Working under huge stress for long periods of time can lead to the famous burnout syndrome, where you are exhausted physically and emotionally, you have a lack of motivation at work and your productivity may be lower than usual. Even though you don’t reach that level of stress, in a field where everything must be done by tomorrow, from time to time you may notice some of those symptoms. Let’s see what we can do to avoid, or at least mitigate, them. These are some concepts that worked for me and you can try and see if any of them is suitable for you as well.
We are always busy and we don’t have time to do some exercise, right? How many times have we been subscribed to a gym and after a few weeks, we are not going anymore?
My recommendation here is to start with a simple habit you can commit to: a bit of exercise each day can be more than enough and it’s easier to accomplish. For example, try to accommodate 10/15 minutes each morning at around the same time and do some simple stretches or yoga exercises. My approach, do some sun salutation in the morning.
Your back will be stronger which it’s really important in our case as we spend most of the time sitting. A significant part of this exercise is the deep breath. We usually do a quick breath and filling the lungs completely will oxygenate our body, having a great impact on us.
At the end of the day, you may end up with a headache after spending the whole time thinking about your new solution. You go home and you continue thinking about that problem you couldn’t solve or the endless tasks you’ll have tomorrow. Even worse, you may dream about that during the night and you get up tired as if you hadn’t rested at all. How can we solve this issue? Meditation can be a good solution for that. You can learn how to stop (at least a little bit) your mind, be relaxed and stop worrying about your problems in life or job (no worries, we are not trying to be a master yogi, just a short period of time can be more than enough). A good way to start meditating is listening to some short meditations that will guide you through the process. My choice here is using the app InsightTimer. There are multiple free clips (there is also some paid subscription) where the professor will give you steps you need to follow. Before going to sleep it’s really a good idea, since you can be more calm and you will rest better.
Also in the morning, five to ten minutes of meditation before getting out of bed is a really good way to wake up with more energy .
Resting properly and enough is really important and we need to have that in mind, since not doing it may affect your immune system and get sick. Working extra long hours doesn’t help to finish things correctly. We need a clear mind and that’s only possible if we are rested.
If you have problems falling asleep, there are some meditations that may help you. For example, there is the 4/7/8 technique where:
- You breath in for 4 seconds
- You hold your breath for 7 seconds
- You breath out for 8 seconds
- You start by repeating this pattern for 4 cycles
Your mind will be more calm and relaxed and it’s a good starting point for trying to fall asleep.
From the book How to Make Good Things Happen: Know Your Brain, Enhance Your Life by Doctor Marian Rojas Estapé:
Five tips for sleeping well:
- Don’t use any screen before going to bed
- It may be more difficult to fall asleep
- Be careful with emotional stimulation
- A discussion, some conflicts may not help on resting correctly
- Choose the last thought of the day carefully
- Try to focus on something good that happen during the day
- Adopt a healthy routine
- Take a shower, read some books, some meditation, listen to music are good habits before going to bed
- Sleep without any light
- Even those small light may affect your sleep
You already know this, you should eat more fruits, vegetables and less processed foods. I would insist on avoiding drinking too much caffeine during the day or any kind of energy drinks. There is the known meme: ‘programmers drink coffee, then produce software’. But we should be very careful about that. This may sound funny but a coffee is just a temporary boost that lasts for a while. After that boost, your body will require more or you will feel tired again. And suddenly you are in the middle of a vicious cycle. And to make things even worse, you may not rest correctly at night.
While working (and also in our life) we can receive tons of notifications from everywhere: new email, new whatsapp, thousands of new memes via slack… and most of the time they are not urgent and don’t need to be answered at that precise moment. To work better it is important to be focused on what you are doing, and notifications will only break your concentration and increase your stress. At the end of the day, you may end up with a feeling of not finishing all your tasks but you never realise all the time you lost paying attention to those notifications. My advice here, disable all your notifications, at least, while you are working and you’ll see how your productivity will be increased. For example, android has the Focus Mode where you can schedule a time where the selected apps won’t distract you with any notifications. You can find that option inside the Settings > Digital Wellbeing & Parental Controls. In IOS there is something similar called Focus (Settings > Focus).
Bonus tip: remove your slack app from your phone. Are you sure you really need it? Are all the messages that urgent you need to reply to immediately?
FOMO (Fear of missing out)
In a field that is changing so fast, why do you imagine you can learn or be aware of everything? That is almost impossible, so better you accept that fact and start learning to let it go. As professionals, it’s really good to improve every day and learn new stuff but this cannot lead to being more stressed. A good exercise is to dedicate 15 minutes each day, before starting your daily tasks, to check blogs, books .. to learn stuff you don’t know. This way you can find out all the things you didn’t know that you didn’t know and may be interesting to you.
These topics have helped me a lot to be more relaxed and be a bit more healthy. Life is short and we have to take care of ourselves. You may try some of them and see if they work for you. What do you do to take care of yourself? Let me know in the comment section below.