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This post talks about knowing when you are experiencing burnout as a developer and what to do to get better.

What Is Burnout?

According to WebMD, burnout at work is an emotional, mental and physical reaction to constant stress at work. It is a type of work-related stress resulting in prolonged feelings of emotional, physical or mental exhaustion usually leading to feelings of less accomplishment or even loss of personal identity.

Normally, when demands from work and deliverables pile up and get to a certain height, it can take a toll on you and sometimes leave you feeling overworked and under-compensated. Even though burnout is not a medical diagnosis, some experts believe that conditions such as depression can also lead to burnout. Some of these might sound really familiar, but you are not alone.

How Common Is It?

The big HR tech company Indeed surveyed over 1,500 U.S workers to ascertain the impact of burnout especially since the pandemic started. The study revealed that over half of employed people are feeling burned out and 67% say it has worsened during the pandemic.

Also, 38% of people working from home are experiencing burnout compared to 28% of people who still work from the office. This means a lot of developers are likely experiencing this, so you need to pay attention.

The Nature of Work

Being a software developer, while being great for getting on a clear path to career advancement and being paid well, is also a field prone to experiencing burnout.

A lot of mental work and logic and problem-solving skills are required in the software development space. It is also a rapidly evolving space so you also have to be a fast learner to keep up with new technologies, frameworks and best practices. You can see how a passionate developer can become burned out over a period of time, as less and less of their work is physical.

Identifying the Causes

Some health-related activities can easily lead to burnout, such as unhealthy lifestyles involving lack of sleep, lack of exercising in any form and lack of adequate sleep or irregular sleeping patterns. Some of these things can be normal but once accumulated can become dangerous to your health.

Some other problematic work-related activities include constantly working overtime, staring at a personal computer screen for prolonged periods of time, monotonous work and lack of variable routines, poor communication around expectations at work, and many other things that can cause burnout at work.

Other causes include low self-esteem, absence of social interaction with friends or colleagues, promotion rejections at work and failure to meet personal expectations.

Am I Dealing With Burnout?

There are a few symptoms of burnout that you can check for. If you are already there, chances are that you are burned out.

  1. Loss of appetite: This usually starts with you skipping meals and then it graduates to you completely forgetting to eat mostly because you are not so hungry and then it becomes habitual and people around you start to tell you about how you have lost weight.
  2. Exhaustion and fatigue: Feeling tired becomes a regular thing. You feel tired everywhere and have low energy to engage in conversations and work calls. Sometimes you feel tired even after sleeping for long hours.
  3. Insomnia: You also begin to have trouble sleeping. Sometimes even when you are clearly tired, you still cannot sleep when you close your eyes. This feeling gets drastic over time.
  4. Low productivity and procrastination: You begin to miss deadlines, and it becomes hard for you to begin new tasks. You also show up late to meetings and you can start impacting your team progress negatively. You begin to procrastinate tasks and reschedule deliverables.
  5. Behavioral change: Sometimes some changes in behavior like forgetfulness, a drastic increase in interpersonal conflicts at work, being rigid, and sometimes even breakup of relationships can occur.
  6. Sickness: Your body system becomes more prone to colds, infections and headaches due to constant exhaustion.
  7. Emotional strain: Some symptoms can also be emotional, like feeling emotionally empty, feeling anxious, and even experiencing worthlessness.

What Can I Do To Get Better?

Here are some suggestions of what you can do to prevent burnout and to reduce it if you are already starting to feel burned out.

  1. Take a break: Leave after work, take your work leave even if nobody else on your team does, take a vacation and utilize the various holidays to not work. You have to create a life outside work for yourself, for balance.
  2. Communicate expectations: Do not take on too much responsibility. Timely communication can save you from disappointing your team over unrealistic expectations.
  3. Create boundaries: If you work from home, make a home office different from your bed. Stick to your work hours and say no to excessively working overtime.
  4. Cultivate a healthy sleeping habit: Try to sleep for at least 8 hours every night. Use the sleep mode function on your phone and PC, dim the lights and invest in comfortable sleepwear.
  5. Have a self-care routine: Start with exercise—it could be as small as morning jogs or walking your dog yourself. Eat your vegetables, commit to yoga or a gym. Live healthier—your body will be grateful.
  6. Ask for help: Build a network of friends who can be there for each other. Do not be afraid to ask for help as most people are helpful by default. Also, offer help when you can, and learn to say no too when you have too many requests.
  7. Use a to-do list: You already probably have a Kanban board app somewhere. Use it right and start properly scoping, executing and managing tasks.
  8. Try new things: Learn a new language/framework, change your co-working space, go to a physical store and shop, create and have new experiences every once in a while.

Wrapping Up

It may not be easy, but you can start today to practice some of these things. It might take some time, but eventually you will no longer be burned out. The key is consistency. Make sure to try out these things and share more tips in the comment section for others to see.

About the Author

Nwose Lotanna Victor

Nwose Lotanna Victor is a web technology enthusiast who documents his learning process with technical articles and tutorials. He is a freelance frontend web developer based in Lagos, Nigeria. Passionate about inclusion, community-building and movies in Africa, he enjoys learning new things and traveling.

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