How To Deal With Programmer Burnout

Programming is a profession that offers a great opportunity for career advancement, many benefits, and excellent earnings, which is why its popularity is understandable. Becoming a programmer is a great decision, which opens the door to the IT industry.

Software developers usually choose their profession because they like to think and solve different problems. That is a challenge for them. But, this also means that they are often stressed and more often forgotten about their body. They ignore the physical symptoms of stress and forget that stress hurts the immune system. The very nature of their business is another reason they are at risk of feeling the effects of serious burnout syndrome.

Burning out is common in the software development field for many reasons. Since programming is more of mental work than physical work, it is very critical to avoid burnout and keep the passion for programming.

We all know how excited we are when starting a new coding project or learning a new programming language. But after spending some time, we often feel demotivated and lose all the enthusiasm that was there before. Unfortunately, many programmers do not push through this stage, and eventually, they hate doing it or even quit it. This is a common scenario we see nowadays.

Keeping passion and motivation is very important in a field like programming. But, we need to take some precautions and develop some habits to avoid burnout.

I had several burnout experiences in the past, and I do think most developers go through similar experiences. Most probably, you also might be facing this issue. But don’t worry. You aren’t alone. Let’s talk a little bit about programmer burnout in this article, and we’ll see how we can avoid it.

What is Programmer Burnout?

Programmer burnout is emotional and mental tiredness in doing computer programming caused due to many reasons. As humans, we all face this situation, not only in the programming field but in several areas of our lives.

We all feel pretty motivated to do a new task. But after doing it for a long time, we lose interest in that work. Programmers especially feel burnout since they are always working with their brains.

You can call burnout a kind of work-related stress. However, there is no exact definition of what burnout is. An American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger coined this term for the first time in the 1970s to describe the severe stress found in professionals. There are several reasons for causing burnout, and it is essential to avoid it in your programming career.

Developers have many business factors that can be a trigger for stress — relationships with work colleagues and clients, competitive spirit, many projects, limited time to realize them, not enough time to rest and relax.

Burnout syndrome is a state of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged and intense stress. In those moments, the person feels unable to cope with the constant demands placed on him. Burnout absorbs a person’s energy and diminishes their productivity, leads to feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, resentment, and complete exhaustion.

Fatigue, Stress, and Burnout

Fatigue is a transient, reversible psychophysical state of impaired functioning of an organism that results from prolonged and hard work. It can be physical or intellectual, depending on the person’s activity. After adequate rest, fatigue disappears, with burnout, this doesn’t happen.

Stressful situations that are part of daily life, damage personality, make the person tense and nervous, which causes many physical and mental changes in the individual who exposed to the situation.

There is an involvement in dealing with a problematic situation and hopes that things will change for the better. Burnout implies that a person does not see the perspective that anything will change for the better, feels helpless, and gives up any engagement. Stress usually leads to anxiety, while burnout can lead to depression.

What are the Symptoms of Programmer Burnout?

Why do software developers and other professionals face burnout? There are a variety of reasons for burning out, and the symptoms vary from person to person.

Chronic fatigue and exhaustion — You may initially feel tired most of the day and will lack energy. Later, this translates into a feeling of emotional and physical exhaustion.

Insomnia — In the early stages, you may have trouble falling asleep 1-2 times a week. Later, insomnia becomes chronic despite the constant tiredness you feel.

Impaired immune system — Body exhaustion leads to increased susceptibility to colds, infections, and other health problems.

Loss of appetite — You may skip some meals at first, but later you can completely lose your appetite, which can lead to significant weight loss.

The occurrence of metabolic syndrome — Obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Different psychosomatic reactions — Elevated blood sugar, cerebrovascular disorders, consumption of sedatives, cigarettes, and alcohol.

Emotional symptoms — Depression, emotional emptiness, feeling the loss of sense of life, anxiety, loss of motivation to go to work, loss of existential enthusiasm, apathy, insulation, feeling sad and helpless, the experience of worthlessness, loss of self-confidence and self-esteem, loss of power, fear of losing a job.

Behavioral symptoms — Loss of concentration, forgetfulness, explosiveness, rudeness, excessive sensitivity to external influences, negative attitude towards work and people, interpersonal conflicts, insensitivity, rigidity, family problems, divorce, the breakup of friendships, etc.

What are the Causes of Programmer Burnout?

Programming is a profession that recognized as stressful because of the high level of responsibility, the wide scope of work, and the limited timeframes in which certain tasks and projects must complete.

The basic factors that cause a programmer burnout are:

  • Overworking
  • Looking at a computer screen for long periods
  • Doing the same work every day
  • Lack of social interaction
  • Lack of physical workouts and being unhealthy
  • Lack of sleep
  • Failure to meet professional expectations
  • Lack of professional results
  • Awareness of limited opportunities
  • Compromised self-esteem
  • Little time for rest
  • Poor communication with colleagues

Research also shows that burnout is more subjective experiencing a psychological work environment rather than a real workload and having a more significant personal impression overload than the actual number of working hours.

Narcissistic omnipotence also leads to the exhaustion of individuals. Burning and personal ego are no less connected. It is negatively related to self-image, self-assessment, and self-evaluation.

Psychodynamically oriented researchers have confirmed the link between burnout and the narcissistic need to keep an almighty self-image. They warn that masochistic personality traits also lead to burnout.

How to Prevent Programmer Burnout?

  • Start the day with relaxing rituals (slowly drink tea or coffee or water, read something you love, listen to music, practice meditation, go for a run, etc.)
  • Develop healthy eating habits
  • Take care of sleep hygiene
  • Enrich your emotional and social life
  • Strengthen relationships with your partner, family, and friends
  • Set boundaries
  • Learn to say no
  • Give up defining yourself with work
  • Don’t value yourself with money and success
  • Make a to-do list and priority list
  • Take a break from technology (switch off your mobile phone and laptop)
  • Take time for yourself and engage in activities you like
  • Apply stress management techniques

Stop. Take a break. Take the time to work out, walk, have coffee with friends. Go for a weekend out of town, far from all your commitments.

The employer, not the hired developer, should be involved in burnout prevention. This would mean that employers should recognize the risks and symptoms of burnout in their employees and then respond to organizational changes that aim to improve interpersonal relationships and create a supportive environment in the collective.

These include fair job distribution, good communication network, information flow, adequate reward systems, employee education, etc.

How to Recover from a Burnout?

You must take your burnout seriously. Trying to deny exhaustion and continuing as if nothing happened, you will only cause more emotional and physical damage. Burnout prevention tips are still helpful at this stage, but recovery requires extra steps.

Slow down — Your health will not improve by itself. You need to slow down and build a break. Reduce commitments and activities. Whatever you can.

Support — In this situation, the natural tendency is to protect the energy you hid from yourself. Your friends and family are more important than ever during difficult times. Turn to your loved ones for support.

Reconsider your goals and priorities — Take time to think about their hopes, dreams, and goals. Do you neglect something important to you? Burnout can be an opportunity to rediscover what makes you happy.

Know your losses — Burnout carries a lot of losses, but often you don’t acknowledge it or recognize it. Unrecognized trap losses are a lot of energy. It takes an enormous amount of emotional control to prevent pain from these losses. After recognizing your losses, do not let yourself grieve, let the trapped energy in you pave the way for recovery and new exciting and creative projects.

Actively address issues — A proactive, not a passive approach to issues in your workplace is very important. You will feel less helpless if you affirm and express your needs.

Find a new hobby or side project — Leisure in the modern world has become a luxury because of daily commitments. Still, with a good organization of time, you can find a moment to rest.

Psychotherapists suggest that you make the most of it — Find a hobby, an activity that will make you happy, bring pleasure, help you express energy, creativity, talent. Engage in a new project that will awaken your creativity and break the daily monotony.

Try a different language or stack, outsource some work that you hate if possible, break down work into small chunks to avoid overwhelming, reorganize your work, thin out hours of stressful work, etc. are some other things you can try.

Always maintain a sense of humor in situations that can cause stress and establish a work-life balance.

How to Work Without Motivation?

Motivation is a process in which employees who have unmet needs are initiated and directed their behavior toward a specific goal.

After satisfying certain existential needs, motives can be very diverse. The common motives of all workers are earnings, the interest in the job, opportunities for further progress, independence in work, possibilities of personal affirmation.

The intensity and the effects of human activity depend on the strength of the motive. When the motif is activated, it encourages certain behaviors and activities.

When you are motivated, or when your goal is important and meaningful, you do much more than you can ever imagine. But what to do when you lack motivation? You must learn to recognize what motivates you as individuals, what is stopping you from achieving your goals and working towards it.

A functional motivational model begins with giving birth to ​​achieving a goal, then analyzing the feelings that are attached to it, and according to how you feel, you need to define and take further concrete steps to achieve that goal. If you are uncomfortable with something or just don’t like it, you need to know why it is so you can act properly.

Become aware of your needs — what matters to you, what you enjoy, or in any way that matters to you.

If you encounter difficulties in setting or achieving goals, consult someone because sometimes we are not objective enough ourselves, and other people’s opinions can be vital.

Do not delay — identify obstacles, identify where and why delays can occur, and work to overcome them.

Make a clear plan – Now that you know what awaits you, make a detailed plan, with as much time and steps as you need. Imagine what exactly you will do, in what order, and what strategies you will use. Put this plan in a visible place.

Take the first step — make a plan so that the first step is as small as possible. Make it something you can start today. Think about what gets you most excited about this goal and get started. This will serve as a motivation for you to continue, so you do not stop after the first step. As long as you enjoy it, you’ll want to do it even more. So let every next step be filled with joy.

Commit yourself — Promise yourself that you will start. Make a contract with yourself where you promise yourself joy and fulfillment. May you be guided by what you draw strength from and always come back to. Make it your goal every day.

Find what pleases you, makes the purpose of your existence, and motivates you to grow and want even more. Once you do, the boundaries stop to exist.

No one is born with an unlimited source of motivation, and the will to work — motivation is practiced. People who are learning and investing in themselves find it much easier to stay motivated. It can be you too!

I hope this article was helpful to you. Have you ever experienced burnout? Feel free to put your experiences in the comments down below.

I would appreciate it if you would be willing to share this article. It will encourage me to create more useful tutorials like this.

Happy Coding!

Ashwin Joy

I'm the face behind Pythonista Planet. I learned my first programming language back in 2015. Ever since then, I've been learning programming and immersing myself in technology. On this site, I share everything that I've learned about computer programming.

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