On Burning Out
It’s better to burn out than to fade away.
As I type this blog post, I’m coming to the end of my coding bootcamp at the Flatiron School. While being one of my favorite educational experiences I’ve had so far in life, and being able to meet amazing instructors and other coders in my cohort. I would be lying if I didn’t say theyre weren’t times I was completely over it. From failing a code challenge, running into issues when making projects, working for hours on a bug only for it to be replaced by another once crushed, and the everlasting imposter syndrome that I hopefully can shake once I start working in this field. Even though the imposter syndrome tells me that’s never going to happen!
While there’s little to enjoy from feeling burnt out, I can appreciate how it made me reevaluate day to day choices as my “lifestyle” and career start down this new path. Here are some examples of steps I took to calm myself down and keep things in perspective.
As someone who has daily anxiety, the idea of sitting “with” my thoughts, and not focusing on them did not make any sense. And for a while, the activity was causing more stress than it was alleviating. But it did instill an attitude that has helped me deal with the stress of this bootcamp, and that is to be kind and gentle with yourself, even though it wasn’t always successful.
Meditation won’t work if everytime your mind wanders, you become either frustrated or angry at your failed attempt to destress. The mind, as well as coding skills, take time to learn. They’re both muscles that need to be worked out for a while before you really see any progress, and you need to be kind to yourself, especially when staring off! As someone who’s meditated daily for extended periods, I shamelessly need to plug the app Headspace. From having wonderful guided meditations, to cute illustrations that explain the concepts in layman’s terms, I would have never regularly meditated had it not been for that App.
If you are in a bad mood, go for a walk. If you are still in a bad mood, go for another walk.” — Hippocrates
When most of your days are spent staring at a computer screen, it’s easy to lose focus on the outside world. In this bootcamp I quickly found my attention being completely consumed by code. Code I’m writing, code that’s not working, or code that I havent started on yet but should have by now. As everyone who codes learns early on, sometimes the best thing you can do is to step away from the computer, no matter how close you might be to fixing something. Coming back with fresh eyes and a clear head usually results in you figuring out a certain bug or issue you have, faster than if you had just kept powering through.
Besides making my living room a much more pleasurable space to sit in all day long, the attention and care required by different plants helped me not get completely stuck in working on a bug or piece of code. Instead of starting my day by eating breakfast and then immediately sitting down for the rest of the day, I would have my morning misting of the tropical plants I have. Pruning leaves that were yellowing or drying out from too much sun, checking on the tomato seeds I have germinating in the window. All little activities that provided me with a sense of calm before I had my daily freakout over not being able to get something working, or feeling like I’m in way over my head.
As someone who’s never had the healthiest eating habits, partly because I always worked on my feet all day in whatever job I previously had, even I was shocked at how quickly my eating habits reverted to my college/teenage days. Lamb gyro and fries for dinner three nights in a row? Why not?
As someone who’s getting used to sitting down for most of the day, I learned that I can’t eat garbage all the time and expect me or my now much more sedentary body to feel good. While I still eat trash a lot of the time, setting aside the time for a home cooked meal was necessary for my health and state of mind.
Obviously anyone who codes is going to understand the importance of good music to get into a flow state. I however realized working on code late at night is a lot easier nd more enjoyable if I am singing, a habit I developed when I would spend most of my free time in my studio painting. This is a more personal one, as I’m not sure of the benefits of doing this besides the enjoyment I get. But I am thankful for the two seperate mute buttons I have for my mic. So far I haven’t freaked someone out accidentally belting over a late night zoom call.