As we approach the end of the year, staying safe and fighting stress are important skills. Let’s look at practical ways to manage both – with the help of some insights and training from Pryor!
Cybersecurity: Staying Safe Online
Safety comes in many forms, and we often think about our physical and emotional safety needs first. In today’s computer-driven world, cybersecurity – protecting our online identity and environment – is also imperative. We live in a digital age and our personal and business relationships are now often located online, in our email, social media, video chats, web browsing history and messages.
Think about some of the normal activities you might do this holiday season:
- Purchase gifts online using a credit card or electronic payment system
- Click on a link in your email with a tantalizing offer from your favorite store
- Download and open a video file, thinking it is a funny way to relieve holiday stress
- Post some personal information on social media to share the holiday season
- Visit more websites than usual, as you look for fun and creative gifts
“Of course, I do these things – and not just during the holidays,” you say! And yes, indeed, many of us do. And this is exactly why we all need to build some cybersecurity in our lives. All these activities create risk:
- Risk of being taken to a fraudulent website – designed to look like the real one – where you might enter payment information for crooks to use.
- Risk of unintentionally sharing information that compromises your private information and passwords.
- Risk of downloading malware (software that has negative impacts) onto your computer that corrupts your files (including those precious holiday photos) and transmits information without your knowledge (like personal information or payment information).
- Risk of hurting a friend or loved one, by unintentionally sharing viruses through links and files.
“But I have that anti-virus tool – isn’t that enough,” you ask? In today’s world, with increasingly sophisticated bad actors online, the answer is no. Social engineering – creating an environment that leads to you take some action – can lead you to take harmful actions that are beyond the reach of your anti-virus tool. And even your anti-virus tools need care and feeding (like regular updates and scans) to work at peak effectiveness.
There are many other steps you can take to protect yourself online – and Pryor is here to teach you quickly and effectively what they are.
Taking the Time to Protect Your Digital World
We all need to take actions for our own good that may not seem to be too much fun at first. Let’s take exercise – we know it is good for us, and that we should do it, but it’s not always the first thing on our list. And yet, for most of us when we do it, we see its benefits. Similarly, exercising your mind by developing new skills – like cybersecurity – gives us benefits that extend far beyond the short time it takes to engage in a topic.
“Wait, you want me to take cybersecurity training in the middle of holiday shopping,” you say?! To protect you through those holidays? Yes, we do. Let’s take a look.
Pryor has two helpful ways to engage in cybersecurity training. The Think Before You Click course (account required), for example, has nine lessons that cover important material for protecting yourself online. Each lesson lasts no more than 5-12 minutes and is a great way to learn new skills in small and engaging segments.
Worried that any course on cybersecurity will be too technical to be interesting? Think again! The format for this course is very accessible – as an expert and learner team up to cover essential topics in a conversational format. Here are examples of topics our team covers:
- Types of threats you may face online
- Steps you can take to protect your computer
- Combatting social engineering designed to get you to share information
- Recognizing red flags and protecting yourself
A second option is Pryor’s Cybersecurity Series (account required), which also includes four short courses to help you learn good practices for protecting your data and your online relationships. The series starts with an overview of the key components of cybersecurity, including confidentiality, integrity and availability (CIA). The series provides tips for staying safe, recognizing risks online and avoiding introducing risks to your computer. Specialized segments on email, phishing and web protection give useful information in a straightforward and effective way.
The internet is a wonderful place – until your identity and privacy are compromised or stolen. Learning about and putting into practice cybersecurity skills saves you time and hassle and reduces stress over the holidays.
Speaking of stress, let’s talk about some ways Pryor can help there too!
Breaking the Stress Cycle
What do cybersecurity and stress management have to do with each other? Lots, it turns out! When we are stressed and tired, our critical thinking skills tend to be dampened, and we aren’t as careful as we should be – both in the real world and online. Unfortunately, more demands from both real-world and online environments can make the situation worse, leading to an unhealthy cycle. So let’s turn to ways of breaking the stress cycle, and how Pryor can help.
A certain level of stress can help keep you focused. It keeps us engaged and on our toes – and achieving challenging goals at work can lead to positive feelings and pride. For many though, work becomes a source of unhealthy stress or burnout. Sometimes, it can feel like a never-ending cycle. When this happens, we may:
- See the negative side of things and complain more
- Make avoidable errors
- Miss deadlines or appointments
- Feel sick or just checked-out
- Eat or drink more, and sleep poorly
- Notice that we are not making good decisions or thinking critically
These negative actions lead to a downward spiral that can impact our bodies and minds and can be hard to recover from. In Pryor’s on-demand short course Breaking the Stress Cycle (registration required), we discuss the five stages of the stress cycle and ways to interrupt that cycle once you’re in it. This includes noticing the feelings that indicate you may be in that cycle. We also help you recognize the negative (maladaptive) ways that people tend to use to deal with stress – and offer some ideas for breaking out of the cycle with more positive actions. The course comes with a useful downloadable PDF for tracking your learning and reflecting on course content.
Five Quick Tips for Addressing Stress
Here’s a quick preview of actions you can take right now:
- Acknowledge your stress and notice how it affects your body: Naming it can make it easier to manage. Pay attention to your muscles, stomach, and breathing.
- Physical movement: Take a 5–10-minute walk or build-in more lengthy exercise time to release stress – 10 minutes of physical activity are likely to have a greater impact than 10 minutes of stressful work activity.
- Breathing: A few deep breaths clear both the mind and the body. And good news: you can do it anywhere at any time, and it only takes a minute or two to have a positive impact!
- Check-in with others: Social contact with people you trust, either at work or outside work, helps reduce stress – even if you don’t talk about the stressor itself. Even a kind word to a stranger can make you feel a little better – empathy and connections are powerful tools for combatting stress.
- Recalibrate priorities: Honestly assess your current priorities – both at home and at work – to see what you might be able to let go of or defer. Be honest about how much of your stress is imposed by others, and how much is due to high expectations of ourselves. You may have more power to control your To-Do list than you think.
Moving Beyond Stress to Personal Growth and Development
Breaking the stress cycle has physical, emotional and cognitive benefits – and can give you the space to further develop in other ways as well. To that end, as we near the end of the year, give yourself the gift of self-awareness and self-management. In addition to helping you manage stress, Pryor offers several courses in personal development that help you be your best through the end of the year, and into the beginning of next:
- Time management
- Conflict management
- Emotional intelligence
As you reflect on your priorities, take time to develop the skills that bring lasting growth and peace as you review the past and look ahead to the future.