Programming is rewarding, but it can also be highly stressful. Our line of work will undoubtedly affect our mental health at some point—blame it on the mental effort it takes to code, trying to keep up with the other talented programmers out there, constant overtime, or a whole host of other things.
The sad part is that the stress and strain on mental health can destroy any programmer's career. So, it’s essential to care for your mind and cope with stress.
Most programmers are already on board with prioritizing their mental health and managing stress. But how do you actually do it?
In this post, I will offer you concrete suggestions on how to make sure you take care of your mental health, staying healthy, happy, and productive.
Balance Out Your Work Responsibilities
Programmers have a lot on their plates. From writing code to testing it to updating the software after it’s launched, our work responsibilities demand a lot from us mentally. And because we want to excel, we tend to take on more than we can handle, including projects we don’t have any business doing.
Instead of overloading your work responsibilities, balance them out. Only take on as many projects and tasks as you can without compromising the quality of your work. Moreover, ensure you’re doing things you love in your career as much, if not more, than the activities you don’t.
Make Self-Care a Part of Your Everyday Life
Making self-care a part of your every day can also benefit your mental health. Programmers often neglect taking care of themselves because of how demanding the work can be. Mental health challenges like anxiety and emotional disorders can occur as a result.
Doing some intentional self-care every day can help. What do you love to do? When do you feel most peaceful? What are you doing when you feel like you’re honoring yourself the most? Make a list of self-care activities using your answers to these questions. Then, do one of these activities per day to increase your energy, enthusiasm, and focus.
Manage Work and Non-Work-Related Stress
Work-related stress is tough enough as a programmer—but what about the stressors outside of work that affect us? If we can’t manage outside stress in addition to work-related stress, it will absolutely affect how we perform and our ability to lead a healthy, happy life.
For example, money can cause us much stress. If you’re struggling to pay bills, it can strain the way you live and feel, and it can keep you distracted at work. So, finding a solution is a must. One option may be working from home and saving money on food, commuting, and downsizing.
Then, there’s work-related stress, like your company’s toxic work culture or the unstable relationships you have with your coworkers. This stress can take a toll on your mind and body, which impedes your ability to excel as a programmer. Managing work-related stressors by taking advantage of one-to-one meetings with your manager or setting boundaries is fantastic for your mental health.
Researching ways to manage work and non-work-related stress via the internet, your coworkers, friends, and other resources will get you on your way to feeling less stress.
Piece Together a Holistic Healthcare Team
Prioritizing your mental health also means being your own advocate for your needs and assembling a team of professionals that can help you meet them.
Your holistic healthcare team can comprise mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health professionals. So, this may look like a primary care physician, therapist, spiritual healer, nutritionist, and personal trainer. Do some deep research before making permanent additions to your healthcare team.
Pursue Passions Outside Programming
Your healthcare team will probably encourage you to pursue passions outside programming to better your mental health. It can be hard to turn your work brain off when you get home. Indeed, doing so becomes even more complicated if you’re working from home. Not unplugging after work can lead to burnout and exacerbate other mental health conditions.
Making it a point to indulge in other hobbies and creative interests when you get home can help you disconnect from work. Spend at least 30 minutes a day doing something you love or are interested in that has nothing to do with programming.
Adhere to a Solid Sleep Schedule
You’ll need some good sleep after a full day of work and personal passions; it’s essential to ensure you get it. A solid sleep schedule is integral to strong mental and physical health. If you find yourself entrenched in seven-day work weeks or 12-hour days, as many programmers do, sleep becomes even more critical.
Not enough rest can leave you feeling drained, sluggish, and hardly productive. So, make sure you’re getting at least six hours of sleep each night. Implementing a night routine can help you fall asleep faster and get deeper sleep.
Show Yourself Grace
A good night’s rest can also help you show yourself the grace and understanding you need to make mental health a priority every day. Whenever you’re having a hard day, ravaging yourself won’t lead to good work or better mental health. On the other hand, if you show yourself grace when you’re struggling, you’re more likely to have a productive day despite your challenges.
Being patient with yourself is the key, and so is loving yourself unconditionally. Your journey to a healthy, productive mind will not be a straight line. All of the ups and downs that will come with it require ample patience and even more love. With both, you’ll get back on track when you fall off rather than beat yourself up about it.
In addition to showing yourself grace, reflecting on your work and life is one of the best things you can do for your mental health.
It can lead to insights into how you work and what prompts you to do your best. It can also lead to a clear understanding of what a happy, healthy life looks like for you. Furthermore, reflecting often can show you how far you’ve come with your mental health.
So, look back on how far you’ve come professionally. Think about what you’ve achieved personally. Sit with the progress you’ve made on your life’s vision. Reflect on your mental health journey so far. Also, identify the challenges you’re still having and document how you plan to navigate them.
It’s a Matter of Priorities
Programming can be rewarding and profitable as a career. Yet it can also be stressing and damaging to your health, both physical and mental.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Programmers must prioritize their mental health to work productively and live happily. From balancing out your work responsibilities to ensuring a daily self-care routine, and from pursuing passions outside programming to reflecting often, there are many things that can help you strengthen your mind, body, and spirit.