Burnout is similar to burning your skin. There are different degrees of severity and the worse it is, the longer it takes to recover. It’s a common problem, but it doesn’t have to derail you, states Jared Tendler, Author, The Mental Game of Trading.

In some cases, you know burnout is coming and you are really just trying to delay the onset of it. For instance, if you know the markets are going to be closed next Monday and you have a three-day weekend to look forward to, you might just be trying to hold on a little longer. But when you are really and truly burnt out, there is only one answer. You need time to recover. 

Many of you went into trading because a “normal” job wasn’t that appealing. But because you still think in terms of nine-to-five work, you underestimate the mental demands of your profession. Your role as a trader is more akin to a professional athlete or performer than to a normal nine-to-fiver. Why? Because just showing up isn’t going to cut it. You are paid based on your actual performance. Which means you have to show up in good mental condition or it will cost you money.

Imagine how different the corporate world would be if employees were paid on a daily basis based on their performance. The mental demands would be significantly greater, and burnout would be an even bigger problem than it already is. Which brings us back to you. Since many of you lack the appreciation for the mental demands of trading, burnout is a common and often hidden problem.

Unfortunately, the best time to identify the signs and key factors is after an occurrence of burnout. As a starting point, think back to a previous time of burnout and map this problem like you would any other. Next time you’ll be able to take steps just prior to reaching that point.

Let’s take a look at what burnout tends to look like so you’ll have an easier time spotting it.

Mild Burnout

With mild burnout, you might not have the same kind of energy to do your normal premarket prep, or you’re having a harder time staying out of marginal trades. The sooner you recognize that you’re starting to get burned out, the sooner you can address it with some small adjustments. But you need to know the signs.

When burnout is mild, there are some simple things you can do to recover: prioritize your cooldown, diet, exercise, and sleep. You can also spend some time socializing, enjoying hobbies, or doing something fun that is not overly mentally stimulating. These small steps can help you delay burnout and, in some cases, avoid it entirely.

Major Burnout

On the other end of the spectrum is when you have major burnout. Now, the idea of trading stresses you out and feels overwhelming. Trading, the thing you love to do, has begun to feel like a chore or a burden. For some of you, that alone is distressing—how can you not want to trade?! But you simply don’t have the energy.

If you want to prevent severe burnout like this, you need to know the signs that indicate you are getting close. For some traders, that means reaching a point where their emotions are too intense and they can no longer control them. Others notice their discipline is shot and they can’t seem to follow standard risk management rules. 

Also, keep in mind that any mental game problems you already have are intensified by burnout. Sure, you may know the root cause of your problems, but when your mind is weakened by burnout you lack the strength, clarity, and poise to execute your mental game strategy and fight for progress. Emotional volatility is higher, and emotions accumulate at a faster rate, which means you have more emotion to handle and less mental strength or willpower to battle it. As a result, your performance drops.

If you reach this point, your only option is rest. I know that’s hard to get yourself to do. Even though you don’t make money when you are not trading, you also don’t lose it. You can’t push through forever. You need to take some time off.

End Short-Sided Thinking

If it feels wrong or irresponsible to proactively schedule time off, do the math on what happens if you don’t. How much more do you make from your days off if it results in improved performance on the days you are trading?

Thinking that taking days off only costs you money is short-sided thinking. Change your perspective to that of an athlete and think about how you get paid for days off when they help you to perform better and more often, and when that leads to greater learning and improvement.

Jared Tendler, MS is a leading expert in trading psychology. His clients include institutional firms and independent traders from around the world. Be sure to check out his highly acclaimed book, The Mental Game of Trading. To learn more about Jared, visit his website: jaredtendler.com