Why advisers should focus on their mental health

28 August 2018

Given the stresses of the job, many financial advisers could benefit from embracing practices that enhance their mental health, writes Fiona Harris.


Diet and exercise spring to mind when we think of a healthy daily routine. Apparently, a mental health routine is something we should all look to practice too. This means paying attention to how we are feeding our brain and how we are looking after our mental health on a daily basis. Not so odd really when you consider the amount of evidence there is to support the benefits of meditation and the amount we hear about mindfulness.

Lea Schodel is a financial adviser, qualified yoga teacher and chief executive officer of Wellthy. Lea believes that our mental health it is not dissimilar to our physical health and she sees it as an imperative for advisers.

“From a professional sense, being an adviser is a challenging role,” Schodel says. “You’re constantly keeping abreast of client’s needs, as well as industry, technical and regulatory changes, running a business on top of this, or meeting targets or revenue goals can also add to stress levels.”

With advisers stretched to the limit, she believes mental health practices help with focus.

Earlier this year, ANZ hosted its national APEX Inspire roadshow events where 500 advisers participated in survey to quantify mental health.

Aaron Williams, Mindstar’s chief executive officer, found that while advisers reported work as one of the most detrimental forces to their wellbeing, this was not the most surprising result.

“This was no surprise given the uncertainty in their industry,” he said. “More surprising was them ranking their standard of living and relationships seven out of ten, both below the national average of eight out of ten.”

Williams also found, after discussing the topic at the events nationally, that he received emails from advisers telling him they felt stressed, frustrated and out of control. They also felt anger that people didn’t understand what they were going through.

“Advisers are the pointy-end, at the coalface talking to people day in day out about their most stressful issues. They do take it on.”

Williams has put together some tools on his e-Wellbeing Hub for advisers to access.

Training your mind

According to Tomas Jajesnica, who teaches meditation to the big end of town, one of the keys to improve mental health and wellbeing is awareness.

“We’re all aware to some degree, however when we spend so much time thinking, we are not present in the situation that presents itself that moment.”

He says most of our thinking lies in rumination of the past and projection into the future and on average, 47 per cent of the time people are thinking about something other than what they’re doing.

Meditation is a very effective mindfulness tool as it is essentially attention training. Jajesnica explains it a framework that trains the mind to focus on what you want it to focus on, rather than being lost in thought.

“Without this mental discipline, mindfulness is sporadic,” he says.

Taking control

Focussing our attention also gives us more control, and for many of us the lack of control is often the source of stress. Taking back control of a situation reduces stress.

“Mindfulness in essence is about paying attention to, and focussing on the present moment,” says Schodel. “Practicing mindfulness can help us to prioritise tasks, refine our focus and attention, practice compassion and drop expectations and just respond, rather than react to events and situations as they occur. It helps us to create calm and a more balanced nature.”

Being present

Experts say the benefits of making mindfulness a daily practice will include better decisions and being more present in your daily interactions: this means being a better parent, partner and person to be around.

Practising mindfulness everyday doesn’t have to be a big step. Jajesnica advises starting small but starting. “Feeling one per cent better every day adds up and it is the continuity of practice that is the key to success,” he explains.

He suggests scheduling ‘me’ time in each week to refresh and recharge and to use tools such as meditation to train your brain to be calm, focussed and clear are great steps in the right direction.

Getting the basics right is also important. Prioritising sleep at home and turning off notifications to avoid distractions at work helps rest your brain and keep you focussed.

Schodel also says taking regular short breaks, for example, going for a walk or scheduling an hourly stretch into your dairy as a reminder can help you switch from a less stressed frame of mind to a more productive one.

Having fun is important too. Finding that ‘thing’ that you love, that really helps you to really relax is a brilliant way to de stress and re-focus. Whether its sport, art, the beach, music, sleep-ins or time with family and friends, these require your focus and attention in the moment and will benefit your mood so you’ll approach things with energy, recharged and be able to put things into perspective.

“Do more of that,” encourages Schodel.

Five ways to mindfulness success

1. Leave your phone out of the bedroom.

2. Do a digital detox, even if just for a weekend, to give yourself a real break from distractions so you can be in the moment.

3. Take 20 minutes quiet time each day.

4. Practice the 325 breathing technique – breath in for three, hold for two, out for five.

5. Feel thankful – practice being grateful throughout the day or on your way to work.