Five Things to Do When the Stock Market is Scary

The stock market does periodically take a tumble

If there is one thing I’m really good at doing, it’s making thoughtless decisions at the spur of the moment based on my immediate reaction to something else. I do it all the time. I get frustrated or angry when someone does not communicate properly, when others change plans and when things are not to my liking; I’ll then react and it usually does not end well for me. I’m very much a gut-reactor and I usually end up eating my words and doing exactly what I said I’m not going to do because once I’ve had time to calm down and use my rational thoughts, I realize that I either overreacted, reacted to quickly or did not take things into account.

It happens; many of us do it. And while it’s not a good personality trait to have in most situations, it’s especially bad when the stock market gets a little bit scary. We all know that as we invest we can expect good days and bad days. The stock market, as my husband loves to remind me, is a lot like life. Some days everything goes according to plan and I’m a happy camper and other days it seems that everything seems to work against us and we have to make a decision; do we panic and quit or do we push through and remember that tomorrow is another day and we have every opportunity to make it better?

When I wake up in a foul mood and ruin my day for myself with my negativity (something I don’t do so often anymore once I realized that I’m the person in charge of how I feel, not outside circumstances in my life), I don’t divorce my husband because he forgot to stick the kids’ cheer uniforms in the dryer the night before or run away from home because my kids want pancakes instead of waffles for breakfast. I push through and deal. I ignore it and I move on. We all do. Sure, I might have a moment in which I glare at my kids with an expression that says, “Are you freaking kidding me right now? I gave birth to you and then I cleaned your dirty diapers and your vomit out of my hair for years, and now you want to criticize my cooking?” before I smile sweetly and inform the kids that if they want something specific, they have to let me know before I start cooking and not as I’m handing them their meal.

I move on. And that, my friends, is what we all have to do when the stock market takes a scary turn. We expect it from time to time and while we might notice that the market has dropped a bit, we tend not to panic until it seems more like a thing. But even then, we have to remain calm. Remember back in 2008 when the world stopped turning and the economy crashed? My husband and I didn’t touch anything. We left it alone, even though it was really scary. And guess what? We’re glad we did that. We had the benefit of time, youth and plenty of chances to make things right in our investment life, and it worked out for us. But, it’s not always easy to keep that in mind, so here are the five most important things you can do when the stock market turns really, really scary.

Take a Deep Breath

We all need to take a deep breath from time to time, and now is one of those times. Take a deep breath and remember; this is what the stock market does. It crashes, it soars. It does whatever the heck it wants to do and you cannot control it, so ignore it. Remember, you have plenty of assets in many different locations. Not all your investments are tied up in stocks (and if they are, it’s time to start thinking about taking a different route). Take a deep breath and continue with your life without panicking or selling anything.

Get Lost in a Pint

Of ice cream, good beer; I don’t care. You’re not panicking, but you can drown your sorrows in your preferred pint. I prefer to start with some Ben and Jerry’s – the kind that has cookie dough and brownies in it – and then open a nice bottle of wine. Or maybe drink a Mich Ultra (it depends on the weather and the time of day). Either way, I do this and I do not call my investment advisor and start screaming at him to dump everything and save my money.

Call your Mother/Sister/Brother/Best Friend/Minister

You need a distraction and these are great people to distract you. Your mother is going to make you realize that there are more important things in life, like why you try not to call her too much because there are only so many times a week you can hear about how amazing your brother is and how much she wishes you were more like him. Your sister might complain about her own drama and make you remember that your life is pretty charmed. Your brother is probably about to tell you something hilarious, your best friend is going to distract you with her awesomeness and your minister is going to guilt you into volunteering for something. By the time you’re off the phone, you have other things to worry about than a sorry stock market.

Make Like Elsa

And let it go. Let it GO! You can’t change it. The stock market fluctuates every single day. Stop sweating it. Remember, many of us have the good fortune of time on our sides. We are young enough that this won’t have a lasting negative effect on our lives.


Because you’re too uptight if you’re letting a super scary stock market get to you. You’ve seen the history of this; you know it does this. You know it will do it again. You know that tomorrow you’ll probably feel better or next week or next month or whatever. Just remember, relax. Do not make any calls, do not panic and do not make any spur of the moment decisions you’ll regret later.

Photo by Getty Images


Leave a Reply