Sunday, 16 December 2012

Anxiety and Stress in ‘Trading’: Consequences for one’s self, their trading and even their family. And a new coaching approach for dealing with anxiety that can benefit trading performance.

Anxiety is one of most common emotional issues facing traders. Anxiety, and the stress which results, affects most traders and individuals engaged in risk seeking activities at some point. The consequences of anxiety and stress can be extremely serious: With regard to one’s work, an individual’s trading performance and their longer-term confidence can suffer. With regard to their health and well-being, anxiety and stress can have serious consequences and damaging side effects. And the results of anxiety and stress do not end there: Anxiety is often taken home, and typically the individual is unaware of this; they themselves are caught in a delusion whereby they think they are doing everything to avoid bring the anxiety home. The results can be harmful to one’s relationship with loved ones and family, and can have a more damaging and long-lasting affect on the children of those affected by anxiety and stress: Forbes recently carried an excellent article earlier this year about this phenomenon, the article How Parents' Stress Can Hurt A Child, From The Inside Out can be seen here.

I recently wrote an article about performance anxiety, using sport as the metaphor, and focusing on the troubles of the Spanish soccer player Fernando Torres. Performance anxiety affects many accomplished individuals in the fields of performance, such as sports, the performing arts, fields of endeavor, and games involving skill and judgment such as poker and chess. More specifically it occurs when the individual focuses too heavily on the outcome of their performance, which actually interferes with the act of performing.

Another form of anxiety is ‘Secondary anxiety’ this occurs when someone is actually being anxious about something which makes them anxious. An example is a trader who fears they will be stopped on a trade, so they actually trigger the stop themselves prior to the market hitting the pre-set stop level. This is to try and kill the anxiety they are suffering, however the market then recovers and the original stop would never have been triggered. Their anxiety actually created the very situation they were trying to avoid, thus ironically making it a reality.  Other examples of this type of anxiety can be seen when trader’s fear they’ll lose money, lose their job, or fear they cannot beat the market; they create the very situations that lead to the very thing they fear and are trying to avoid. Often this is can be the early stages of a vicious circle which may be very damaging to the individual and beyond.

In my coaching work with traders inside banks and hedge funds, I often come across traders suffering from anxiety. I try to work with the traders to help them focus on improving their confidence and self-belief, breaking negative habits, and cementing practices and behaviours which aim to take their trading forward thus creating a virtuous circle. I have also recently started collaboration with ‘Julie Courtney’ a coach who uses a relatively new approach called ‘HeartMath®’ coaching. This is a very specific method of coaching which targets the root of an individual’s anxieties and works with them to help reduce and negate the specific anxiety and thus improve their ‘Personal Resilience’, and lead to enhanced levels of performance.  HeartMath® utilises leading-edge science, practical techniques, biofeedback technology and the combined intelligence of the human heart and mind to achieve exceptional results.

Julie has been working in Financial Market businesses for many years, and hence has a good understanding of the environment and requirements specific to risk takers. I am delighted that Julie has written the following article about her work.


Stress and anxiety don’t have to be the affliction of high-flyers

Stress is nothing new. Everyone feels stressed from time to time, whether through pressures either at work or at home, and many people feel stressed a lot of the time, especially when their life is going through a period of change or when the going is particularly tough. So if you feel stressed you’re not alone, especially among the high-flyers of this world. It’s a sure fact that many top businesspeople feel stress or even anxiety at some point during their careers – and fear of failure is a big contributor to that. A recent study by Towers Watson found one in three workers in the UK are at danger of burnout!

The main problem is, in our fast-paced world, we have an awful lot of commitments, from the trading floor, to the boardroom, to the home environment. In some cases, too much pressure and stress can overwhelm and become a problem. If that happens, mental health suffers and so does physical health, with symptoms such as fatigue and irritability being common.

Any emergency, high-pressure, risk-taking scenario that takes you outside the comfort zone has an impact on what is going on inside you and, by its very nature, can damage your health. In trading environments, you often see people having a strong physical response – who has not seen a colleague or friend lose control on occasion?

Many stress management solutions can be merely coping strategies and they don’t necessarily help build long-term resilience to pressure. To overcome difficulties as they happen and to react to challenges with composure is the key to stopping the negative effect stress can have on physical and mental health. And mental health is just as important as physical health. Steve Redgrave, winner of four consecutive Olympic rowing gold medals, and an epitome of testosterone-driven success says, “Athletes train their body to incredible levels, everything is put into the physical training, yet very little is done mentally. Most of the time the limiting factor is the mind and not the body.”

Dealing with stress ‘in the moment’
Finding a way of dealing with stress as it’s actually happening can have many positive effects. It can improve your performance at work and in the other multifaceted areas of your life where you are expected to achieve. But how can this be done?

One solution is personal resilience coaching, which shows you how to reduce stress ‘in the moment’ simply and quickly and, in so doing, enhances your performance, productivity and quality of life and work. Coaching techniques vary but in one method, called HeartMath®, practitioners use innovative approaches based on learning how to use your emotions to change the variability in your heart rate in order to create ‘coherence’ – a scientifically measurable state. This is a technique relatively new to the UK, but which has already been proved in the US and is now achieving exciting results on this side of the pond. The results are that you feel more balanced, are able to judge situations clearly and react accordingly, and you don’t suffer from the negative effects of stress on the body.

Specifically, HeartMath® can enable more balanced risk-taking as well as improving the long-term health and vitality of those in the trading profession. Risk-taking by its very nature, whether the trader is the highest earner on the desk or not, triggers human software on a daily basis that has not had an upgrade since prehistoric times. So whether it’s the best or worst trade in the trader’s life, the pressure is still wearing down the body, because the body doesn’t distinguish between life & death situations and the risks involved in trading.

What shall I do today? Kill a mammoth or get a deal done?
So what are the benefits?
Heartmath® and personal resilience coaching genuinely raises people’s performance and health, equipping them with skills they can very easily apply to every aspect of their life, quickly, simply and continuously, without becoming reliant on external coping strategies. And it’s quick to learn – the techniques can be mastered typically in a few one-hour coaching sessions – and the skills last a lifetime and be applied at work, at home or in sport

Above all, stress responses are like habits. Learning how to practice the techniques allows you to retrain your body into establishing healthy habits and over-riding those that cause you problems.

In a recent survey 88% of people put off making a change to their lifestyle, despite believing that it would improve their lives. To sum that up, consider these words by Austrian neurologist Viktor E Frankl: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." 

It’s a tough question, but what are you putting off that you know needs to change in 2013?

To find out more about Julie Courtney’s work with traders using  HeartMath® coaching please contact her at:

Julie Courtney
tel: +44 ( 0)1892 544 783
mobile: +44 (0) 7872 517 109
For more information visit:

Or alternatively to find out more about my own work with traders and my ‘Trader Performance Coaching’ programme. Please contact me:

Steven Goldstein
tel: +44 ( 0)207 993 5362
mobile: +44 (0) 7753 446097
For more information visit:

"Worried Businessman With Pc"  image by 'David Castillo Dominici' courtesy of


  1. We did some study on stress, especially for executives who spend most of the time working from their desk using laptops and what have you.

    We realised that one of the immediate impact of stress is on efficiency at the work on hand. This is primarily because stress leads to choking of the working memory, essential for us to perform task at hand, which by itself is a very small space. We therefore developed a cool ap, that executives can use to flush their working memory from time to time to keep the adverse impacts of stress at bay. One can download this app free from ...

  2. Steven and Julie as a health psychologist and trader performance coach practicing in Chicago, I agree with your perspectives and pragmatic use of biometric technology to assist traders in managing psychological stress. Your joint insights have been my long-term reality over the last 10 years as I've been working daily with high performing professional traders. I have employed HeartMath's emwave biofeedback technology continuously with good reception and favorable outcome. Not only are traders more mindfully managing external positions, but equally, their understanding of the power that comes from responsibly navigating the inner market of their mind & body has led to some profound results in trading and in their personal lives. If curious, I wrote an article on this topic for SFO magazine on this topic entitled Emotional Risk Management

    I wish you continued success in the relevant work your doing in this fascinating field of trader performance and emotional risk management. I look forward to your future posts and collaborative dialogue. Here's a link to my website is

    Happy Holidays
    Dr. Ken Celiano

  3. Anxiety In-Depth Report-Fear and stress reactions are essential for human survival. They enable people to pursue important goals and to respond appropriately to danger. In a healthy individual, the stress response (fight, fright, or flight) is provoked by a genuine threat or challenge and is used as a spur for appropriate action. Presently, overcoming anxiety & stress are no so hard as it was. Thanks.

    You can Check out to Buy Best Herbal Supplements for Depression Stress and Anxiety Treatment