There are plenty of proven and effective ways to manage the stress that comes from a career in cybersecurity. And while many of the stressors, the causes, might be beyond your control, it doesn’t mean you’re powerless. And that recognition alone can be a powerful therapy.
Recognize that mental health is a strength and not a weakness
Simply opening up about the topic, discussing it, even sharing your own struggles, is often the most valuable first step towards better mental health.
Don’t push it aside, or consign stress to “something you’ll focus on when things calm down.”
Deal with it now, understand it, even embrace it, recognize the short and long-term damage stress can do, then conduct a simple risk assessment – are you happy with the risk/reward?
Understand the differences and relationships between stress, burnout, and depression.
They can often be cross diagnosed, and one can often lead to another. The one thing all three have in common is emotional exhaustion, something that can be hard to recover from.
Get real, or at least realistic, about what’s expected from you and what you expect from yourself.
You can’t prevent every attack, or defeat every threat. Recognize your human limitations, come to terms with them, and work to that more realistic standard.
Don’t take it so personally.
Cybersecurity is still largely a human endeavor and it’s easy to be consumed by a fixation on defeating your adversaries, of sticking it to the bad guys. Or not being defeated by them. Come to terms with the notion of acceptable losses.
If it’s not already there, encourage the creation of a mental health culture in your workplace
Your workplace needs to be a culture where it’s OK for everyone to talk about their issues and struggles without fear of it impacting their reputation, job security, career and promotion prospects, or image.
Study your enemy – not cybercrooks, but yourself.
Your mental health could be your toughest enemy, and especially allowing stress to come in and take root. Identify the things that cause you the most stress and develop a strategy to deal with them.
Focus on self-imposed stress
The stress you create for yourself either because of unrealistic expectations or high personal standards, can often do the most harm. Always remind yourself that if this is the career you want to be in, you’ll be in it for the long haul. So be practical.
Work harder for the right work/life balance.
Even if you’re never truly off-the-clock, you can be away from it. Leaving the office early, or even on time, can be a simple way to de escalate the stress of the office.
Think about mindfulness, yoga, meditation.
They’re all proven ways to help manage stress. Combined with regular walks in fresh air, short pauses to switch off and consume half a dozen deep breaths – they can all release the hormones that will help you battle stress, burnout, and depression on your behalf.
Don’t assume burnout is just that.
You might be suffering from clinical depression and not recognize it. In fact the symptoms are so similar, and especially the emotional exhaustion, many health professionals have difficulty telling the difference.
If there’s constant pressure to do more work, take on more tasks, learn new tools or technologies, work extra hours – work instead on ways to resist the constant pressure to agree. Know and appreciate your limits as a human, and let your bosses know too.
Try To Leave It At Work.
Try not to bring your work, the job, the industry, your noble crusade home with you. Your body and your brain chemistry both need an opportunity to reset. Not just for your wellbeing and that of your family, but to ensure you can do it all over again tomorrow.
Don’t forget your body.
From a comfortable chair to a better diet to more exercise, your body and mind need each other but can also let each other down. Investing in good eating and exercise can be a better investment than yet another certification.
Take a deep breath, then take another, and another.
Like most stress management, deep breaths are completely free, and the more deep ones you take, the quicker your stress will respond.
If you don’t like what you are, reinvent yourself.
Security has plenty of options and roles. If you don’t like where you are, go someplace else. Either persuade your employers to let you work remotely more often, or look for less stressed and toxic workplaces.