Whether you go by “developer”, “programmer”, or “engineer”, a career in tech is a mentally demanding pursuit. You are constantly problem solving, learning new things, and working on complex projects. It is important to take care of your mental health in this industry, or you will quickly become overwhelmed and burned out.
The Importance of Mental Health
Developers are often seen as independent and strong-willed people who don't need help. While this is sometimes true, we have to remember that we are, in fact, human. Everyone struggles, and everyone needs help sometimes.
Mental health is just as important for developers as it is for anyone else. In fact, it is arguably more important because of the demands of the job.
Programming requires you to be able to focus for long periods of time, handle stress, and deal with difficult challenges. If your mental health is not in good shape, you will quickly become overwhelmed and will not be able to perform at your best.
The Stigma Around Mental Health in Tech
“Mental health problems? No way, not me! I just grind 80 hours a week and get paid.”
Mental health is still seen as a taboo topic, and developers are especially reluctant to talk about it. We're supposed to be the smart ones, the successful ones. We're not supposed to have problems with our brains.
Mental health problems are often seen as a weakness, and people who suffer from these issues worry they'll be viewed as less capable. This is especially true in the tech community, where people are expected to be able to work long hours and handle difficult challenges.
This stigma is one of the reasons why so many developers don't seek help when they are struggling. Many people fear that they will be seen as weak or less capable if they admit that they are having difficulties. This is a dangerous way of thinking, and it is far removed from the truth.
The Reality of Mental Health in the Community
The reality of mental health in the tech community is that it is a very real and very serious issue that most people experience. Developers are just as susceptible to mental health issues as anyone else. In fact, due to the nature of the job, programmers are actually at a higher risk for developing mental health issues. One study showed that around 62% of developers had problems with their mental health at some point in their career!
The most common mental health issues among programmers are anxiety, depression, and general stress. These are all very serious problems that can have a major impact on your ability to do your job. If you are struggling with any of these issues, it is important to seek help from a professional before the situation gets worse.
The Consequences of Neglecting Mental Health
As a developer, you're probably used to neglecting your mental health. After all, there's always another line of code to write, another bug to fix, or another feature to add. Who has time to worry about their mental health when there's work to be done?
Unfortunately, neglecting your mental health can have some serious consequences. For example, you might find yourself struggling to concentrate, feeling irritable or anxious, or experiencing depression.
You might be ignoring your well-being because of work, but it’s eventually going to make you less productive. If you are struggling with mental health issues, you will not be able to focus or be the 10x developer you set out to be. Burnout can lead to errors in your code, missed deadlines, and a general decline in the quality of your work.
It can also lead to isolation. When you are struggling with mental health issues, it is easy to withdraw from social activities and become isolated. This isolation can make your mental health problems worse, and it make it more difficult to get help when you need it.
How to Take Care of Your Mental Health
I would like to preface this section by saying that I am a developer, not a psychologist, and there are plenty of people much more qualified than me to speak on this topic.
That said, there are some obvious things that you can do to take care of your mental health as a developer, and sometimes we all need a reminder of the basics:
Get enough sleep
This may seem like an obvious one, but it's important to get enough sleep when you're a developer. Developers are known for being night-owls, but when you're sleep-deprived you're more likely to make mistakes and your productivity will suffer.
Just like your physical health, what you eat affects your mental health. Eating unhealthy food will make you feel sluggish and can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. So make sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The All-Coffee Diet just isn't going to cut it.
Working at a desk all day isn't great for anyone, even if it's a cool convertible standing desk. Exercise is not only good for your physical health, but it's also good for your mental health. It releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. So make sure to get some exercise every day, even if it's just a brisk walk around the block.
When you're feeling overwhelmed or stressed, take a break. Step away from your computer and take a few deep breaths. Or go for that walk we just talked about. Taking breaks will help you clear your head and come back to your work refreshed.
Connect with other developers
It's important to connect with other developers, because they understand the challenges you're facing. Join an online community or attend meetups to meet other developers in your area. Talking to other developers can help you feel less alone and can give you helpful insights.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help
There is no shame in finding help from a therapist or counselor. In fact, getting professional help is one of the best things that you can do for your mental health and unfortunately, only a small percentage of developers actually do it.
The importance of maintaining your mental health cannot be overstated. Whether you're a developer, programmer, or software engineer, it is important to be honest with yourself about how you are feeling and to seek help if you are struggling.
Don't forget, we're all in this together and nobody is better off ignoring their mental well-being. Take care of that big, beautiful brain and live to code another day!