Issue 13 – Your Wellbeing
Welcome back to The Modern Software Developer. In this month’s issue, I’m taking things back to basics and simply talking about your wellbeing and how it might be impacted by working in software development. Additionally, I’ve asked two questions of my software developer community regarding their wellbeing and I share their wisdom below.
Also, at the end of this issue, you’ll find a calendly link to book one of several free ‘wellbeing sessions’ with me for this coming week.
What is Wellbeing?
Following somewhat of a pattern, we need to lead with a definition to create some context, but this one is kind of made up… I’ve taken the definition of mental health and added ‘Physical’ to it to describe our overall wellbeing.
(My) Wellbeing Definition:
Wellbeing refers to a person’s emotional, psychological, physical, and social state. It affects how individuals think, feel, and act, ultimately determining their ability to cope with stress, relate to others, and make choices.
This works for me, with one caveat. Wellbeing can be used to describe all aspects of your wellbeing or simply one aspect. If you think of wellbeing as your mental health, fine. Maybe you think of it as just your physical health, fine. Or perhaps you combine the two, whatever works for you.
Wellbeing in Software Development
Software development is a pretty competitive industry these days. Some elements of the role can really take their toll on your wellbeing if you’re not prepared for them or you don’t know how to handle them properly.
It can feel like we are constantly being judged.
👉 Is your code ‘clean’ enough?
👉 Have you written unit tests?
👉 Are your ideas good enough?
👉 Are your solutions good enough?
👉 Have you written unit tests the ‘right’ way?
👉 Will you get loads of comments on your PR?
👉 Will you offend someone else with your comment on their PR?
The list goes on and on and on…
Even outside of these intricacies, software development has several high-level scenarios that can negatively impact your wellbeing if you’re not careful.
We constantly work under tight deadlines and deal with project complexities which can create immense pressure and stress, leading to burnout and anxiety. Even more so when it turns out said deadline was meaningless in the first place!
Perfectionism and Imposter Syndrome
Many software developers strive for perfection and often hold themselves to unattainable high standards. This can lead to feelings of imposter syndrome, or leave developers constantly seeking validation and fearing failure.
Tech Stack Overload
The ever-evolving nature of technology necessitates continuous learning and adaptation. Many developers feel they must stay up to date with new programming languages, frameworks, and tools. However, the rapid pace of change can sometimes feel overwhelming, leading to frustration, anxiety, and a constant fear of falling behind.
Software development work is very technical by nature and can leave us feeling misunderstood when discussing it with those closest to us; this can contribute to feelings of loneliness and disconnection, and contribute to us feeling socially awkward.
The passion for coding and solving complex problems can blur the boundaries between work and personal life. Developers may work long hours, neglect self-care, and sacrifice personal relationships. This imbalance can lead to chronic stress and strained relationships.
Software developers are constantly engaged in complex problem-solving tasks, troubleshooting bugs, and resolving technical issues, which can be mentally draining, leading to cognitive fatigue and reduced mental resilience.
Lack of Recognition
Software development often involves working behind the scenes, with the end-users rarely aware of the individuals responsible for the software they rely on (spoken like a true backend engineer!). This lack of recognition and appreciation for their work can impact developers’ motivation and job satisfaction, potentially leading to feelings of undervaluation and low self-esteem.
Sitting for long hours
Prolonged periods of sitting not only contribute to physical health concerns such as poor posture, increased risk of obesity, and musculoskeletal issues but also significantly impact mental health too. The lack of movement and reduced blood flow can lead to decreased energy levels, diminished focus, and increased fatigue and sluggishness.
Additionally, the absence of physical activity deprives the brain of endorphins and other mood-enhancing chemicals, making software developers more susceptible to stress, anxiety, and low mood… in other words, a disaster for your wellbeing if not managed properly.
This is probably the tip of the iceberg, but it makes it really easy to see how someone might struggle with their wellbeing while working in our industry.
Unfortunately, software developers are stereotypically not the most empathetic of people either, so we don’t always support each other as much as we could, especially in the workplace.
But that is a stereotype, and we must not let that fool us. I’ve seen more support in the industry over the last few years than I’ve seen in the previous 20.
I’ve noticed more developers talk about their physical and mental wellbeing, and I’ve seen more encouragement, vulnerability and software developers taking on physical health transformations.
I don’t know if this translates into the workplace or if it’s all just for show on places like LinkedIn… But then that’s the challenge, isn’t it?
For all of us to take this behaviour into our workplace, to set an example of what it looks like to prioritise our wellbeing and encourage companies to make it their priority too.
I see it changing, and I see these changes as a result of the core attributes of identifying as a Modern Software Developer, which is a key driver of why I created and continue to write this newsletter.
Against this backdrop, and in line with my work as a mindset coach for software developers, I decided to make some free ‘’wellbeing sessions’ available a few weeks ago. These sessions were for anyone needing someone to talk to or just wanting to add a social interaction to their day.
They booked up fast…
After our conversation, I asked these people two questions and put a post out on LinkedIn, too, so I could bring you insights from fellow developers about how they manage their wellbeing or how they think they could do better.
The questions I asked:
👉 What is the most important thing you do for your wellbeing?
👉 What do you think you should do more of?
Before you read on, it might be worth quickly answering those two questions yourself.
I’m not going to put names to these, and if I include every answer, this issue will go on forever, but if you answered this question privately or publicly, I assure you, I’m super grateful for your contribution.
So here goes: From software developers just like you…
👉 What is the most important thing you do for your wellbeing?
💚 “When it comes to taking care of my wellbeing, I’ve discovered the magic of gratitude! I make it a point to sprinkle gratitude throughout my day, appreciating the little moments and finding joy in the simplest of things. And you know what? It truly uplifts my spirits and brings a wave of positivity. “
💚 “The general answer I have is to try new things and explore different strategies, stick with what works. If meditation works for you, keep doing it. If exercise really helps, keep doing it.”
💚 “The most important thing I do for my mental health is to embrace practices that cultivate mindfulness, engage in journaling, and listen to podcasts from individuals who inspire me to become a better version of myself. These activities allow me to connect with the present moment, reflect on my thoughts and emotions, and gain valuable insights and perspectives from others.”
💚 “Walk the dog!”
💚 “Working out, hands down! Each person will have their own flavour, for me it means working out alone, in my home gym, listening to a podcast or an audiobook.
As with a lot of people, I’ve tried to convince myself there are more important things I could be doing or that I don’t have the time or no one to do it with but in the end of the day there’s no other activity that gives me more clarity of thought and such a hard cognitive reset.”
💚 “The most important thing I do is making time for myself. I need time to recharge – ideally daily – away from other people and my responsibilities.”
💚 “The most important thing I do for my wellbeing is following the REM approach – Read, Exercise, Meditate. Reading stimulates my mind, exercise keeps me physically fit, and meditation clears my head, allowing for focus and tranquillity.”
💚 “I have dinner with my parents. One of my best things I do in my life.”
💚 “Reach out for a help when needed”
💚 “Morning walk, evening gym, daily take some time to talk to my parents and friends.”
💚 “One of the most important things is to regularly do something athletic. Climbing mountains, going to the gym, running. Being sedentary and not getting exercise makes me feel terrible about myself.”
💚 “Making time to continue creating content that helps other software developers.”
💚 “The thing I do the most consistently is exercise. Running, swimming, lifting. 5-6 days / week to start my day. That tends to fuel decision making in diet, though not all of the time and never completely. When exercise and diet are both clicking, I feel generally better and manage stress better.”
💚 “Exercise both the mind and body.”
💚 “Tell myself it’s ok to not get everything done that I want to get done. Progress is more important than perfection.”
💚 “Depending on the day, I would say meditation. On other days, it could be going for a walk or a bike ride.”
👉 What do you think you should do more of?
💚 “Nurture relationships. This could become a daily/weekly practice of calling or texting someone I haven’t spoken to in a while, doing activities with friends, going out for dinner with friends and family, getting vulnerable around friends and having real conversations. Whatever helps improve those relationships.”
💚 “Embrace quality ‘me time’ with open arms! It’s all about disconnecting from the hustle, diving into a good book, jotting down my thoughts in a journal, or taking leisurely walks alone. It’s like a mini retreat that helps me recharge and find my inner zen.”
💚 “Networking and connecting with others.”
💚 “Firstly, I would reduce the time spent on devices when I’m not working. By consciously limiting my screen time, I can create a healthier balance and prioritize activities that promote mental well-being. Additionally, I recognize the significance of improving my sleep habits and aim to establish a consistent sleep schedule and relaxing bedtime routine. Moreover, I intend to incorporate more walking into my routine, immersing myself in nature and engaging in gentle exercise to reduce stress, boost mood, and enjoy moments of introspection. These humble adjustments will contribute to my positive journey toward enhanced mental well-being.”
💚 “Do a better job actually ending the work day at a regular time.”
💚 “Cooking proper meals. At the moment my appetite is off and on and by the end of the day I am completely wiped out so my diet has suffered as a result.
I’d also like to do more exercise.”
💚 “Meditate and sleep.”
💚 “Drink less alcohol. I get up between 4 and 4:30am, go to bed by 9 at the latest during the week, so it’s hard to go to bed any earlier or be more consistent with my sleep. However, alcohol doesn’t really contribute to any other goals, it’s just a habit.”
💚 “Workout. Focus. At least 30 min. Helps your mental things!”
💚 “Less screen time, eat healthy”
💚 “Not start the day with a screen”
💚 “Exercise and being outdoors. All of the research I’ve seen and my own experience make it very clear that the more exercise I do, the better I feel mentally.”
💚 “Allowing myself to switch off and relax more often!”
There are some great suggestions here, and reading them all gives me great hope that the concept of a Modern Software Developer is very real!
There are prominent themes, such as exercise, mindfulness, relationships, and simply being kinder to ourselves. What’s important to recognise is that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to your wellbeing and you get to decide what it is that works for you.
One person might get great benefits from lots of exercise, and someone else might be happy with short walks.
One person might need alone time to recharge, and someone else might need to socialise with those closest to them to regain their energy.
Protecting your wellbeing is strikingly similar to software development… in most cases, they both have the same answer…
It’s not selfish to put yourself first; there’s nothing more important than your own wellbeing!
Know someone that might find this helpful? Do them a favour and share it with them.
Until next time…
How I can help you
Software Development organisations:
- Issue 14 – Getting into software development
- Issue 13 – Software Developers – Your Wellbeing
- Issue 12 – Software Developers – What Do You Really Want?
- Issue 11 – How to Beat Imposter Syndrome
- Issue 10 – My Imposter Syndrome Story
- Issue 9 – Peeling Back the Layers: 5 Key Influences Behind Imposter Syndrome
- Issue 8 – Is it really Imposter Syndrome?
- Issue 7 – Taking responsibility: From personal growth to professional success
- Issue 6 – Misunderstanding Focus
- Issue 5 – Pair Programming is more about people than coding
- Issue 4 – You might regret not getting enough Sleep
- Issue 3 – Are your Beliefs holding you back?
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