No matter how well the markets are doing, it is easy to fall into a trading slump. Because it is so hard to get out a trading slump – and because I’m asked about it often – it’s time we revisit the topic.
As a trader, you’re focused entirely on outcomes, which means you’re driven to win every single day. When you’re plugging along and banking some nice wins, all is right with the world. You are confident. You believe in your skills. Your mindset is in a healthy place. The psychology of trading is on your side.
When you get into a trading slump, though, you feel like you are stuck in nightmare that will never end. You begin losing money on trades and hurting your portfolio. Self-doubt starts to creep into your mind. You’ll wonder if you’ll ever make a winning trade again. This is crippling and will often lead to inaction at precisely the wrong time. Of course, the odds are in your favor that you will start winning again, but your mind can take you to the most irrational places. It is very likely that not one positive thought will enter your mind.
I’ve been there. And in fact, I was there recently. I was only able to get out by taking a step back and thinking it all through. I never contemplated giving up on the job I truly love, but I knew I needed to re-calibrate my engines, alter my approach and just get on with it.
When you’re stuck, use the five tactics below to get out of a trading slump. Because they are based on the psychology of trading, they will help quiet your mind and get the ship turned around.
Examine what you’re doing right – and wrong
Self-awareness exercises are a good place to start when you need to break a trading slump. When you’re on a losing streak, your results and account balance will reflect it. Take a moment to understand what is happening and why you are trading the way you are.
I will often look back at recent trades – both wins and losses – to see if there is a pattern. I will use my trading journal, the most valuable tool in my toolkit, to search for clues. Why am I trading poorly? Were market conditions bad? Should I have been quicker on the trigger? Was I trading too much? This self-analysis helps me address any issues and write down corrective steps.
You can go through this exercise when you’re on a winning streak, too, so you can better understand why you’re winning.
Take a timeout
When I’m in a trading slump, I will often take a break from trading. Stepping away is a nice timeout that allows me to reset my mind. Although I may miss trading opportunities during that break, it doesn’t matter. A losing mentality crept into my mind, and it needs to be reversed. Banking one winner may help put me in the right mindset, but I have found that a timeout works much better.
Practice is one of the best way to build confidence. Don’t practice with “real” trades, though. Instead, trade on paper. As you rack up a few wins, you will build confidence. If you lose, look at the notes in your trading journal and think about ways to overhaul your approach.
Learn something new
Read a book or article that has been sitting on your desk. Look through charts to determine scenarios, patterns, trends and direction. While paper trading, explore new trading strategies, like a strangle, butterfly or selling a bull put spread. If you’re successful, transfer that new strategy to your back of tricks.
Talk to someone who has been there, done that
Reach out to another trader who has plowed through a losing streak. I promise you there is nothing embarrassing about it. In fact, you might find someone who is also in a slump, and you can help each other out of it! I often lend an ear to those in a short-term slump, and sometimes a brief chat is enough to lift their boat. Honestly, we have ALL been there. As traders, we are in the same position to win, but sometimes we lose, and there is no shame in losing. Just don’t keep the anxiety you’re feeling inside or things could get worse.
Want to learn more?
We’ll be covering this topic at length during our next Explosive Options webinar on Thursday, August 4 after the close. Webinars are always free and packed with educational content – so sign up today!