How I Survived Burnout
Note: This is not a medical advice, if you have anxiety, depression, ADHD, Bi-polar or other psychological medical needs, please seek a medical professional
Burnout has become a norm for every single software developer and it will happen to each one of us one way or another…
… and multiple times.
Work stress, an unhealthy diet, and setting on chairs for long hours eventually contribute to a loss of desire to work and do nothing.
In the past few weeks, I have gone through yet another burnout, or I call it a meltdown, and it has spaned for almost 6 weeks which wasn’t that great and made it hard to work and be productive.
That’s why I tried to read articles and listen to lectures trying to understand and uncover why this always happens and how I can prevent it.
To my shock, I have concluded that burnout will always happen and there is no way around it…
…and it would be much easier to find a way to cope with it when it happens.
It’s like the flu, you know you will get it every year and you know what to do about it: just take a sick leave, rest, and drink a lot of warm drinks to recover.
So let’s deal with burnout as the flu since the ultimate cure for burnout is just quitting our jobs and having fun 24/7 which is not going to happen.
We are grown-ups now
The Triangle of Life
In life, there is a tringle of human needs that balances our life and desire to continue which consists of 3 edges: Sleep, Diet, and Sport.
And it’s in that specific order and each one affects the other.
Usually, a burnout will start like this:
- You have too much work
- Which leads to not having time to do sports
- Not doing sports leads to lower energy and food cravings
- Food cravings lead to inconsistent sleep
- Inconsistent sleep leads to less focus on work
- Not focusing on work leads to a piling of work
- Repeat the cycle of suffering…
Any imbalance in the triangle of life will always lead to burnout…
But luckily for you, this guide will cover how to get your “flu recovery” needed to get back.
Start with Diet
But you might ask, why start with diet?!
The answer is because it’s the easiest to fix and it directly affects the chemical imbalance in your body and eventually the imbalance of chemicals in your brain.
The easiest fix I have found 100% working is: buying frozen food and just microwaving them.
You might laugh…
…but it’s a step up from eating loads of sugar, snacks, and Big Macs.
Buying balanced frozen food is much easier to do, cheaper and they are healthier.
We just need to improve 1%, we don’t have to get back to home cooking at once while the energy and willpower are almost non-existent.
Next Fix Sleep
When you give your body better food, you will balance the chemicals in your body and brain which will help you sleep better.
But first, we need to fix the anxiety from work and relax a little.
On a day, after work, just do nothing that day and do something that you always felt is “not productive”
Play some video games, watch TV, go for a walk in the park, or play with some Legos.
Just be as unproductive as possible
and I mean it, unproductive with “un”.
Finally, when the nighttime comes, go to bed early, and retrospect how the day was unproductive and life didn’t end…
…and everything is still fine and the world didn’t crash and you made something good for yourself only.
You will go to sleep and sleep for at least 8 hours that night.
And then repeat this again as many times as you can afford to recharge.
After a few days, you will feel better about yourself because burnout sometimes means you are not satisfied with what you do because you think life “depends on you”
Instead, by being unproductive, you will start to feel that you don’t have to be so serious and everything is just going to be fine.
Eventually, you are a software developer who is changing the world with just a few keyboard strokes, so you are already amazing :)
After we have fixed sleep and diet, now it’s time to boost our energy.
Start small, maybe taking longer walks while going to buy your frozen food.
or do some quick home sport while watching the TV
Don’t put a big target like hitting the gym 3 times a week and then feel bad because you couldn’t.
We need to start small to get that compounding effect of doing something good and finishing it.
I myself just cycle with my home-bike equipment while watching some Netflix during Lunch breaks.
After a few times, you will get that lovely dopamine back and feel good about yourself.
After making enough balancing back to the Triangle of Life, just repeat it.
We need to get the compounding effect of balancing the chemicals in our bodies and brains to start to function better again.
After a while, the effects of burnout will wary away.
But remember, it’s never over…
Burnouts will always come back in the next season with a different intensity
But now, we are prepared to get the recovery time we need to get back on our feet
Just by embracing this fact, you will feel a little better when it happens and more prepared to rest yourself and get back to your amazing and wonderful life :)