In my initial article, I talked about the surveys done with financial advisors right after the 2008 financial crisis and the alarming percentage of advisors who actually suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result.  We don’t know how many advisors actually retired or tried to change their careers in response to the stress they endured, but in an effort to avoid or escape stress many people (not only advisors, of course) change careers.  That certainly introduces new stressors, and so the cycle continues. 

The good news is that anyone can learn how to buffer themselves against any stressor, and thus avoid making dramatic, and sometimes disastrous, career decisions as a result.

First, recognize the real source of your stress. "Stress" is an overused term, yet in our competitive and impatient culture, and with chaos rampant around the globe, examples of stress are with us constantly.  Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually for stress-related medical insurance claims, workers’ compensation benefits, reduced productivity, poor product quality, absenteeism, spillover into marital and family problems, and even drug and alcohol abuse, which is often a desperate attempt to cope with the stress.  Stress symptoms may include, anxiety, fear, depression, burnout, and a whole host of possible physical symptoms. Stress has even surpassed the common cold as the most prevalent health problem in America!

For most of us, work challenges, managing our teens, and pleasing our spouses represent daily stressors.  But, you will be amazed to learn that these potentially negative events, (potential stressors) do not cause stress!  It is our perception of the events—our thoughts about those events—that determines whether or not we will experience stress as a result.

Negative events do not cause stress. Most people assume that specific events—particularly negative ones-- that they are faced with “cause” their stress.  For example, the economic disaster of 2008 was a series of “events,” none of which directly caused stress for advisors.  It was not the events, per se, but each advisor’s perception of those events and the simultaneous “self-talk” that the advisor engaged in during and following those events that determined whether or not the advisor experienced stress, and how much.

Your feelings of stress, including all of the symptoms mentioned above, are not directly caused by the necessity to make cold calls, generate referrals, market fluctuations, disgruntled clients, fiduciary and compliance hassles, etc.  These events, (potential stressors) may invite you to feel stressed, but they do not cause stress. Specifically, your perception of these situations and what you say to yourself about them determines whether or not you will suffer from stress symptoms.  If you perceive potentially stress-causing events in a negative, self-defeating, pessimistic, or overwhelming sense, you will certainly become stressed.

However, if you perceive those same events as challenges which you will be able to master and give yourself positive, empowering, optimistic thoughts about them, potential stress consequences will be markedly reduced.

Here is an example of an event that actually took place in my life. I was booked to be the opening general session speaker for an important financial advisor’s conference. Attendees had flown in from all over the country for this conference. Soon after I landed at the first airport where I was to transfer for my final flight, a major storm moved into the area, grounding all flights for the remainder of the day and night.  It became clear that I would not be able to get to the conference in time to open it the next morning.

While one might consider this situation to be extremely "stressful," the situation, per se, would not be the source of my stress. What I said to myself about the situation would determine how stressed I would feel.

For example, if I was worried about upsetting the meeting planner and leaving the audience hanging, that would cause me to feel symptoms of stress.