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Emmanuel Obogbaimhe
Emmanuel Obogbaimhe

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Good Stress vs Bad Stress

Stress is an ugly word, I think we can all agree on that (especially if you're a developer). But I've come to realize that not all stress we experience is bad per say, when you look at it in through a larger lens with the end goal in mind. Some things are stress-worthy, while others not so much.

Good Stress

Ever work on a really challenging problem? It can be a real pain trying to figure things out and get to a solution. You have to fully understand exactly what the problem is, then come up with an approach (an algorithm), code out your approach and you give it a shot to see if works as expected fingers crossed. Most likely it didn't so now you check to see what went wrong, fix any bugs you created in the process and tweak your original algorithm or possibly create a new one altogether.

Now you can see how tedious this process is and how it can really take a toll on you. I can sit on a problem for hours on end without any breaks (not advised) trying to find a solution. It can get quite stressful as you would imagine. Some days I'd almost have to crawl out of the office because I spent all my energy either fixing things or building new features.

Despite this, I feel a sense of accomplishment. A feeling like I have climbed a mountain and gotten to the other side. The joy of seeing your work pay off, seeing customers using the feature you built or the functionality that was broken finally working in a production setting, is an indescribable feeling. It can almost become addicting because now you always want to feel that way.

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Then you look back and realize that all those hours struggling and fighting
to get your code working has payed off. This is good stress, that leads to something positive.

Bad Stress

On the flip side there's bad stress. These come in many different forms. Two of the most popular are self induced and people induced. We have deadlines that we have to meet from time to time. If you're like me you actually work best when time is not on your side and the deadline is fast approaching (fight or flight kicks in I guess). Although this is a nice trait to have, it doesn't exclude you from feeling pressure or added stress. When people are pressured they tend to become stressed out and the side effects of stress is manifest. This is typically when you start seeing arguments, strife and a heightened level of tension in the room.

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In an environment where there is strife and tension the stress that results from it has an effect on your mental health. I've seen people go into defense mode and become more concerned about being right rather than doing what's right. Things like these make going to work less exciting, even just the thought of it gives you stress. This is bad stress, it has no positive outcome unless it is resolved.

Somethings you cannot avoid or manage but you can control how you respond to it. I've learned, through experience how to handle certain situations.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Don't take things personal (even if they are a direct attack on you)
  2. Do your best work
  3. Learn to ignore certain things
  4. Don't get into unnecessary arguments
  5. Keep a positive attitude/mindset
  6. Drink lots of water

Hope this helps.
Remember, stay stress-free!

Top comments (2)

rafalpienkowski profile image
Rafal Pienkowski

Nice article.

As you've written good stress motivates us as a developers to work harder and better. I wish we would have a lot of good stress in our daily work.

I think your tips to handle bad stress are useful. Especially tip number: 1, 2, 4 and 5.

Keep calm and write code

malinkastrong profile image

Well, I believe that stress in any case is very harmful to health and mental state. When I had a very difficult and stressful period in my life, I even read about clairvoyant definition and turned to these specialists to understand what I should be prepared for and also find some solution to the problem.