As security professionals, we deal with a tremendous amount of stress. Like my new boss told me about a week into our tenure together, we tend to be perfectionists, and frequently we’re asked to deal with the most cavalier people in our organization. It’s a toxic combination.

One of the first things my boss asked me after we met was what I think about at home. In all honesty, I can’t help but think about work sometimes–I apologize for being crude, but I have a thinking chair at home and it doesn’t look like the one on Blue’s Clues–but I have a lot of other things I think about at home too. Important things like my family of course, but other important things too, like trains and baseball and baseball cards.

It’s no secret that many security professionals drink far too much, and some don’t stop at drinking. At times, that leads to tragic consequences, such as the death of security superstar Barnaby Jack at the age of 35. Call me judgmental if you must, but I grew up in a house where alcohol abuse was the norm, so I’ve experienced firsthand the unintended consequences of it.

There are many fewer unintended consequences to having a hobby or two. They get your mind off the problems at work without the nasty hangover, and if you’re ever in the situation where you need to get your money back out of it, I can recover some of the money I’ve sunk into trains or baseball cards. You can’t do that with drugs or alcohol. A nostalgic hobby can even reverse some effects of aging.

The other nice thing about a hobby is that it can help improve your thinking. I impose limits on my train hobby. The limits change from time to time, but generally speaking, I go out of my way to avoid post-1950 technology. When you force yourself to work within certain limitations, that can help at work where you have to work within all sorts of limitations every day. And the nice thing on your own time is that you get to pick the limitations rather than having them dictated to you–and yet it helps you to continue to function well when you don’t get to pick the limitations.

But beyond all that, I’ll remember a conversation I had four years ago for the rest of my life. I met a classmate I hadn’t spoken with since college to get his take on some stuff I was dealing with at the time. Like me, he is the son of a doctor. And he told me bluntly I needed to get away from that situation–the stress was going to shorten my life.

Stress shortens your life. Any job is going to have some stress in it, so we can’t eliminate that. But we can deal with it, and a hobby that gets your mind onto other things and puts you in your happy place goes a long way toward that.

If you’ve noticed I’m writing a lot more about trains and baseball cards lately, that’s part of the reason why.