As mental health becomes more of an open topic, I thought I would expand into the space of non-technical writing.
Although mental health will play a big part throughout the workplace, I can only speak from my own personal experiences. Whilst I’ve delved outside of Cyber Security, non compares to the weird level of self-induced stress it brings.
Whilst other roles may have a consistent feel to them, those in Security will often not know what their day will bring. It’s exactly like being in incident response however you have more “responsibility” as the word Security is in your title. Instead of the company potentially losing money due to an application outage, you may be walking into a weekend ruiner, also known as a breach. Even if it’s not a breach and it’s a simple incident, the weight of it not being a breach is always on everyone’s shoulders.
The defender has to be right 100% of the time….
Whilst the attackers have to be right once. This saying is overused however could not be more true. Whilst some “sayings” have context or pre-requirements, this one does not. It applies as soon as you sign the contract and ends when you leave the role. It has no weekends off, no holidays, and Christmas meetups. Instead, it’s a continuous fact that sits in the back of our minds.
For those that have been on call over the Christmas period, you will know what I’m talking about. Although there is a high chance nothing is going to happen….. what if it did?
This isn’t a crazy thought process as often the bad guys do attack over public holidays due to skeleton staff. If you recall a while back, anyone who ran Citrix products had a horrible Christmas due to Zero-days.
It’s annoying questions and thought processes like this that cause stress. It’s the reason you have Teams on your phone, or check emails before bed.
It’s a never-ending niggle in the mind of those in Security as that happy day you’re having can be ruined.
What can I do?
Whilst I’m no expert, and I myself have not mastered it, there are a few things I try to do to stay on the straight and narrow.
This is an obvious one and can be as little or as much as you want. A simple walk is enough. Even if you are working through lunch with a huge workload…. walk away for 15 minutes. The mess is still going to be there and you’re going to snowball into a cycle of stress.
Whilst I can say, step away from the screen, nowadays it’s unlikely. We seem to work on one screen, then move to another (Phone or TV). We relax in a circle of blue screens. If you can step away fine, however, go numb somewhere else. Stroll through social media, watch telly, basically anything to block out any thought process. Not thinking is hard, so when you aren’t; enjoy it. Scrolling through the 100th Video on TikTok….. who cares?
Become a fan of hot drinks
Whilst drinking hot drinks may be nice, the idea is to get away from your desk for a few minutes. When I did work in the office, I was most relaxed when I was making a cup of tea. Whilst it may seem odd, this again was a simple process where I didn’t have to think anymore. I was zen.
It doesn’t HAVE to be a hot drink, again the idea is to do something in short bursts. Drinking water is great, so do that. Do that 5 times a day and that is 20 minutes where you’ve stepped away.
See your partner
If you’re lucky enough to be in close proximity to your partner, then go and see them a few times within the day. Nothing can reset your clock like a simple being in the presence of someone you love.
If it’s a mad day, regardless of whether they care, talk to them. When I say care, I mean this light-heartedly. Whilst I know my other half cares about my life, I know that I waffle on about boring IT stuff that has no context. I find IT boring myself, so god knows what she thinks. The idea is to just get it out. You are not wanting an outcome; It’s a simple dump and moves on.
….and that’s it for now. I do hope this helps or is somewhat relevant to someone. Whilst we continue the fight that is Cyber Security, our mental health is of value. Not to our employees but to ourselves and the people we choose to surround us. Even if you think it is BS… just take a minute now and then.
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