Top Tips to Beat Trading Anxiety

OK, so it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post and that’s not because I’m work shy I can assure you.  But I’ll get into that later on.   What I really want to address today is Trading Anxiety and yes this really is a problem.  For those of you that have suffered from or are still suffering from Trading Anxiety you will completely understand why this is such a big problem.  It can get you all different ways…


What is Anxiety?

Well the dictionary has two very good definitions:

  1. A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.
  2. Strong desire or concern to do something or for something to happen.

That just describes trading in general doesn’t it, “uncertain outcome”, “a strong desire to do something” enter or exit a trade. And looking “for something to happen” waiting for the market to either go our way or take us out.  That explains the Anxiety when we’re trading.  So why can some people trade through it while others succumb to the feelings of anxiety and make rash decisions?

And this is the real question because if we look closely at the definitions, it’s obvious that every person, every trader will feel anxious because of the conditions that trading imposes upon us.


What are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

Thanks to the Mayo Clinic for supply this information.  Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

I certainly recognize quite a few of those when I first started Trading.  The first time I walked away from Trading was because of Trading Anxiety.  Of course at the time I had no idea what it was or how it was affecting me.  My view of the problem was that I couldn’t sit still in front of the charts when I was in a trade.  And it didn’t matter if I was winning or losing the trade the level of anxiety was the same, I tried walking away from the charts, I tried to keep busy.

But that was just like putting a band aid on a 6” inch knife wound… doesn’t work.


What Causes Anxiety?

Well according to Medical News Today:

Anxiety disorders have a complicated network of causes, including:

  • environmental factors, such as stress from a personal relationship, job, school, finances, traumatic event, or even a shortage of oxygen in high-altitude areas Hospital Anxiety
  • genetics
  • medical factors, such as the side effects of medicine, symptoms of a condition, or stress from a serious underlying medical condition
  • brain chemistry
  • use of or withdrawal from an illicit substance

Excessive anxiety is most commonly triggered by the stress of day-to-day living and any combination of the above. It is usually a response to outside forces, but it is possible that anxious feelings can emerge from a person telling himself or herself the worst will happen.  Anxiety can result from a combination of one or more of the above. For example, a person may respond to stress at work by drinking more alcohol or taking illicit substances, increasing anxiety.

Some of which I agree with and some of which I believe to be very limiting.  Those of you familiar with my way of thinking will know that I don’t believe that there is anything that is out of our control.  But again, I will come back to that later.

We are however beginning to build a picture and an understanding as to why some people can trade through the anxiety and some can’t…

If trader A lives in the hood, is in a poisonous relationship, works long hours with little reward, had to leave school at a young age to support his family, is in debt, and it’s only 3 weeks after losing his parents to cancer.

While trader B lives in the leafy suburbs, has a strong marriage with a wonderful close family, owns his own business that has been systemized so that they only nee do a couple of hours a week, enjoyed college, has savings and other investments, and none of his close friends or family has ever suffered an illness let alone a death…

Which trader do you think might suffer from anxiety and make poor trading decisions?


What Really Causes Anxiety?

So, now you can see how your life can affect your trading.  If your life is making you anxious then you will transfer that into your trading which by definition is already a stressful, anxiety causing environment.

The problem being with the list above is that it cites factors out of our control sometimes, does that mean that we can’t control our anxiety because we can’t always control our lives… My belief is NO!

Being a person, whose anxiety got so bad that he felt anxious even when just surrounded by close family… a person whose anxiety got so bad that he couldn’t physically swallow food, not even with a drink.  To the person I am now proves that anxiety can be controlled under any circumstances if you just understand what really causes anxiety… YOU DO

It’s not the environmental factor that makes you anxious it’s your perception of that environmental factor.  It’s a stop gap, a means to an end, it’s not forever.  The people are nice and friendly.  If you are not in a position to change your environment, choose to look at it differently.

If you’re in a bad relationship… get out.  The anxiety you feel is to the unknown, not feelings towards your partner.  If you don’t like your job, change it.  Get new knowledge or skills or just take a course.  Do something, it’s the staying stuck that makes you anxious.  Even just writing out a plan can relieve anxiety.

I learnt that anxiety is our subconscious telling us we are under prepared, our subconscious can only alert us it can’t talk to us.  So, it gives you a feeling, anxiety.  If you listen and take steps the anxiety goes away, as the subconscious feels that its job has been done.  However, if you fail to listen and you keep doing what you’re doing, then the subconscious just thinks you’re not paying attention and increases the volume on your anxiety.  Which shows up as those symptoms above.


9 Ways to Reduce Anxiety Right Here, Right Now

Pyschcentral have put this together for helping if you are suffering now:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Accept that you’re anxious.
  3. Realize that your brain is playing tricks on you.
  4. Question your thoughts.
  5. Use a calming visualization.
  6. Be an observer – without judgement.
  7. Use positive self-talk.
  8. Focus on right now.
  9. Focus on meaningful activities.

These are all very good methods to calm you down and relieve the anxiety you may be feeling at present.


Preventative Methods

Here’s where I fall out with the medical profession, I’m not sure if it’s because no one wants to cause offense, or upset people.  Or if I’m feeling really cynical, I feel that the medical profession now backed by pharmaceutical companies spends all their time tying to fix the result and not the cause.

If you’re in pain take a pain killer.  If you have indigestion take an indigestion pill, and the list goes on and on.  And yet they always seem to gloss over the side affects of the pills that are often worse than the original problem.  Why are we not concentrating on fixing the cause rather than the result?… MONEY

My point being is to try and fix the cause of your anxiety rather than getting pills so that you can deal with anxiety, because the pills are addictive and have more side effects than anxiety.

A good start is to change your diet and remove some well-known anxiety heightners (may have made that word up, but I like it)

  1. Caffeine                                            Drinking Anxiety
  2. Artificial and refined sugars
  3. Gluten
  4. Processed Foods
  5. Alcohol
  6. Dairy
  7. Soda Drinks
  8. Fried Foods
  9. Fruit Flavoured Drinks
  10. Foods high in sodium

For a more detailed description please check out the article at fox news.  And yes, I do practice what I preach… the only one that I do occasionally use on that list is dairy.  And I feel so much healthier, I have so much more energy, I sleep better and I don’t suffer from anxiety any more.

That’s not to say I never get anxious, I’m human and it’s a way our subconscious communicates with us.  The difference now is how I handle it.  Self-talk and regular exercise work for me, while watching what I eat and drink.

The result is quite simply no more Trading Anxiety, no more rash decisions and no more emotional over-rides…

I can sit in front of the charts all day watching my trades going against me and have no reaction…

That’s the difference between someone who can trade and someone who wants to trade.


For more Information

If you want to know how your life is affecting your trading you might want to check out my articles on stress…

Stress (part 1)

Stress (part 2)

And if you want to know if you’re too stressed to trade, please feel free to take our detailed test that will help you understand where you need to make changes right now to increase your chances of trading success.

If you want to make your trading as stress free as possible, I would suggest you-

  • Write out your rules…
  • Follow those rules mistake free.
  • A mistake being to not follow your rules, if you have no rules everything you do in the market is a mistake.
  • Back test those rules so you get to know the system and have confidence with it…
  • Trade it and make money.


If you need help feel free to contact me at or visit our website


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Callum McLean

Co-Founder and Trading Psychologist at Special FX Academy
Trading Psychology Coach and Certified NLP Coach. It is my belief that trading is 99% Psychological. And it is by understanding and improving your psychology, that you can be a successful trader. Success is a formula that everyone can and should learn.
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