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Amanda Sopkin
Amanda Sopkin

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Self Care for Developers

Self care is a hot topic these days, and I’m not just talking about face masks. There is a growing movement that underscores the importance of taking time to take care of yourself (in addition to all the other things that you already take time for). You can prevent problems down the road by taking proactive steps to ensure your health and happiness.

Self care is not shellfish crab
Source: Narzart

What are the best ways to exercise self care as a developer? Here are some quick ones to get you started.

Eye Care

I’ve been thinking about this topic since I read Sarthak's guide to protecting eyes. Here are some quick things you can do today to protect yourself:

  • Invest in some glare-blocking blue tinted computer glasses like these on amazon.
  • Get yourself a bouncy ball so that you can look away every so often to focus on that.
  • You’ve probably already heard of flux. It automatically adjusts your screen to mirror the outdoors, so that you don’t disrupt your sleep schedule.

Hand Care

As developers, many of us rely heavily on our hands’ ability to type out code. But spending 8 hours on a keyboard can be hard on them.

  • Consider investing in an ergonomic keyboard. If you’ve got a favorite call it out in the comments--there are many different styles and shapes.
  • Doing these stretches just once a day or week will help prevent carpal tunnel.

Body Care

Many of us are familiar with the perils of sitting 8 hours in a desk for 5 days a week.

  • Standing desks: if your office allows it, standing desks are good for you! Although claims that standing burns lots of calories have largely been refuted, standing desks can help your blood sugar return to normal faster after eating if you’ve spent more time standing, and some find them beneficial for the back/neck/shoulders.
  • Regular stretching or walk breaks: Take a break and walk around! Even a short walk can have great health impacts and a walk will help improve your mood as well (see below).

Mind Care

Research suggests that short breaks between spurts of productivity can provide essential mental rest for overworked minds.

  • Try using an extension like this one which enforces the pomodoro method (a system that breaks up 20 minute intervals with short periods of rest) with regular reminders.
  • A walk break can improve your mood according to this piece from the NYT on the benefits of a lunchtime break. Even a short one can make you more enthusiastic, less tense, and more able to perform your job for the rest of the day.

Just for Fun

What are your best suggestions for making day-to-day life as a developer more fun?

What are the ways you exercise self care as a developer?

Top comments (28)

cecilelebleu profile image
Cécile Lebleu

The Elbows. Particularly my left elbow. I keep my MacBook at a slight height and slope because I live in a VERY hot place and want to allow constant airflow under it (it really works to keep the inner temperature down). I also have a room fan constantly pointing to it and to my hands, which helps a lot with the heat for me as well. But my elbows are supporting the weight of my arms, and after a while they get red and painful.
The solution I found is keeping a microfiber cloth, folder over twice, to rest my elbows on. It’s soft and plushy and keeps my elbows from getting hurt. I also crocheted soft elbow covers (small versions of the ones used by skaters) so they are strapped on and keep a soft surface constantly under my elbows.

I’m not saying everybody will have the same issue, I’m saying that there might be an easy fix for some annoying or slightly painful thing you have going on. Maybe get a pillow for your back, or a stool to put your feet up on sometimes. Find out something you could add to your workstation that could help be more comfortable or avoid long term pain.

sarthology profile image
Sarthak Sharma

Great article and thanks, glad my article could help.😊

Btw its Sarthak 😃

amandasopkin profile image
Amanda Sopkin

Sorry about that! I just fixed your name :) Appreciate the inspiration!

sarthology profile image
Sarthak Sharma

Thanks 😊

scottishross profile image
Ross Henderson

If there's one thing I need to figure out about self-care it's how to carry a laptop bag with it killing my shoulder.

256hz profile image
Abe Dolinger

Get a laptop backpack! Preferably one that with straps that clip together in the front. All that weight can really wear on you over time. My wife attributes some of her scoliosis to a single-strap bag.

litastrongtz61 profile image
litastrongtz61 • Edited

Yeah, Abe is entirely right! Just throw it away and get a regular backpack. Your health is way more important! I was also wearing messenger bags because loads seemed freaking ugly, but it caused incredible pain and even hip misalignment. So, I can't forgive myself for this stupidity. Anyways, backpacks are in style now, and you can find some really cool models for any purpose. I prefer leather rucksacks for everyday use, as they can survive any weather and are incredibly reliable. They're so comfortable to wear. Believe me, your shoulders will thank you later.

learnbyexample profile image

See also

nextzachsaid profile image
Zachary • Edited

I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend an ergonomic keyboard. It depends on you and your personal needs, of course, but a good starting point is probably something like the microsoft sculpt keyboard (fixed split and angles, rubber dome switches, wireless). I switched to it a few years ago and since then over a dozen devs + others at my company have tried it out and also made the switch. The other popular models seem to be from Kinesis, either the Advantage or Freestyle lines. I’m about to try out the Freestyle myself as I want more flexibility in the separation and angle of the two keyboard halves as well as better keycaps & (mechanical) switches. And of course there are more exotic options out there though you quickly start getting into niche solutions with correspondingly high price tags.

zacwasielewski profile image
Zac Wasielewski

Could not agree more with this! I've been a full-time web developer for over 15 years, and always scoffed at the ridiculousness of ergonomic keyboards. But then a few years ago, I started struggling with chronic upper-back and chest pain, mostly from the "hunched," shoulders-forward position that laptops and standard keyboards encourage. It became debilitating enough that I seriously questioned whether I could even continue working with computers.

I tried a bunch of solutions (standing desk, massage, more frequent breaks, foam rolling, ice, heat, NSAIDs), but none helped as much as a split, ergonomic keyboard. I asked my company to purchase the Kinesis Freestyle 2 on a whim, hoping the huge split (up to 20") would help open up my chest and shoulder posture... and it totally has. That back pain and chest tightness have disappeared (not immediately, of course). Being able to "spread out" my upper body at the keyboard feels amazing.

It's probably not for everyone, though: it took me a while (like, months) to truly adapt to the split layout. I worked at it because I didn't really have a choice. I was never formally trained in keyboarding, so it was surprising how often my fingers wanted to "cheat" and wander over to the wrong side of the keyboard. It's noisy and mechanical and satisfyingly clickety-clackety (which I like, but not everyone does). It's also kind of ugly—or at least less pretty than the MacBook Pro it's controlling. But even with those caveats, I recommend it as strongly as possible.

(And yeah, I know this sounds like stealth marketing. But I promise I'm not getting paid by Kinesis... I just love this keyboard! I feel like it helped save my career.)

joshhadik profile image
Josh Hadik • Edited

Love this post!

Here's my addition:

Take a Day Off

I don't know if this is a problem for all everyone here, but for me, between work, online tutorials, and side projects, it's easy to let programming consume large chunks of my 'off time', including weekends and holidays.

I've found that forcing myself to take one day a week completely off from all forms of coding helps me avoid burn out, and get back into the grind the next day with more focus and energy.

So I try my best to take every Sunday off and give myself some much needed r&r

itachiuchiha profile image
Itachi Uchiha

Thanks for this article. Really useful.

I also loved the Marinara. But, can anyone explain me Pomodoro technique like I'm five. I read some articles about it. But I couldn't imagine a real scenario.

egidiocaprino_61 profile image
Egidio Caprino

You split your work in tasks you can do within 25 minutes.
Start with the first task.
After 25 minutes you take a 5 minutes break.
Every 4 tasks you take a 20 minutes break.

itachiuchiha profile image
Itachi Uchiha

Thank you. I'll try this at work :)

jacksonelfers profile image
Jackson Elfers

Seems like I rest on my elbows a lot until they go numb. To add to an ergo keyboard is a soft keyboard mat. Simple but effective.

deepgsingh profile image
Gagandeep Singh

Nice post , really helpful

jackesdavid profile image

What???? For sure the best framework and non framework is Svelte.js
Forgot others, you only need html, JavaScript and css...

lauragift21 profile image
Gift Egwuenu

Thanks for the tips in this article. Really helpful

karlredman profile image
Karl N. Redman

Good Stuffs!
I would like to emphasize 'eye care'. Most of us don't realize just how much eye strain can affect our lives -from tired-ness to appetite to sleep; it's a domino effect.

gabeguz profile image
Gabriel Guzman

Hand stretches! Awesome, thanks for that!

pixman92 profile image

I bought some photophobic glasses. They're expensive but I no longer have a problem with the fluorescent lights where I do most of my coding.

vaibhav profile image
Vaibhav • Edited

Nice Article 😀.
Most of the people ignore these things but they do need to make these changes.

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