Looking after your mental health as a developer
It's been over a month now since I last wrote an article here for my blog. I've been struggling a lot with low mood, which has meant that I haven't had the motivation or the energy to produce new content. I have been getting help, which I've found really useful, so I thought I'd share some of the things I've learned in the hope that it might help other developers in a similar position.
Stop comparing yourself to others
If you spend any amount of time online in tech communities, such as on Twitter, you're probably used to seeing people who seem to spend all of their time coding, learning, building side projects, running multiple successful businesses etc. It's almost expected that you have an active social media account with 10,000s of followers, write blog posts everyday, create YouTube videos, get invited to speak at conferences.
I know that I have definitely looked at these people and wished I was able to do the same. It's easy to believe that anything less than this is failure. But the truth is that looking at these people and having such high standards of success for yourself, is only going to leave you feeling inadequate and not good enough.
Every person is different and every person's circumstances are different. Therefore the only meaningful measure of success is against yourself. Are you a better developer than you were 6 months ago? Yes, so that sounds like success to me.
It's great to have aspirational goals and if any of the things I've mentioned above are your goals, then go for it! But remember: 1) they've got to be something that you want for yourself, not what you think you should do based on others expectations; 2) life is a marathon, not a sprint. These things take time and it's not always a linear progression. Sometimes there are setbacks, and that is totally fine. Just focus on being a better you than you were yesterday.
Give yourself a break
Another belief that you'll see a lot in the tech community is that, in order to be successful, you've got to grind. I've certainly been guilty of thinking that all of my time must be spent 'productively', and that doing anything other than work/learning/side projects etc is a waste of time.
But the truth is that feeling fulfilled and satisfied with your life is a two sided coin. Yes, having purpose and been productive is one side of it, but the other side is pleasure and happiness. And to have a well balanced, fulfilled life, you need to spend time in both sides.
So, yes spend time becoming a better developer and work on projects, but don't neglect the other things in life that you enjoy. You'll probably even find that you are more productive in the times that you are working, because you'll have a better mood and feel more motivated!
Focus on now
We can spend a lot of our time planning for the future, which again is a great thing. I do believe that good goals and planning are important for giving your life direction and success. But it can become problematic when we spend all of our time in the future and not enough in the present. We can start to worry and become anxious about the future, or just not be present to enjoy moment that we are experiencing right now.
That's why mindfulness and meditation are very popular right now. They help to ground us in the present moment, allow us to enjoy it more, and be more satisfied. If you're sceptical, I'd encourage you to give it a go. These practices have been shown to really help, and are recommended by the NHS: Mindfullness NHS Website
I hope that these tips will be useful for you and help you to look after your mental health during this time. Remember to focus on yourself, give yourself a break and enjoy the present moment. Learning to look after yourself can be one of the most important tools for sustaining lasting growth and success.
I post mostly about full stack .NET and Vue web development. To make sure that you don't miss out on any posts, please follow this blog and subscribe to my newsletter. If you found this post helpful, please like it and share it. You can also find me on Twitter.
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