Responding to Stress

Stress is completely unavoidable in the world today. We are living through a period of heightened uncertainty and change. As financial advisors, our job is to help people make wise decisions with their resources, no matter what the circumstances. This critical role becomes more complicated during periods of amplified stress (positive or negative).

To better prepare myself to counsel our clients, I spent time over the last few weeks revisiting my favorite resources on behavioral finances and reading articles about decision-making under pressure. I discovered a common theme in the various articles and psychological studies of stress:

People make poor decisions under stress because they do not take into account all the available options. What a simple but profound trait we share! I discussed my findings with my older and much wiser big sister. She is a social worker and therapist with a diverse background and significant counseling experience.

She recommended a simple exercise to help battle our natural response to decision-making under stress: Take the time to make a list of alternatives before making a decision. Do not stop after writing the two or three obvious answers. Take the time to consider all the options available to you. If your decision impacts someone else, bring them into the process and brainstorm together.

Many families are facing tough decisions as the COVID-19 virus moves from a health crisis to an economic one. Every family is facing their own unique challenges and has its own paths to choose from.

My recommendation is to be aware of the stress you are under, slow down, and make a list of your alternatives. Bring your list of options to God (“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5) and consider engaging a trusted friend (“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors, they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22).

Any opinions are those of Brian Cochran and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.