How can I deal with this horrible horrible job stress?
March 24, 2011 1:50 PM   Subscribe

How can I deal with this horrible horrible job stress?

I work as a web developer and have been working on a contract job at a large financial company for a while. Recently I have been working on a long-term project and it's just horrible. I am the sole developer and the project involves constant implementations of proprietary company code I couldn't possibly know about without asking someone. Even when I ask multiple people there often isn't a coherent answer. I've gotten much of it done but time is running out.

Right now I just can't see how this is going to turn out ok. The stress has been adversely affecting my life for about the last two weeks. Several times a day I have to step outside to try to calm down. I've tried to tell myself "it's just work" but that's not working. Neither is telling myself "it'll be over soon one way or another." I talk to friends and that helps but doesn't solve the problem. I don't really feel like I have any friends in the workplace I can trust completely or talk to about how I feel re: the project- it feels like everyone is judging me. Although I'm part of a "team" I feel completely isolated and alone on this. I do have issues with anxiety and mild depression. I do go to therapy but am not on medication.

I guess my question is, what can I do? I know there's not a magic bullet but, there has to be something. I wish I could just walk away from the job but that's not feasible financially. Any kind of coping strategy I could employ to get through this would be great. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Talk to whoever is supervising you on your contract and tell them that the current tasks require a shit-ton of domain knowledge. They may just extend the contract, and in fact it would be stupid for them not to since it is way cheaper to have you finish it in more time than to have someone come into your code raw or to re-do it.
posted by rhizome at 2:00 PM on March 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

You sound like me from a few months ago. One thing you said that leaped out at me was "it feels like everyone is judging me"--that describes exactly how I felt. Isolated, afraid to admit to people that I needed more help, and feeling terrified that I wasn't going to make my deadline because there was too much about the huge codebase that I didn't know. Well, I had a bit of a meltdown shortly after I admitted that to myself and asked for help. People weren't exactly pleased--but they were glad that I had asked for help before the deadline was missed and helped me manage my workload. In the weeks after, I've also discovered that everyone didn't think so poorly of me after all--turns out that this is relatively normal and my biggest mistake was not asking for help sooner.
Could you go to whoever is managing you and find out how you're doing or talk to them about how you could get some outside help? Can you get your deadline extended? You should at least give that a shot; part of a manager's job is to make sure you have the resources you need to finish and to make sure that deadlines are reasonable. And--rhizome is right; it's in their best interests to have you finish the project.

Otherwise...exercise, moderate (ahem) amounts of drinking and doing things that had absolutely nothing to do with programming in my very small amounts of free time away from the project helped. You can MeMail me, if you need someone kind of anonymous to talk to.
posted by millions of peaches at 2:16 PM on March 24, 2011

you have to change the boundaries, man. you don't have the tools you need to get this done in the time specified. Try communicating and explaining that you don't have the info you need in the time you need to get this done in the time they ask.

Plus. I know you know this and it's not helping etc. But seriously, it really *is* just work. You're not trying to land on a beach to retake the freedom for your people on deadline day. You're just trying to implement some code for a company. They don't care that much about your life and you shouldn't drive yourself to despair over them.
posted by the mad poster! at 2:18 PM on March 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

Depersonalize as much as you can. See if you can get the contract extended so that you can finish it sufficiently. If you can't, c'est la vie. If the people you work with are judging you, c'est la vie. Who cares? Once this is over with, you'll move on, never to have anything to do with any of them ever again. Woo hoo!
posted by mleigh at 2:28 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you my coworker? You actually might be, down to every detail you describe. If this coworker I'm thinking of came to me--a colleague who is sympathetic, politically well connected in the team, but unable to practically help you with coding, this is what I'd advise you:

Look at this issue from the firm's point of view: Your struggle needs to become the project manager's problem right now. If you guys are using SDLC methodologies, this project is at risk of failure because it hasn't been allocated enough/the right resources to complete it. This is the PM's responsibility, not yours.

Yes, you are bearing responsibility for it right now, but it is not your fault that the project is set up to fail. That's why you need to raise the red flag now so that the higher ups can do what's necessary, if possible, to get this project the resources it needs.

Good luck! And if you are my coworker, come talk to me.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:40 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

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