December 1, 2020

How can Personal Finance Professionals boost their mental health?

Puja Roy
Practicing Psychologist, Safe Space

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health. Fear of contracting the virus and the mortality from the infection, to the fear of being unemployed and facing financial hardship. Fear of losing the family home; fear of falling living standards; fear of isolation and loneliness at home for months; fear of being detached from family and friends; fear of not finding employment or ability to reopen once viable businesses.

From the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, financial planners have been facing an unprecedented number of calls from clients as they dealt with both the emotional and financial consequences of unemployment and lost value of investments and savings.  To assist clients, many planners and their businesses are bearing many of the charges. Also, advisors who normally work long days, have been requested to double their efforts, working even longer days, and through weekends in order to deal with the increased amount of calls and inquiries.

Clients’ well-being is usually a top priority for financial advisers, but financial advisers’ well-being is also important. Hence, Sesame Bankhall Group (SBG) and Care First have launched a Covid-19 adviser hub.

Link: https://www.sbg.co.uk/News/SBG-launches-COVID-19-Adviser-Support-Hub

Split into four key sections, the hub covers:

  • Personal well-being: Suggestions for helping advisers and their customers to stay healthy – both physically and mentally.
  • Business & Financial well-being: Information and guidance for both business owners and advisers on how they can navigate through this transition.
  • Market news: The latest information on what is happening across the market
  • Questions & Answers: On getting answers to the issues that are most relevant.

THE MOST PROMINENT MENTAL HEALTH RISK ADVISORS ARE FACING

Work-from-home burnout happens when people can’t separate their work life and their home life. People are having an especially hard time separating the two during the pandemic when they’re working and living in one space. Many clients have mentioned it’s difficult to know when the workday ends and when your own life begins.

Work-from-home burnout might not be easily identified during the pandemic when we’re all experiencing lots of stress and emotional turmoil.

Here are a few other signs to look out for:

  • Losing track of tasks
  • Not meeting deadlines
  • Mood changes like irritability, sadness, or anger
  • Experiencing symptoms of depression, like hopelessness, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, or fatigue
  • Feeling discouraged or apathetic about work
  • Poor sleep, experiencing insomnia, or having trouble falling asleep
  • Coping through alcohol, smoking or other drugs
  • Experiencing physical symptoms like chest pain, headaches, increased illness, dizziness, gastrointestinal pain, etc.

My suggestion is to focus attention on how your body feels. Our bodies give us signals, like joints being tight.

And if you start noticing any of these signs, keep a record of it and monitor it. If they persist, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Timely help when it comes to mental health can go a long way in saving you from long-term issues.

THE IMPORTANCE OF EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE FOR BOOSTING MENTAL HEALTH

The pandemic is proving to be the greatest test of Emotional Intelligence (EI) in us.

EI is the ability to:

  • Manage and channel emotions
  • Create sturdy relationships
  • Maximize positive behavior in stressful situations
  • Develop the ability to utilize positive, self-driving emotions like confidence and enthusiasm, which then lead to affirmative results.

The 5 components of EI:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self Regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social Skills

Below are some helpful tips I have given to my clients in using EI:

A study from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) showed that people who consumed negative news in the morning felt unhappy more than those who consumed positive content. The majority of news shows problems around the world which we have no control over. This leads to a “learned helplessness,” which results in lower productivity at work, as well as poor mental health, like, depression. Give time for more positive news and diversions.

The same study found a link between optimism and higher performance, as optimism tends to promote more productive behavior. It also found organizations that shared positive news and smiles with others led to higher revenue, happier clientele, and greater employee engagement.

Setting some boundaries helps in building motivation. These could include:

  • Using or creating a dedicated workspace
  • Only working during designated hours
  • Not responding to emails beyond your working hours (and perhaps shutting off notifications or removing your inbox access from your phone to make this easier)
  • Taking a lunch break away from your computer
  • Taking a 15- to 30-minute break every day
  • Moreover, I encourage my clients to set aside other time to do things they enjoy, whether that’s playing with a pet, pursuing a hobby, or having dedicated alone time. Hobbies can decrease stress by taking your mind off work or news about the pandemic, and also leads to greater productivity.

Profession specific hacks:

  • Think about investments that went well- The sociability with your colleagues, face to face conversations with your clients, and even in your personal life as well. It’s easy to overlook the little things that happen regularly, but when taken away from us as they are now, one can practice gratitude. When things seemingly aren’t going your way, it’s helpful to focus on all the times when they did work out in your favor and keep doing what you can.
  • Spend time on your own self-awareness. We can effectively work with others only if we can understand ourselves well, our thoughts, our emotional reactions, and our tendencies.
  • As a small step, try spending 60 seconds writing down what you think and feel before you start your day and at the end of the day.

Are you sad, tensed?  You need not solve these or work on them for now—just be aware of your present status.

  • If you are set to meet with a team member, take five minutes to write down what you imagine that person is thinking and feeling, and then a sentence that addresses this.
  • A lot is written about empathy, but few know how to break it down into true steps, train, and be proficient at them. Behavioral scientists have studied this and outlined that it includes mental awareness (imagining you are the other person), communication (what you say, how you say it), and a physical aspect (observation of tone, gestures).

Maintaining social connection is a must, which can be done in other ways like video calling your friends and family, or even setting up a WhatsApp group to simulate office chat. Share with others your own personal worries, concerns, and common thoughts.  It helps in building the last two components of EQ.

EI is important for building a quality client-advisor relationship. The main 3 qualities are:

  • Listen to and acknowledge their clients’ needs
  • Communicate in easily understood ways
  • Show that they respect their clients

Dealing with clients on complex, emotive issues requires significant skill; especially for those who differ in age, education, and background from the advisors.

Use this as an opportunity to reach out to clients, and refocus their attention from negative news and back to the importance of sticking to their financial plan.

Do what you can to help yourself first, but if your situation requires professional help, do not shy away from help.

Some companies, especially larger ones, are offering mental health benefits that they didn’t provide before the pandemic. These include telemedicine screenings, employee assistance programs, and stress reduction programs. If not, schedule an appointment with your doctor or therapist and video chat.

Research has shown that there needs to be a more open discussion about the complex challenges that planners and advisors face when it comes to their mental health –to address the stressful reality in which such professionals often work. They need a framework of support to turn to in their own companies which should be formalized with support staff, training, and other resources on-hand. Maintaining a healthy mental state is important for one’s work performance, now and in the future.

HENCE:

Financial advisors are facing unique and challenging times, but in order to move ahead, they cannot be consumed by the negativity associated with COVID-19.


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