Strategies for staying calm during financial — and everyday — turbulence

In last month’s article I discussed financial strategies to help you stay calm when the stock market starts to plummet and investors become fearful. Today’s article will provide personal strategies for keeping a cool head when others feel like the sky is falling. These tips are helpful during everyday life – even when the stock market is not plummeting.

REVIEW YOUR PERSONAL GOALS: If you do not have them written down, make a list. There is a saying (of unknown origin) that goes like this: A dream written down becomes a goal, a goal broken down into steps becomes a plan, and a plan backed by action becomes reality. Get specific about your goals, and writing them down is the first step.

WRITE OCCASIONALLY IN A JOURNAL: Write whatever you choose, such as what you want to change in your life, the exercise you want to get during the coming week, or how you can carve out some time for yourself in your busy schedule. Write down the things for which you are grateful. Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough found that people who keep gratitude journals exercise more regularly, feel healthier and are more optimistic.

DISCONNECT FROM ELECTRONICS: If you know you are spending too much time with your smartphone, iPad or computer; set some limitations. If you spend too many hours in front of the TV, turn it off and go for a walk. Change your routine on purpose.

TRY MEDITATION: You can find hundreds of videos about meditation on YouTube. Another source that has become popular for learning how to meditate is The website offers a free trial, and teaches you the basics of meditation. Research (conducted by neuroscientist and psychologist Richard Davidson) showed that after meditating only four months, people experienced a decrease in anxiety, a higher level of resilience and their immune systems became measurably stronger.

SEE FRIENDS AND FAMILY OFTEN: Positive psychology research consistently shows this is the number one way to become happier. Make plans to meet a friend for lunch or dinner. Get a walking or exercise buddy. Plan a trip to visit family members.

EMBRACE CHANGE: We tend to get into ruts, and it is hard to change. Look at what you want to change and commit to trying something new. If you typically eat unhealthy food, try making healthier choices. If you drive the same way to work each day, try a new route.

SPEND TIME OUTDOORS: Nature is truly wonderful and we are blessed in New Mexico with plenty of sunshine and stunning landscapes – so make some time to get out and enjoy it.

READ SOMETHING NEW: Poet Mary Oliver recently died at the age of 83. Much of her poetry is about nature, and she was recently described by the New York Times as “far and away, this country’s best-selling poet.” One of the famous lines from her poem “The Summer Day” is “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” My favorite collection is the most recent, titled “Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver.” Treat yourself to this book, then flag your favorite poems. When you are feeling tired, overwhelmed or blue, her poems provide a healthy dose of calm and solace.

VOLUNTEER OR DONATE TO CHARITY: Many local, national and international charities would love to have your help. Volunteering can provide a sense of purpose, which is another important factor in happiness. Or, donate money to your favorite charity.

DO WHATEVER YOU CHOOSE: What is it you would like? Is it a lazy morning? A day with no commitments, having lunch with a friend, or trying a new creative hobby? Do you want to go to a movie, read a good book, get your hands dirty in the garden, try cooking a new dish or plan a vacation? Do you want to listen to music, laugh more or simplify your life (and learn to say “No”)? Do you want to go to a museum, the zoo, or take a hike in the mountains? Do you want to take a day trip to a nearby town?

We cannot control the U.S. (or global) stock market, the economy or the politics in Washington. However, we have tremendous control over our lives, our experiences and our attitudes. Let’s focus on what we can control, and on staying calm. Let’s focus on our “one wild and precious life.”

Donna Skeels Cygan, CFP, MBA is the author of “The Joy of Financial Security.” She has been a fee-only financial planner in Albuquerque for 20 years, and is the owner of Sage Future Financial, LLC., Write to her at


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