My Burnout Story: Noticing it, dealing with it and avoiding it

By August 20, 2019 2019, S.E

I remember watching some developers both at work and school drowning in its hideous overpowering grasp. It is not a pretty site. I’d ask myself why in the world they would let it get that far, why didn’t they notice that something was wrong….etc. I also thought that I would never find myself on that same boat. However, the past month I have had the unfortunate ordeal of being close to total burnout. I guess it is never over until the fat lady sings.

Burnout is a result of prolonged stress and pressure from work. Another term for it can be chronic exhaustion.

At some point this year I did not enjoy going to work, didn’t enjoy programming, didn’t even enjoy food, and it started showing in my work. I was almost losing the spark I always have and when my loved ones even started noticing I realized that I needed to do something soon or else.

I was a zombie on autopilot.

What leads to it:

It doesn’t just happen. In fact, I didn’t even notice when I started heading down that path. I overlooked so many little things that should have been early red signs.

Pressure

Being a software developer comes with an intense pressure to meet deadlines. From clients, bosses and teammates. It’s part of the job. However, there is a good kind of pressure and bad kind of pressure. Good pressure is knowing you have to finish a task in a realistic time frame and bad pressure comes when you are expected to be a miracle worker and finish a job in an unrealistic amount of time. If you think bad pressure only comes from your superiors, then you are very wrong. It also comes from within. I made that mistake.

Unfortunately we are in today’s world, where everyone wants to be superhuman at their job, finish tasks before they are due, solve problems faster or better than everyone else… at the price of forgetting we are only human.

It is easier to control pressure given by your boss than the pressure you give yourself.

 

Stress

When under pressure, you become stressed and this stress slowly builds up, un-noticeably. I have worked on projects that have needed me to sacrifice a lot of personal time, tasks that seemed impossible to complete and looming deadlines with sight of hope ahead. My mistake was not pausing, taking a breather and looking at things with a different point of view. Those were the things I overlooked assuming I was merely doing my job.

Stress leads to overthinking and overthinking leads to the false presumption that you are doing something; that’s why it is exhausting. Now when the time comes for the actual task to be done, you end up doing the bare minimum, and not in a good way.

 

Signs you are headed to burnout

The signs may seem normal or expected at first but remember, once they become a constant thing in your everyday life, then things are not okay!

Some of these signs I have experienced, while others I have heard from software developers who were completely burnout:

  • Physical and emotional fatigue
  • Constant headaches everyday
  • Insomnia
  • No appetite and not enjoying foods I used to
  • Irritability
  • Sense of detachment
  • Poor performance at work
  • Feeling ineffective
  • Self-pity and self-doubt
  • Cynicism
  • Short attention span if any
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath

 

Dealing with it and avoiding it

Handling burnout is at the palm of your hand. Here are some tips I have found effective from personal practice and talking to other people.

P.S.They are all things you’ve heard before.

 

Food, Sleep and Exercise.

The part of the body that does the most work in a day is the brain. So show it some TLC (tender love and care) if you intend it to perform its best everyday.

Eat healthy – nutritious food and loads of water,

Get enough sleep,

Exert yourself. I don’t mean join a gym or get a personal trainer; walk instead of using a car, cycle if you have a bike, go swimming. Anything that will make you breath faster. A little exercise everyday goes a long way.

 

Work-Life balance

You have probably heard this a million times. I know I have. Some may know what it means, some may not.

Have a life besides your work. Hang out with friends, family, do things on weekends that have nothing to do with your work. Take time to breath, relax and notice all the other wonderful things and people in your life.

 

Define Boundaries

This may seem scary, but it is highly advisable to create boundaries with your boss and teammates. By creating boundaries I mean communicating to your boss what you can and can’t do, politely of course. If he/ she pulls all nighters at work and still manages to look like they slept for 10 hours, go to the gym everyday and drink smoothies all the time; well good for them. But if you can’t function without at least 6-7 hours sleep, then do not give the false impression that you can.

Do you need help in performing certain tasks? Say it. I am sure no employer expects their employees to work like machines, and if they do, then they are bad and toxic employers. Even machines malfunction anyways.

Do your best but know what your breaking point is and state it clearly. If you don’t say it, no one will know and things will just be piled up on you under the assumption that you can handle everything.

 

Remember to do the things that make you happy

Whatever it is that you enjoy doing, do it! Don’t keep postponing until you forget about it. If it makes you happy, go ahead and make time for it in your daily or weekly life. Find a good balance between work and hobbies and keep it.

Life is too short not to do the thing we love.

 

Learn new things

Sometimes doing the same thing over and over and over can be depressing.

Learning new things adds a certain excitement to my day. For developers, learn a new programming language, framework or concept, or better yet, learn a new language entirely. mi octavo mes de aprender español.😊

Also, learn something that is not related to your field of work, just for the fun of it. It’s a good way to keep the mind refreshed. Or learn that one thing you have always wanted to know how to do.

Finding exciting things to learn reduces boredom and you may find yourself back in your element, because you are challenging your mind, and it’s something you can do without any pressure at all while still getting a reward from it.

 

Know that you cannot control everything

Do what you can, how you can in the best way you can.

How your boss reacts after that is entirely not within your control. Your boss may decide to let you go after you have done your best, that’s alright. Not everything is meant to be. Just do not lose sleep over something that is not within your control.

 

Ask for help

For some people, asking for help means admitting defeat. Well that’s just ridiculous. Asking for help just means we’re human and we need help from time to time.  It reduces what you have to do, it even makes it fun. And from my experience, it creates nice relationships amongst colleagues.

 

Talk to someone

Don’t keep it all to yourself. Sometimes a good vent is what is needed. Talk to a loved one or a therapist if you have. Let them know how you feel before it’s too much. They may not have a solution, but letting it out is the solution you needed in the first place.

 

If you care about the quality of your work and productivity, then you should know that being burnt out does no one any good. Not your boss, not your clients, not your teammates and definitely not yourself. Strive to be your best self.

 

Don’t let things happen to you.

I hope this helps anyone who feels like they are headed down a path of chronic exhaustion, or are already there.

Comment below if you’ve felt burnt out or just had enough with your job. I’d also love to hear other ways to avoid it. 🙂

<until next time>

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Lulu Ngei

Lulu Ngei

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