Sharpening the Saw: 4 Ways to Manage Stress


This series of blogs on “sharpening the saw” addresses why taking care of yourself is paramount to taking care of your practice.

Stephen Covey described the physical dimension of sharpening the saw as having three components:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Exercise
  3. Stress management

It is the third component that is especially germane to our industry, with its fiscal cliffs, market volatility, and emotional connection between advisers and clients.

At the extreme, advisers may experience compassion fatigue. As defined clinically, compassion fatigue stems from working with trauma victims. That may sound melodramatic, but for advisers who have worked with clients who lost their hard-earned nest eggs in 2008, trauma victim is apropos. Symptoms like hopelessness or anxiety replace passion and productivity, and they ultimately affect interpersonal relationships both at work and at home.

Most advisers identify with the need to manage stress. Whether their stress comes from the pressure of having to generate revenue, the obstacles faced when one is an entrepreneur, or the challenges of working with clients who are emotionally stressed during uncertain markets, clearly ours can be a high-stress industry. That stress can shut one person down, or it can actually invigorate another. Whatever the case, most of us at some time feel the need to manage our stress, and those who are particularly insightful appreciate the wisdom of managing it proactively—before it becomes an issue.

Options for Managing Stress
There are a wide variety of options available for stress self-management. What works well for advisers? Here are some ideas and observations.

Physical exercise is not only something good for the body, but it is also something good for the mind. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins that trigger a positive feeling and that can even reduce pain. So whether you use the extreme P90X routine to exercise or you walk your dog daily, it is likely to benefit you in terms of stress management.

Engage in a Sport or Hobby
Engaging in a sport or hobby is another way to manage stress. It doesn’t seem to matter what the hobby or sport is or how good you are at it. It is far more important that you enjoy it. Certainly golf is a favored passion with many advisers. But gardening, boating, flying, biking, antiquing, and woodworking, among others, are all candidates to fit the bill.

Delegate Tasks or Projects
Delegating requires two things. First, an adviser needs to have someone to delegate to, and, second, the adviser needs to be able to confidently hand off the work. When the person to whom one delegates delivers the intended results, the cycle of increased delegation is enhanced. The adviser who has competent staff behind him or her can leave the office and get away from it all.

Other Possibilities
Simply learning to set a boundary or say “no” can do wonders to relieve stress. You may also want to practice yoga or relaxation techniques. Taking three deep breaths is also a viable tool for stress self-management.

But there is one last thing to keep in mind: none of the above activities or techniques works if you don’t practice it. Stress is predictable in this industry. Managing it is so important that it seems as if there should be a practical curriculum for advisers to learn how to do it.

Could it be that managing stress effectively is just as important as the technical side of our work, such as obtaining the CFP® certification?

Joni YoungwirthJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

3 thoughts on “Sharpening the Saw: 4 Ways to Manage Stress

  1. Pingback: Sharpening the Saw: The Mental Dimension « FPA Practice Management Center Blog

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