How life events can affect the insurance professional’s stressArticle added by Dr. Jack Singer on July 28, 2014
Dr. Jack Singer

Dr. Jack Singer

Dana Point, CA

Joined: September 30, 2010

Mental health practitioners are trained to examine events that take place in clients' lives, both on the job and off, in order to determine sources of stress. Any and all changes that take place in your life — moving to a new house, the death of a close relative, developing a chronic illness, even taking a vacation — all require psychological adjustments. And the more changes that are required, the more stress results from those demands.

Researchers have determined that each change can be assigned a number of points and the higher total points that one accumulates in 12 months, the greater the probability that that individual will become ill or develop emotional difficulties. As examples, the death of a spouse is the most points (119) and a major job change, such as moving offices or getting more responsibility on the job, is 51 points. Taking a vacation and the adjustments that are required, is 12 point.

So, let’s take an example of a series of life changes for a financial professional. If, during a 12 month period, he suffers decreased income as a consequence of dramatic market challenges (60), struggles with insomnia (26), has in-law problems (38), has a significant increase in arguments with his/her spouse (50), ultimately separates (76), and plans for divorce (96), that advisor would accumulate 346 points in one year.

Three hundred or more total points accumulated in a 12-month period is considered seriously elevated, and is associated with a high risk for upcoming illness (emotional or physical) or accident, both of which would significantly add to the point total. (For a complete list of life change events and their stress point values, contact me using the comment section below.

A producer case study

Jerry recently completed college and took a position with a major insurance carrier, with the goal of eventually developing a career in investment services. Shortly after taking this job, Jerry and his long-time girlfriend moved in together. Two months later, Jerry found himself struggling to retain new clients. Then, during a skiing outing, his girlfriend broke her pelvis and was confined to a wheelchair. This put many demands on Jerry’s limited free time, because she couldn’t get around and he had to drive her to doctor appointments, food shopping etc.

The life-altering event of his girlfriend's accident pushed Jerry over the edge emotionally. He began to look at his life as hopeless and he felt helpless. His symptoms included:
  • fatigue

  • feeling overwhelmed

  • anxiety and depression

  • insomnia

  • anger and irritability

Jerry’s success

I informed Jerry about the life events (change points) research and we assessed how many points he had accumulated as a result of changes taking place in his life during the past 12 months. Although he felt overwhelmed, I showed him how he was basically in charge of how many additional points he would accumulate going forward. You see, other than unplanned changes such as his girlfriend’s accident, he was in control of how many changes he would make.

I went over the research that shows definitively that the more changes one accumulates during a 12 month period, the higher the probability of succumbing to emotional and physical illnesses. Consequently, Jerry began to explore delaying other changes he had planned, such as quitting his job because he felt like a failure, enrolling in night school, etc.

We worked on communications and active listening skills, as techniques for enhancing his chances of landing new clients. He arranged for a car service to shuttle his girlfriend to appointments, rather than having to leave the office to help her, and we worked on communications skills for he and his girlfriend, in order to enhance their relationship.

In a matter of weeks, Jerry was feeling much better, and recognized that although life throws us many unexpected curveballs, one really has control over many changes, such as when to quit a job, when to enroll in school, etc.

Jerry also took my suggestion to find a trusted mentor in his company. This mentor would share his knowledge and successes in the business in a very non-threatening way, so that Jerry could begin to develop confidence in his ability to thrive as an
insurance producer. Soon, Jerry saw dramatic success in his book of business. After a year, he was thriving in his job.

An action plan for success over stress
  • Take care of your emotional and physical health by taking care of changes that you can control

  • Every six months, look at the changes that have taken place in your life. If you believe your “stress points” are high, choose to delay making any further changes for at least six more months.

  • Let go of any resentment you are aware of. Even if you believe you are in the right, holding onto resentment only increases your own stress and it doesn’t solve anything.

  • Set goals that are realistic, so you can feel in control of as much of your life as possible.
In my next article, I will explain how specific job-related stressors for advisors and how they can be categorized to help maintain control.
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