By David Rosenblatt, Psy.D., MarketPsych
Working with the criminally insane requires both focus and flexibility.
Laughter rings out down the hallways; alarms sound over the loudspeakers. If work is to be done I must choose with care when to fully engage with this maelstrom and when to retreat into my mind to create a plan.
The first part in this four-part series on stress management for traders introduced three cognitive realms that can be controlled:
- mental exercise
Today we continue to explore how flexible focus can help you take control of your mind and boost your returns.
We already learned that varying your eyes’ focal point helps reduces eyestrain and fatigue. Endorsed by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the nattily named “20/20/20 Rule” suggests that every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away. Following this simple rule will also help keep the mind loose and limber.
Now let’s address the elephant in the room: screen time. Defined as viewing computer monitors, cell phone screens, or televisions, Americans spend nearly eleven hours a day looking at screens. Too much screen slows processing speed, hurts mood, and degrades eyesight. In the extreme, the brains of teens addicted to Internet gaming have been found to shrink in volume. In short, too much screen time can lead to faulty focus, slowed speed, attenuated attention, and poor judgment.
The negatives of too much screen time don’t stop there. A sedentary (seated) lifestyle combined with mindless eating and drinking means weight gain.
Sensing shoddier performance, people often turn to caffeine and other psychostimulants. However, these substances can cause jittery nerves and impair sleep. Too much caffeine can make the mind brittle.
In addition to the “20/20/20 Rule,” here are some practical ways to deal with the cognitive and physical strain of increased screen time. Every hour take a five-minute break to stretch, go for a walk, or talk with a colleague.
The Mayo Clinic recommends stretches at your desk such as:
- Pull your arm across your chest
- Pull your elbow down your back
- Open your arms wide
- Roll your head
- Stand and touch your toes
This 5-minute break will give your eyes and brain a chance to change focus for a while. It will also get your blood pumping and reinvigorate you. The hourly break will combat mindless eating or drinking, helping to maintain healthy caloric intake and reducing the need for caffeine. It all supports focus and mental flexibility.
Remember, you can take control of your psychological well-being to boost your returns. In the next article, we’ll learn why it is important to respect the night as a time for relaxation and reality.
This is a Hedgeye Guest Contributor piece written by David M. Rosenblatt Psy.D. Dr. Rosenblatt is an investor coach for MarketPsych, an expert in stress management, and an avid individual investor. Additionally he works with the California Department of State Hospitals treating Mentally Disordered Offenders. He may be contacted with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. This piece does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Hedgeye.