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.
Emotions can help influence decision-making, but when it comes to considering investment decisions in a volatile market, getting stressed out may point your investments in the wrong direction.
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.
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.