How I'm getting myself through the financial crisis: when a bear market affects emotional capital there are ways to restore your personal bottom line.

Author:Kuhn, Robert Lawrence

First, a disclaimer. The global financial crisis has engendered a great deal of serious suffering across our country and around the world, and what I address here is a minuscule and perhaps inconsequential subset of it. But it is the subset into which I and many readers of Chief Executive fall, and the principles we discern may help broader groups.


We are the psychologically damaged: those whose financial losses, though substantial, do not affect our families' lifestyles or our personal careers, but who nonetheless feel personally diminished by the decline in our net worths.


What are some symptoms?

* Checking stock prices addictively, multiple times a day, especially if we hardly ever trade. The telltale sign is how we feel when we haven't checked prices in a while. Do we begin sensing a pressure welling up, so much so that we cannot continue our normal work until we check the Dow again, even if we just checked it less than an hour before, and even if almost nothing we might learn could cause a change in behavior? It is much like someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) might feel if trying to restrain himself from yet again washing his surely clean, red-raw hands.

* Second-guessing oneself--the coulda-woulda-shoulda routine--and doing it frequently. Playing over and over and over again the steps one might have taken--selling this or that investment, not investing in this or that company--all with the acuity of perfect hindsight. This is another OCD-like behavior.

* Depression, modest or otherwise. There are diverse signals: changes in eating habits (under- or overeating); insomnia and/or oversleeping; abnormal fatigue; extra sensitivity to rejection; disinterest in work or hobbies; mood swings or exaggerated emotional responses to normal situations; feeling sad, lonely or hopeless; diminished work drive; diminished sex drive; going through the motions of anything (say, work or sex) devoid of usual passions.

I could go on, but better, now, to move on to some remedies. These prescriptions are not the only ones--everyone has different circumstances and personalities. Consider these a starter kit.

Recognize Relativity. Our sense of "satisfaction" is perceived relatively, so that how we feel is measured as a dynamic comparison, not an absolute condition. A person who just lost $1 million of her $10 million invested in the stock market will feel worse than a similar person who just made...

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