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Stephanie Lanier’s real estate career started from a moment of fear and desperation: Her 19-month-old son’s mild twitches spiraled into a more serious set of symptoms that included purple lips and mild unconsciousness. A battery of tests revealed her son, Oliver, had a rare genetic disorder that would require life-long care.
While staring at a $17,000 MedEvac bill, Lanier said she jokingly told herself “she needed to start selling drugs or real estate” to take care of Oliver’s needs. With that, Lanier left her career as a therapist and started her life as a real estate agent.
“I needed a business that would allow me flexibility [and] unlimited financial opportunities because we had all these bills,” she told the Connect Now crowd during a self-care session with Inman Global Head of Community Laura Monroe. “And honestly, [I needed] something for my sanity — I was watching him have seizure after seizure [and] I was losing myself.”
Fast forward nine years later, and Lanier has become one of North Carolina’s top real estate agents and a self-care advocate through her online collective, The Inspiration Lab.
“As they say in the South, ‘No grit, no pearl,'” she added. “Part of how you get to be strong, wise and capable is your hard experiences — hardship is not wasted unless you allow it to be,” she said.
Here’s what Lanier had to say about coping with stress and using hard moments to create a holistic self-care regimen that boosts resiliency and productivity:
Be proactive about self-care
During the early days of her son’s diagnosis, Lanier said doctors immediately asked about her self-care plan. “A lot of our doctors asked us, ‘What is going to be your self-care plan?’ because they knew what was ahead by listening and accepting a lot of people who’ve been down this path before.”
Lanier said agents must think about self-care as an integral part of their lives, not just something they do when life begins going off the rails.
“Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s strategic,” she said. “I want to teach people how to have the self-awareness to know when to hit the brakes before hitting the wall; because if you’re waiting till you hit the wall, it’s so much harder to put the pieces back together.”
“What’s selfish is to keep running into the wall and then creating the wreck and the disaster, and then everybody’s got to keep putting it back together,” she added. “Our industry is driven by the time and energy to show property [and] go out be with clients, [and] when we’re not well, we can’t do that.”
Move past the bubble baths
For most people, the prevailing image of self-care includes bubble baths, spa days and shopping sprees. Although those things are nice, Lanier said agents need to think about self-care beyond one-off indulgences and consider the everyday things they can do to support their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
“With self-care, we’re bringing a pair of scissors to cut down the jungle when we need a machete,” she explained. “[We have] little kid scissors, trying to hack back at all the stress and we don’t have the right tools. You can’t go on a spa day and hack back stress from six months of just being at your absolute max capacity.”
For those who have a hard time practicing self-care, Lanier said the best place to start is by getting enough sleep.
“If you sleep well, it is a force multiplier in your life, meaning that you will get a disproportionate positive effect on everything else,” she said. “I don’t love to exercise. I like to go for walks but I’m not a big exercise person. I eat okay and I’m super big on hydration. I’ve picked the different things that kind of work for me.”
Lanier said she used to do 5 a.m. workouts at the behest of productivity experts and gurus. However, those workouts left her depleted, so she began skipping the early-morning sessions and sleeping in a little later so she’d be well-rested and ready to take on the day.
“Sleep is something we can all do and we all have to do so we can thrive,” she added.
Create an environment where it’s ok to ask for help
Beyond her own self-care efforts, Lanier said she’s taught her team how to ask for help when they’re feeling overwhelmed. The team uses a one-to-10 scale to describe how they’re feeling, with one being totally relaxed and 10 being completely stressed.
“This is not some sophisticated scientific thing. It’s just something I came up with,” she said. “Sometimes [members of] my team this year have said ‘I’m a 12.’ I think that’s when a team leader has to step in, lighten the load and figure out what needs to happen.”
During those overwhelming moments, Lanier said she references a “deets about peeps” questionnaire all of her team members filled out when they joined her team. She uses that list of their preferences to brighten up their day with a bouquet of their favorite flowers, a few bars of their favorite candy or play their favorite songs in the office.
“We really love to customize solutions to the team to figure out what helps and how do we care for people?” she added. “People feel loved in the details.”
Lastly, Lanier said she’s created a culture where agents are encouraged to ask for help and not feel nervous about being shamed or being accused of not pulling their weight.
“I think the self-care motto is not just about optimism and positivity, but about the reality that life is hard,” she explained. “I have a sick child, and I have a company to run and we have [to deal with] COVID. Like, yes, it is hard, and that is why sometimes you’re a 10 or 12.”
“That is okay, that’s human,” she added. “When you’re a two and somebody is a 12, then you help each other. But if you’re not raising your hand when you need help, we can’t help you.”
Embrace the tough moments
Lanier said her passion for self-care came from painful experiences that she’s embraced and learned from.
“I know the things to give people because I’ve been in those dark places, and I’ve received that [help],” she said. “There’s actually great wisdom in that humility and allowing ourselves to be loved and in the awareness that we’re not superheroes.”
“Sometimes I think in real estate, as women, we’re running around like Superwoman, but the cape is choking us,” she added. “We’ve got to untie [the cape] and take it off for a minute.”