“I Can’t No More”: 5 Reasons for Programmer Burnout and What to Do About It

Andrey N. started coding 8 years ago, and was ready to work day and night, typing “shabashki” on weekends, and in his free time learning new frameworks. The work was enjoyable, he finally found himself! After 8 years, Andrei hardly forces himself to get out of bed in the morning, work does not bring joy, just as nothing else brings it: all types of entertainment that were dispelled earlier are no longer interesting. Andrey has emotional burnout, which precedes depression.

My name is Ksenia Korzun, I am a psychologist, specializing in working with programmers and, in particular, I work a lot with emotional burnout, apathy and depressive states. After analyzing many cases, having conducted therapy with clients such as Andrei, I identified several causes of emotional burnout, and in this article I want to cite them and immediately offer several “antidotes”.

Causes of emotional burnout in a programmer

1) Monotonous work

For most coders, it is typical for many hours to complete one task, deep concentration. In his work, the programmer uses analytical thinking, systematizes information, establishes causal relationships, compares, and so on. These processes involve the frontal lobe of the brain. According to the level of mental processes, thinking is divided into analytical and intuitive.

The key to combating burnout during repetitive work: changing activities, engaging intuitive thinking. Daniel Kahneman noted that intuition is the ability to automatically make decisions without lengthy logical reasoning or proofs. There are many exercises for switching from analytical to intuitive thinking. One of them: before a working call with colleagues, imagine each of them mentally, think about what character traits they have, how character affects the fruits of their labor (for example, someone is very fast, but he has only bugs in the code, but someone is “slow”, but writes clean and well-documented code, and so on …).

You can also “change” the picture by connecting sports (be sure to beloved – which you like, try different ones to find your own), or watch fantasy / science fiction, read fascinating fiction books (not professional literature – it will still involve analytical thinking) …

2) frustration of needs

You want something and forbid yourself, or for some reason you cannot give it to yourself, the desire is “hammered” inside, and begins to literally rot inside you, letting out an unpleasant smell. The desire can be anything – from a trip on a kite safari (“not the time, the sprint will end now, and then!”), To sexual experiments (“wife will not understand, cheating = guilt”) and much more. For example, the company has rumors about a merger with another firm, there is a risk of layoffs. This generates fear of job loss (frustration of the need for security and stability). In this case, we are not dealing with emotional burnout, but with frustration of need, and this is the issue that needs to be addressed.

3) Pace of work

Each of us has our own pace of work, and tasks are calculated according to average rates. This leads to the fact that someone is bored all day without work and is angry that they do not develop new skills, and someone is spinning like a squirrel in a wheel from deadline to deadline, under the weight of imposed expectations that he will deliver a first-class product on time, and so every day from call to call.

It is very important to know the pace of work that is comfortable for you and stick to it, having discussed it during the interview and, if necessary, correcting it in the process of working with your team lead or HR. Do not be afraid to bring up this topic: it is this conversation that can qualitatively improve your work schedule, and as a result – your emotional state.

4) Recognition

Most of us, without even realizing it, want to see the results of our work and receive recognition for them (“you are a cool programmer! You solved this problem so coolly! As a result of this …”). If you write code that is not “merjat”, or there is no release, or even decide to change the whole project after a year, you feel that all this time you have been working in vain, your work is not valuable, it’s like a woman’s “miscarriage”. No amount of money will give you a sense of importance if you see yourself doing useless work.

If you do not want to change the project yet (the salary and the team are kept, for example), you can get this recognition you need elsewhere. At the coven, pet-project, speaking at professional forums, adding open source, which is used 100,500 times, and in other places.

5) high salary

Yes, that’s not a typo. Not small, but high salaries contribute to burnout. You are at your peak, at high speeds, trying to squeeze the maximum out of yourself in order to prove (to yourself and the employer, but above all to yourself) that you are worthy. And make a cool product every day. And sometimes overtime at the expense of sleep, or weekends with friends. Whereas a coder with a low RFP allows himself to play the game during the day (“for such a RFP I manal” …).

Don’t be too hard on yourself and fight perfectionism. Bring back your passion for work, do what you are passionate about. Maybe this is a new technology or an interesting experience of colleagues? Allow yourself to idle. Sometimes 2 days spent without a line of code give birth to a solution to a difficult task in the brain, which you will complete in 20 minutes.

Common “medicines”

Whatever the cause of burnout and lethargy, there are general guidelines to help you cope. I gave these recommendations to my clients and saw impressive results already in the first week of therapy. I suggest you try this too:

“Easy man”

It all depends on the psychotype (welcome to the personality typology), but as a rule, a programmer is a diligent, meticulous, attentive to details, with an analytical mindset, a person who follows standards and rules, with critical thinking. It is important for this type of personality to have the complete opposite by your side – a cheerful and carefree person who will relax you and turn your life into a holiday. It can be a girlfriend, friend, relative or colleague – it doesn’t matter. Spend time with your opposite and you will notice that your state will change. In your pair, you are the base, the base, the shore, and the partner is a balloon, travel, pleasure and novelty. A colleague who jokes aptly and makes memes with your photos, or a girl who says “don’t worry, this is such nonsense! Let’s go to the cinema! ” fit for this role.

“Hormones of happiness”

Serotonin, Endorphins, Dopamine, Oxytocin. The release of these hormones boosts our mood and makes us feel happy. There are many ways to boost the production of these hormones, and here are some of them:

  1. Go in for sports – running, cycling, swimming, dancing – it doesn’t matter. At the end of the workout, you will feel cool, and for this feeling you will come back again and again. The first time you do it “through I do not want”.

  2. Surround yourself with warmth: warm socks, a blanket, hot coffee, a cat (if any), hugs, candles, or a bedside light (all at the same time). Close your eyes and listen to light music. Do nothing, do not rush anywhere.

  3. Add salmon, eggs, spinach, and nuts to your diet. Take away the chips and soda (for a while!).

  4. Plan an hour of pleasure for each day. Planning a treat for yourself today? New headphones? Ordering your favorite food? Walk in the park? Online play with a friend? Make yourself happy every day.

There are many more ways to cope with burnout, as well as more than 5 reasons for its occurrence. Perhaps the thought that you are not alone will help you – according to the American research company Gallup, 23% of working Americans are often or constantly in a state of emotional burnout.

If you cannot cope on your own, contact a psychologist. At the consultation, a specialist will help you see the true cause of your condition and work it out. Modern psychology effectively copes with the state of emotional burnout, apathy and depression. Today, qualified psychologists “do not just listen” in sessions, but really help, applying effective techniques from the very first meeting.

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