Volunteer Work and How Not to Take on Too Much


This quote resonates so much with me. I’m a helper; I love seeing others succeed; I love the satisfaction that I get when someone gets their “aha” moment because they understood a concept they were trying to grasp during a Capture-the-Flag (CTF) or in a class.

Due to my innate nature of being so helpful, I tend to overextend myself. Yes, I helped when I have done this, but the cost that I paid was an overtaxed brain and exhaustion, as well as a bit of burnout. This is self abuse, and it isn’t ok. When we are in an active National Cyber League (NCL) Season, we constantly tell you to ensure you rest, eat right, and keep self care up. This applies in daily life with other tasks or work as well—it is no different. What happens when you take care of you is that you perform better at what you’re attempting to succeed at, you think more clearly, and are all around more of a help than when you let your brain go into mush mode from overworking it.

During the summer of 2020, I drove myself to this point of extreme exhaustion, and it led to temporary burnout. I’ve run into burnout before, as well as exhaustion, but never both at the same time. Typically, to decompress, I will step away for what I call brain breaks and play a game that I like to work out my frustrations. While the volunteering that I did was important, it was also not healthy for me to take on that many projects at the same time. By now, you know yourself well enough to know what your own personal limits are.

Now, I still volunteer, but I pay attention to how much I’m taking on. If several events have calls for volunteers running concurrently, I typically will evaluate which one needs more help. I absolutely adore the TraceLabs CTFs and highly recommend them when you aren’t participating in NCL Seasons. I am so fascinated because, get this folks, they crowdsource via an OSINT CTF on a regular basis to help with real missing persons cases. I will happily volunteer judge for this any time that I’m not involved with too many other tasks, as I believe in what they are doing.

What I will not do, for future reference, to myself, and hopefully to help someone else out there considering it:

I will not adopt every CTF that I find running concurrently (literally five at the same time or near each other) and decide that I need to help create challenges, moderate Discord, moderate Slack, maintain daily responsibilities, and keep up with my Master’s program to a point that I fail all. Doing this causes you to not be helpful to anyone, especially yourself, and it took me over two weeks to decompress from it. That’s not to say that you can’t handle this volume of responsibilities, but it definitely was too much for me.

Now, let me share with you a few ways that I use to wind down from work overload:

Snow Angels
Playing a game of Hearthstone
Chillin’ and Watching Netflix

Last, but not least, never forget to laugh. This was a tip that I used often when I was a corporate trainer to relieve test anxiety, and it holds true for me still today. I firmly believe by finding something that just makes you laugh it relieves enough stress to allow you to go on with what you were doing in a calmer fashion. So, go find that funny video, take two minutes to watch it, and allow it to let you wind down those nerves.

Remember to take care of yourself! Check out ways to do this from a few of my teammates, and please feel free to share some ways that you step back to relax in the comments below!

See you in the Game and forever stalking Slack ~ Hush1e

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