With real estate professionals’ schedules filled seven days a week from morning to night, managing the day-to-day can be overwhelming. Stress levels have been further elevated by the global spread of COVID-19, which has affected people’s health, businesses and financial situations. Not to mention, social distancing and shelter-in-place orders also have people grappling with isolation, uncertainty and to some extent, a sense of grief and loss.
All of this leads to chronic stress, which translates to stress hormones (like cortisol) lingering for too long in our circulation. Research shows that high levels of stress can negatively affect the immune system, cause inflammation, heart disease and premature aging, according to a New York Times article published October 2019.
However, there are ways to combat these issues, stay healthy and maintain productivity. Here are five strategies I find helpful in reducing stress so you can continue to be your best self, especially during this unprecedented time.
1. Create a routine
First and foremost, it’s important to develop a daily routine. Map out your main responsibilities to help envision what your day will look like. In addition to outlining each day’s tasks and goals, don’t forget to implement a routine that includes sleeping well. Not getting a good night’s sleep means your body won’t get the critical recovery period it needs to function each day.
Make sure your routine includes time for yourself. Fill that time up with reading books, studying a new language or taking a course online. Take advantage of these next few weeks to improve yourself, especially now that you’re spending more time at home.
I recommend taking time to meditate everyday. Meditating allows you to calm your thoughts and give your brain a break. Get your mind to stop thinking of the things you are afraid of, especially in times like now when things are uncertain.
Meditating in the morning allows you to start your day with a clear and calm vision. At night, if racing thoughts keep you from falling asleep or cause you to experience a restless sleep, try simple breathing exercises and meditation to settle the mind and restore your body.
3. Practice visualization
Visualizing your day will help you concentrate and allow you to focus on the good things in your day. It’s a great way to get your mind to focus on positive feelings and thoughts. Visualization also generates energy. Most of us go through the day using a bullish approach, thinking if we work the full eight to 10 hours, we’ll get more done. Instead, productivity goes down, stress levels go up, and you have very little energy left over for your personal life.
Exercise is a great way to release “feel-good” neurotransmitters in the brain called endorphins, which act as “natural painkillers and mood elevators,” according to Harvard Health.
One way to infuse exercise into the workday is to schedule breaks throughout the day such as walking around the office, stretching at your desk or doing a gentle breathing exercise. If you concentrate on work for 60-90 minutes, followed by a brief period of recovery, you can clear the buildup of stress and rejuvenate yourself to get through a long day.
5. Put down your phone
Another element that can cause a higher level of stress is technology. According to a 2019 New York Times article, our cortisol levels become elevated when our phones are “in sight or nearby” or even when we hear it or “think” we hear it.
During this time, we’re conducting every aspect of business virtually. We’re spending more time glued to our phones — while we eat, sit at our desk, socialize and even as we lie in bed before a night’s sleep. To reduce stress, take a mental break, and put down your phone.
Try taking a tech-free lunch break, or schedule a 10-15 minute walk without your phone. When this isn’t possible, try to bring nature in by looking at calming photos, or sit by a window with natural light. Research has shown that looking at images of nature, such as trees, has helped people lower heart rates and recover from stressful episodes.
Santiago Arana is a managing partner at The Agency, in Los Angeles. Connect with him on Instagram.