When life becomes uncertain, this is the time to set some routines so that the void becomes a little more tolerable. When it feels like there is a big unknown ahead, the small gaps in the day need to be mindfully filled and the unknown won’t feel so overwhelming. It’s best to lay down stepping stones back to the present moment to prevent getting caught up in worry, scenario planning and rash decisions. The ability to be present is an incredible stress reducer.
When I was planning to leave the corporate job I was in for many years and study Ayurvedic medicine – something that most people I knew had never heard of at the time – I fortified my home practice so that I would be strong when I jumped out into the ether. I was a little religious about this, and started way before I actually left my job, but honestly it helped me from going nuts when I was making a big life change. Another time I invoked such ritual building was when I was preparing for conception. Now, I’m doing it for a whole new reason: I’ve started investing in the stock market.
For years I taught yoga to investment professionals. I had assumed my clients were stressed because of the fluctuations of the market. They were losing sleep, having digestive issues and getting pissed at people easily. I myself had never really invested myself, though, because I was always afraid that I would lose all my money. I had this fear because my family lost our house in the early 90s during a recession. I recall myself at age 15, packing all my belongings, crying and begging my mother not to make us move, and yet there was nothing she could do. We were lucky that my mother’s father owned a home with extra bedrooms because we didn’t end up homeless, just traumatized and ashamed.
Nope, risk taking was not for me. After college, despite the fact that I wanted to go to graduate school, I sought a good, boring job at a stable company because I was so afraid of never having money. I wanted to be practical. I didn’t want more debt because I had a lot of student loans to pay off already. Most of the money I made and didn’t spend, I dumped into savings with a poor interest rate because I was terrified of losing it all.
Now that I am facing one of my greatest fears and learning how to invest, I’m feeling first-hand just how the fluctuations of the market really can affect one’s health, and I’m reminded of the importance of implementing daily routines. I mustered up the courage to start investing because I had a girlfriend who was very savvy and taught me the basics. I have gained and also have made some unlucky (or stupid) decisions and lost money too. I can feel the effects of these financial actions and outcomes on my body.
I went a little nutty and started day trading. I would buy and sell a stock in the matter of a day if I saw it go up even to a small threshold. My idea was to make a little money each day, and that would basically give me an income while I’m writing a book. Investing like this daily affects me greatly, and my constitution is probably not built for that level of risk-taking.
When I gain, I get a rush. It feels euphoric. When I lose, it feels like someone punched me in the gut and then yanked my heart down into my stomach. When I am thinking short-term, I am more reactive, and if I can think longer term, it typically works out in my favor. However, so far it feels like I have been approaching it like gambling. Perhaps I’ll get better, smarter.
Risk-taking is not for short-term thinking, super-sensitive people. I can feel the physical effects tightening my muscles, sabotaging my digestion and driving my mind crazy. The crazier my mind goes, the less likely I am to get a good night’s sleep. If I had other major life stresses, I’m sure I would feel even worse.
None of it is in my control, except what I choose to study, buy and sell.
Now I have a sense of what my investment professionals were going through. Or maybe I still don’t. I don’t know because I’m not in their shoes, but I definitely feel like I can relate even more now. Those guys and gals are tough.
Life transitions and watching an erratic stock go up and down both present challenges to one’s stability. Whenever there is uncertainty, the need for routine increases. This alone is why so many Silicon Valley startups have yoga classes on their employee wellness schedule. Companies that are innovative and move fast, naturally undergoing a lot of intensity and change, need to balance that with stability, routine and flexibility – otherwise workers will start to get too busy, tight and heated up, and they will eventually burn out and get sick. It’s a bit like running a lot of electricity through a wire. That wire needs grounding to sustain the energy.
In addition to setting up yoga or exercise routines, learning how to breathe better and control where your mind goes, the regular rituals you set for yourself are very effective in providing the stability you need to weather turbulent times. Of these, the most impactful are the morning and evening rituals. How you open and close your day matters.
Here are some tips to add into your daily rituals that are designed to give you more calm in times of great change. Try one or all, and adjust to suit your unique situation:
Morning – Focus on intention and structure of day
Wake by 7:00 am (earlier if you are day trading!)
Drink an 8 oz glass of warm water
Meditate and breathe for 10 minutes
Practice three stabilizing yoga poses (tree, warrior 1, downward-facing dog) or another focusing exercise
Make a plan for your day
Wear a piece of jewelry or other accessory that reminds you of your intention
Eat and start your day
Evening – Focus on wind-down and letting go
Drink a cup of warm milk (cow, almond or rice) with a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon
Practice three restorative yoga poses (gentle twist, child’s pose, savasana)
Write down one thing you are grateful for
Apply warm sunflower oil to the forehead and soles of the feet
Gently remove excess oil with warm wash cloth
Finish remaining normal bed care routine
Sleep by 10 pm
Whether it’s daily intensity or undergoing a major life transition, as long you are feeling the winds of change affect you, it’s important to remember the ways to calm the system and be less reactive. Only with a clear and non-reactive mind can you make good decisions in these times, and it’s these good decisions that ultimately reduce the stress in your life.