Neon sign reading and breathe surrounded by greenery
Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

I started this coding journey in July of 2020. It’s simultaneously gone by super fast and feels like it’s taken forever. I’ve always been someone who wanted to work very hard to have the “perfect” routine, “perfect” system, “perfect” solution. I suppose it makes sense why I thought software engineering would work well for me!

But I am constantly reminded that perfect doesn’t exist, and there will always be a need for tweaks and updates. There are a handful of things I try very hard to remember and use. And I suppose the reason for writing this now is that I haven’t really been taking my own advice. But that’s ok! This will pass like it always does, and I’ll make a few changes, learn, and keep going.

Here’s the advice I’m currently not taking, for anyone trying to incorporate a bit more mindful awareness into their coding life (or just your normal life!):

  1. Take breaks. Do it for your brain, do it for your eyes, do it for your code! Lots of folks hand out this advice. And it’s true for so many professions, things, really everything. It’s so easy to get caught up trying to solve some issue with your code. But staring at the same code for hours is hurting more than it’s helping. That’s just science. Not to mention that much continued screen time is not good for your eyes. You don’t blink as much and your eyes dry out. Take a break, look at something at least 10 feet away from you (not a screen!) for 20 seconds. It does wonders for your eyes. And remember to blink ;) (except use both eyes, don’t wink at your code… or do…). Point is, even if you’re like me and you just want to sit there some days until it’s all done for fear that taking a break will send the train-of-thought careening down the side of a mountain ending in a massive explosion, just take the dang break. Use some kind of timer system if you have to! I use Pomo timer when I’m having a hard time making myself take breaks. But this is literally proven science. We aren’t supposed to just work until we die.

2. Have a morning routine. I’ve worked from home for a while now, and the greatest game-changer I ever gave myself was having a solid morning routine. I’m not going to give you my routine. You have to create this for yourself, and you have to stick to it. Even more importantly, you can’t beat yourself for missing a day or two or five. Shit happens, it’s ok. You’ll get it back. Important morning things I can say are: take deep breaths, have a quiet moment to yourself (listen, enjoying the first few sips of coffee in silence is a feeling I can’t explain), move your body! I know you’re tired. I know bed sounds really nice. But just get up. Don’t give yourself the opportunity to talk yourself out of it. Just get your zombie brain up. And even if all you do is hold a plank pose for 30 seconds or do a couple of sun salutations, or put on some fun music and just dance around, you’ll feel more awake at least 75% of the time, I promise. And if you’re the kind of person who can stomach it, eat breakfast! I love oatmeal in the winter. It’s easy, warm and comforting, and there’s a bunch of options for spicing up the flavors! Or toast. Mmmmm toast. With an egg. Yum. If you can get some food down, go for it! Especially if you exercise in the morning. I could go on forever about breakfast, but I think you get it. But you do you! Find what works for you. When I was building my morning routine, it took a while! Just keep working at it. You’ll find your flow.

3. Breathe. Don’t give me this, I’m always breathing crap. Duh. Deep breathing will remind your body you aren’t in any danger. When you feel stressed for no reason other than you’re just stressed, stop everything, and take a deep breath in, hold for a few seconds, breath out completely, hold. Repeat that a few times. Your monkey brain can calm right down and realize nothing is trying to murder you right now. Evolution is great, but we still haven’t evolved to modern-day. Your brain still thinks lions will murder you. And look, maybe they will, I don’t know you. But my guess is they won’t. And being two minutes late to that meeting that could have been an email will also not kill you. STOP. For just one minute and breathe.

And those are just three things! That’s so easy! Ok it’s not. I mean number three should be easier, but sometimes we forget these things. And so number 4…

4. Be kind to yourself, forgive yourself. This is a really hard step sometimes. But it’s important. We’re human. We make mistakes. The most important thing is how you learn and grow from your mistakes, your setbacks, the hard times in life, all that jazz. Find ways to be grateful for the hard stuff, find ways to laugh at yourself. It’s so much better when you don’t take yourself too seriously. Life should be fun! I know the world is so crazy right now, and has been for a while. And bad things come up and happen out of nowhere. If you’re trying your best, you’re doing more than enough. I promise.

Whatever profession you’re in, I’m a huge advocate of taking time to take care of yourself. It’s important! And I hope you find this advice useful! I’m sure I’ll be back to taking my own advice soon…

Happy coding, friends 🤘🏻