One thing I noticed at PyCon Africa was this seemed to be the first tech conference for a lot of the people I spoke to. As such, I realized folks may not be ready for the VERY real “post-conference depression” that often sets in. So, let me explain and try to offer some advice.
What Is This?
Post conference depression is the let down or sadness that often happens JUST after a conference. You’ve spent a few days in one place with lots of people focused on the same thing. There’s a lot of shared excitement, probably some social events, and you’re not the ONLY person interested in Python (it happens at other events too, but I’m talking about a PyCon here). You’ve made new friends and had a great time!
But then, it ends. No more shared excitement. You go home and so do your new friends. And you feel sad. Partially because you miss your new friends, but also because you miss the energy of so many people being passionate about the same thing in the same place. You might feel deflated or tired, like you’ve lost all your energy. Your “normal” life might seem boring in comparison.
Don’t feel BAD about this: it’s a real thing, and it’s NOT just happening to you. It happens, in varying degrees, to MOST of us, myself included.
What To Do?
Here’s where I become LESS helpful: I don’t do a great job of dealing with this myself. But I’m working on it. Here are some things I’ve heard people suggest, as well as things I’m planning to try after PyCon Africa.
During these times, it’s more important than ever to make sure you take care of yourself. That means things like eating well, getting enough sleep (a conference WILL make you tired), staying hydrated and exercising. Even if it’s just going for a slightly longer walk, keeping your body moving can help your mood. At DjangoCon US, I’m always reminding people to
#SelfCareSprint. These are like the Development Sprints we had at PyCon Africa Saturday, but instead of code, they focus on you taking care of yourself.
Besides the ways I mentioned above, you can also do things like making time to connect with local friends and family. You can also make sure you stay in touch with new friends you’ve made. Maintaining quality relationships is important for your mental and physical health. You can also meditate. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just find something that works for you.
The key point is: give yourself some time and space to be kind to YOURSELF. You’re the only you you’ve got.
Practice/Apply What You’ve Learned
Part of the excitement of a conference is all the new information you’ve taken in, or all the things you’ve seen and been inspired to try. And there can be a bit of a letdown when that flow of new information stops. I’m going to try to balance that letdown by ACTIVELY WORKING on some things I was inspired to do. I’m not 100% sure exactly what form those things will take, but I know Machine Learning is an area I’ve been meaning to get better with for awhile. That, and improving my general data science skills feels very important. I came to Africa and saw how strong my cousins are, and that these areas are growing, so I don’t want to be left out! But, it will also give me more things to talk about next time I’m in Africa. So, I’m working on figuring out exactly what I want to work on going forward.
Act On Your Inspiration
Often, people will go to their first conference and be inspired to work on proposing a talk of their own. I know I’ve got a few new talk ideas now, as well as some other general areas of research I want to look into after PyCon Africa. I doubt I’m the only one.
I’m sure there are other useful suggestions, but these are two that immediately spring to mind. For myself, I’m going into a “busy conference season”, so I’ll have a lot of other things to keep me busy, and I’ll be able to balance SOME of the post-conference depression by just GOING to another conference. But it can’t last forever, so I’ll have to deal with the letdown at some point. I’m trying to get better at it, and I hope these ideas will help others do the same, as well as let first-time conference attendees know they’re NOT going crazy. Post conference depression is a REAL thing.
But we an get through it and come out the other side STRONGER.