Did you know that your physical and mental health (or lack thereof) can have a huge impact on your trading?
Just think about it: when your body and mind aren’t working optimally, you’re probably not trading at your best, either. To be a successful trader, it’s vital to attend to basic needs like exercise, rest, and proper nutrition.
Ready to invest in your well-being? This guide to physical and mental health for traders is designed to help you form healthy habits that are necessary for a long-term, healthier career.
Table of Contents
Why Talk About Physical and Mental Health?
It can be tempting to think that trading is a numbers game that exists in a vacuum. Sorry … not the case.
Your trading is interconnected with everything else in your life. Going through a breakup? Didn’t get much sleep? Skipped breakfast and had a candy bar instead? It’s all gonna affect your trading.
If there was ever a good case to be made for self-care, it’s that it can actually make you a better trader!
Think of what they say on airplanes: you must put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. That doesn’t make you selfish — if you don’t help yourself first, you can pass out before you can help anyone else.
Attending to your personal well-being is just as important. You can’t hope to be successful as a trader if you’re failing to meet your most basic needs.
Tips for Physical and Mental Health and Trading
There’s no way around it: trading requires long periods of sitting and inactivity. This can be trying on the body and the mind.
You’ve probably noticed that after a while, all that computer time can start to strain your eyes … your back … and whether you realize it or not, your brain, too.
If you simply try to push through and keep working, you’re likely to end up stressed out at best or totally burned out at worst.
Want to strike a better balance and improve your health and your trading? Here are some things to consider.
In the current tech-heavy age we’re living in, few professions require much physical activity. Trading might be one of the more extreme examples of sedentary positions, though.
As a day trader, you’re not running around on the NYSE floor. You’re mostly on your computer, reading charts until your eyes bleed. You’re already dealing with stress … why add aches, pains, and brain fog to the mix?
Exercise can help.
For one, exercise increases blood flow. Not only is this good for every system in your body, but it also means that you get better blood flow to the brain. Yep: exercise can help you think better.
That’s not just anecdotal. Let’s consider the hippocampus. No, that’s not some sort of college for zoo animals — it’s the part of your brain that controls emotion, memory, and the nervous system.
Studies show that exercise can expand the hippocampus, enhancing its function. So your morning jog or HIT session can really help you trade smarter.
Mental acuity aside, exercise can just make your body feel better. All the hunching and crunching over your computer screen can make you feel bad physically. Exercising helps you work out the kinks and gives you an all-important break from the screens.
There’s an emotional element at play, too. Physical exercise can help you attain a better emotional balance … And as you probably already know, emotions can be a trader’s worst enemy. Exercise can help you keep them in line.
Best of all: exercise doesn’t have to take a ton of time or cost you an arm and a leg for a gym membership. Check out this post for simple ideas on staying fit while trading.
With your car, good quality gasoline and regular oil changes help keep your vehicle in good working order. So give your body the same respect and fuel it well.
The saying ‘you are what you eat’ is true –– literally. What you eat is metabolized into energy that helps keep your body and brain working. So what kind of fuel are you choosing for your body?
If you’ve got your eyes glued to tickers all day and only taking time-outs to chug energy drinks and eat candy, you’re not setting yourself up for long-term trading success.
In recently released data based on 245,891 surveys, researchers concluded that subjects on a junk-food diet had a much higher likelihood of experiencing serious psychological distress. So if you’re loading up on french fries, candy, and soda, how do you think you’ll react during a short squeeze?
On the other hand, according to research, a healthy diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may help support cognitive processes and help maintain the function of synapses and brain plasticity.
You get it, right? Food has a powerful impact on your trading. No, you don’t have to be an extremist and go on a restrictive diet or go all vegan (or full carnivore) or anything like that. But it’s smart to avoid the junk and focus on healthy, nutritious food … It really can have a positive impact on your trading.
The right diet for you will depend on a variety of factors, like where you live, your activity level, and your personal preferences. See a doctor or nutritionist to really work out the best plan for you.
Oh, and it’s worth stating: don’t fall into the trap of just snarfing a sandwich at your trading desk. Taking a break – even a short one – to actually eat a meal can improve your digestion. And it’s a great opportunity to squeeze in a mental break … and help you keep crumbs off the keyboard.
It can be hard to make time for trading when you have a 9–5 job. You may need to stay up late or wake up early to make time for studying. But you still gotta make sleep a priority.
According to research, missing as little as one and a half hours of sleep can have an impact on your alertness … so think about how a lack of sleep could affect you over time. But that’s not the only thing that can potentially go wrong. A lack of sleep can also lead to impaired memory, greater stress, and increased risk of automobile accidents.
Not to mention … not enough sleep makes you cranky. It can put stress on your relationships, make you moody, and keep you from working at your best.
On the other hand, what could happen if you do get enough sleep? Research shows that sufficient sleep can help increase your focus, creativity, and might just make you smarter. What trader couldn’t use a little more intelligence?
It’s not always possible to get enough sleep. On those days, you can make up for it in part with a power nap. Per the National Sleep Foundation, a brief nap in the early afternoon can help increase awareness.
Even a brief 20- or 30-minute snooze can help clear the slate that is your brain, helping you release extraneous information or worries and make room for new information.
We’re conditioned to think that we’re only productive if we’re busy. But really it’s quite the opposite.
When you’re sitting at your computer for hours at a time, there are diminishing returns. At a certain point, you might notice that you’ve just been staring at a chart for 20 minutes and not doing anything.
Don’t forget to take breaks!
Taking breaks can give you a mental break. And that can help you come back to trading refreshed and with a new perspective. A break can also serve as a much-needed pause that can help you avoid making spur-of-the-moment decisions about trades that could lead to mistakes and losses.
Even a short break can have a huge impact. No, you don’t want to walk away from your monitor during a big spike where you’re holding a position. But during quieter times or aftermarket hours, make short breaks a priority to help you stay productive and focused.
What do Kobe Bryant, Steve Jobs, and Oprah Winfrey have in common? Crazy success … and meditation.
Some traders think that meditation and mindfulness are a waste of time. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
For one, taking a brief time-out is in and of itself beneficial. But adding meditation or mindfulness practices to the mix can help you take your trading to the next level.
There’s no right or wrong way to meditate. Maybe you spend five minutes visualizing success and attaining your goals. Maybe you just take a break from typing, breathe deeply, and observe your thoughts. Or maybe you just take a moment to be thankful for all of the advantages and good things you have in life.
Mindfulness breaks can help you get in touch with what’s going on in your body and mind. Taking the time to do this can give you greater insight into what makes you tick … and what holds you back.
By simply taking the time to sit still, you can actually take big steps toward breaking down the walls that hold you back from attaining success. But on a more immediate level, it can reduce stress and make you feel calmer. Just about everyone’s mental health can benefit from that!
You know what they say about all work and no play…
Yes, it’s important to be dedicated to trading. That means studying, making and maintaining your watchlist, performing detailed stock research, and maintaining a trading journal to monitor your progress.
These things take time and effort. They’re important … but it’s also important to have a life. Otherwise, what are you trading for? Without a life, you won’t even enjoy any of the profits you make.
Without a good work-life balance, you may start to harbor resentment that can affect your trading, relationships, and overall quality of life.
So yes, it’s important to be disciplined as a trader. But it’s also important to make time for family, friends, and overall enjoyment.
Trading can be challenging … save yourself time and effort by letting StocksToTrade do some of the heavy lifting. Here’s how STT can help you out:
- A focus on education. StocksToTrade Pro is our extensive trading community where you can pursue a trading education with a community of like-minded traders. Mentorship matters, and this community is a great place to get up to speed with trading.
- Awesome scanning capabilities. You should be scanning the markets every day, but that doesn’t mean it needs to dominate your life. StocksToTrade has awesome charting and scanning software to make things like creating and maintaining a strong watchlist a breeze.
- Practice! The stock market is ever-evolving … and your methods need to adapt. Our paper trading module is the perfect way to test out new strategies without stress.
- Technology is on your side. Have you checked out StocksToTrade’s awesome service powered by Oracle’s super-smart algorithms? It can help you find great trades faster!
The Final Word on Physical and Mental Health for Traders
Remember: trading is a marathon, not a sprint. Like a marathon runner, you’ve got to have endurance. That means taking care of your body and mind so that you have the long-term energy to stay on course!
If you pursue trading but neglect your physical and mental health, you’re putting your body and mind in a stressful state that could negatively impact your burgeoning career.
While making time for mental and physical health might take away from your screen time, it’s vital so that you can make the most of the time you do have for trading. It can also help reduce burnout, which could put an end to your trading career fast!
Remember: trading is a long-term prospect. You need to create a strong foundation as a trader so that you can do it for the long term. Taking care of your basic needs is part of that strong foundation.
How do you take care of your body and mind while trading? Leave a comment!
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