Programmers and Depression: Why No One Talks About This and 8 Powerful Ways to Overcome It
Time to talk about something hard.
Mental health is a serious topic and often avoided because it’s hard to talk about.
Today I want to open a conversation about coding depression and offer ideas for navigating through it.
But first, what is depression?
“A mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. Possible causes include a combination of biological, psychological, and social sources of distress. Increasingly, research suggests these factors may cause changes in brain function, including the altered activity of certain neural circuits in the brain.”
What is coding depression?
Let’s narrow this down further.
“It is depression that developers are prone to more than the average person. It is due to the time spent in your thoughts, the hours in front of a computer without any human interaction. The imposter syndrome that tells them ‘your code isn’t good enough’, the comparisons to other developers in the community and lastly, the fact that no one talks about mental health. Ultimately it ends up affecting their life.”
What am I not saying?
You won’t hear me saying that any one thing I recommend here will fix coding depression.
Instead, let’s talk through actions we can take right now and focus our efforts there.
1. Go outside
Maybe this is true for you, too, but something that notoriously slows my progress is when I stay inside too long.
Spending time outside means soaking up that good old vitamin D. Bone health, muscle health and your immune system – all are positively impacted by vitamin D. Without it, people are more prone to certain types of cancer, diabetes and mental health issues.
Sunlight also sets your circadian rhythm, allowing your body to function as intended. Without it, you may stay up too late or sleep in too long, living your life in the shadows.
Look back at your day – are you getting enough sun? If not, try adding 15 minutes, chances are you’ll stay outside for more.
Lack of sleep can cause coding depression, but it can also be disguised as a programming funk – closely related but not the same.
Either way, not getting enough sleep can impact you. Not only for that day but for days to come.
Here are a few easy wins to help you get more (and better!) sleep:
- 1-hour before bed, stop using your laptop/phone. Let your body know sleep is coming.
- Wear blue light glasses, which reflect blue light coming from your devices, ensuring your body doesn’t think it has to stay awake.
- Consider taking melatonin. Naturally occurring in your body, melatonin promotes sleep.
- Exercise regularly throughout your week.
Speaking of which.
3. Physical activity
Remember how physical activity promotes good sleep? It does more than just that.
Get your heart rate above 100 bpm for 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Neural circuits that only fire when you exercise will fire. This is so important for helping you clear your head.
Ever felt that pent up energy from not moving enough? Exercise it away, you’ll feel better for it.
Confidence has a bigger impact than you might think.
Confidence revolves around imposter syndrome, which has a hold on everyone. It can be a catalyst that gets you into coding depression.
This can hinder your job performance, ability to learn or daily tasks.
You may have heard that old adage, fake it till you make it, which can get you through tough times. But it can also be pretty hard advice to follow.
I believe there’s a better way.
Act as if.
Act as if you already are the way you want to be.
Prime example. If you’re in an interview and you get asked a tough question, act as if you’re the smartest person in the room. Act as if you’re the best version of yourself.
Why not give it a try?
Next time you’re not feeling good enough, act as if. No one can stop you.
This is where many people fail in their careers, because they compare themselves to others. Comparison can be a quick catalyst that leads to depression.
Comparing ourselves to other people in regards to pay, skill, respect – it’s the death of all things good because you’ll never be good enough.
You’ll always compare yourself to the next level and the next. There will always be something more to hold you back from being good enough.
Don’t let this type of comparison hold you back. If you want to compare, use yourself as your own comparison to mark progress.
Do you ever find yourself reminiscing about the good old times? I do it, too, and I have news for you. The grass will always be greener on the other side.
There are old memories that we each hold near and dear. Spending time dwelling on the past can be great, but it can spiral out of control quickly because it’s hard to stop.
What’s a good cure? Find some engaging activities to shift your mindset. Go for a walk outside, attend a meetup, paint or work on your favorite hobby.
Keep your mind active and working so you’re not sitting reminiscing.
7. Be a part of a community
Find local events, build projects together, and form a community you enjoy so you get that face-to-face interaction.
It’s harder to feel coding depression in a group. Not to say you can’t feel depression, but having the support of a community can help combat it.
8. Find a mentor
Find someone who has been where you’ve been and ultimately is where you want to be. They can be lifesavers because of how they can relate to your emotions and experiences.
They’ve found a way through it – so you know they can help you.
Out of all eight of these tips, my hope is that you can find one to try today.
Depression doesn’t just go away, but it’s how you deal with it that can really make a difference.
Have you ever experienced coding depression? Have you tried one of the actions above? If it helps, leave a comment below. You’ll quickly find you’re not alone.
To see our accompanying video, click here: