If I told you I wanted to write about the Great Depression, I’m sure your mind immediately jumps to the market downturn that began in 1929, or maybe the Great Recession that started in 2007. These two events were devastating to the U.S. economy and average investors. But that’s not what I want to discuss. Instead, I want to talk openly about the prevalence of stress and depression among workers in the financial industry.

Unfortunately, this is something no one talks about, but it’s commonplace in our industry. Financial advisors report stress levels that are 25% higher than the norm for U.S. workers. The job can take a mental toll, and I’m sure others have experienced it too, if they cared to admit it.

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Emotional well-being has been an aspect of the job that I’ve found myself ashamed to discuss, especially as an African-American woman because of the stigma.

While I truly feel there are many wonderful benefits to what we do as a financial planner and business owner, emotional well-being has been an aspect of the job that I’ve found myself ashamed to discuss especially as an African-American woman because of the stigma.

I’ve thought no one else could possibly be going through the same mental roller coaster or engulfed in the doubts surrounding the impostor syndrome, where you question the validity of your accomplishments, experience and expertise. It manifests itself with me striving to be superwoman.

When I first got into the industry, I was extremely excited because I was doing what I told my college journal I would do — helping individuals manage and grow their wealth. One of the things I didn’t consider was having to deal with my own fears and anxiety around money.

I’ve had to examine my emotional state and been challenged to pull back the layers to uncover the true source of my anxiety and stress. Some were deep rooted in my childhood and others have manifested themselves because of circumstances that just occurred in life.

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Did you know that the suicide rate for those working in the financial industry is approximately 1.51 times that of the average worker?

In understanding depression, I learned it is a mood disorder that affects how you feel, think and handle daily activities. In fact, it is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. and if not properly treated, it can lead to major psychotic breakdowns and suicide. Did you know that the suicide rate for those working in the financial industry is approximately 1.51 times that of the average worker?

So how can you manage depression?


Take breaks: I’m very grateful to have a circle of friends and colleagues that I can confide in to discuss personal and professional issues I may be facing. One friend suggested that when I get frustrated with daily activities, client and account management, growth campaigns and management of my business, to just quit for a day or two. Take a break away from it all to relax, decompress and rejuvenate from all the stresses. In doing so, I’ve found that it has given me permission to focus on me.

Exercise: I’ve heard this so often over the years: it’s important to exercise. I can’t say that I love it but I have found that it helps me to gain mental clarity and stabilization of my mood swings. That’s what motivates me to stick with a regular exercise regime. When I don’t, my family and I notice it.

Ask for help: A while ago, I was listening to a webcast that was extremely impactful on me. The webcast was an interview that discussed an advisor’s journey in building his business. When he openly admitted to some of the emotional issues he’d dealt with throughout his career, it helped me accept that I need to seek professional help when life becomes too overwhelming, and I feel the world is caving in on me. I realized the importance of having someone provide techniques and strategies for managing life stresses and traumas has been a game changer for me and has provided me with the courage to share my story.

Be grateful: Finally, I’ve learned, as Oprah highly promotes, to foster an attitude of gratitude for who you are, your uniqueness and accomplishments. Take time to write down the things in life you are grateful for and then reflect back on this on a regular basis. I even recall a colleague of mine who wrote gratitude moments on a piece of paper and dropped them in a jar. Visually seeing your gratitude moments in the jar can be empowering and inspiring.

Each day, I recognize that life is too short. Tomorrow is definitely not promised. You have to make the most out of every precious moment, whether it’s a challenge or victory.

Zaneilia Harris

Zaneilia Harris

Zaneilia Harris, CFP, is the president of Harris & Harris Wealth Management Group in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Follow her on Twitter at @hhwealth.