The Greatest Asset: Mastering Your Practice with Thomas Droge
At TIFIN Wealth, our “why” is solving for any challenge advisors may experience in their practices and creating solutions to help you grow your business. In our The Greatest Asset series, TIFIN’s Chief Mindfulness Officer Thomas Droge shares how advisors can implement strategies to maximize their impact and wellbeing in their businesses – and in their lives. In this post, Thomas shares three simple steps advisors can take to alleviate stress when helping clients navigate market volatility.
TIFIN Wealth: When markets are volatile and clients are significantly stressed, how do you help restore confidence in the long-term strategy an advisor has implemented?
Thomas Droge: The question is really how do you make somebody feel safe when you can’t actually create a safe environment, because while we all know markets will correct, we can’t change the short-term factors that are causing the stress.
One way to prepare for this is making sure that you are aware of how your clients prefer you communicate with them and then nurture that approach. If you can understand each client’s inherent personality and be able to get ahead of anxiety as much as possible through proactive communication, that will help. And then, of course, there’s the opportunity to go a step further by using technology to personalize and automate that communication.
But if you’re already on the phone with them and have to address an immediate concern, consider reflecting back to them what they need to hear by catching verbal cues. Anyone who’s ever told a romantic partner to “calm down” knows nothing could work less. Instead, hear where the fear is lying within the person, and address that fear directly. If you’re not sure, use active listening and reflect back what you think they’re saying. Feeling heard often helps diffuse anxiety.
TIFIN Wealth: So how can an advisor protect themselves from letting that stress rub off on them?
TD: One of the things that happens when we experience the stress of someone else is that our survival instincts are built to release the same chemicals in our bloodstream, so empathy can be dangerous when it’s misunderstood. Try to understand people, but it’s important to avoid internalizing the experience in your own biochemistry to keep yourself from becoming exhausted.
The solution can be as simple as taking a single physiological experience such as a deep breath. But how you breathe matters: Start by breathing into the abdomen through your nose slowly. When you do that, you keep recentering and reorienting the nervous system to the present moment instead of what’s coming through the phone and Zoom. Even while you’re listening to your client, keep part of your attention on feeling the breath pass through your nose and your abdomen. This soothes your parasympathetic nervous system. Your mind will keep remembering your own body and when you do that, you create a separation between you and the other person.
TIFIN Wealth: What if that stress has already impacted somebody? How can they reset?
TD: If you take on another person’s stress, your cortisol, epinephrine, adrenaline all increase, and various physiological changes take place. Even your vision sharpens as your body is pre-conditioned to get ready to “fight.”
Now clearly you’re not going to actually fight, so what your body then needs is to diffuse the chemicals that created that response. When you’re holding tension and maybe even feeling short-tempered after absorbing a myriad of complaints, then consider what I like to call “The Three 3s.”
The process for diffusing this type of stress works like when you reset your computer with a control + alt + delete, forcing it to take a pause and snap out of whatever was paralyzing it. The first set of “threes” is three deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Then drink three glasses of water – small ones are fine. Then walk up and down three flights of stairs. If you’re pressed for time, replace these actions with three sets of squats.
The way this helps is that the deep breaths balance the PH in your body and oxygenate your blood. Water lets your kidneys start to filter out the stress hormones. A few flights of stairs or sets of squats help you hit an anaerobic load. Together, these simple exercises can help trigger your body out of that initial stress response.
Now you may ask why three is the magic number, which it is for so many things in our minds and across cultures. The mind naturally gravitates toward threes, so doing things in sets of three makes it easy to remember and create a ritual. Rituals are changes in environment or behavior that allow you to codify a message in your mind. So when you say Three Threes, you’ll find that, over time, your mind will automatically go to where it needs to reset.
Thomas Droge is one of today’s leading teachers in the field of meditation and conscious leadership. His methods focus on the tools he has coalesced over the past 40 years from the disciplines of meditation, medicine, movement, and neuroscience. He has degrees in integrative East Asian medicine from the US and China, and is a graduate from Harvard’s Mind Body Medicine program.