5 Techniques I Use To Manage Stress As A Software Engineer

If you are not a monk, stress is a part of your life.

We face it constantly, at work, at home, in various life situations. And if we don't know how to manage it right, we will probably struggle with anxiety and be unproductive at work.

So here are the 5 techniques I use to manage stress that you can try.

1. Morning Journal

This is a technique I’ve been using for 3+ years and it’s freaking golden.

Every morning I write two things:

  1. Brain dump. All thoughts, feelings, and experiences I want to write down.
  2. The goal for today. One main goal that I have to achieve today, no matter what.

I do it every morning for 5-10 minutes. And by the end, I feel completely different. My mind is calm.

If you reflect and write everything you have on your mind (what you are stressing about) you will less procrastinate throughout the day and less thinking about that one problem you have.

I recommend starting with the “brain dump” type of journaling, three times per week in the morning to see how it goes. Then you can do it on a daily basis.

2. Walking

When I feel under stress, for example, can’t find a solution to some coding problem, I often go for a walk, 15-20 minutes and the solution often pops up in my head. I don’t take headphones. Just simple walking. Pure magic.

I've noticed that when I’m doing something else, like watching videos on YouTube during my break, I feel more stressed and anxious a couple of hours after. And also, after walking in nature (forest/lowland water) I feel better than anywhere else.

So try what works for you.

3. Right Breaks

Previously I used to just put on my headphones and code for 8 hours, almost straight. But I don’t do that anymore. After such “hard work” sessions I feel tired and more stressed. Now I operate in another way.

Our brain works best when we go hard, then rest. And it’s not going hard for hours and then rest for days. It is about going hard for 50-90 minutes then do a break for 15-22 minutes.

But it is not “normal” breaks like people used to think, checking Instagram/Facebook, or reading news. I am talking about “right” breaks. It includes completely opposite activities.

During right breaks I often do three things:

  1. Hydrating
  2. Stretching
  3. Walking

And what I’ve noticed by doing those three things is that I feel more relaxed, more focused, and I can work for 8+ hours without feeling like crap (brain fog) at the end.

So add breaks to your working routine, this technique is a productivity gem for coders.

4. Flight Mode

I used to think that notifications on my phone and computer didn't matter. Yes, they distract me in some way, but nothing critical.

I was wrong.

Check notifications every time they pop-up on your screen form a bad habit called “fear of missing out.” I started to feel like I need to know what is going on. Like every time notification appears I instantly click on it and stop doing what I do.

Nowadays, I turn off all notifications for 4 hours. So no one can distract me. For that period of time, I often complete my big goal for a day.

At first, it was difficult, because I constantly wanted to check what is going on in the world. But then I’ve noticed that I stopped worrying about it. Now I feel more focused and less anxious. It is funny how such a simple thing helps me with managing stress.

So turn off notifications and tell people to not distract you with unimportant stuff during your working hours.

5. Clean Desk

Not an obvious one but clear mind is linked to a clear environment.

I notice that when I have a messy desk I have a problem finding a solution to coding problems. It takes more time and I feel more stressed about it. But when I clean it, I watch the stress melt away. The environment no longer distracts me. My mind is clear.

This technique takes me 1 minute and I feel a huge benefit from it.

Clean your desk every morning or before going to bed.

In the end…

Those are the 5 proven things I do on a consistent basis in order to keep stress levels low. In addition, I recommend establishing good habits like a healthy diet, 8 hours of sleep, and 3-4x working out sessions during the week.

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Comments (2)

Ayushi Rawat's photo

Great tips!

I usually prefer night journal, so I already have my plan sorted for the next day and cleaning my workspace always helps.

Nick Bull's photo

Night journal is also a great for brain dump.

Thanks Ayushi!