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Mental Health

My experience of stress

I recently listened to a podcast episode featuring Troy Hunt, hosted by Ushi. If you haven’t heard of Ushi’s podcast before, check it out here: InfosecWhiskey. Aside from talking about whisky, the episode focuses on stress management, especially during the current turbulent circumstances of the COVID pandemic.

By the way, whilst we’re on the topic of whisky, I can recommend a bottle (or two) of Penderyn Madeira. This is a Welsh whisky (my home country); it is very unlike your typical scotch but it’s definitely enjoyable.

Troy explains his own personal experience of stress management when dealing with the acquisition of his haveibeenpwned service, amongst other things. I strongly recommend reading his blog post covering this topic. It’s a very insightful read into his coping mechanisms.

Listening to Troy and Ushi made me consider my own relationship with stress, and how it impacts me each day. As Troy mentions in his blog, talking about emotions and stress isn’t all that common, especially amongst “blokes” – this is why I felt it important to share my experience.

When I take a step back and review how I deal with stress, I have an unhealthy ability to push through stressful situations. I find my anxieties propel me forward rather than hold me back. This happens without me realising.

I consider this to be an unhealthy habit where I’m constantly battling with different stresses of life. Somehow, completely oblivious to how stressed I am, I just keep battling through each situation, taking a cost on my physical and mental health. I only identify I’m in this situation having sustained high stress for several weeks, by which point I’m very close to (or at) the stage of burnout.

Mindfulness

The best way I find I manage my stress is by remaining mindful. I’m not referring to meditation (personally, I can’t remain focused enough to benefit from it). What I mean by mindfulness is simply having awareness over your own emotions, and how you react to different situations. It’s only when you have this awareness you can do something about it. This leads me to my next point.

Perspective

I often find putting situations into perspective is helpful. For example, how many times have you received an e-mail in work which has pissed you off, keeping you in a bad mood for the rest of the day?

In my experience, whilst these little things can be very annoying and stir a lot of emotion, they are often just that – little things. Having perspective over your situation will help you realise how much worse things could be. That’s not to say your situation, emotion or reaction isn’t valid, but it helps you react to your situation more appropriately, and remain more positive.

Is it really worth letting a small event dictate your emotions for the rest of the day?

Escape

This is an obvious one – but it’s one we always forget. Find time to focus on yourself, whether it be a hobby or something else. You need something to escape to.

Book paid time off work – and book it in advanced so you have something to look forward to. Don’t wait until you’re stressed – this is too late. I’m finding this more important during COVID as I find myself taking less leave as I can’t go on holiday, or leave the house during lock-down.

If you’re working from home, I find it helpful to try and separate my work and life environment. This was really challenging when I previously lived in a one-bed flat, but even taking a walk after work can help create that situation.

Conclusion

I’ve only covered a few of the things I find helpful to manage stress – what works for you may be different, but I’m hoping you can get some insight from this blog post. Don’t forget to read Troy Hunt: Sustaining Performance Under Extreme Stress.

Thomas Williams

By Thomas Williams

Thomas Williams is learning ethical hacking and is working towards OSCP accreditation. Learn new hacking skills, follow up-to-date cyber security news, and follow him in his journey to OSCP.

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