Practicing self care during coding bootcamp

Entering into my 15th week of coding bootcamp, I’ve found myself really struggling with the stress and fatigue that comes with it. In just 15 weeks I’ve been through a rollercoaster of emotions unlike any I’ve ever experienced and dealt with physical ailments stemming from fatigue and overwork.

But I’m still here. I’ve managed to overcome one of the most grueling experiences I’ve ever put myself through. But it isn’t just me. While at bootcamp I’ve met so many incredible people who have all managed to not only pull through but thrive. In these 15 weeks I’ve learned so many different ways to practice self care while under stress and now I’d like to pass that knowledge on to anyone thinking of entering a coding bootcamp.

Be Realistic

Coding bootcamps are extremely rigorous. You are expected to learn a lot of new things in a very short period of time. Know that bootcamp will require that you significantly cut down on time with friends and family. You’ll also be cutting down or downright eliminating all hobbies from your life for the next 15 weeks. And you’ll be working about 40 to 60 hours a week. In the end, all of this will be extremely rewarding but you have to be realistic about what your life will be like while you’re at bootcamp.

Exercise

I made the mistake of thinking that I couldn’t afford the time to exercise with my busy schedule. But this is something you’ll want to make time for. Not only does exercising enhance your ability to learn but it also lowers your stress level. It also helps to manage the health risks of being sedentary for long periods of time. It doesn’t have to be intense or fancy, just a walk around the park or a quick run will do. But trust me when I say it can quickly turn your day around and help you better deal with the demands of bootcamp.

Sleep

Everyone knows that we need sleep but it does become very easy to neglect proper sleeping habits during this time. You need 7–8 hours of sleep each night in order to live a healthy life and nothing is more important than your health. Not only that but sleep plays a huge part in the learning process. Not only does lack of sleep make it difficult to focus but your brain also needs time to process and store the things you’re learning. Sleep is when your brain downloads all the information you’ve given to it that day and safely stores it in your brain.

Remember food and water!!

It should go without saying that you need food and water to survive but you’d be surprised at how easily it can get to nighttime and you haven’t eaten or had a glass of water all day, until the pain of a dehydration induced migraine reminds you that you are in fact a human being and you do in fact need nourishment.

Forgive yourself

You won’t always be perfect. Not only as a programmer. As a programmer you will certainly not be perfect. In fact, you’ll be trash. And that’s ok because that’s how you’ll get better. But also, you won’t always be a perfect student. You won’t always work as hard as you can. You won’t always be able to work past 6. You might find yourself taking a Saturday off and then failing a test because of it. Or watching that Anime your friend recommended last year instead of doing your labs. And that’s ok. Forgive yourself for the times when you don’t give it your all and move on.

Take a break

Yes the schedule is grueling. Yes you need to work hard every day, probably harder than you’ve ever worked. And yes you still need to take breaks. I find that taking small breaks throughout the day helps me recharge and I’m able to come back with a lot more energy after I’m done. I always suggest people time their breaks though. Be aware of when you need a break, analyze how much time you’ll need to recharge and time it. This will stop you from falling down a Youtube or Netflix rabbit hole. Make sure that your breaks consist of things that relax you. Watching the news is NOT a break. Reading JavaScript documentation is NOT a break. Be honest about when you need a break and take a break that will genuinely benefit you.

Hygiene

I hate to admit this but…I’ve gotten significantly sloppier with every week that passes. Bootcamp has been tough on my appearance and the appearance of the space around me. It’s easy to forget the importance of a shower when you’re over zoom but please make sure you’re not putting off showering, vacuuming, laundry etc. You may not realize it at first but these kinds of things have an effect on both your mood and your productivity.

Ask for help!

When I started, I had a very hard time asking anyone for help. I tried to figure everything out on my own and when it came time for the first code challenge, I failed miserably. When hearing from my cohort that they’d all helped each other figure things out I realized my mistake. I had been too embarrassed to ask for help but now I was embarrassed that I hadn’t. It’s difficult at first to realize that everyone does want to help but they truly do. Just like you’ll want to help them when they need it. Bootcamps will foster a fellowship between you and your classmates because they know how tough this is and they know that you can’t and shouldn’t get through it alone.

Mindfulness

Yes I know, it’s everybody’s favorite buzzword. But it’s actually a lifesaver during bootcamp. Taking the time every day to focus on your body and your surroundings will make a world of difference. It’ll help you pinpoint the areas you need to improve on and help you balance your mood, because as I said, bootcamp is an emotional rollercoaster. It will also help you see which one of the things on this list you’ve been neglecting and make a plan to tend to your needs. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, from meditation, to journaling, to even yoga. Personally, my chosen method is prayer. I take 10 to 15 minutes to pray the rosary as is common in my culture and community. Your method will probably not be the same as mine, it may not even be meditation or journaling. Find what works for you and make sure it’s having the intended effects on your mind, body, and soul.

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