Programming is one of the most sought after career options these days but it comes with a lot of responsibility and stress as every single day the tech world keeps getting better and stronger. To keep up with everything, working for long hours, sitting in the same place, with your head buried into the screen has become a common ritual among programmers. However, it is very important to make sure that your physical body and mind are in their best form to help you think better and exceed in your career. Let’s talk about some ways on how you can do that.
Before you judge me and this article as mundane and ‘oh-so-obvious’ as it turns out it’s not that obvious for programmers. And some do need to hear it again and again before they actually take action. This is the case for most office workers but especially programmers cause most pretty much work all day. There’s no alternative or shortcut to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Without exercise it is impossible. In the stone age, there were no gyms or the concept of ‘healthy lifestyle’ or ‘workouts’ because they did not know there was even some other way people can live which can be considered unhealthy. They used to go out hunt, farm, etc to feed their family and that was life for them. But these days we are so busy ‘sitting’ all day that the element of exercise has to be pushed externally in an unnatural movement ecosystem like a gym.
Regardless, your body was meant to move. It is made in a way where movement is its primary motive. And we often take that for granted. So no matter how close your deadline is or how important your promotion is, make Exercise your top priority cause essentially it will help the blood flow to your brain and make it work better.
Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym and holding your body weight in the form of metal discs. It can mean anything like maybe you enjoy swimming, go join a sports club near you, where you can play tennis or football. Or go for a run in the morning. You can have your own definition of exercise. The point is to stay healthy, we are not trying to enter a runway with 8-pack abs. Just some blood pumping to your heart would do too.
2. You are what you eat
Exercise and Diet- probably the most obvious words in this article but also the most fundamental elements of living a healthy life. Because programmers are used to sitting in one place, the tempt of snacking on unhealthy things like chips or cola, and other junk food may come easily. Avoid doing that and focus on making healthy meals for yourself. You do not need to follow stringent diets, eating healthy is pretty simple. Just eat food which is as close to its natural state as possible, so avoid fried food or items with preservatives, aeriated drinks, or any packaged food. Stick to homemade.
Now, as for Snacking. I agree you do tend to get hungry when you’re working long hours and spending your mental energy on something. You don’t have to go for packaged chips or takeouts, there are a lot of healthy snack options out there like baked sweet potato chips or oatmeal cookies. There are websites like Snackible where you can get prescription based snack boxes. So get yourself something like that for your snack needs.
3. Take care of your posture
I am pretty sure Back pain has become a friend by now. You are probably sitting like a huge pretzel on the chair all day and then wondering why does your back hurt all the time. Not sitting up straight can cause serious permanent damage to your spinal cord. Do not slouch on your chair.
Another thing to remember, especially if you are a freelancer is, that your desk is your only workplace. Have a fixed place and if possible a fixed room only for your work. Maintain a clear difference between your home and your workplace. Do not get into the habit of working in your bed or sofa, damaging your posture and causing back pain. Working in a fixed place is also said to improve productivity and focus.
4. Draw a fat line between work and life
It doesn’t matter if you have a 9-5 or a freelancer or a business. A job is a job and it needs to be differentiated from the other aspects of your life. So set yourself a routine and block your work timings. Apart from your decided work timing, decide for yourself that you will not work beyond that time. It may seem unrealistic considering you work in the programming field and work becomes a huge part of your life, but if you even plan to do this, there might be like at least a 30% improvement in yourself in having a proper work-life balance.
Do not mix up those two things. It will lead to stress and exhaustion. Doing this is easier in a 9-5 desk job, but if you are a freelancer, it is easier to get carried away and not know when to stop. So follow strict time frames of work, and also set time for other activities like socializing, exercise, relaxation, etc.
5. Stay connected to human beings
This can be called a continuation of the previous point. A part of maintaining healthy work like balance or drawing a line between them also involves being connected to your circles. Every once in a while or let’s say every week make it a point to meet your actual friends, not your coding colleagues or game partners your friends, who you can chill with and talk about things outside coding. Also, try to make more friends outside of your current circles. Go to a library or a bar. And worse comes to worst, download a dating app. But having a human connection is very important, and please don’t try to convince yourself otherwise. So be it family, friends, partner, etc, make sure you are in touch with them and that you have a heart to heart with them every now and then.
6. Stay Active in every way you can
Exercise is a huge part of being fit but if you are really determined to stay fit, it’s all about the little things. Every drop in the ocean counts. So make little changes in your life. Instead of taking the lift, take the stairs. Ordering some groceries from some app? Walk to the place or ride your bicycle. If you’re working for too long, make it a point to get up in short intervals and take a brisk walk, or do some squats. Don’t get groceries in bulk so that you run out quickly, and have to walk to get it. Park your car a little further away from your workplace, while watching TV on the bed or sofa, do some leg exercises or sit-ups. If you are on a work call, talk while taking strides around your desk. Basically, there are a lot of these opportunities you will find to make small healthy choices depending on your daily routine, look for them.
7. Monitor your screen time
It might sound like a joke because your life can actually be a synonym to ‘screen-time.’ But it really won’t be funny when they don’t make glasses fat enough to correct your eyesight or stress-relieving tablets strong enough to relax your brain. It is not natural to be on the screen for so long. You work on a screen, then you take some time ‘off’ to relax and watch something on a screen, then you decide to learn some new skill online, which is again on a screen. Our lives are now designed around screens and that just can’t be right. So apart from the work you do avoid being in front of a screen as much as you can. If you want to relax, try to go out for a walk, if you want to learn something new, try reading a book.
Keep a check on your screen time so you know when things are going out of hand. There are a lot of cool apps like Rescue Time or Your Hour, which will help you make it very clear as to how much time you spend on your phones or laptop, on what apps, etc. It is a great productivity tool, and you should definitely try it.
8. Sleep your stress away
Sleep is a very important factor to take care of to have a healthy lifestyle. As a programmer, it may seem like a time-wasting element of your life, but it is important to remember and keep reminding yourself that you are not a machine, you only make machines. Make sure you are getting at least six hours of sleep every night. Come on, that’s a realistic number of hours which you can actually achieve. And when I say every night I actually mean every night. It is important that most of your sleep happens during the night, your body is at its roots designed to wake up when the sun comes up and sleep when the sun goes down, try not to disturb God’s mechanism too much and get sleeping.
Sleep is a proven stress buster and most times it can help you get clarity. If you are stuck on some code, and you are not able to find a way out, try sleeping on it, you will wake up with better ideas and a clear solution to your problem. If nothing you will at least get some good rest from this experiment of yours.
9. Water yourself
Water is often neglected by programmers, because who is going to waste time having to get up and pee every 30 minutes. Water replenishes the body, cushions the brain and the spinal cord, flushes out toxins from your body, regulates body temperature, maintains blood pressure, need more reasons to drink water? Drinking at least 8 glasses/ 3-4 liters of water daily is required to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
10. No screens while eating
Make it a resolution right from this day to not watch videos while eating meals. It is a very bad habit to have even generally. Fitness is all about the small changes. When you eat while watching Netflix or something, your mind is engrossed in what’s happening on the screen and you don’t pay attention to your food, which leads you to eat more than required and that too mindlessly which makes it worse. So be mindful of what you’re eating, chew every morsel, eat only as much your body is asking for.
11. Invest in utilities
If you are working in an office nine hours a day, and also have some money to spare you can invest in some products which are made so that you can be fit while working at your desk. For example, a special chair which comes with acupressure points, or belts to keep your posture correct, or chair cycle exerciser which can let you cycle in place while working. Standing desks is another new concept introduced these days, where you have to stand and work. So if it fits your financial situation then you can try your luck with these desk equipment too.
Exercise is for the body and meditation is for the soul. Just the simple act of focussing on your breath can help you achieve wonders in your life. It helps you increase focus, stay calm, reduces stress, and most importantly does not let your mind take over and make it’s own decisions. Taking just ten minutes out of your life to meditate after a long day of work is more than enough. If you are not familiar with meditation, there are a lot of videos online, or you can even try guided meditations where the instructor will guide you through the entire session.
13. Keep a journal
Journals are not just for teenage girls to write about their crushes. It is an extremely helpful way of keeping a track of your goals and your habits. Bullet Journaling has really picked up since the last couple of years. There are a lot of videos on Youtube which can let you know how you can maintain one. You can list down your to-dos there, important events, notes, etc. You can even use your journal to write down your thoughts at the end of the day. Reflect on your life. It is very beneficial to empty your mind down on paper and declutter. Mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness.
14. Keep a hobby
Doing something that you’re passionate about which is outside of your work is very important for your mental and physical fitness. Programming is one field which can get quite stressful, finding a hobby is a great way to get out of it, and also discover and get to know yourself a little more. Go back to your childhood and think what was the thing that you really used to enjoy, it may be playing a sport or painting or playing an instrument. You can join a couple of classes to discover your hobby if you don’t have one already.
15. Have a routine
It is very important to have a proper routine. You don’t have to follow it minute by minute, but you need to have a rough idea of how your every day should look like. Take a paper, and write down your current routine, with timestamps, what are you currently doing from the time you get up to the time you go to bed. Then look over it and see what is something that you would like to do differently. Habits that you want to change, goals you want to achieve, and implement them into your routine. As a programmer, it is common to not have an idea of how your time passes, cause you get so engrossed in your projects that days turn into nights, without you noticing it. So have certain rules for yourself, so that you feel more organized and in control of your mind.
There you go. Work is a part of everyone’s life, but you just can’t ignore your actual self that is your body and your mind in the midst of the race to make more money. Treat your body like a temple. Remember that mental health comes first. Money shall come and go. Wishing you all the best to start your fitness journey!