Tips for dealing with developer stress

Just breathe

In an earlier article, I talked about the importance of communication in software development. Solid communication can keep a project on track, and contributes to better outcomes.

But what happens when things aren’t going exactly as planned? I’ve had times when that was the case, and felt an emotional response that I had to deal with in order to get things back to a more even keel. There are a few things I’ve learned in the process of managing developer stress.

Tame your emotions

developer stress ballTry not to become too emotionally attached to a project or piece of work.

Sometimes priorities change. Decision-makers at your company decide to retire a product or put a project on the back burner. Many devs take this personally; they get annoyed at the executives making the prioritization decisions, thinking, “Wow, that person doesn’t realize how awesome this project is.”

If you invested a lot of time in a project, you’re going to be biased and likely detached from understanding the business of how much money “your baby” can make.

The people who legally own that project paid you to work on it. You enjoyed some of that time enough to feel the pride of ownership. Plus, you don’t want to discount yourself. Chances are, you’re getting pulled off the project to do something that the business thinks is more important. That’s a great thing!

Ask for help

Everybody makes mistakes — and it’s OK to ask for help.

If you make a mistake or accidentally introduce a bug, please save everyone time by admitting your error and asking for help. Making mistakes is a perfectly human thing to do, and your co-workers are there to support you. Messing up, or not knowing about a topic and asking for assistance, is not a sign of weakness — everybody has room for improvement.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.


Think about feedback as getting free, useful advice. A humble attitude opens the door for folks to share their knowledge with you. Not only will you learn the answer to your question, you also may learn the “why” behind it.

When you have room to improve, you have potential to be better than you already are. If you don’t think you can possibly get better, you’re telling the world that you don’t have any potential.

The chance to learn from someone who knows more than you in a given area is a valuable opportunity.

Don’t take criticism personally

Sometimes criticism can feel like a personal attack, especially when people choose words poorly and you’re already stressed out. If you feel this way, take a deep breath or step away for a minute. In most cases, it’s a communication issue, rather than an out-and-out confrontation.

If that is not the case and you do feel you are being attacked personally, reach out to human resources immediately. Hostile work relationships are bad for everybody involved.

On the flip side, be careful about how you give criticism and don’t attack people personally.

Be positive — it’s contagious

After you finish working with another person, take the time to thank them. Treat everybody with respect. If you don’t like your colleagues’ ideas, don’t complain; instead, brainstorm your own solution and propose it to the group. When fellow employees look up to you, support and mentor them in their growth — this is your chance to share an area of expertise to help them reach their goals.

There will always be issues to deal with. There will always be challenges. That said, recognizing the situations that cause developer stress and dealing with them in a thoughtful manner can go a long way in smoothing things out when the unexpected happens.

How do you deal with developer stress? Please share in the comments.

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