Psychologist Jo Earl

Advisers struggling to deal with stress in their personal and professional lives have been urged by psychologist Jo Earl to look after their own physical and mental well-being so that they are better equipped to help others.

Speaking on a webinar facilitated by the Financial Planning Association and hosted by Portfolio Construction forum’s Graham Rich this morning, Earl stressed the importance for people in ‘helping professions’ to refrain from neglecting themselves.

“Its hard to help someone put on their oxygen masks without having one on yourself,” Earl said. “So take a minute, listen to what the voice in your head is saying to you.”

Earl revealed that her own internal voice has a habit of telling her that she’s not good enough. “I replaced it with – I’m doing the best that I can,” she said.

One of the strengths of the financial planning profession was that advisers tend to put others before themselves, she explained.

“It’s a strength and it’s what draws you to your profession, but its also a weakness,” Earl continued, explaining that often advisers are “crap” at self-care.

“I’m sure you’ve got your own challenges. You might have been carefully curating a plan for a client that’s quickly unravelled by an unexpected spate of unemployment [or] people’s retirement plans might be hijacked by lower than expected returns,” she said. “You might feel like your carrying a very heavy load but what you can do best for yourself and your clients is exercise self-care, not just physical but mental health.”

And don’t feel the need to always wear a smile, she advised. Vulnerability shouldn’t be a bad word.

“Don’t buy into this toxic positivity thing that says you’ve got to be happy all the time,” Earl said, adding that stress is completely normal. “Stress is a pain in the neck, it’s a pain in the heart and it’s a pain in the ass. And it won’t go away on its own, you need to do something to break the cycle.”

The psychologist suggested using coping strategies to deal with stress, and avoiding drinking. “The only person turning to a bottle should be a genie,” she said.

Set up a schedule and sleep properly, she added, noting research from Harvard Business Review that indicated people in Australia are working an average of 48 minutes longer per day when working from home.

“And keep talking to people,” she said. “Stay connected to each other.”