Embrace the negative emotions, they keep you sane
New research suggests that accepting negative emotions is essential to our mental health. But is this the case for developers?
Tori Rodriguez, an Atlanta-based journalist and psychotherapist wrote in a piece for Scientific American that “acknowledging and expressing a full range of emotions” are key to one’s well-being. Furthermore, trying to suppress thoughts (even if they are negative) can backfire and even decrease the sense of contentment —thus leading to greater problems such as depression and other conditions.
It has become common knowledge that many developers are battling depression, ADHD, bipolar and other conditions from this spectrum. The Next Web revealed that good developers need to adopt a certain mindset —their job is to discover the errors in their own code so they rarely think about the good parts. Although this mindset may be efficient (they find the errors and solve the problems), it also makes them unhappy since gratification comes only when they identify their work’s flaws.
Negative emotions vs burnout and depression
Negative emotions can lead to depression but only if they remain unsolved. Rodriguez cited psychologist Jonathan M. Adler of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering as saying that bad feelings can be clues that certain matters need attention. One of the best ways to make sure negative emotions do not transform into depression is to ensure that your employer understands the amount of work that goes into a project.
Employers usually put pressure on the developers because they fail to understand the amount of time it takes to make a product that fits the client’s needs and expectations. If they underestimate this aspect, they sentence the developer to overtime and even to burnout. The client is unhappy (due to the legion of bugs), the developer is unhappy because there’s more work to be done and the situation perpetuates until the developer is exhausted or the employer understands that if they want a project to be done yesterday, they will have a hard time pleasing all the parties involved.
How to work around burnout and depression
If negative emotions are a good thing because they warn us when things go south and they should not be suppressed, burnout can and should be prevented. The Huffington Post put together 7 tips on how to avoid it, and general ways that vulnerable workers can counteract stress. The list includes physical exercises, breaks and speaking up when the workload becomes unbearable.
If you want to keep your sanity intact, listen to those negative emotions and transform them into something positive by letting your employer know that burnout is a serious matter and depression is just around the corner.