Real estate professionals spend more time in their vehicles than virtually anywhere else. Unfortunately, driving can be an added source of stress, thanks to traffic and interminable time spent sitting.
“When we are driving, we are often distracted, on autopilot, ruminating over the unpleasant interactions of the day, or thinking about the thousands of things we need to do when we get to our location,” says Dr. Supatra Tovar, a holistic health clinical psychologist. “This inevitably leads to anxiety, depression and increased stress.”
The good news though, is that there are many ways to be more intentional about how you spend your time in the car. To help you relax and recharge even when you’re on the go, Dr. Tovar and several real estate professionals have some tried-and-true techniques.
Instead of seeing driving as onerous, view it as an opportunity to unwind, suggests Dr. Tovar. “While you might dislike driving, being stuck in traffic, and sitting too long, you can refocus your thoughts on the beautiful home you are about to show, how happy your clients will be when they see it, the joy of the future sale, or anything else that lifts you up and away from the more mundane aspects of the job. Every job has its downsides, but we can choose whether we focus on that or its upsides.”
Invest in a Car You Love
Owning cars that he likes has made car time “a bit more manageable, occasionally bordering on enjoyable,” says Fletch Newland, a licensed broker at RE/MAX Northwest’s Sound Team Realty in Seattle, Wash. “When the weather is nice and the top is down, I enjoy the wind in my hair as well as the perspective of being a bit more one with my surroundings.”
Cut Down on Car Time With Client
To score some alone time, Deborah Bacarella, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Advantage Plus in Boca Raton, Fla., asks customers to drive themselves to showings. “The newfound time in the car alone in between appointments enables me to listen to inspirational podcasts and pray along with devotional apps on my phone. Then I arrive in a state of peace, ready to do my job as a REALTOR®,” she says.
Plan Ahead and Start the Day Early
“Planning out showings the day before relieves a tremendous amount of stress,” says Jeff Lichtenstein, a real estate agent with Echo Fine Properties in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Stress occurs when everything is last minute, and pressure builds up. For even more peace, he gets in the car as early as 7 a.m., when “it’s quiet, the phone isn’t ringing, and you can plan out your day. This takes care of lots of tasks and follow up that can be knocked out without interruption.”
Carve Out Extra Time
Kimberly Mann, a salesperson with TAMT Homes in Sun Prairie, Wis., always makes sure she’s 15 minutes early when she drives to appointments. “Then, I sit in my car and do a quick five- or 10-minute meditation exercise that clears my thoughts and helps me regain focus. If it’s a listing appointment, I park around the corner so the owner doesn’t see me.”
Put Your Phone on Silent
Working in the car is “where more stress and accidents can happen,” adds Lichtenstein. To avoid texting while driving, he puts his phone on silent. “A notification message that you’re driving tells a client or fellow REALTOR® that you’re not available, and people respect that.”
Use the Time to Plan
With two young children at home, Amanda Zachman, founder and executive director of MV Realty in Delray Beach, Fla., “takes advantage of the quiet” and thinks about the tasks ahead of her and how she will accomplish them. Matt Salit, a real estate agent with Century 21 North Homes in Lynwood, Wash., agrees, sharing that he drives in silence often. “With a newborn at home and the phone going off all day, sometimes the quiet is all I need to recenter myself and go through my to-do lists so I’m not stressing about them.”
Seek Out Local Delicacies
Sometimes, it takes a little incentive to make long car rides a little more bearable. To entice himself to drive, Salit heads to top restaurants and food shops in various cities. “By making a tradition of stopping by each time I’m in the neighborhood, I look forward to certain candy and coffee shops,” he says.
“Mantras are a form of mindful meditation where you repeat a calming word or phrase to illicit a relaxation response,” says Dr. Tovar. She suggests “I will arrive safe and on time,” “I am in the flow,” or “all is well.” The repetition of a mantra keeps your brain focused as well, rather than ruminating on something or spinning out on negative thoughts.
“Controlled breathing—especially if your exhale is longer than your inhale—helps to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, or your rest-and-digest nervous system,” explains Dr. Tovar. “This is the opposite of your sympathetic nervous system, your fight-or-flight nervous system—which is often activated when we are stressed out while driving.” She suggests taking a long inhale for four counts, holding the breath for a count, and exhaling for six counts. “Doing this for even just a few minutes is enough to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which can be immediately calming and relaxing.”
Take Frequent Breaks
More research speaks to the negative effects of sitting for long portions of the day. Additionally, the car isn’t always the most comfortable place to sit. Take breaks between long trips to stretch your limbs and get the blood flowing. “Get out of the car and walk around for a few minutes every hour or so to keep your energy levels up,” suggests Boyd Rudy, associate broker at Dwellings Michigan in Plymouth, Mich.
Learn Something New
Keeping the brain active and engaged is a great way to try a mastery activity, suggests Tammy D. Allen, PhD, a University of South Florida professor of psychology. “Time in the car could be used to practice foreign language skills or other skill development activities delivered through an audio course.”
Even if you’re not the next pop star, it’s worth giving your vocal cords free rein in the privacy of your car. Singing is known to provide a wealth of health benefits, including lowering cortisol levels, helping you stay in the moment and releasing feel-good endorphins. “I love to sing, and so, when I need a break … I will often crank up the radio and belt out tunes,” shares Mann. “This takes the focus off any stresses and allows my brain to relax long enough to rejuvenate.”
Listen to Music, Podcasts and Audiobooks
Andrew Smith, a real estate associate with Houlihan Lawrence in Riverside, Conn., relies on the “calming sounds” of the Sirius Spa channel to help him relax his mind and think more rationally, even if he’s still thinking about his next appointment or how to respond to a client.
To unwind, Mann favors podcasts or audiobooks on topics completely unrelated to real estate, like murder mysteries. Meanwhile, Ronald Wadsworth-Fontes, branch manager at The Brokery in Phoenix, Ariz., alternates between real estate and wellness podcasts.
“Actively employing any mindfulness technique can turn your drive into your own personal self-care routine,” says Dr. Tovar. “You’ll have carved out precious time to take really good care for yourself. When you take good care of yourself, you take good care of your clients and you increase your chances of a joyful sale.”