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What do you do when your brain is exhausted after an unpleasant coding session?

I am curious how programmers destress themselves and solve problems when they are stuck.

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Akiva’s Answer

On a practical basis, the brain has a ready pool of glucose and associated brain chemicals ready to do their job. Ongoing high focus / concentration can and does deplete the pool - exhausting the brain. A long day or session of intense programming and concentration feels and is an actual lack of resources to continue to do so. While this can be extended somewhat with caffeine and sugar - exercise and good sleep are absolutely necessary to recover and be ready for another round.

And yes, during a relaxation phase and overnight, the subconscious does sometimes work out solutions - keeping something handy for notes upon awakening is useful.
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Alexandra’s Answer

Anytime that I'm coding, struggling to code or solve a problem, I tend to walk away for a bit. I sometimes go on a walk outside, call a friend/ family member, clean up around the home, just any sort of task that does not require a screen. That movement and distraction lets me "forget" about the coding session for a bit and when I come back to it later, it lets me approach the code with a "new" perspective and fresh set of eyes.
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Hannah’s Answer

It helps to literally step away from the problem. Go on a walk, call a friend, read a non-tech blog, go outside. Most problems can wait until tomorrow—so sleep on it. Its common to come up with new ideas to try and ways to approach your problem when you're not looking at it.
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Angelica’s Answer

Hello!

When I'm feeling like my brain is exhausted, I tend to go for walks (short or long depending on how I'm feeling about the walk or if my thoughts are going somewhere). In general, this helps me to relax and gives me the time to think about things differently or just let my thoughts drift entirely. For me, instrumental music is also useful in just guiding the flow of thoughts (whereas music with vocals might guide the flow of verbal thoughts).

When you're stuck on a problem and you keep processing it in the same way over and over, it's hard to break away from the original thought patterns and move on to a new idea. This can apply to how you're approaching the problem you're solving or your feelings towards it. It is beneficial to step away in some form and allow yourself the time to truly process the situation from other perspectives than the one you're already in. And when you come back, you might have several new ways to potentially approach whatever issue it was you were dealing with.
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Alexandra’s Answer, CareerVillage.org Team

Hi, Ching!

I did part of my undergraduate thesis analyses in R, and was essentially self-taught in it. I was trying to put together some complex regression analyses and it absolutely made my head spin trying to troubleshoot that on my own. Some days I would be in the situation you described where I was just left feeling really frustrated and with a complete mess in front of me. This is going to sound really cliche, but never underestimate the power of putting it aside for a few hours, or even better, while you sleep on it. Some days I would sit back in front of that mess after a good night's sleep and immediately have an "a-ha!" moment as to what I needed to do. When you're stressed and not succeeding, though, you can end up wasting a lot of time trying to get to the a-ha moment in the same sitting. (I studied psychology & neuroscience -- it doesn't seem to make sense right away, but there are reasons that the brain benefits from being pulled away from intense focus when things aren't going well.) Sometimes being neck-deep in a rabbit hole does NOT mean you are better situated to solve the problem. Don't be afraid to give yourself a breather. My favorite way to unwind was exercise -- I did a lot of my analyses while at the beach, so I did my coding in the morning and then went swimming! Exercise is a great way to destress and clear your head.
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Sen’s Answer

Hello Mr. Ching,
I am a professional cum spiritual trainer on Stress Management and Life Coach.
I feel all the companies who are in SW like Google, Microsoft should hire senior professionals who are extremely compassionate and willing to help people to manage stress, due to work overload leading to Burn Out and many other other physical and psychological disorders!
I have done such workshops (2 hrs to 2 days duration, depends on the recipient) for highly stressed people with great results. People have come out of serious ailments.


Pl let me know your mind.
Best Regards,

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Atul’s Answer

I spent many decades in software engineering.
There are times whenever I was stuck in solving the problem, take a break or sleepover the issue/bug or discuss the problem w/ your friend/colleague who may give me ideas/pointers.
Always have a methodology to follow such as "Go from known to unknowns".
Learn to minimize the area where the problem lies.
Always write structured code so that it is easy to debug.
Finally, develop a skill set by writing good test tools to inject the flow into the software module that you are developing and testing.
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Aura Faye’s Answer

to destress I go on vacations. Visits places I have never been to. Though I only do this atleast once a month. For an immediate destressing routine is sleeping.
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Sikawayi’s Answer

Personally, I cut the computer off and go out to lunch or for a walk just to clear my head. Even if you start looking around on the internet to relax your mind. Lastly, I would say call home and talk to your family, connect with a coworker.
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Melanie’s Answer

For me personally, stepping away and putting my focus on something else seems to help. If I'm struggling with something, walking away from it for a bit and then coming back with a fresh set of eyes always helps!
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