Neal O’Farrell

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8 Programs By This Presenter

What can an award-winning cybersecurity veteran teach you about mental wellness, brain health, and stress elimination? How about how it took him just five minutes to figure out how to tame 50 years of mental illnesses, and 30 years of chronic stress that eventually led to complete burnout and a close call with suicide.

After decades of untreated mental illness and chronic stress finally put an end to Neal’s forty-year cybersecurity career, the first thing he did was to reject his doctor’s advice of therapy and medications.

Rather than form a dependence on the obvious, instead Neal embarked on a much different journey. He wanted to find out how the brain really worked, what made some people mentally ill and others mentally well. That enquiry led to a three-year investigation into the mind and the brain, the foundation of mental illness and wellness, and how the brain manages things like happiness, joy, optimism, memory, love, and everything we think, feel, and are.

Not only did he dig deep into the science behind all the therapies for brain health, from mindfulness and breathing, to sweet potatoes and cow hugging, he also started trying these therapies on himself to see if they actually worked and if they would help him get a grip on his own demons.

How I tamed my chronic and nearly deadly stress through a mixture of mindfulness, breathing, and some hacking skills I’d learned from a lifetime in cybersecurity.

After nearly thirty years of chronic stress, I had assumed it was unavoidable, inevitable. Until it nearly killed me. My stress came from a mixture of untreated mental illnesses that I struggled with for nearly 50 years; the incredible physical and psychological burden they inflicted; and the additional stress of trying to hide those illnesses so that they didn’t derail my reputation in an equally stressful career of cybersecurity. A career where we all thought that one failure, one serious security or data breach, could be a reputation killer and career-ender.

It turns out in the end the thing that nearly ended it all was the stress. Which also turned out to be all completely imaginary, in every way all in my head. If only I’d known that 30 years previously, how different my life might have been.

In this presentation, I’ll share some very open, candid, and personal insights about stress – from my own personal experiences, from speaking to hundreds of others who have struggled with chronic stress and burnout, and from the dozens of mental health professionals I’ve spoken with.

I’ll share what I learned about the mind, brain, and body connections of stress; how stress works – physically, biologically, psychologically, and chemically; and how doctors and neuroscientists believe we can tame and even completely eliminate stress.

And I’ll reveal what I discovered when I tried these techniques on myself, and especially when I approached my own stress from a cyber risk management perspective.

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