important to bring some motion into your life, as it’s necessary for a healthy body and mind. Be it playing squash in afternoons, joining yoga or swimming classes, or trekking with some friends, incorporate the physical activity of your choice into your life.

Apply the 20-20-20 Rule

Programmers stare at the computer screen all day long—sometimes all night, too—so chronic eye strain is a common problem they face.

Medical practitioners have suggested coping with the digital eye strain by applying the 20-20-20 rule. But what does this 20-20-20 rule really entail?

Ophthalmologists suggest that, after continuously staring at the digital screen for 20 minutes, you should try observing for 20 seconds at any other object that is placed 20 feet away.

Software developers can set an alarm after a regular interval of 20 minutes, and each time this alarm rings, they should try to stand up from the office seat and move around, even if it’s just a little.  One other option would be to look outside the window. Another good idea is to drink lots of water, as it not only prevents your eyes from becoming dehydrated, but it’s also a good excuse to move around and get your eyes off the screen.

Applying the 20-20-20 rule will help the eye muscles to relax, eventually preventing headaches, watery eyes, blurred vision, and eye aches.

Put an Embargo on Your Caffeine Supplies

Seems too arduous to achieve? Perhaps at first, but putting a limit on caffeine and soda drinks is necessary for sound mental functioning, as caffeine and soda block the receiver sites necessary for neurochemical signals to work.

The worst part is you can develop a tolerance, so the mind needs to keep increasing the minimum amount of caffeine you need as it becomes used to the previous caffeine dosage intake. The higher the levels of caffeine, the more effort the heart has to put into circulating blood through the entire body.

The energy we feel after having caffeine is the force our hearts put into flowing the blood in our body, hence the higher blood pressure. So, put an embargo on your caffeine or soda supplies as it is heinous for the developer’s health.

Maintain a Perfect Posture

The primary reason developers have back issues is not because they sit long hours, but because they maintain the wrong posture.

Maintain a straight posture so that all joints and bones are aligned, and muscles can be put to work. The right posture will also prevent the muscles from hunching up.

Some small tips for maintaining the right posture while sitting in a chair include putting your back against the backrest of the chair. This prevents inclination of weight on vertebrae by providing structured support behind it. Do not cross your legs and lay your feet on the floor.

Eliminate Brain Fog

Developers are hired to solve problems, so they operate in higher mental activity than many other professionals. However, concentrating too much can take away the mind’s ability to concentrate altogether, for a temporary period of time.

This situation is called brain fog, and it can leave the recipient unable to perform basic functions like holding a conversation for days or even a week. It can be resolved by chunking up the mental activity into smaller tasks, with periods of relaxation in between.

Another useful tip to avoid brain fog is to perform the most demanding mental activities before other tasks, as you’ll not have to push yourself to work when mentally tired.

Avoid Burnout

Most coders usually have friends that are also coders, as they often do not get enough time to socialize and escape out of their professional life. Nonetheless, having no or limited life outside the coding circle speeds up the process of burnout. Little or no appreciation from project team leaders, excessive workload, and being underpaid are some of the contributors to burnout.

Make a habit of shutting off from work mode and plugging into some other role in your life. Those who have families likely do not find this difficult, as family can be a great source of recharging. Others can indulge in some kind of hobby, like reading a book or painting. Replenishing your energy resources is important to keep in mind. If energy is mortgaged on a daily basis, you’ll run out of it one day.

Take Words of Appreciation Seriously

Over the years, our minds have learned to take criticism more seriously than appreciation and words of praise for our accomplishments. We don’t value others’ appreciation much, but criticism gets into our heads until we ace at the task we were criticized for. This may be a strong motivator in the short term, but it has devastating mental and physical effects in the longer run.

So, don’t forget to take a few minutes out of the long workday and appreciate yourself for a while. Feel the joy of appreciation others paid you at the workplace. You can appreciate yourself by having a special drink, treating yourself to a nice meal, and updating your list of accomplishments.

At the end of the day, software programmers are also human beings and they also need love and appreciation, like any other person.

Small Steps Can Be Crucial

Sometimes, we overlook how small steps of precaution can save us from mental and physical health turmoil. They might seem insignificant, yet they are profound in their implications. Incorporating small steps or precautions and showing concern for your body and mental peace can save you from permanent loss of sound mental or physical health.

As a software developer, you should try to make a deliberate effort to increase physical activity, cut the toxins to your body, give your eyes a break, maintain a straight posture, eliminate brain fog and burnout, and appreciate yourself.

Doing so, you’ll be amazed to see the improvements these steps to self-care will bring into your life.