Today, with a massive increase in the number of employees working from home, many cybersecurity professionals are working overtime – literally and figuratively. With a workforce suddenly dispersed across entire cities or states, security is suddenly that much harder. Even before the surge in work-from-home workers, CISOs were incredibly stressed. Over 90% of CISOs reported “moderate or high” levels of stress, with 60% “rarely” disconnecting from work.

Now, this is somewhat understandable, considering how important it is for the company to secure and protect information. Whether client or employee, companies have a massive amount of personal information that could be devastating should it come under attack. Because of how vital cybersecurity is, professionals may find themselves always on the alert, looking through headlines for the latest breach or exploit.

Perhaps your stress isn’t from fear of breach, though. Maybe your stress comes from above, as management doesn’t understand the inevitability of breaches. A third of CISOs said that executive management either felt that the company wasn’t at risk, or that the CISO could prevent any and all breaches. Almost a third of CISOs felt they would receive an official warning, or that their job would be at risk if a breach occurred.

However, de-stressing should be a high priority for CISOs. Stress leads to health problems such as exhaustion, declining mental health, and irritability. All of which can be seriously detrimental to their work.

Talk it out

The most straightforward step is one you may already have taken, but you would be surprised at how many of us avoid even admitting how stressed we are. Un-addressed mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression can all have serious physical effects. Seeing a therapist or other mental health professional is always a good idea, but even just talking with friends and family can help.

One of the biggest stressors in cybersecurity is the feeling that our importance isn’t recognized or that our work isn’t appreciated. Our loved ones are often the best ways to deal with this. The support system we have outside of work often feels so disconnected from what we do at work. But that’s the nice thing about loved ones – they’re here for us.

A therapist or psychologist can be more helpful if you don’t know how to approach your mental health on your own. Emotional intelligence is often neglected or undervalued, but in terms of burnout, it is a deeply important trait to have. Having the skill set to approach our emotions and thoughts without fear is often taken for granted by people who have never had mental health issues, but it’s impossible to overstate its importance.

Rotate roles

Constant vigilance can be incredibly exhausting. Police officers, physical security, and even lifeguards will all rotate roles or positions with relative frequency. This is often to help keep a fresh pair of eyes on the given situation, but it aids in fatigue and burnout all the same. These roles have the benefit of almost centuries of experience in keeping vigilance without losing effectiveness – cybersecurity professionals should take notes.

Make sure always to have someone in charge of monitoring threats, but take care to keep rotating roles, so that no one person becomes bogged down by the role.

Required Disconnects

The biggest issue that every ‘old-school’ parent has with kids today is how they are always ‘online’ and or ‘plugged in.’ As much as us tech professionals will hate to admit it, there may be something to that concern. 

Cybersecurity is in constant flux – a never-ending game of cat-and-mouse between hackers and security staff. But because of how constant this battle is, you may find yourself checking the latest breaches and exploits well after clocking out.

Unplugging can be the most challenging step to avoiding burnout, but it is by far the most necessary. The core of so much burnout advice is ‘step away’ and for good reason. Burnout happens when we exhaust ourselves mentally – let yourself rest. 

Cybersecurity is critically important to the functions of any company working today. That critical nature of the job can weigh a person down, and cause a hyper-vigilance that can bring a person to the breaking point. Don’t let yourself get so far along that path that you feel any inevitability about burning out. These tips are a starting point, but don’t stop here. If you feel yourself spiraling, make the time to take care of yourself. Because when we take care of ourselves, we are better prepared to take care of others.