Stress Management Guide for Developers

Stress Management Guide

for Developers

Are you a developer or do you work in the IT department? Do you have the feeling that you are overwhelmed by the workload? If so, this article is for you. 

Here you’ll find out what stress really is, how to recognize it, and some tips to deal with it.

First, what is stress?

Stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. It can be external, from situations or events that put pressure on us, or it can be internal from illness or medical procedures.

There are many negative consequences when we are constantly exposed to daily stress, and we are not managing it. They can be physical (a few examples are: chest pains, exhaustion, trouble sleeping, headaches, dizziness, muscle tension) or emotional (anxiety, depression, sadness).

As a response or a coping mechanism, people will often pick up unhealthy behaviors such as drinking too much and too often, gambling, smoking, or something that will provide temporary relief, and it’s usually something with negative long-term consequences.

Stress and programming

If you are in my shoes, a developer or working in the IT industry, it is very likely that you will be exposed to a lot of high-stress scenarios.
But it’s good to know that there are times to relax and times to go hard. They come in waves and your adaptability to stressful scenarios will be your best friend.

The programming culture emphasizes excellence and ability.

This is one of the main causes of stress in a developer’s life because it’s constant competition in a constantly changing industry, in which you have to prove yourself, and this can put a lot of pressure on some people. 

Insufficient technical skills can be another cause of stress.

Not being able to perform your tasks and having to explain yourself often for the delayed on undelivered solutions is indeed troubling. This is most likely to happen if you are a junior developer, even if you know that your supervisors are acknowledging your need to learn and are being patient, it can still put pressure on you.

A stressful work environment

Some companies are indulgent of mistakes and are supportive of growth and learning, but many companies aim for fast deliveries and excellent results, which can be stressful for less experienced developers.
Working in a highly demanding and competitive company can also be rewarding. Constantly pushing yourself can help you have a fast learning curve and grow as a developer, but if you are not handling stress properly, this will have long-term consequences on your health.

Worrying

In most cases, the root cause of stress is worrying. Worrying about how you are perceived by your employer/supervisor, worrying about not being able to deliver on time, worrying that you are not helping your team and being unproductive, and so on.

I like to define worrying as unnecessary imaginary outcomes that we play in our heads for uncertain scenarios, which most of the time are not even close to reality.

Worrying is never good. The less you worry, the less you stress.
Do not confuse worrying with preparedness, and it is one thing alarming yourself of what could go wrong and another to prepare yourself for a bad outcome.

 

We all are experiencing stress daily; therefore, it is really important that we learn how to handle it and sometimes even use it to our advantage. Here’s how:

It’s easy to say don’t worry, but my tip for you is to go through the following thought process:

Do you have any control over the outcome of the situation you are worried about?

If the answer is no, then don’t waste your time pondering on something that might not even happen. Take a small break, do something fun, start working on your next task, focus on what you can do regarding other things, even if it’s small, in general, anything that will get your mind off this is the way to go.

If the answer is yes, then it’s likely that the stress response is known as “fight or flight” will kick in, and you will have to choose between doing anything you can or running away. As a developer, you should always try to do anything you can, even if the worst outcomes happen, you will learn more by doing than by “fleeing”. On top of that, the more you “fight”, the better your reaction and responses under pressure will be.

Right breaks

It is essential that you avoid accumulative stress, and as soon as you start experiencing any physical symptoms(loss of focus is the most tangible), try to take a break.

On your break, do something opposite to your main activity, something away from the screen (also from your phone screen), take a walk, hydrate yourself and avoid strong caffeine drinks (they never reduce stress, sometimes they even increase it). Do something different and come back to your code with a fresher mind later.

If your company is strict on brakes and this pushes you to burnout, I recommend that you look for another workplace. After all, we are not robots.

Don’t punish yourself when you are unproductive. You can’t give 100% all the time. Take it slow; go at it again when you have regained your strength.
A software development job is not a race; it’s a marathon.

 

Opportunities

Having said this, it is also important to acknowledge that in some situations, breaks are not an option.

For example, let’s say you are in charge of managing the servers of an application and they crash, or you are in charge of providing support for something important that has stopped working. Since this is an issue that must be solved as soon as possible, this could mean you have to work hard and, in some cases, work overtime.

This is usually a good opportunity to prove and push yourself because all eyes are on you. It’s better to be in this sort of scenario than to work on something that no one cares about.

Looking at this and seeing it’s an opportunity can reduce the stress and even motivate you.

 

Divide and conquer

If at first the issue at hand looks too scary, you can try to break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Writing them down and seeing the big scary task as some easy/moderate smaller tasks can reduce the pressure.

 

Final thoughts

Practice makes perfect, and with experience comes wisdom. It is profitable to put yourself in a high-pressure situation as long as your aim is to improve your stress management skills.

Stress is inevitable, and the best you can do is to stop worrying, face your problems step by step, take the right breaks, and whenever possible, stop the bleeding first.

These tips and principles have helped me to deal with stress. But there many other ways.

What helps you when you feel stressed?

 

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