Advisors: 4 Steps to Reduce Stress

By Dr. Jack Singer

The foundation of stress is not an event, such as dealing with an angry client, having difficulty with your prospecting calls, or watching the market tank unexpectedly. It is your “self-talk” about each event that either causes stress or doesn’t.  These “self-talk” habits are part of what I call your “internal critic.”

Your “internal critic” is that little voice within that spews out an average of 55,000 words per day, 77% of which are negative, self-defeating messages. Current cognitive psychology research shows that self-limiting, negative and pessimistic thoughts inhibit your success because they undermine your self-confidence.

The negative messages that pass through your mind immediately lead to muscle tightening, rapid breathing, and perspiring. These physiological responses are perceived as “stress,” so the more we allow these self-limiting thoughts to continue unabated, the more stress we suffer.

The wisdom about how critical our inner thoughts and beliefs about events are to our well-being has been around for centuries.  The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them.”  In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote: “There’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Advisors need resiliency skills to counter the self-doubt and lack of confidence they frequently experience. It’s one thing to recognize that you are producing stress by worrisome, anxiety-producing thoughts, but how do you avoid doing it?

The first step is to stop the negative thought as soon as you recognize it. A trick that works is wearing a rubber band and snapping away whenever you catch yourself beginning one of your habitual negative thinking habits.

Next, ask yourself some key questions about that thought, such as, “Do I have any evidence that I won’t be able to control my client’s rampage?” “What can I do differently this time?” “Can I use ‘active listening’ to focus on his emotions and concerns, rather than justifying my recommendations in a defensive manner?” “Can I assert myself with this client and not worry about losing him?”

Now give yourself positive descriptions about who you are.  For example, tell yourself that you have helped many clients and their families to successfully manage their wealth through many market fluctuations and you can do so with this client as well.

Finally, take a series of slow, deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, until you feel calmer.  Simultaneously, visualize yourself feeling relief after having the upcoming conversation.

Practicing these simple techniques will help you overcome the negative thinking habits that cause the bulk of your stress.

You may, indeed, be a wonderful financial advisor, but that doesn’t mean you can please every client.  If a client is a constant thorn in your side, perhaps it’s time to refer him elsewhere or recommend that he move on. The income you give up is not worth the constant aggravation he causes you and your peace of mind is worth more than the problems this client presents.  Being calmer will ultimately result in you making better decisions for your clients,  and in doing so, that lost income will quickly be replaced.

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