Trading can be hectic. Your ability to generate profits depends on how well you navigate the markets, and the markets are often unpredictable and uncertain. Many traders find the sense of uncertainty stressful. If left unchecked, stress can build up and cause physical and psychological problems. The negative emotions associated with stress can, in turn, create a poor sense of morale and can contribute to trading errors. In addition, during the holiday season, there are added pressures of inconsistent market conditions, shopping, and meeting expectations of family and friends. It’s vital to combat stress and try to become as stress-free as possible.
It is useful to practice stress prevention. That is, try to minimize the impact of stressors as much as possible. Stressful emotions can build up, and if not released occasionally, one can be overloaded by stress. You can’t completely remove stress from the trading environment, but you can prevent the stressful aspects of trading from making you feel overly anxious and fearful by developing a stress management plan and following it.
Some useful ways to manage stress include (a) avoiding caffeine, (b) exercising regularly, (c) minimizing daily hassles, and (d) seeking out social support. Caffeine helps many people wake up in the morning, but it may often elevate your nervous system to the point of making you hyper-alert to the slightest form of stress. Trading is stressful enough; it’s not useful to pre-elevate your nervous system and feel a heightened sense of anxiety. Tension can also be reduced through regular exercise.
Tension builds up during the trading day, and a regular exercise program ensures that pent-up frustration and tension are released, and do not build up to influence subsequent trading decisions unexpectedly. It’s also important to reduce stressors in your environment. Daily hassles, such as time pressure, traffic congestion, or feeling over-extended can build up psychological tension and loiter in the back of your mind. Try to minimize these hassles and relieve the pent-up tension. But however you cope with daily hassles, don’t ignore them; don’t try to pretend they aren’t important enough to deal with immediately. They can accrue and cause you great strain in the long run.
Seeking social support from friends and loved ones is an effective way to cope with stress. When extremely stressed people have a person, or persons, with which to vent their frustration, they are able to better cope with the stressors. Oftentimes, merely expressing stressful emotions of anger, fear, and frustration can make one feel optimistic, empowered, and ready to tackle new stressors with renewed vigour.
That said, it’s important to remember that relationships can be a double-edged sword. They can help relieve stress under the right conditions, but they can also be a substantial source of stress, especially during the holiday season. Not just anyone can serve as a vital member of one’s social support network. Ideally, people in one’s social support network should be good listeners; they should actually want to hear about your unique problems, support your feelings, and help you alleviate stress. Some relationships are uplifting, but other relationships provoke frustration and anxiety.
This may be especially true for traders since not everyone in a trader’s social support network understands trading or is supportive of it. For example, suppose a loved one is not supportive of trading, and frequently provokes anxiety by saying things like, “How much did you lose today?” or “When are you going to give up trading and go back to your regular job.” Similarly, a conservative, risk-averse friend may not want to hear about relatively risky trading activities. In these cases, such relationships are unsupportive at best or extreme stressors at worst. Thus, it is vital for your psychological health to seek out the right kind of social support.
This holiday season doesn’t let stress get the better of you. Try to stay calm and relaxed. Enjoy yourself as much as possible, and you’ll be rested, relaxed, and ready to tackle the challenges of a new year.