It’s an hour after lunch and you find yourself staring at your screens, frozen, unsure of what to do next. You feel the pressure to perform. You haven’t made a winning trade all week. The bills are due. Your checking account could use a huge cash deposit. You’re not sure what you are going to do. You desperately think, “I’ve got to push myself to make a profit.”

But when you think about pushing yourself, you become even more stressed, upset, and unable to think clearly. In such circumstances, it’s natural to feel that you must push yourself to the limits to make a profit. Depending on your abilities and resources, you may not want to push yourself too hard, though. It can sometimes make matters worse.


Trading is a profession where you can convince yourself that your work is never done. There’s always another chart to read, a forgotten financial report to digest, or a new trading strategy to develop. When you haven’t made a winning trade for a while, you start to feel that you absolutely must make a profit. But unless you are a seasoned trader with vast expertise, pushing yourself to the limits adds to your frustration. Suddenly, you can’t seem to get anything done. Putting added stress on yourself doesn’t always increase performance levels. Stress and performance work according to what scientists call an inverted-U curve.

Put simply, when a task is easy, like running around the block, a high level of stress enhances performance, but when a task is difficult and intellectually challenging, such as devising a profitable trading strategy, a high level of stress impedes performance. Stress, even a small amount, saps up limited psychological energy. So when you put stress on yourself to trade more profitably, you’ll find that you start to feel a little tired. And if you push yourself too far, and go way beyond your abilities, you’ll eventually exhaust all your stored psychological energy.

When you feel stressed out because you are putting pressure on yourself, you might want to try easing some of the pressure. Tell yourself, “I’m not going to keep pushing myself. I’m just going to come up with a modest goal and work at it one minute at a time, and then maybe, one hour at a time. I’ll just do my best.” See what happens when you try this thinking strategy. You’ll find that you’ll harness a little more energy just by simply taking some of the pressure off. Taking a break in the middle of a stressful day can also do wonders. Step outside and take a walk. It will release some pent up stressful, negative energy.

You might also try a simple form of meditation. Go to a quiet place, and simply repeat a mantra, such as “accept what I can get out of the markets.” Repeat it over and over again. Concentrate on the words and let your worries about the markets disappear from your consciousness. You’ll feel a little better, and you will find your energy level rise.

If you are a seasoned trader, pushing yourself to reach higher and higher standards of excellence can produce higher levels of performance. But if you are a novice trader, pushing yourself beyond your limits usually leads to frustration, stress, and eventual exhaustion. When you have pushed yourself so far that you feel the pressure, stop! Take a break. Accept your limitations and relax. Ironically, you’ll feel a little energy boost and will suddenly feel empowered. At that point, you’ll be ready to tackle the markets again and take home the profits you need.

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