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How to Manage Stress in Financial Trading

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Stress at work is something that can affect any of us at any time. There are different reasons that can cause this for workers and it’s affecting people around the world. In the UK, 602,000 workers were suffering from work-related stress in 2018/19, while 80% of American employees say they feel stress on the job. 

The industry we work in can also be a major factor. For forex traders, switching off can be especially difficult. Here’s a look at what could cause stress for those working on the trading floor and some top tips to manage this. 

What causes stress for traders?

There are several reasons why a trader might be stressed. The main one is that trading on the markets, by its very nature, is a stressful business. This is an industry that moves quickly and if you spend your working life on the trading floor, you’ll know that you need to make a series of decisions as fast as you possibly can. 

Significantly, for each move you make the stakes are high. One bad decision could be costly. 

With so much riding on how well traders perform, it stands to reason that there is a knock-on effect on stress levels – and this then creates something of a vicious circle. As the stress mounts, the trader is less likely to be successful, and this lack of success can lead to mistakes being made, causing further issues with performance, and leading to more stress. 

Stress isn’t just something that impacts those who are struggling. For the high-fliers who are making lots of money, the pressure is there to keep performing well, and this can lead to burnout. The reason for this is that hormone levels shift in fast-paced, stressful situations and cortisol, the stress hormone, kicks in, causing anxiety and stress. 

In an environment like the trading floor, where everything is unpredictable and every move needs to be weighed up quickly and correctly, cortisol can be generated and lead to anxiety. Anxious traders can make incorrect decisions and their successful streak can easily end abruptly as a result. 

Managing stress: top tips

If any of this sounds familiar, it might be worth thinking about how you might address your stress levels. To help, follow these tips to get you back on track: 

  • Know your goals. What are you planning to do? What are you trying to achieve? By knowing where you are heading and forming a plan to help you get there, you’re more likely to be able to focus on each move you make in a calm way.
  • Have a break. Whether you’re glued to your trading app or you’re constantly sat at your laptop, you’re getting a lot of screen time in while the markets are open. Try to get away from the screen for a few minutes so you can regroup and allow your stress levels to recalibrate. Also, when did you last take a holiday? Book some time off if you can so that you know you have some downtime coming up. 
  • Use the tools. If you have access to the best tools, that can help. Using trading platforms that not only help with the day-to-day side of trading but provide you with insights, alerts to risks, and market information can be hugely beneficial and take the stress out of you having to find this information on your own. The best platforms offer a comprehensive package
  • Losses happen. Losses are part of the job. Accepting that you can’t win every time is important as it will allow you to let go. Use any losses you encounter as a learning experience. See where things might not have played out the way you expected and move on. 

By taking these steps, it’s possible to reduce stress levels and refocus on the task at hand. Reducing stress can ultimately mean you are a more effective trader. 


Image credit: Freepik

Peter Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of  Edinburgh.

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