Coping With Stress in Stressful Times

By Chris Holman

Over the years, ClientWise coaches have coached many thousands of financial advisors. What follows are some generalized bullet-points, from our collective wisdom, as to how one might deal with stress during this extraordinary period.

  • Pause, but don’t panic.

    There are many negative stories in newspapers and on television about the state of the economy. Pay attention to what’s happening around you, but refrain from getting caught up in doom-and-gloom hype, which can lead to high levels of anxiety and bad decision making. Avoid the tendency to overreact or to become passive. Remain calm and stay focused.

  • Identify your stressors.

    Make a list of everything that is causing you stress. Rank each stressor, from top to bottom. Identify those stressors that you have no control over. Discard them. For the remainder, identify your degree of responsibility and/or control. For those stressors where your behavior can have an influence, list how your action will mitigate your stress.

    • Financial stressors need a plan

      Take stock of your particular financial situation and what causes you stress. Write down specific ways you and your family can reduce expenses or manage you finances more efficiently. Then commit to a specific plan, and review it regularly. Although this can be anxiety-provoking in the short term, putting things down on paper and committing to a plan can reduce stress over the longer term.

  • Be aware of problematic behaviors.

    In tough economic times some people are more likely to relieve stress by turning to unhealthy activities like smoking, drinking, gambling or emotional eating. The strain can also lead to more conflict and arguments between partners. Be alert to these behaviors – if they are causing you trouble, consider seeking help from a psychologist or community mental health clinic before the problem gets worse.

  • Turn these challenging times into opportunities for real growth and change

    Times like these, while difficult, can offer opportunities to take stock of your current situation and make needed changes. Think of ways that these economic challenges can motivate you to find healthier ways to deal with stress. Try taking a walk – it’s an inexpensive way to get good exercise. Having dinner at home with your family may not only save you money, but help bring you closer together. Consider learning a new skill. Help someone else. Join a non-profit group. The key is to use this time to think outside the box and try new ways of managing your life.

  • Take Care of Yourself

    • Exercise:

      Recent studies indicate that exercise stimulates the production of new brain cells, and has an effect similar to antidepressant drugs. Interestingly, where the physical activity takes place may also be important. In a study at the University of Essex, exercise outdoors offered more of a mental boost than gym workouts.

    • Laugh.

      Dr. Lee Berk, a researcher in physical therapy, has indicated that levels of beta-endorphins, the family if chemicals that alleviates depression, went up 27% when subjects watched a comedy video. Levels of stress hormones.cortisol, epinephrine, and dopac.were reduced by 70%.

    • Take a nap.

      Common wisdom used to say that insomnia was a symptom of depression. Growing evidence suggests that it may actually precede depression. Even short sleep periods reduces stress and anxiety by triggering the release of sleep hormones that act as an antidote to mood problems.

    • See the light.

      With the onset of autumn and winter, pay attention to the effects of lack of daylight (SAD.seasonal affective disorder.) Light triggers messages to the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which controls sleep, sex drive, appetite, and mood.

    • Fly a kite.

      In a recent study, individuals who flew a kite saw their moods soar.with 71% experiencing significant improvements in their mood.

  • Ask for professional support.

    If you continue to be overwhelmed by the stress, you may want to talk with a psychologist who can help you address the emotions behind your financial worries, manage stress and change unhealthy behaviors. For information on managing stress, visit www.apahelpcenter.org.

Chris Holman is a Senior Executive Coach of ClientWise LLC, an organization founded to support the financial advisory practice of the future. For more information, email cholman@clientwise.com or call 1-800-732-0876.

Copyright ClientWise 2008.