What To Do When You’re Too Anxious To Trade

What To Do When You’re Too Anxious To Trade

Trading Blog


December 12, 2020

Anxiety is a real problem that many day traders face every single day. It makes you feel like you can’t do the thing that you like to do, like you’re not good at it, and it’s suffocating.

There may be millions of reasons why one could feel anxious. For example, you could experience a huge unexpected loss because of slippage that made you feel less in control. Or, for example, you could finally reach a milestone that you’ve been working so hard on, and now the probability of losing your progress may be paralyzing.

Nowadays, many people admit that they have some mental health issues. The day trading community must acknowledge them too. After all, traders risk real money every day, which often translates into people’s livelihood. Not recognizing your issues may end up affecting more areas of your life, and that’s just not something that you want to spiral out of control.

Anytime I feel anxious about trading, I like to step back a bit and get some breathing room away from the market. Trust me, I am passionate about day trading, and I love surrounding myself with information and people who focus on trading. However, once in a while, I reevaluate what information I’m consuming and who I’m following.

Block Twitter Traders who only post PnL with no context

Many traders turn to Twitter for motivational posts and tidbits of information on what other traders are doing. However, sometimes these posts may lack substance or context. Yes, seeing that someone has made an X amount of money last month can make you feel inspired to trade better. If someone could do it, you should be able to do that as well, right? But while that possibility is 100% there, you don’t really know the rest of the story. That’s why you could assume a lot of things that are not exactly true. For example, you could imagine that this person didn’t have any dramatic losses. He must have been doing so well; look at this beautiful chart! But what you don’t know is that the person might have had multiple terrible trades that were covered by one good trade.

There’s nothing wrong with having a negative trade, and there’s nothing wrong with making mistakes. However, once you start imagining that everyone is doing great, you start creating unrealistic expectations of yourself. And that’s just not going to help you in day trading. On the opposite, that may bring you down even lower.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not blaming traders for painting a rosy picture and showing off. All I’m saying is that following these posts may not be as informative and helpful as you could’ve hoped. It’s great to see that someone else is succeeding. More power to them! However, if you’re feeling anxious when day trading, and your Twitter feed is full of green PnL charts, it won’t make you feel any better. For me, I’ve made a decision only to follow day traders who post about their good and bad trades alike. And if they post their PnL charts, they provide some context along with it.

Moreover, I don’t perceive day trading as competition against other traders. I do it for the love of the process and not to prove that I’m better than someone else. There are some areas where being competitive is amazing, i.e., professional sports. But in day trading, I’m not losing anything if a buddy of mine wins, and I don’t gain anything if they happen to have a red day. That’s why I think we should pay more attention to strategies, patterns, research, psychology, and real ‘unpolished’ stories of success and failure. An in-depth story that describes how and why certain things happened that led to a particular result will provide so much more value and assurance than an out-of-context PnL chart. 

Stop looking at your own PnL

This idea may seem crazy to you right now, but let me make my case. I stopped looking at my PnL over a year ago, and my trading habits have improved immensely since then. 

The main idea behind it is to approach each trade, each day, each month as a brand new one. You are not influenced by your past wins or losses as much if you don’t have a dollar number attached to it. This way, you’re not trying to revenge trade or surpass your biggest day ever. Instead, you’re letting your ego rest by being in the moment rather than competing with the ghost of your past self.

If you don’t know where to start, start small. Ignore your PnL for one day only and see how you feel about it. You might be unsure of how you did by the end of the day. However, the next day you may experience a sense of relief since you don’t have to do better or make up for yesterday’s mistake. This day is a clean slate. Every single trade is its own, and it has nothing to do with how you’ve been doing this week or month. It feels incredibly liberating, and I strongly encourage you to try it out. And once you get used to not looking at your PnL for a whole day or two, challenge yourself to do it for a week or a month. My goal is only to post it quarterly, but frankly, I’m not there yet.

Follow a single strategy

If you spread yourself too thin, you start feeling anxious. You have to keep so many things in mind, check out multiple plays at the same time, and track so much information! Day trading on a pro-level is already a lot to handle, and all you’re doing is complicating it that much more. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I always like to go back to basics. I turn to my proven setup which gives me the feeling that I’m in control again. If you do extensive research and really know your stuff, there’s gotta be a strategy that feels like home, one that you can execute with your eyes closed. 

Fall back on it for a while to regain your confidence. Don’t go back to experimenting until you feel less anxious. And if you want to test a new setup, use a paper account. If it’s the fear of losing money that triggers the anxious response in your body, playing with paper money should fix that.

If you’ve tried all three steps above, but you still feel just as anxious, take a break from day trading.

Sometimes it is what it is. We all get tired sometimes, and we all occasionally burn out doing what we love. It’s totally normal to want to take a break.

I’m sure that you have some day trading goals that you’ve set for yourself, and not trading for a while may feel like giving up, but that’s simply not true. It’s like blaming yourself for needing sleep!

Plus, day trading is not the only thing that you have going on. You may be studying or working while day trading on the side, and those areas of your life may require more attention. There may be a family matter that needs more of your time or something like the pandemic may just spawn out of nowhere, bringing all kinds of chaos into your life. And if you’re trying to do too many things at the same time and split your attention span in too many directions, you may start feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

If that’s the case, allow yourself to step away from day trading. Don’t go on Twitter, don’t watch the bloggers, don’t open chatrooms and news. Let your mind rest for a bit. And once it’s clear again, get back in with fresh energy and a new sense of power and control.

FOMO is another issue that you may be dealing with, but it’s essential to understand that the market will be there when you’re ready for it. It’s not going anywhere, and plenty of opportunities will still be there in a week, a month, and even a year.

Finding consistency and balance is hard, and it’s a very delicate job. If you feel like it’s slipping away, don’t hesitate to step away and take a breather.

If you want to see how I came to the decision to stop trading for a bit, please watch the video below. I described my train of thought there, and I shared how I felt at that moment. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was definitely the right one at the time. If you’re struggling too, feel free to comment or ask any questions below the video!


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