Friday, November 7, 2008

Wellness critical for advisers in stressful times

During rough patches, scheduled exercise and eating right are even more important


By Joni Youngwirth October 26, 2008

...Rising to this occasion, being able to manage your clients' expectations and calm their fears — all while you might have fears of your own — requires advisers to be at their very best. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you stay healthy in mind and body.

Breathe: The Internet is a treasure trove of instructions on how to improve your breathing, especially when you are stressed. ...

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.

Talk to other professionals: ... What advisers need to share is not just the technical aspect of what they are doing with accounts but also how they are coping with their own emotions.

Exercise: If you have a regular exercise routine, be sure to stick to it. If you don't have a regular exercise routine, consider starting slow and easy with something of which your health care professional approves. The obvious choice is simply to take a 15- to 20-minute walk a couple times a week. Taking the walk at lunch or some other time during the workday provides the added benefit of removing you from a stressful physical environment. Consider providing this healthy boost to your entire office by scheduling a walking break for everyone.

• Diet: Nutritionists recommend we eat a variety of foods, especially whole grains, fruits and vegetables. ... If you don't have healthy habits, it is going to be difficult to make a major change right now.

But perhaps you can focus on one or two incentives for healthy eating for you, and possibly for others. For example, one adviser I know sent a fruit basket to his office to thank employees and colleagues for their extra efforts.

Sleep: Have you ever noticed how things don't seem nearly as bad the next morning as they do if you dwell on them during the night, when you can't sleep? ... Make a concerted effort at least to relax, even if you aren't getting the deep sleep you are used to.

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 health care professional.

Certainly, more serious issues such as substance abuse require professional help.

These are unprecedented times for clients and advisers. So much is outside of our control right now that it is easy to feel despair.

But the attitude with which we choose to approach each day is key. Healthy individuals, consciously or unconsciously, choose the attitude they apply to life's experiences. ...

Take a minute and list all the things for which you are grateful. Then take that gratitude and turn it into one random act of kindness — it may be the most important stress reducer of all.

Joni Youngwirth is the managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass. She can be reached at

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