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Self-care is serious business — and I should know. As a Realtor, business owner, wife and mother to a medically fragile son, there are many demands on my time and energy. The pressure is real, so I am always interested in long-term, sustainable solutions for dealing with stress from the professional to the personal. I need an actionable plan to avoid burnout, a new lifestyle of proactive self-care.

I believe that self-care isn’t selfish — it’s strategic.

It’s also smart.

Here are ways for real estate agents to practice self-care and put into action small changes with big rewards.

1. Increase your energy

Learn to compensate for lost time with high energy. Real estate agents always seem to be short on time. There is always something important to do; it can even feel like a continuous game of whack-a-mole. So if you’re running short on time, which is a finite resource, why not increase your energy?

The two fastest (and cheapest) ways to increase your energy are so simple you’re likely to dismiss them, but don’t.

The first is hydration, which you can start right now. Each person has a magic number of ounces they need each day to perform at an optimal level. For me personally, it is faster and easier to drink copious amounts of room-temperature water versus ice-cold water.

The second thing you can do tonight is to begin working on your sleep routine. The quality and quantity of your sleep is directly related to your energy levels. I have found baby steps in increasing sleep is much more sustainable than a one-time overhaul. Ease into it.

2. Get a sitter

Consider hiring a phone babysitter. I first heard of this idea from Marguerite Martin, when she went on a long vacation. She didn’t have a full-time assistant, so she hired another agent to take her calls and help with her clients while she was away, totally away.

At least a few times a year, even for a short amount of time, a digital detox is needed to reset your brain and body. As 2020 gets underway, why not find a phone babysitter now and set aside some well-deserved R&R for the year ahead?

I’ve found the best way to do this is to book a trip, rent a beach house, buy plane tickets now, so I am less likely to cave and not go because I’m “busy.” I mean, can you imagine a few days without your phone?

If you are one of those agents thinking, “I could never do that,” I hear you. I was once saying the same thing, but your health, your well-being and your ability to sustain success are dependent on how well you recharge.

3. Learn to delegate

You won’t be able to accomplish finding your phone babysitter (or hiring an assistant) to give you a break if you operate your life in control-freak mode. Being a control freak is the No. 1 way to find yourself headed toward burnout.

Consider that there are more than one million Realtors in our country; surely there are people who can help you out? The beauty of delegation is it frees us up to spend our time on the most valuable parts of our business and can help us identify strengths and hidden talents in others.

No human being can be a master of every part of the real estate business. And most importantly, for all the things you can delegate, you can’t delegate your health or your self-care.

4. Plan for chaos

Plan ahead for the busy season because we all have one. Let 2020 be the year you’re no longer surprised when that frantic month or week rolls around.

Get all your doctor, dentist, CPA, financial planners, hair appointments, etc., done at least a few weeks before your busy season, so you can be freed up to work.

If you happen to have a busy season personally on top of a professional busy season, you need to plan extra carefully. I find people who have good work-life rhythms in their lives often get tripped up when things are busy at home and at work, so build in margin if you think this could happen to you.

Do this by blocking out time each week for the inevitable surprises that pop up at work or home. Just like you don’t write on every single inch of your piece of paper — you leave the margins — make sure you do the same with your life and your calendar.

5. Invest in yourself

Self-care isn’t just about avoiding burnout or mitigating stress. It’s also about growing from the inside out. One of the ways I do this is to attend real estate conferences each year to be inspired and also to connect with other agents outside of my hometown.

I invest my time in podcasts that have helped me grow, and I put time and money into building my extensive library of books related to business, real estate and personal development.

I set aside a certain portion of my commissions for my personal education, growth, coaching, conferences, classes — basically whatever I need that year to make sure that when it ends, I’m a wiser, stronger and smarter person than when I started.

In 2020, do you want to attend a conference? Do you want to listen to a podcast once or twice a week? What about every day? Do you like to read? If so, what do you want to learn about this year?

Taking action is what separates leaders from followers, and those who are consistently successful from those who have intermittent wins.

6. Wrap your goals in grace

The hustle culture in real estate can be overbearing, maybe even a little detrimental at times. If you’ve had a particularly challenging month or quarter and you missed a goal or two, instead of beating yourself up or going into the negative-thinking death spiral, what if you wrapped your goals in grace instead?

Realize that you are in control of this part of your life, and you can choose to revise the goal, remove the goal or try to accomplish it again with a new timeline.

We need to make sure we are crushing our goals — and they aren’t crushing us. When I wrote a blog post a few years ago about missing a goal, so many agents wrote to me privately saying how much it meant to them and that they, too, had missed some goals. Two had lost a parent, one had just had a baby after a difficult pregnancy, and one had a marriage that was falling apart.

Set your goals, pursue them passionately, but just know that if you are in a season of loss, pain or broken relationships, you will need an extra dose of grace.

7. Practice the ‘can/can’t control’ exercise

Think about the top two to three things stressing you out at the moment. Draw a vertical line down a sheet of paper and write at the top of the left column “can control” and on the right side “can’t control.”

Note that in the “can’t control” column will be every other person on earth. In the “can control,” you might want to list your attitude, your self-care practices, your work ethic, your mindset, etc.

Once you’ve written everything you can think about and your hand hurts, take the piece of paper and rip it down the middle, right on the line. Throw the “can’t control” part in the trash, literally, and then keep the “can control” part with you so you can always make sure your energy is being spent in ways that move the needle.

8. Remember your ‘why’

Why did you get into this business anyway? Was it to help take care of your family or, like me, take care of a person with special needs while still having flexibility and autonomy?

Maybe your why is related to how much you love real estate, investing, shepherding others through the process or being a trusted guide to your clients in a confusing transaction.

Getting connected to why you do the work is something you should think about regularly. When you get disconnected from why you are doing this hard work, this could be an early sign of burnout.

When you are losing empathy for your clients, that is also a sign. When you dread a listing appointment or sales meeting, take heed.

Maybe you are so stressed by a certain client or deal that you really need to step back and regroup. When you see signs of burnout, take action, because if you don’t, burnout will become a brick wall you’ll slam into. and you won’t have the luxury of taking the exit ramp into the land of self-care.

I hope you’ll put a few of these self-care practices in place because as Realtors, we pay a real price for the emotional highs and lows that come with this industry.

Most agents experience significant swings in financial resources, which isn’t always the most stable feeling. We negotiate complex and high-stakes deals, where outcomes can be life-changing for our clients. A great deal of our emotional energy comes from context shifting throughout the day, making transitioning well a key part of a real estate agent’s success.

Stephanie Lanier is the founder and CEO​ of Lanier Property Group, a boutique real estate firm in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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