10 Tips for Tackling Mental Health Issues as a Software Engineer (or Anyone Else, Really)

Tom Deneire
8 min readAug 16, 2022
Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash

Working as a professional software engineer can be a struggle — not only because of tight deadlines and steep learning curves, but also from a mental health standpoint. Many programmers experience high level of stress, have problems relaxing or sleeping, suffer from impostor syndrome, and ultimately end up battling anxiety, burnout or depression. Having experienced this downward spiral myself, people often ask me what was the key to my recovery. Obviously, there is no such thing as one easy fix for everyone, but I do have 10 tips that can certainly help to keep you healthy or get you back on the right track. And while I’m writing with software engineers in mind, I’m sure there’s something here for everyone…

1. Do What You Love

First of all, I’m a big believer in doing what you love professionally. From the school principle who would rather be a music producer, over the NGO activist who dreams of owning a small book shop, to the data analyst who actually wants to paint fine art — every profession has their share of people who are not happy at their jobs, but stay because of the money, the hours or the prestige. However, in the long run, this only causes frustration and mental exhaustion. So start your journey towards more mental well-being at work by asking yourself: “Do I really enjoy this?” If the answer is no, go do something else. Life’s too short. And if you find yourself thinking “Yes, but…”, read the excellent F**ck It. Do What You Love, by John C. Parkin. He’ll convince you you’ll never be happy if you’re not doing what you love.

2. Listen To Your Body

Many people who are stuck in an environment they don’t enjoy or under a lot of stress, don’t even realize this themselves. Whether it’s a sense of work ethic, personal pride or financial concern, they just keep going and ignore the alarm bells until it’s too late. At this point, health issues usually kick in. When we experience anxiety and stress, our bodies produce cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. This is a healthy and natural response, but in the case of a chronic build up of such stress hormones, it leads to physical ailments like chronic pain (headaches, back pain), digestive problems (heartburn…