The Healthy Web Developer

Its been a while since I wrote a post. As usual, life takes over, clients get demanding, you take on more freelance work because you think you can actually get through it all, you drink more coffee than the average human does in a week; exercise less than the average human does in a year and eat whatever food that can get you back to your desk in the shortest amount of time possible.

I’ve spent the majority of my freelancing years in this complete insanity. Inevitably, burn out catches up with you. You either get sick and work through it, or have a complete nervous break down, cry, realise that life must be more than just web development and consider numerous options including knitting.

It was only the other day that after having worked for 6 months straight, no weekends and no evenings that I realised the hell I was putting not only my body, but my mind through. I’d like to explain my experience here and hopefully help some of you that can relate to me from a career-driven approach about getting a little more healthy.


The Career Mind-Set

As a chronic workaholic, I know what you’re thinking right now if you’re the same as me. You eat and breathe success. You want more clients, you want to learn more, absorb more knowledge, more experience, develop your projects to be more semantic, solid, intelligent and robost.

Career people are always looking forward to the next milestone, and usually they are the ones that people look at and think — “ You should really go spend more time with the giant ball of fire in sky”, they cant understand why they are not binge-drinking, going to wine festivals, declining invites and avoiding monotonous social behaviour. Its quite simple really. You cant have both. You are either a social butterfly, or a career driven individual that learns every single day that hard-work is the way to get further. You’ll pick up friends on the way, but being part of 5 Whatsapp groups is definitely not your priority in life.

Because of this behaviour, career-centric people tend to build their entire world and behaviour around their work. If work is okay, you’re okay. If work is falling apart, you’re probably having a mild heart attack. Work becomes the soft, comfy place that is rewarding, yet challenging and stimulating.

Web Developers in particular have an addition to this “syndrome”. Essentially Web Developers are problem solvers. Thats all programming is really about at the end of the day. Problem X needs solution Y and we need to find a way to get there.

A day full of constant problem solving is a challenging feat for any human in the 21st Century, as most of our problems get solved for us all the time. This adds extra pressure, especially considering the external development environment that web developers are faced with. An array (no pun intended) of specific and generic problems hit you when you’re not even expecting them. Few people have a super-detailed understanding of the Internet. Once the problem is solved, you feel like you’ve just solved global warming or world hunger and you wait for some instant gratification from people that really have no fucking clue what you’re getting so excited about that never comes.

Thus, you go treat yourself after a hard day’s work. A beer, a pizza, those burgers you love at your favourite hipster restaurant. It all eventually adds up and after pushing your brain and body to the limits, your body simple gives you an error that many developers are quite familiar with:

fatal error on line 2344.

You’ll also find that you get another common error:

301 — Permantly Redirected

Yes, your motivation to get up and code goes to shit, your creativity disappears and you’re as bout as useful as “Ctrl + Alt + Delete” on a Windows program that has stopped behaving as it should.

A Simple Equation

So now that I’ve blurted on about how terrible web developers treat themselves, I’d like to provide a simple equation for you all that sums up what I’m trying to say:

Input = Output

One of the most important programming conventions ever created. As you can see, what you input is what you output. If your input is negative you will have a negative output.

This is where health comes in, so this third and final section is somewhat of a framework to get you going — “The Bootstrap of Web Development Health”

No More return null;

This has been my plan lately. But first lets look at our environment on a day to day basis:

  1. You spend roughly 8–10 hours working each day
  2. Most of that time is in front of a screen, figuring out code related problems.
  3. You take minimal lunch / coffee breaks
  4. When you get home, you work some more.
  5. You sleep a maximum of 5–6 hours a night.
  6. You most likely suffer from extreme stress and / or anxiety
  7. You like to reward yourself with nice (bad) things after a days work for the sake of unwinding.
  8. You probably have some bodily ailments: allergies, headaches, fatigue, grumpiness, anger, shortness in breath etc.

Before I continue, I’d like to point out, Im not a health freak — I dont have a gym membership, I dont follow health blogs, Im not concerned with how many carbs I eat, or how much I can bench press. This is about being healthy in relation to what you do, if you’re a health freak, gym bunny reading this article you’re probably going to get disgruntled, so go run on the treadmill if you get frustrated.

Food

Cut out dairy and wheat as much as you can. Stop eating grilled cheese sandwiches on white bread. Right NOW. Dairy and wheat not only produce lots of mucus in your sinuses, limiting the amount of oxygen getting to your brain for healhty brain activity, but they can also influence more headaches and sluggishness as well as disturb your train of thought and concentration. If you’re having a 4PM crash each day, its largely due to the amount of carbohydrates you’re consuming which sitting at a computer is not being burnt off.

Eat more fruit and vegetables. I know, I sound like your mother. If you’re not fan of eating vegetables and fruit that gets stuck in your teeth and makes your fingers smell like orange for the next 3 hours, I have an alternative for you in the section below.

Eat Oats for Breakfast

  • Half a cup of rolled oats
  • Cup of water
  • Microwave for 1;30mins
  • Add some Peanut Butter, Natural Honey and a Bannana

Its low GI so it will keep you sustained with energy until lunch-time. Instead of coffee, drink hot water with a slice of lemon. The medicinal properties of that drink is crazy, from increasing healthy enzyme activity to stimulating the nervous system. Just take my word on it and do it.

Tuna or Chicken on Rye for Lunch

If you can find a way to get your hands on some Tuna or Chicken for lunch, do it. They are light proteins which your body can digest easily. The fibre in rye will also help you keep your energy sustained.

Drink

Cut out the coffee. Caffiene dehydrates you, makes you more anxious and can overwhelm you when the pressure starts to get tough. Coffee can also lead to chronic halitosis (you know, when people cant talk to you because your breathe is so stale they want to pass-out or find another job.), quicker temper and more frustration. You cant think clearly if your mind thinks its under attack due to the surge in nervous system activity that caffeine creates.

Start drinking more water. Water is paramount to good body functioning. The more you consume the lighter you will feel.

Juice! Buy a juicer. Take carrots, apples, beetroot, cucumber and whatever else you like and get those oxidants into your body, all the vitamins you need are in there, and you’d be surprised how much better you feel. One juice a day gives you plenty of vitamins.

If you are going to cut back on coffee, and you’re on 4 a day, cut back to 3, then 2, then 1. You’ll find that eating a little better and kicking a juice every now and then, will keep your energy up and you wont need the “fake” energy that coffee gives you. Also, drink your coffee with Soy Milk. It tastes a little different, but its much better for you, and doesn't give you a thick post-nasal drip like dairy does. Most coffee shops are willing to give it to you as free alternative to normal full-cream or skim.

Exercise

I struggle with this one, Im not jock, so pushing weights isn't the most important thing in my life and neither is body image. I have a brilliant mind like most web developers do and thats enough to attract secure and intelligent women. I’ve found that running — not on a treadmill — theres this thing called fresh-air you dont get inside a humid, smelly, indoor gym that does wanders for you. I run 20mins / 2–3km every second day for 2 days in a row, in other words:

Sat, Sun, Tues, Wed

Mon, Thurs and Fri I keep off just so my body can relax and it doesn't effect my weekly schedule too much.

This helps clear my mind, and to be honest you can draw a lot of parallels between running and development, so give it a go and see how it works for you.

All in all, divide some of your attention on getting these things right and you’ll start feeling better in a couple of days. Going out can be a little bit of a problem. Beer and Wine can also have effects for people who have sinus and allergies. Stick to gin if you can, it will burn calories for you. I tend to eat Vegetarian Sushi when I go out with minimal soya sauce. Otherwise wheat free burgers / pizza’s do wonders and salads. But Im sure you have your own preferences. Again, this is not about transforming your entire life, do it bit by bit, and see how it goes.

One last challenge. Do what I’ve said above for 3 days, then go eat a greasy meal. You will notice the difference after eating, I’d dig to know how it goes so give me a shout on Twitter — @dainemawer and let me know!

D

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