Should I Take Programming Burnout Seriously?Yes! If you are suffering burnout take it very seriously as it could cause medical problems and it could be a sign of more serious mental illnesses. The advise that I give on the subject is in no way to be considered "professional advise". If you are having issues with burnout I suggest that you seek help from a professional.
You could actually be suffering from severe depression. According to the Mayo Clinic:
Ignored or unaddressed job burnout can have significant consequences, including:
- Excessive stress
- A negative spillover into personal relationships or home life
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes, especially in women
- Vulnerability to illnesses
What Causes Burnout?The biggest cause of burnout is you. You are most likely an overachiever that wants nothing more than to prove to yourself and to others that you are a great developer. Its this can do attitude that most likely made you a highly skilled and a highly sought out software professional. However, if you don't take care of yourself than who cares if you are an awesome developer.
What Can I do To Prevent BurnoutIn order to prevent burnout and for that matter other mental disorders you need to maintain balance in your life. It may have been fine when you where 15 to program until 3am and through the weekend. But...you were not a full time programmer and you had other things to keep you busy. Its not good for anyone to stare at strange symbols all day and all night. You need to maintain balance in your life by:
- Involving yourself in a hobby
- Take a vacation
- Hang out with people
- Get enough sleep
- Get a life
If you started working as a programmer than it is no longer something you do as a hobby "for fun". No matter what kind of project you are doing on the side or how much fun you think it is. So just say no to programming at home. You want to write something more interesting find another job.
If its been a while than you need to take a vacation. No programming computers on your vacation time either! Take it with real people not virtual ones. Believe me its a-lot cheaper to pay $3,000+ on a week vacation than it is to have to switch jobs because of burnout.
Hang out with people more often to keep the non-computer social interaction up. I know that people are much harder to communicate with than computers and you may feel socially awkward and just want to get back to the old keyboard and monitor but hangout with people anyways. If you must find people as geeky as you to hang out with. Or even find a girl that will put up with you.
Get some sleep for crying out loud. Pulling all nighters is not really productive. Your brain actually needs sleep in order to function. Have you ever noticed that you solve difficult problems after getting a good nights sleep and coming back to the problem.
Get a Life! There is life outside of work so go live it. Do something fun for a change. I know you think programming is fun but its really not. Spending time with your friends and family, going to a ballgame with your niece or nephew, volunteering is fun. So get a life and don't drive yourself into an insane asylum trying to be a "master programmer".
Am I too Young to Burnout?There is no age restriction when it comes to burnout. I was severely burned out after only 2 years in the profession and had to take six months off from programming before I want to do it again. I thought that the urge to develop software was gone for good. But in fact I have been programming for 9 years after that experience and my desire to programming came back in full.
What do I do if I can't Program Computers?If you are completely burned out from programming you may be asking yourself how you are going to make money in the future. I know that you may be thinking that programming will never be something you ever want to do again but the desire to program computers will most likely come back. Even though it feels permanent it most likely is not.
Having said that, you will need to do one of the following:
- Take a leave of absence
- Switch to a different role in the same company
- Reduce your work load at your current job
- Find a temporary source of income while you recover.
- Find a permanent new profession
You could inquire about switching to a different role within the same company. You may just be burned out on the type of programming you are doing or you may just be burned out on the coding end. Perhaps your company has different roles that you could be useful in. Even though you don't churn code anymore the company may find it beneficial to retain you as say a QA guy while you help with the transition of another developer.
If your are burned out than you need to reduce your work load. This is true weather you switch roles or switch companies all together. Burnout occurs when you are overworked and it most likely is self-inflicted. Let your manager know you are overloaded and think you can't handle a large work load right now. I know if you are an over achiever, like me, this is very difficult to say but it could save your job in this case.
If you think is better to move on than you need to find a temporary source of income. Don't worry about it being a permanent career path just get some money coming in. If you are single this is pretty easy, move in with your parents or find a good friend to live with for a while so you can deal with a reduced salary. When the desire to code comes back you can start looking for a new job then.
I would only advise finding a permenant new profession after taking a substantial period of time off. After a few months of not coding pick up a compiler and see if you want to code again. If you don't want to than wait a little longer. Some programmers take over a year off before the desire comes back. Burnouts can range in severity of a just bored to in need of medical attention.
Stack-exchange: Am I too young to burn out?
Job burnout: How to spot it and take action