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The Stress Factor

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We are blessed in the 21st Century to have at our fingertips via the internet, precious gems that one stumbles across or are brought to our attention. The latter was the case with an article I read just now on Linkedin: http://tinyurl.com/LINK-IN-art

It was written by Dr. Travis Bradberry – the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0. The article dealt with Stress and how it, if managed properly, can be man’s 2nd best friend. Please don’t get me wrong, sustained Stress is a big killer but it seems that minimal exposure is a good thing.

This assertion grabbed my attention and I immediately recognised a correlation with quite a few personal experiences and many more observed examples of where extraordinary behaviour may indeed be credited to stress.

When related to Subspecies Homo Sapiens, the Oxford Dictionary would have us believe that stress is, in fact: “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”.

A kind of ‘light bulb’ moment struck me like a bolt from the blue…….. “adverse or demanding” leapt off the electronic page and whispered in my ear. It told me that adverse was self-descriptive but demanding…..now that had a resounding ring to it.

In my own experiences, lie a number of times in my life where I have been subjected to demanding circumstances but very few that I could describe as adverse. Especially if I accept this meaning of the word: “preventing success or development; harmful; unfavourable.” Those couple of times that could be described as such are accompanied by a sense of impotence or hopelessness and indeed, high stress. The ‘demanding’ version on the other hand, I relate to the orders my mother/father would bark at me as a child: “you’re not going to the park until you’ve cleaned your room”……etc. …….or the deadlines imposed upon me to complete tasks in my life as a Television Producer.

Both instances would stress me greatly but there was a logical way out of the situation and I was able to overcome the stress by a) cleaning my room and b) using my skills and working through the procedures I knew worked and would deliver the goods on time.

 

Coach Consoling Dejected Football Player

 

Consider a top athlete who, when competing against the best opponents the world has to offer, is under enormous mental stress with adrenalin levels are redlining. There would not be one who would tell you they don’t use that stress to their advantage, converting it into enough energy to get the job done.

So that suggests to me that stress can indeed have its benefits. Going back to the article – Dr Bradberry references “some startling research summaries that explore the havoc stress can wreak on one’s physical and mental health (such as the Yale study, which found that prolonged stress causes degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for self-control). The tricky thing about stress (and the anxiety that comes with it) is that it’s an absolutely necessary emotion. Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some level of this emotional state. In fact, performance peaks under the heightened activation that comes with moderate levels of stress. As long as the stress isn’t prolonged, it’s harmless.”

In fact (if that study is to be believed), we absolutely need stress in our lives!

The purpose of Dr Bradberry’s article was to highlight how stress can be successfully harnessed and used to good effect, citing how ‘top performers’ control the stress they are under. He quoted findings by a fellow doctor that led to the conclusion that intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert. For animals, intermittent stress is the bulk of what they experience, in the form of physical threats in their immediate environment. Long ago, this was also the case for humans. As the human brain evolved and increased in complexity, we’ve developed the ability to worry and perseverate on events, which creates frequent experiences of prolonged stress.

Besides increasing your risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity, stress decreases your cognitive performance. Fortunately, though, unless a lion is chasing you, the bulk of your stress is subjective and under your control. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ under stressful circumstances. This lowers their stress levels regardless of what’s happening in their environment, ensuring that the stress they experience is intermittent and not prolonged.

The article then went on to list the ten methods (as noted by Dr Bradberry) used by top performers to reduce or use stress. Would you like to know what they are? Ok, here’s today’s TOP TEN – Surfing the Pips style.

 

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They Appreciate What They Have

 

Too often I have seen traders and wannabe traders chopping and changing strategies in search of the holy grail of trading. The successful trader, is the one who has found a system that gives him consistent returns and suits his lifestyle and demeanour. He appreciates the returns the market gives him.

 

They Avoid Asking “What If?”

 

What if I had only left that trade in the market, I would have killed it! What if I had risked more money on that winner? What if I had only closed the order when it was in profit, rather than having my stops hit! Sticking to the trading system rather than hypothesising – keeps stress under control.

 

They Stay Positive

 

No matter who you are or what system you use to trade, the market will ALWAYS test your resolve. Target just missed here, slipped a pip there, didn’t exit when I should have. Rolling with the punches is your best response to such ‘disappointments’. There’ll be another wave tomorrow and you’ll be on it.

 

They Disconnect

 

Much is made of the ‘24hr Currency Market’ – what a scam. Those who sit glued to a market that moves fractions of a pip per hour WILL go crazy. ALL good traders spend as little time in front of charts as possible. There’s a whole lot more to life than watching candles.

 

They Limit Their Caffeine Intake

 

As with any addictive substance, the body reacts to the presence (and absence) of drugs. In caffeine’s case, enhanced adrenalin levels can cause bad trading decisions (I’m pumped and bullet proof)!

  

They Sleep

 

A real no brainer this one – sleep deprivation is a known form of torture. It is far wiser to go to bed when tiredness sets in, than add to the stress the body is already under by waiting for a setup that may not come. The market will be there again tomorrow, when a stress free body will make far clearer trading decisions.

 

They Squash Negative Self-Talk

 

The inevitability of taking some losing trades is never a pleasant thing. A few in succession, can often lead to doubt and negativity in your system and/or yourself. Taking the time to recognise that ‘the demons’ have been triggered and having a method to short circuit that response will eliminate the stress that comes with it.

 

They Reframe Their Perspective

 

Most traders will go through a ‘quiet’ trading period and will find all manner of ‘good’ reasons why that is the case…….the Broker’s robbing me, fundamentals are messing with my strategy etc., etc. No matter the reason, it is what it is. Stressing over circumstances beyond your control is ludicrous and WILL affect you. Accept that the market is King and move on.

 

They Breathe

 

We have probably all been told at some stage in our lives that when the pressure cooker overheats, we need to count to ten and take a deep breath. It’s no ‘wives tale’ but rather, a sound medical practice that allows the pressure to release. Sounds simple but you’ve heard of the K.I.S.S principle – right?

 

They Use Their Support System

 

Superman was one of my favourites as a child (ok teenager…….young adult….) but the reality is, he’s a cartoon character and none of us, no matter how good we think we are, can achieve our goals without assistance. In trading, your mentor or trading support group is invaluable to get you back on track when it all gets too much.

 

Is it not as I said – a little gem? If you’re reading this, you know what I mean when I say the stress of trading can be a game changer for many people. Don’t you think that today’s TOP TEN is worth trying to adapt into your life? I can absolutely guarantee that reducing or controlling the stress component of your trading will have a profound effect on your success rate.

 

The next wave………….

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