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Take Care of Yourself, You Deserve It

aem profile image Adam Markon ・3 min read

About three months ago I made quite a few big changes in my life. I cut my added sugar intake (natural sugars like those in fruits are okay) to two snacks a week and my grain intake to two meals a week. I started going to the gym 5-6 days a week; I take Fridays and some Tuesdays off. I shut off all non-urgent push notifications on my phone (the only apps that can send me push notifications are Messages, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger). I started forcing myself to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night and I take one day off of work every month as a personal day where I shut off all of my electronics and spend a day reading or relaxing and doing something for myself.

All of this because I hit an all-time low at the beginning of February. I had just moved to Ireland for a 6-month assignment at my company and things were not going well. Work was great, but I was more depressed than I had been in my life. I had no friends over here and felt alone - not a great feeling for someone with serious social anxiety. I had succumbed to the tech world's drinking culture and gained about 15 pounds just in the month of January. I was high anxiety, all of my personal relationships were suffering from it, I was drinking my problems away, and the rest of my life suffered.

February 12th, 2017

I remember this date pretty vividly. I was laying in bed in my apartment, recovering from yet another night of drinking, and got one too many push notifications from a game I hadn't played in forever. I got fed up enough that I turned off push notifications for pretty much everything on my phone, and immediately felt a whole weight taken off of my shoulders. I decided to keep going. I found an affordable gym near my apartment, signed up online, and walked over almost immediately. That first day was miserable, but I felt great afterwards.

I kept with the gym, threw out all of the junk food I had amassed and went grocery shopping again with a narrow set of requirements: no carbs, no sugar. This quickly got amended because I realized I was seriously limiting my options and I could be healthy while having some cheat days in moderation, but the same healthy spirit was there. I stopped drinking most nights of the week, started going to bed early, and by the next weekend I was a changed person.

Since then I've lost about 10 of the original 15 pounds I gained, I've got a ton more energy, and my depression has gotten considerably better (I've been diagnosed since I was 14, it's never gone, but it gets better).

Not only do I feel better, but my work has even gotten better. I've written fewer bugs, my code has gotten cleaner, I've been able to create more complex and elegant solutions to problems I would've been afraid to approach a few months ago. This increased energy and confidence has measurably led to better performance at work, and this is the whole point.

Taking care of yourself is important. It's not just about your weight, it's not just about what the doctor says, it affects every portion of your life. Dieting is hard, exercise is hard, the discipline is hard and sometimes I break. Last week I made it to the gym exactly zero times, and my depression got pretty bad again. But this week I haven't missed a day and things are better again. I see too many people do what I did last week for their entire year. Don't do that to yourself, you're good at what you do and you deserve to be happy and healthy.

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Adam Markon

@aem

JavaScripter by trade. Currently working on Mobile @ HubSpot. Breaking things so I can fix them tomorrow. Opinions my own.

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Loved this, Adam Markon.

Living up to International TimeLine has been one of the most common causes of burn-out. Many times, I wonder, of what use are the various development methodologies and multitude of tools, unless those can give us deliverance from this almost inhuman demand of one's personal health, time and well-being.

 

This is my most favorite-ist article ever. Thank you so much for sharing.
This topic definitely needs more light! I too removed push notifications for everything except for texts and I felt I could breathe again. πŸ™ŒπŸΌ

 

<3 glad to share the experience. Life is stressful, I figured if I can share my solution then maybe someone else can benefit.

And YES to turning off most push notifications. Getting over the anxiety of removing work-related stuff from my phone was huge as well. Reassuring myself that people at work have my phone number and can page me if something is urgent made getting rid of Slack and email much easier and I felt so much better afterward.

 

Well said, and well done.

As someone suffering with some serious burnout, and all the things that come along with it, I know where you're coming from. I've been better, and I will be better again.

For those that want to get a better understanding of what's going on, I'd recommend starting with Christina Maslach's book Burnout: The Cost of Caring. It's the work that really got things started. She focuses on the healthcare and education industries because that's where it was more readily seen at the time, but it is very relevant for us in the tech world as well. She's got some more current literature available now as well.

If you're curious where you stand, you can usually find a Maslach Burnout Inventory (there are some free ones that tend to be older versions, and the current ones rarely run more than $15 USD).

Do like Adam, take care of yourself now before it requires professional intervention. And if you're at that point now, go. Seek professional intervention. You are worth it.

 

Thank you for sharing your experience. I've been having the same problem and had a similar approach to get better.
I moved to Tokyo almost a year ago, also had no friends here. Spent all my time just working, daytime job and side projects. This resulted in 24/7 depression, add to that the fact that my dad died a month after I moved to Tokyo, and a fiance back home (I think everyone knows how stressful long distance relationships are πŸ˜”). Gained a lot of weight and I'm already a big guy!
In July things started changing for the better as I went to Canada on a business trip for 2 weeks, met some old friends and relatives and when I got back I just wanted to change. Started by disconnecting, deleting FB, FB Messenger and Instagram from the phone, turned off Whatsapp notifications as well. I started reading books on my daily commute and at night, which got me better. In addition, stopped consuming synthetic sugar, fried food and carbs almost completely since early Spetember and started going to the gym daily as well, lost almost 39 pounds already and planning to continue.
One thing I wasn't able to stop tho, smoking shisha almost 5 days a week, I don't drink at all but this is another kind of almost equally bad problem πŸ˜…. Hoping to stop when I get married this January, so wish me luck πŸ™ŒπŸ».

 

Nice article Adam! I really like the idea of taking a day a month to really disconnect. We try to optimise so much in our work, yet often forget about our own mental well being.

 

Thanks! It was a big key for me. Having a US office with people working 5-7 hours after the Dublin office signs off means it's possible to be "on" for 14-16 hours a day if you're working closely with a Boston-based team. Once in a while I just need a day to not be around any of that

 

Great to hear your experience Adam! I also love the fact that you have up days and down days. But you power on through! The whole detoxing for a month is something I have to try!