A decade of volatile markets, regulatory clampdowns and client dissatisfaction make it a stressful time to be a financial advisor.

“The first time my own confidence was shaken was the hardest for me as an advisor,” says Sonia LeRoy, owner of the LeRoy Group in Ottawa. “It was just after the tech bubble burst, in 2000. Following that was the first real persistent negative market I had advised through. My own lack of confidence in my clients’ financial plans almost froze me.”

LeRoy turned to her mentors for advice, and they suggest she reach out to experts and re-educate herself on investment principles. “I continue to spend a lot of time meeting with mutual-fund managers, investment counsellors and others in the industry to garner investment ideas, risks and opportunities,” says LeRoy. “About 20% of my time is dedicated to my own education. If I understand and believe in what I’m doing, I can handle just about anything.”

Advisor or psychologist?

Advisors often find themselves handling a slew of clients’ problems—financial or otherwise.

“Sometimes when you meet with clients – especially for the first time or during a crisis – you feel more like a psychologist,” says Judith Cane, owner of Antara Financial Group in Ottawa, Ont.

She notes the last five-to-ten years, which have seen an aging client base and volatile markets, have created more than just financial stresses. Canadians must live with health problems “that would have killed them 25 years ago,” says Cane.

For many, it means navigating the murky waters of things like homecare assistance and condominium regulations if they’ve downsized, which can include complexities around liability, ownership, and financial obligations. The trend of extended adolescence means young retirees often have to care for adult children as well as their parents, adds Cane.

Six years ago — even before the economy started to dip – she began looking for ways to help reduce clients’ personal stresses. Cane soon found she was spending hours searching for resources on the Internet, and counselling clients on issues outside of her expertise.

It impacted her own health. “It was stressing me out to no end that I wasn’t able to fix these problems,” Cane admits.

Women more prone to stress

“Women – more than men – open themselves up to stress,” says Tammy Scantlebury, an occupational health specialist at Nordion in Ottawa. “Women are socialized as caregivers. We take on that nurturing role almost instinctively.”

In 2010, 23.5% of adult Canadians reported that most days were “extremely or quite a bit stressful,” according to Statistics Canada. The number spikes to 30% for adults in the core working-age group of 35 to 54, with women reporting stress in their daily lives more frequently than men.

Short-term symptoms of stress can include headaches, insomnia, digestive problems, aches and pains, short-temperedness, and lowered self-esteem. Left unresolved, long-term stress has been linked to everything from heart disease to cancer.

Cane, for one, realized she had to change.

“About five years ago, I began putting together a comprehensive list of resources for my clients,” says Cane. “[It included] social workers, health workers, lawyers, clinics, and their contacts. But I stop at providing the information. It goes a long way to helping my clients, [and] I no longer spend hours and hours worrying about their personal lives.”

Stress relief

1. Get organized – Make a list of your stresses and determine which are within your control. Knock off smaller issues first. From there, sort your calendar. “Build flexibility into your day and week,” says Scantlebury. “Realizing things will pop up in your life to derail you. Accounting for that possibility in your schedule will help you to better manage new stress.”

Rather than stack her calendar with back-to-back appointments, LeRoy meets with colleagues and mentors each week, and continually educates herself and her clients.

“Education helps people get through the downturns without feeling total despair,” she says. “The more they know, the more likely they are to stay invested in a way that doesn’t potentially blow their financial plan.”

2. Relax – Take stretch breaks throughout the day. And don’t underestimate the power of a vacation. Every March, LeRoy goes on a mother-daughter ski trip to rejuvenate after the busy RRSP season, followed by a retreat to her family maple sugar bush near Haliburton, Ont.

3. Take care of yourself – The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep per day to feel rested. Eating a healthy balance of protein-rich foods and fruits and vegetables will keep you energized. “Avoid high-sugar foods and caffeine, which give you a short boost, but sap your energy in the long-run,” says Scantlebury.

4. Connect with others –Teresa Black Hughes of Rogers Group Financial, Vancouver, volunteers as a board member for a local Christian outreach mission. “Some people say I’m not very good with work-life balance,” says Hughes with a laugh, “but I maintain my own focus and perspective when I’m helping people at the most basic level.”

Not surprising, says Scantlebury. “It helps to share stresses, talk openly with your support network, and simply to connect with other people,” she says.