After 35 years of stockbroking for some of the biggest houses and investors in Australia and the UK, the Secret Broker is regaling Stockhead readers with his colourful war stories — from the trading floor to the dealer’s desk. This week he turns his attention to dealing with the side effects of stress.

Nowadays, every week seems to have a theme and this week it was mental health — something which has touched us all in one form or another.

For me, it was seeing the damage that a stressful job can do to the mind (and liver) and how some of us seemed to cope better than others.

For starters, Our Master the Stock Market is the most bipolar soul you will ever have an intimate relationship with.

We used to say that you always knew what mood it was in at the start of the day, but you would never know what mood it would be in at the end of the day.

And our mood cycles would sync with the markets. On up days we would be high, and on low days we would get depressed. On weekends we would get bored and not want to get up or go out.

The best way to cope with stress was laughter mixed with camaraderie and this, of course, involved alcohol. Lots of it.

Having a good group of friends in the same industry would allow others to pick you up when you were down and vice versa.

Then, in the 90’s, American Banks arrived on the scene and with that came their culture.

Interviews were held in an office, not the pub. And medicals were conducted by a doctor, and not decided on how many drinks you could carry from the bar to the table.

To give you an example of how we would cope, when one of our group got headhunted by an American Bank (for double his salary plus a Porsche), we were all very supportive, in our own special way.

After his second interview he was sent to have a medical.

After all the usual tests the doctor asked him about his alcohol consumption, so he told her. The doctor said: “That’s not too high for a week” and he replied “no, that’s a days’ worth”.

She then lectured him for half an hour on drinking that much alcohol every day. After that, he came out a reformed man.

He decided to cycle to work as this would keep him fit, and meant he had an excuse to avoid the standard after work drinks.

So, Monday arrived, and his shiny new bike was proudly padlocked to the railings outside the office.

That night we all bid him goodnight as he disappeared in the lift wearing his helmet and bicycle clips. Five mins later he appeared back. Someone had stolen his saddle.

“Don’t worry,” we said, “come and have a beer” and we commiserated with him. See, we gave him our support when he was stressed.

The next morning, he arrived to find both pedals had been stolen. Next day the front wheel had gone. By the end of the week, all that was left was a shiny once-ridden bike frame chained to the railings.

Unbeknown to him, we had been paying the maintenance man to remove bike bits every day and hiding around the corner to watch his reaction.

At his leaving do (turned out his daily drinking habit was the lowest), we all arrived wearing bike helmets and bicycle clips on our trousers and made sure that bits of his bike were scattered around the pub.

We even arranged for a girl to chat him up and when he thought he was in; she produced his bike saddle from her handbag and asked him if she could use this on him.

Man, did we all laugh.

I could not tell you what the market did that week or if we all made money or lost our shirts.

Every day going to work my face would ache from laughter and it still makes me laugh today writing about it.

And that’s the point. You need a distraction from your stress and laughter is the best distraction. Research shows that children laugh on average 300 times a day (pre-mortgage) and adults average about 15 times.

Turn off the news, ditch the newspaper and watch something funny and see if you can get your average above 15 this weekend.

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