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People #9: How to deal with self-motivation and stress.

Tip of the day!

When stress has caught you, and you can no longer concentrate on doing anything useful at work, then try to do something else. Go for a ride, go out for a short walk, go fishing (my preferred one), or have a chat with a friend at work about how you experience stress and how you deal with it.

Increasing your physical exercise reduces stress. Even though you might feel tired, it will boost your energy.

Theme of the day

The central theme in this blog is how we manage stress and how our ability to manage stress supports and enforces our level of self-motivation.

As cybersecurity professionals, many of us have a strong drive to achieve. However, being relaxed and, at the same time, managing stress is not always easy. If your motivation to achieve is much higher than your ability to manage stress, you may have a high risk of chronic stress.

But what is stress? The word stress is only a term that we can apply to the amount of mental, physical, and emotional pressures that we can take. In the late 1900s, the word stress was used by engineers in the field of bridge-building. They used it to refer to the amount of pressure and strain on a bridge from the forces of weight, use, gravity, winds, earth shifting, or whatever. Did you know that already?

Psychologists apply the term stress to the amount of mental and emotional pressures that we can take. Interesting, isn’t it?

Stress refers to the amount of perceived pressure that we experience in various situations, challenges, and tasks. The level of stress depends on the amount of perceived resourcefulness that we bring to each situation. The lower our sense of perceived efficacy and empowerment, the more stress we feel. The higher our sense of personal confidence, the lower the stress. An interesting definition of stress management is ‘our tendency to be relaxed while at the same time managing stress well when it occurs.’

Stress does not exist ‘out there’; you can’t take it in your hands. Stress is always a personal ‘inside’ experience.

We want to continue to build on the following situation, challenge and tasks we’ve explored already in our previous blogs. In particular, let us take the next conversation you had with your manager into consideration (read blog #3 and #4). “You are one of the cybersecurity teleworking heroes of the company! And, you have to focus more on delegation instead of doing all the work yourself. And I have an urgent request. You have to solve a security vulnerability in a newly developed web application. Etc.”Go go go go!”

Two weeks ago, I had an exciting Teams meeting with a group of cybersecurity specialists. The subject was “How to deal with the new challenges we face as cybersecurity teleworkers in times of crisis?”

Their general feedback was, “We are all cybersecurity professionals, and we are accountable and responsible for the work we do. We fulfill the expectations of our management and our clients. We need challenging projects. And we have to be able to take initiatives. Being accountable and responsible, being able to fulfill mutual goals, accomplishing challenging projects that encourage us to improve, taking initiatives, etc. are all criteria that have a direct and positive impact on our engagement. However, working from nine to five, we need a break from time to time to recharge our batteries. You know, taking some fresh air, doing something else so that we stay relaxed and able to manage stress when it occurs. We are not talking about the good stress we need to be productive and meaningful. We mean that kind of destructive stress that makes us scared. Sometimes we feel guilty, and we don’t know why!”

My observations are:

  • This team of professionals has a strong drive to achieve, including taking the initiative, wanting a challenge, and being enthusiastic about shared goals.
  • Their tendency to be relaxed while at the same time managing stress well when it occurs is rather low. However, the good thing is that they brought this issue ‘destructive stress’ to the surface by opening that discussion.

Especially the words ‘scared’ and ‘guilty’ caught my attention.

Ask yourself

As already said, as cybersecurity experts, we tend to be self-motivated combined with a lower level of stress management. This indicates that although we may make significant accomplishments, we probably experience a great deal of stress. Our desire to achieve is much higher than our ability to manage stress, and thus we will possibly develop a (strong) underlying desire to have a respite from our hard work.

The following questions can help you in managing destructive stress. Discuss your answers with a friend you have at work.

  • How do you know you are stressed?
  • What situations, especially now in times of teleworking, do you find stressful?
  • What do you find most stressful about each of those situations?
  • What behavior or attitude do you have that causes or increases stress?
  • How could you have managed those situations better?
  • How could you benefit by learning to manage stress better in times of teleworking?
  • What barriers stop you from managing stress better?
  • Remember or imagine a time when you were stressed, but you managed to overcome that stress. Tell your friend at work about that satisfying experience.
  • What specific plan are you willing to commit to doing in the next 30 days to manage stress better?

Answer the following questions after 30 days:

  • How well were you able to follow through on your stress reduction plan?
  • In what ways have you improved your ability to manage the stressful situations listed in the first question?

My next blog post is about your commitment and that of your colleagues.

Take care of yourself! Take care of each other!


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