How To Keep Stress At Bay

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Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

I always feel guilty when Thanksgiving rolls around. I’m thankful but feel more and more stressed as the year progresses. This year, in particular, I’ve had to hide my true feelings about the presidential candidates and have had to stay upbeat in the face of a lot of uncertainty. I can’t sleep at night and then I don’t function as well during the day. Will the DOL ruling stay or go in April? What will the short-term and long-term impacts on the market be? Will people start to believe they are better off with a computer to help them allocate assets? These are things that ruminate and swirl around and I can’t seem to stop the negative march in my mind. I know you are a hypnotherapist among other things. Do I need hypnosis or just a good old-fashioned shrink?


Dear G.S.,

You are not alone in your concerns. The worry and associated hyperbole are concerning to many. It’s been a strange year and there are so many pending issues that could affect our industry in significant ways. I was fortunate to be training a group of sophisticated advisors on Election Day and we paused our session to hear from the experts in Washington DC and in their investment group. Truth is, talented and educated people are all waiting to see what comes next! No one has the crystal ball.

So we know life is filled with uncertainty, difficulty and change. Although it may seem like this is “worse than normal”, the truth is that life is never settled and comfortable. In the investment advisory world, change is the operative word! However, you need to be able to function. Particularly in times of stress, this is when your clients (and staff) need you to be centered and calm to deal with whatever comes down the pike. So how do you do this when your feelings and concerns are all convoluted inside as you describe? There are a few things I recommend and you can do them all without paying for outside services in the form of a shrink or other practitioner!

  1. Change your self-talk. You mention a number of questions that are swirling around. The problem with posing rhetorical questions is that there are no clear answers. Once you get the answers (i.e. on which way the DOL ruling will go) you can act on them, but in the meantime, it is just a big question mark. Change your talk from “What will happen?” to, “We don’t have the information now but when we get it, I will know what to do.” Every time you catch yourself with these thoughts that drain and concern you, grab hold and deliberately choose to change what you say to yourself.
  2. Wear yourself out physically so you can rest better at night. This is the time for some sort of exercise or something physical so you are actually tired and can sleep when night comes. I enjoy boxing because it is a great workout, but you could run, go to the gym, do yoga, etc. It’s all about what you like and what tires you. The other aspect of physical exercise is that, when done right, it often takes your mind off ruminating. The mind can’t focus on two things at once!
  3. Categorize your concerns into three aspects: What you can control, what you can influence and what’s out of your control. We waste inordinate amounts of time focusing on things we cannot control. Put your energies toward those things you can do something about. This list is usually the longest and tackling things within your control, or influence, often makes you feel like you are making progress.
  4. Repeat my favorite mantra as much as possible – This too shall pass. If you look back over things you have worried about in the past, some may have come true (and you dealt with them and you are still here to write to me!) but many never happened. Zig Ziglar used to call this the interest paid on trouble before it ever comes due. Write your worries down and put them in a sealed envelope. Refuse to think about them for a few months, then open them and see what’s real. By then you will already be dealing with what you need to and many of your concerns will be old history!

By Beverly Flaxington, read the full article here.

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