Ask Chloé: Personal Burnout

Welcome to the Ask Chloé column on Security Boulevard! Each week, Chloé provides advice to readers’ questions to help guide them as they navigate the technology industry. This week, Chloé addresses burnout, which is a common problem in InfoSec.

 

Dear Chloé,

I think I may be dealing with burnout. I can’t seem to ever feel I’m awake. I’m just so exhausted. It takes so much effort to even send an email these days. Is this what burnout feels like? If so, what can I do to fix it? I feel like it’s become a part of my identity these days. Always exhausted and numb to the world. 

– Battery Drained Hacker

 

Dear Battery Drained Hacker,

What you are sharing are symptoms of burnout. For the record, I am not a therapist, and my advice should not be construed as medical or psychological treatment, but I have dealt with burnout myself, a few times. Anytime I feel like I’m not balancing my personal life with my work life, it tends to hit me. My first recommendation is to get a full check-up. When the body is low on certain vitamins, it does impact our mood and energy levels. I also recommend looking for a counselor or therapist to help. Prolonged burnout can cause serious mental and physical health risks, if left untreated.

Experiencing burnout means it’s time for you to take some time to disconnect. What does that look like? Well, it starts with turning off your computer and staying away from social media. Start by committing to taking one week off—that should help tremendously, as long as you disconnect from everything related to InfoSec and tech! The reason I say this is because burnout usually happens because folks don’t fully take time off—they check their inbox or read about or study something work-related. I think burnout happens so much in InfoSec because we attach our very identity to InfoSec. Our work is who we are. Burnout is so prevalent in InfoSec because security never sleeps; therefore, nor do we. This can increase stress levels, and with unmanaged consistently high stress levels comes burnout.

In order to have a work life and personal life balance, you need to be able to say no and mean it; to create boundaries and enforce them. These boundaries can be as simple as, “After 6:00 PM, I don’t respond to Slack and email.” And, it’s important to self-enforce it. If this is a struggle, I recommend not putting your work apps on your personal devices. This does help with self control. Personally, I don’t think anyone should have any work-related items on their personal devices for security reasons and for personal boundary reasons!

Besides setting boundaries, it’s important to take care of yourself! The reason you are feeling like this is because self-care is missing. For the record, it’s OK to put yourself first. I know, for some folks, it feels strange or challenging to do so, but with some practice, it will become easier. Putting yourself and your health first means doing the things that make you happy that are not related to work. It can also mean eating healthy foods, exercise and other habits that nourish our body, mind and soul. At first, it can be challenging to do, especially if you aren’t used to it. But you want to build healthier habits, such as clean eating, walking or even running; whatever kind of exercise you prefer. When we take care of our bodies, they return the favor by delivering us with a healthier physical self and a better mental outlook.

Once again, to prevent and decrease burnout, the best solution is to put your own health (mental and physical) before your work. It’s time to take care of you. We cannot be our best or take care of others when we are dealing with burnout. Now is the time to do the things that recharge your own battery and allow you to reconnect with yourself.

Learn more about the award-winning tech changemaker, Chloé Messdaghi, at https://www.chloemessdaghi.com

Have a question? Want advice? Submit your anonymous question to Chloé: [email protected].

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