Given the escalating public health crisis, we're all feeling a great deal of stress as we try to handle new challenges in our personal and professional lives. This is certainly true for advisors, many of whom are undoubtedly overwhelmed with the need to manage clients’ rising concerns—even panic—about the current financial turmoil and drop in their investments. The markets have been fluctuating wildly, and media headlines are stoking fears of a recession. No one can say for sure how the economy will be affected in the coming months, but right now the uncertainty and fears are real.
To help you cope, I’d like to share some tips for stress management. In times like these, it’s even more critical than usual to take steps toward avoiding advisor burnout. The constant challenge of quelling client concerns and successfully managing investor expectations may lead to compassion fatigue and put you at a higher risk for illness when you need to be at your very best. What should you do? Focus on a few small things you can do to help yourself stay healthy—in mind and body.
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Talk to People
Of course, to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, we should all adhere to the social distancing guidelines set by the federal government and the Centers for Disease Control. But, fortunately, we don’t have to be face to face to connect with our family, friends, and other advisors and colleagues. Make a point of reaching out via phone, videoconference, or social media. Your people will likely be delighted to hear from you—they’re probably feeling isolated and stressed, too. It’s a good idea to share how you’re coping with your emotions, as well as business concerns. Just be sure to talk to people. Don’t hold everything inside.
Your regular exercise routine, especially if you typically go to a gym, might be disrupted these days for obvious reasons. But you can take advantage of the great outdoors and still be faithful to the practice of social distancing. The obvious choice is simply to take a 15- to 20-minute walk a few times a week. Taking the walk at lunch or some other time during the workday provides the added benefit of removing yourself from a stressful physical environment. Even if your workload is overwhelming, you won’t be doing anyone (least of all yourself) any favors by skipping exercise to stay at the office or work at home a few more hours. You might also consider suggesting that your colleagues do the same. And, remember, if you don’t have a regular exercise routine, it’s wise to start slow and easy with something your doctor would approve of.
Nutritionists recommend we eat a variety of foods, especially whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. If you normally have good dietary habits, don’t fall victim to skipping meals or breaking your own snacking rules now. If you tend to eat less healthfully, it may be difficult to make a major change at this time. Try focusing on one or two steps you can take to improve your diet, and encourage friends and loved ones to do the same.
Don’t Skimp on Sleep
Have you ever noticed how things seem nowhere near as bad the next morning as they do if you dwell on them at night when you can’t sleep? Lack of sleep affects our health, mood, and ability to focus—all factors we need to keep in the best possible condition right now. Make a serious effort to get a good night’s rest—which means no jumping out of bed at 2:00 a.m. to check your email. If you aren’t getting the deep sleep you are used to, do what you can to at least make some time to relax and completely disconnect.
Practice Thoughtful Breathing
The internet is a treasure trove of instructions on how to improve your breathing—especially when you’re stressed. Lotus position, diaphragm awareness, pranayamas, counting while inhaling and exhaling . . . who knew breathing was so complex? While all these instructions can be useful, you likely are not in a position to learn deep-breathing techniques right away. For now, simply being aware that stress tends to make us breathe more shallowly may help us to reverse the tendency. Taking just a few deep breaths three or four times during the day may be the best thing you can do right now. And you’re likely to feel better immediately.
Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference
Disclaimers aren’t just for financial professionals. With all the above, remember to use good judgment. If you have doubts about making any changes, contact your doctor or another health professional. Certainly, more serious issues like substance abuse require professional help. But the tips for stress management discussed above touch on factors within your control. These healthy practices can be a big help when it comes to avoiding advisor burnout. Your mind and body will thank you—and you may be better prepared to react to what’s happening and help your clients see the market turmoil through.
Do you have any tips for stress management? How are you coping in these trying times? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!