While I can’t give you any investment advice or help you ignore the current market conditions, I can teach you how to manage stress so that “volatile” describes the market and not your mindset.
The high level of stress in today’s financial market is not only threatening retirement accounts and portfolios, it’s depleting an investor’s greatest resource: brain power.
The signs of the strain on your brain are sleeplessness, increased conflict, decreased energy, memory struggles, difficulty focusing and/or increased use of food, alcohol or drugs to reduce anxiety. Any of these symptoms mean you will be less able to make your best personal and professional decisions.
Let’s get very real for a minute. Unless you already have yoga, exercise, meditation or a “work/life balance” in practice, it can feel overwhelming to think about adding something new into your day if you are feeling stressed right now. With that said, here are five “don’ts” that might surprise you and that will also help you discover some easier “dos” for stress-management.
Don’t strive for work/life balance. That’s right. Work/life balance is typically defined in such a way that trying to maintain it creates more stress through shame and guilt. My approach to work/life balance is the same as with evaluating weight loss. Just as you will likely be frustrated if you step on the scale every day, don’t look at how you balance work and home life or extracurricular activities on a daily basis. Rather, look at a whole week or even month to gauge how you are doing with either.
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It’s much more effective to engage in quality vs. quantity time. When you set realistic expectations for the “life” part of work/life balance, you can dedicate yourself to that time easily. Turn off the cellphone, shut down the computer, and connect with your special people or activities that allow your brain to decompress.
Don’t diet. Instead of dieting to lose weight, consider your food choices and supplementation for nourishing your brain to reduce stress, improve mood, increase energy and focus only. Too often, eating habits go awry when we are stressed out. Some people just don’t eat, some binge and most just don’t know how to eat to balance brain chemistry for optimal mental functioning. When we let our blood sugar drop and spike, we perpetuate the stress response in our brain.
Most importantly, during stressful times it’s key to manage your blood sugar. That means don’t cut, or choose simple, carbs. Every three hours or so, be sure to have a snack-size combo complex-carb/healthy-fat/protein meal to give yourself the mental edge on stress.
Investors are living a fast-paced schedule, so it’s important to manage eating habits. For example, try to keep on hand brown-rice bread or one of those microwavable single-serving oatmeal containers. Stash individual packets of high-quality protein powder and peanut butter at your desk. Each of those are single servings that go along with your oatmeal or brown rice bread nicely.
Don’t think positively. Telling a stressed investor to have positive thoughts about the stock market today is like saying to someone who is depressed, “Just think happy thoughts.” They can’t.
Our brains are designed to preserve us and naturally want us to be stressless. Rather than positive thinking, try on my mental-fitness approach of realistic power thinking. When I work with high-pressured clients, they learn how to use what I call “core power” to manage stress and increase purpose, passion and power for ultimate success with any of their goals.
Core power comes from being very clear on your values, intentions, beliefs, personality traits, skills and information that you have that serve you. Realistic power thinking to overcome adversity happens when you attach to and activate your core power. Staying deeply aligned with your core power elements will reduce your stress as you reinforce what you are made of and show up for yourself with your strengths first. Write it all out and rehearse it in the shower as you scrub up for the day’s work.
Don’t do more. Now is not the time to overextend yourself professionally or personally.
When trying to reduce stress, just say “no.” To gracefully bow out, use what I call “metacommunication,” or communicating about what you are about to say, by starting with, “It’s hard for me to say no to you, as I don’t want to disappoint” and ending with, “however, I need to lay low right now to conserve my mental energy with all of the stress at work.”
If you are familiar with Tao-isms, I have found it useful myself during times of increased stress to “lay low like the sea.” How does the sea get its power? From the rivers that flow into it. Allow yourself to lay low and let things come to you until the tides change.
Don’t drink more than one. One glass of alcohol could do you some good, depending on your relationship with liquor. However, drinking more than one will absolutely be counter-productive to mitigating the symptoms of stress. More than one perpetuates brain chemistry imbalance and will add to sleep disturbances, depressed mood and cloudy cognitive functioning.
Instead of going for that second glass, try elevating your serotonin and dopamine levels by:
- Taking a combination of natural supplements L-theanine (200mg) and 5-HTP (100mg);
- Taking a long, hot shower or bath with some soothing music in the background;
- Making out with your special person;
- Dancing (alone or with a partner) to your favorite tunes for 15 minutes.
Managing the stress of these tumultuous financial times is critically important to your longevity in the field. These realistic steps for reducing stress will protect your brain, body, and career from burnout.
— By Ava Diamond, mental fitness and nutritional psychology coach
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