The commission lawsuits, high interest rates, the lack of inventory, and dramatic increases in the cost of living, have added an unprecedented amount of stress to each of our lives, over and beyond what you face daily in your real estate career. If you’re ready to reduce the stress in your life this holiday season and throughout 2024, here’s what to do.
The physiology of stress
When you encounter a stressful situation, your body responds in one of three different ways: “fight” (confront the problem head-on), “flight” (flee the situation), or “freeze” (deer in the headlights phenomenon.)
When you experience what is known as the “fight or flight” phenomenon, your adrenal glands release adrenaline which prepares your body to fight or to take flight from the situation. Simultaneously, your body also releases cortisol which increases the glucose supply to your muscles creating an immediate source of energy. Non-essential functions such as digestion are paused, with all resources being directed to coping with the source of the stress.
Unfortunately, few people how dangerous extreme stress can be. Adrenaline and cortisol are your body’s response to a major threat. For example, if a pedestrian walks in front of your car and you just miss hitting him, massive amounts of adrenaline and cortisol are released. Your heart is racing, your blood pressure is up, you may be trembling, while still experiencing the terror about what almost occurred.
According to Healthline, when you’re under constant stress, this response doesn’t always turn off:
Long-term exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can negatively affect almost all of your body’s processes. This can increase your risk of health issues such as heart disease, lung issues, obesity, anxiety, depression, and more [cancer].
Sadly, many agents are constantly running on adrenaline as they rush to appointments, gulp down coffee, and try to do too much in too little time. The result is that they put themselves in an ongoing flight or fight situation which also exposes them to dangerously high levels of cortisol, which in turn impacts their health.
Couple this with the times you may be caught up in a situation over which you have no control such as a natural disaster, serious illness, loss of a loved one, etc. Most people today are constantly at risk of experiencing the negative physiological effects of stress.
14 ways to reduce stress
Here’s what you can do to break this vicious cycle and minimize the stress in your life and your business.
1. Reduce adrenaline
When you’re stressed out, you attract clients who are stressed out. A good place to begin is by reducing the adrenaline in your life by eliminating the caffeine in your diet.
Caffeine is a stimulant. In larger doses, caffeine can result in the jitters, lessened ability to concentrate, increased anxiety, and insomnia.
Caffeine also behaves like many other addictive drugs; the more you take, the higher your tolerance becomes. You can tell if you’re addicted to caffeine by going without it for 24 hours. If you get a headache, that means your body has become addicted and has built up a tolerance.
To wean yourself off coffee or tea, begin by replacing your full cup of caffeine with ¼ cup of decaffeinated, then ½ cup, then ¾ cup and then completely off. Chances are you’ll feel less stressed, and you’ll sleep better at night as well.
2. Listen to music that makes you feel good
Music is known to have stress-reducing effects, and numerous studies have revealed it can fight depression and lower blood pressure. The type of music that is most beneficial to reducing stress are songs that make you want to snap your fingers along with the beat or get up and dance. The reason for this is that these songs are bringing both your left and right brain into synchrony.
This is the state where peak performance occurs, and stress is at a minimum. You can’t experience fight or flight when you feel like dancing.
By the way, if you haven’t heard the song “Weightless” by Marconi Union, it was ranked as “the most relaxing song ever,” based on research conducted by Mindlab International.
3. Reduce your exposure to vicarious trauma
The news cycle thrives on negativity. When you see the images coming out of Israel, Gaza and Ukraine, the devastation from natural disasters, mass shootings or even violent movies, experiencing a strong emotional response is common. While the logical parts of your brain know these events are not actually happening to you, your body still has the same physiological response as if it is.
Consequently, turn off the TV, the raging podcasters and radio show hosts, and only read the news in print. The Donut is a great place to get the highlights of the news you want to hear.
You’re much less likely to experience fear and stress when you limit your exposure to any source that produces a flight or fight reaction.
4. Dump what is non-essential
One of the best ways to create more time each day is by dumping non-essential activities. Whether it’s a whiny client, office gossip, a friend who always laments about all the problems in his or her life, or any other potential energy-waster, a simple “no” or “I have another appointment” (even if it’s with yourself) is your best strategy to create more time for you and reduce your stress.
5. Focus on your top 3 most essential business activities
Follow the 80-20 rule: The top 20 percent of your activities produces 80 percent of your results. The bottom 20 percent produces only about 1 percent of benefit. Eliminating that bottom 20 percent translates into a full extra day of space in your schedule.
An excellent way of doing this is to decide which three activities you need to complete today to maximize your business and close more transactions.
It’s also important that any time you’re considering saying “yes” to a new project or obligation, decide which activity you’re willing to give up first before you add anything new. This is one of the best ways to filter out what is and what is not important.
6. Have a problem? Deal with it now
No matter how uncomfortable or ill-timed it is, deal with problems immediately. If there’s a sticky problem that you’re having trouble resolving, write down all the potential solutions, select the best approach, and then let it go. Needlessly rehashing the problem doesn’t accomplish anything except increasing your stress level.
7. Schedule your time off first before scheduling business activities
Failure to schedule your personal time off first almost always results in your business encroaching on your personal time. Treat these appointments at the same level you would a listing appointment — don’t miss them unless there is no other option.
If you do miss taking time off, reschedule the appointment. If you’re having challenges with this, begin by scheduling at least one weekend day off from your business at least twice a month. This day is for you to enjoy either alone or with loved ones.
8. Engage in extreme self-care
Strengthen your immune system by adopting the pillars of healthy living. Do your best to eat well rather than eating junk or comfort food, get extra sleep, drink plenty of water, exercise, and engage in activities that you make you laugh or smile.
Second, end your day by 7 p.m. at least two weekdays per week. This means no phone calls, no emails — no work of any kind. This is your time to recharge with a relaxing meal and with activities that make you feel good.
Third, schedule at least two activities you find to be relaxing and/or enjoyable. Whether it’s reading, meditating, exercising, working in your garden, hiking, taking a long bath, or having lunch with a friend, these times are critical to creating a better quality of life and reducing your stress. Remember, fight or flight cannot exist when you’re experiencing an activity the makes you feel good.
Making time to do what you enjoy not only reduces your stress, it also energizes and balances you.
9. Reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease
Have dinner with your family or with someone you care about at least five times per week. Dr. Paul Pearsall’s research with heart transplant patients has shown that those who regularly have dinner five times per week with friends or loved ones have 50 percent fewer heart attacks than those who eat alone. When you’re laughing with those you care about most, you are lowering your stress, especially if you’re doing it in person.
10. Create a supportive environment and avoid those who engage in toxic behaviors
While you can’t always avoid toxic people in your family and at work, minimize the time you spend with them. Also, if you voluntarily spend time with those who are making poor life decisions, the impact on you can be much more detrimental than you may realize.
To illustrate this point, according to research from Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego, obesity is contagious and can spread through social networks.
“What we see here is that one person’s obesity can influence numerous others to whom he or she is connected both directly and indirectly,” says Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, a professor in Harvard Medical School’s Department of Health Care Policy. “In other words, it’s not that obese or non-obese people simply find other similar people to hang out with. Rather, there is a direct, causal relationship.”
11. Express gratitude daily
Each day, no matter how difficult the day was, write down at least five things for which you are grateful. Whether it’s a huge win or something as simple as noticing a bird’s song or a butterfly flitting through the air, noticing the simple joys can make a major contribution to having a great life outside work and having lower stress levels.
12. Help ‘someone’
Study after study has illustrated that helping others increases our well-being, makes us feel better about ourselves, and reduces our stress. Granted, you can’t change the world, but as former President Ronald Reagan once observed, “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”
13. Go out of your way to be courteous and kind to everyone
Challenging times call for us to be at our best and to go even one step further. When everyone is feeling additional stress, minor things can trigger major reactions. Do your best to avoid adding more stress to what others may already be experiencing.
14. Put a smile on your face
According to the June 2019 Psychological Bulletin, researchers combed data from 138 studies that tested more than 11,000 people worldwide on how facial expressions affect emotions. They found that smiling makes people feel happier, just as scowling makes them feel angrier, and frowning makes them feel sadder.
Furthermore, according to the American Heart Association, laughter helps decrease stress hormones and boosts your immune system. It floods your body with beta-endorphins, a key neurotransmitter that blocks pain and makes you feel good. It also reduces stress.
By the same token, when you smile at someone and they smile back, their smile releases beta-endorphins in their system, making them feel better. It’s the equivalent of giving them a virtual hug.
If you’re ready to start reducing your stress levels, it makes no difference where you begin. Focus on eliminating as many sources of stress as possible, minimize your exposure to people and events that can cause a fight or flight transaction, express gratitude, help others where and when you can, and keep laughing and smiling now and throughout 2024.
Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateC