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I recently moved to a new company which has a big dimension (worldwide presence). We're using a custom framework build in several componentes in mixed languages with lack of documentation, most concepts are exclusive to this framework, which gives the team has a hard time working with it.

As if it wasn't enough, we're having several constraints due to external delays, the manager is in high stress and he's picking on people for stupid reasons like using your phone on your lunch hour or leaving on time.

Now we're presented with an unrealistic deadline and are invited to stay till late if we can.

Here's the problem, I'm unable to disconnect from all this stuff when I get home which is causing me major problems. I'm so engaged that i even my personality changes, get colder, distant and with bad mood (just like a robot).

Even when I'm sleeping I'm unable to stop thinking about work. Last night I dreamed that Metallica was selling me a solution based on SQL Server 2008, and today I slept for a few minutes and i was dreaming about transactions.

Either i suffer a lot from impostor syndrome , even though I'm able solve any problems that come by at work, or i just can't seem to handle the stress.

Either way, this thing is recurrent, as a software developer , this is not the first time i have this issue, but the project I'm currently on, has more difficulties than before, also i changed jobs recently so I don't want to perform bad (even though I'm not, I get this felling because of the project is delayed and we're being asked to work more).

Unfortunately, since i even dream about work I'm kind of hopeless, how do you deal with this kind of stuff ?

Thank you.

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About your remarks about dreaming: don't worry too much about these, they are not the issue. You dream about the things that keep you occupied during the day, that is normal. Your issue is that your working environment does not work. (And no layman psychology about 'impostor syndrome' is necessary either.) – Jan Doggen Jun 30 '14 at 9:35
My only concern about dreaming with the job is the fact that probably affect's my sleep quality, I'm waking up tired. – Carlos Ferreira Jun 30 '14 at 19:34
If it's not too late when you get home from the work, try taking a nap for 20 minutes (use an alarm clock to wake you up). To me it often helps to "reset" my head, and the rest of the day feels like a mini-weekend. – Viliam Búr Sep 4 '14 at 10:21
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It sounds like the main cause of your problem is severe stress. When you are stressed the whole day it becomes difficult to wind down and relax at the end of the day. This is even more so if the stress continues the whole week (or month, or longer). Some stress every once in a while is ok, it will make you alert and perform better, but too much stress for a longer period will wear you down. If it continues long enough it may even lead to a burn-out. Becoming less social and easily irritated and are the first signs of a potential burn-out. Feeling tired often and becoming emotionally unstable are also a serious warning signs.

There are several things you can do.

  1. Realize that work is not that important. I know this is easier said than done, but your work is not your life. It's only a way to earn some money so you can get around. Your health and well-being is much more important. Also, if you do get burned-out your boss will have a bigger problem with his deadlines.

  2. Force yourself to relax after work. For example, make appointments to see friends after work, or do a sport you like two or three times a week. This way you'll have to do something completely different after work and it will take your mind off of things. Specifically physical exercise is great to reduce stress.

  3. Try to relax at work occasionally. Don't skip breaks because you are busy. By skipping breaks your work efficieny will go down.

  4. Keep a diary and each day write down the things that costed you energy and activities that gave you energy. Try to avoid things in the first category and do more of the latter.

  5. Eat and sleep regularly. Falling asleep is more difficult if you are stressed, but it may become even more difficult if your eating and sleeping routine is irregular.

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"Realize that work is not that important. I know this is easier said than done, but your work is not your life. It's only a way to earn some money so you can get around. Your health and well-being is much more important. Also, if you do get burned-out your boss will have a bigger problem with his deadlines." - The problem with this statement it's when you involve passion for your work. The stress comes when you want to do better, push through and you can't because of all the stress and frustration. But it's a very important if not the most important point. – Carlos Ferreira Jul 4 '14 at 8:50

Our bodies are programmed to fight or flight response under stress. Stress makes certain physiological changes in your body, to provide your body with the energy your body is supposed to be using shortly. Your work gives you plenty of stress (and chemicals in your blood) but your lifestyle does not give you enough "fight or flight" workout to use them up.

No matter how tired, you need to go to gym after work, to burn up stuff in your blood. It will also increase the quality of your sleep. You need to set aside time for that.

What fits your busy schedule better, exercising one hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?

Harvard Health article about understanding stress response:

  • hormonal signals released to blood
  • relaxation response
  • physical activity
  • social support (not obvious how this works)

Fight-or-fight response on HowStuffWorks with nice graph how stuff gets into your bloodstream, and why.

Good news is, after a month or so such exercise will become a habit.

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Thank you for your response, i think it goes to the deep core of why we stress and the responses it triggers on the body. – Carlos Ferreira Jul 4 '14 at 8:32

The core issue here is that your work environment does not work.
(THelper already gave you some tips about relaxing, but they don't address this enough.)

So this is what needs to be addressed, the rest will follow.
Reading from your question, here's what does not work:

  • Lack of documentation
  • Stressed out manager
  • External delays
  • Unrealistic deadline

The first thing to do is go and talk with your manager.
You (and he) may think that "we don't have time for that now", but you need to. Acknowledge that you see he's under stress, and respectfully tell him that picking on you does not help.
Maybe there's something you can assist him with. Can you come up with a clever way to work around those external delays? Isn't there something smart that can be done about the deadline? Think with him.

Even the lack of documentation might be solved: isn't the framework used elsewhere? You say it's a big company; might be worth doing some telephone calls for.

What I'm missing from your question (understandably) is: why would you want to do this anyway?
It may be good to keep that in mind as well. You (personally, or the team) starting undertaking this project for positive reasons. Maybe it's serving the client, maybe it's the technical challenge, maybe your product has great value, whatever.
You may no longer be present with those reasons, but they can still be motivators.

There can even be pride in working overtime ;-)

O, and the fact that your 'personality changes': not really, but you are falling back on one aspect of it, a kind of 'survival mode' in which you push other things aside. It may be worth distinguishing the aspects of your behaviour (you have had these situations earlier, you write). In itself, there is not so much wrong with such a surival mode (we all have them, and after all, it helps you survive), but you can take responsibility for your behaviour when you see it (e.g. apologize for your bad mood).

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It appears you are working at a sweat shop and they are called so because employees sweat it out instead of working it out in a smarter way. Your observation of a lack of documentation and other organizational behavior indicates your inclination towards process, structure and an inherent desire for mind body peace.

Easier said than done but I've learned it myself to better search out for greener pastures while sweating it out as long as the opportunity doesn't come by. Hope keeps one going.

Good luck

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Sweat shops are more norm then exception , at least in my country. It's not easy to find greener pastures on this side. – Carlos Ferreira Jul 4 '14 at 8:33

I would like to "stress" (pun intended) the importance of exercise.

I run a business on top of being a software development consultant. I feel that I sometimes get obsessed with my work.

In my personal experience, I found that exercising where I am having fun (I am not talking about going to the gym, but playing soccer, volleyball) I am able to totally switch off work during that time. The more I do it, the easier it gets to switch off.

By the way, you are still dreaming at night, that's a very good sign. I have stopped dreaming a long time ago after a period of stress.

Weekends away (camping for example) where you don't have access to your emails is another way to switch off, since your brain will know it cannot do anything related to work during that weekend.

Good luck!

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