People in the tech industry face mental health issues like depression and anxiety every day, all around the world. But what can we do about it?
In this article, I will talk about what I learned from Dr. Jennifer Akullian's freeCodeCamp Tech Talk and share her tips for reducing your stress and improving your mental health at work.
Mental Health Research for Tech Workers is Limited
One great resource that Dr. Akullian mentioned in her tech talk is the Open Sourcing Mental Illness non profit organization. OSMI is dedicated to raising awareness surrounding mental health in tech.
OSMI conducts a yearly Mental Health in Tech Survey, where tech individuals around the world can anonymously answer questions concerning their mental health in their workplace.
While this research is valuable to the industry, unfortunately it does have its limitations.
For one, this data only represents those who volunteered to take the survey. Since individuals cannot be forced to disclose their mental health issues, we are unfortunately not getting a full picture of what is going on in the tech industry.
Even in the past few years, the number of survey participants has gone down. In 2014 and 2016, there were over 1200 responses.
But from 2017-2020, it went from 756 to 180 survey responses. Unfortunately, there has been a huge decline in the number of participants which affects the research.
Mental health has always been a sensitive subject and there is a lot of stigma surrounding it. So, it doesn't surprise me that people don't feel safe participating in these types of surveys.
As Dr. Jennifer Akullian points out in her tech talk, there are a lot of serious physical health risks that accompany high stress jobs. If left unaddressed, these issues can lead to dire consequences.
Hopefully, we can get to a place in the future where we feel safe to discuss these issues and contribute to the ongoing research.
To learn more about OSMI, please visit their website.
How We Can Combat Stress in the Workplace
Dr. Jennifer Akullian provides four ways that you can de-stress at work and become a healthier, more productive worker.
We all need to sleep. Sleep allows our bodies and minds to rest and recharge for the next day.
You might be in a situation where you have important deadlines coming up or annoying bugs in the application that you haven't solved yet.
But staying up and worrying about it isn't going to help the situation. You will probably be less productive in your job running on fumes all the time.
In her tech talk, Dr. Jennifer Akullian urges people to find out why they are not sleeping and seek professional medical help if necessary.
I have personally dealt with sleep issues over the years and figured I could just power through it. But over the past year, I have now learned that is not the healthy way to live and work.
Please take care of your body and mind. You need that time to rest and be ready to go the next day.
Sometimes it is easy to stare at your computer and sit at your desk for long periods of time. But that is contributing to the stress and mental health issues facing people in the tech industry.
In her talk, Dr. Jennifer Akullian says,
stretching distributes oxygen to where it is needed, which is to your brain.
You don't need to do hardcore-style stretches. Just do some simple stretches throughout the day.
Get up out of your chair and stretch your back, neck and shoulders. Stand up and hang down over your toes for a little bit.
Make a conscious effort to get up and move a little every so often. Place Post-it notes on your monitor to remind you.
When you take the time to stretch, you will notice that you become a more productive and healthier you.
Taking breaks throughout the day is not a distraction and it doesn't make you a lazy employee.
Dr. Jennifer Akullian considers breaks as,
refocusing your attention on something else to restore your brain.
We have all been in situations where we have been working on a problem and there doesn't seem to be a solution yet. If you keep attacking the problem without breaks then you are not giving your brain the time it needs to restore.
There have been plenty of times in my work, where I will walk away from a challenge for a little bit and be able to rest and come back with a solution.
Breaks are healthy and allow you to be more productive at work.
PLEASE TAKE BREAKS.
If you are under a lot of stress at work, take a moment and just breathe.
Dr. Jennifer Akullian says,
if you are paying attention to your breath, you are not attending to the growing list of tasks not being completed.
It is easy for a lot of people to always focus on the laundry list of things to do at their job. Sometimes it feels like there is not enough time in the day to accomplish all of the tasks.
Taking a moment to focus on your breath will bring down your stress and anxiety levels. This will lead to a healthier more productive work day.
Dr. Jennifer Akullian advises you to
take a couple of deep breaths and observe the inhale and exhale. Let's get the oxygen redirected from your muscles back into your brain.
This is a simple task that you can do throughout your work day. But you have to remember to do it.
If you need to set reminders on your phone or computer, then do it.
Remember that your health is important and you want to take the steps to better it.
I would highly advise you to watch the entire 19 minute tech talk given by Dr. Jennifer Akullian on the freeCodeCamp Tech Talks YouTube channel.
If you enjoyed that video, then please subscribe to the channel for more high quality tech content.