How to Relax When You're Always Busy

Unpredictable schedules and client demands will get your anxiety levels up. When you’re on the go at all hours, try these techniques for destressing.

Kim Gellatly feels most stressed during bidding wars. That’s when her emotions — as well as her clients’ — run the highest. She has to keep them calm when they fear they’ll lose the house they want while also managing the pressure she puts on herself to get their offer accepted over others. Unfortunately, she’s finding herself in this position more often than not in her market.

“Most homes are selling within the first few days, so I feel like a lot of agents are really stressed out right now,” says Gellatly, principal broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Lake Oswego, Ore. “I find that in this type of market, agents get almost adversarial with each other when they’re just being protective of their clients.”

To avoid being consumed by stress, Gellatly, who describes herself as “naturally an introvert in a very extroverted job,” tries to find an hour of alone time to do something for herself, such as getting a pedicure or a haircut. “But when I’m getting that pedicure, I’m usually on email the whole time,” she admits.

Finding moments to relax and destress can seem impossible for people who feel they must be on call 24/7. But you don’t need to dedicate hours out of your day to tap into your inner Zen. Small actions, such as practicing breathing exercises, repeating a self-affirming mantra, or eating a healthy snack, can instantly lower stress levels in your body and help you feel more centered.

It’s important to build in recovery time from stress on a daily basis, says Heidi Hanna, Ph.D., a fellow at The American Institute of Stress. She notes that chronic stress raises the levels of cortisol in the body, speeding up “internal wear and tear.” That can lead to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

“The primary factor that elevates perceived stress is a low amount of control [in your life],” Hanna says. She adds that while many people get into real estate because it seems to offer flexibility and control over scheduling, it often turns out that the day-to-day grind can keep real estate pros glued to their phones. Also, she notes, some external stressors are just as destructive. “You can carry second-hand stress from clients who are feeling insecure, making difficult decisions, or experiencing buyer’s remorse. Fierce competition, market shifts, and an unstable economy can also make for unstable footing.”

While some turn to alcohol as a calmer at the end of the day, Hanna cautions that this can actually put an already run-down system under even more stress. Plopping down in front of the TV can also be counterproductive if you’re watching programs that have a tendency to put negative thoughts in your mind.

“Aim to build in activities that don’t just zone you out but actually build you back up again,” Hanna says. “Instead of passing out in front of the television to whatever crime-drama happens to be on or letting the negative news cycle flood through your brain, be strategic about what you’re paying attention to. Watch a funny movie, stand-up comedy, or an inspirational film. Humor has been shown to decrease inflammation and reduce stress hormones, and inspirational messages can help boost positive brain chemicals and restore your motivation and sense of purpose.” (Story continues after the video below.)

REALTOR® Magazine’s July/August guest editor Joe Pryor, broker-owner of The Virtual Real Estate Team in Oklahoma City, gives his tips for maintaining peace of mind in your business.

Kathleen Hall, Ph.D., founder and CEO of The Stress Institute and Mindful Living Network, says behaviors that reinforce your control over a situation can lower stress. For practitioners, that might be actively deciding whether they immediately return a phone call or a text. “When your text goes off, go get a glass of water,” Hall recommends. “Do one thing before you answer a text because it shows that you’re in control.”

Hall adds that responding immediately might feel good, but that’s likely because it’s feeding into a darker side of human nature. “Texting all the time and seeing what emails come in, checking Facebook and Twitter — real estate professionals think this is productive and makes them happy,” she says. “But it affects the addiction center of the brain and causes a low to high level of anxiety.”

Hall suggests following a daily regimen of what she calls the SELF care plan, which includes four groupings of short, calming activities you can do every couple of hours. She advises setting a timer on your phone several times a day to perform one of these four types of actions:

  • Serenity: Run a meditation app on your phone for two minutes, one that uses sounds or visuals you find soothing. “It has to be something you love,” Hall says. “Some people like the sound of a waterfall or the ocean, or they like to see leaves rustling in the wind.” You can also memorize a positive affirmation such as, “I am in control; I am relaxed; everything is as it should be.” But you have to believe your affirmation is true, Hall says. “You can sit in your car before a showing and do this. These things have an immediate effect on your body.”
  • Exercise: This can be mental or physical. Play a game online for five minutes, but make sure it’s playful and creative, not challenging or hard to understand. Otherwise, you’ll add stress trying to figure it out. You can also arrive to a showing early and do five minutes of stretches or walking around the neighborhood to relax.
  • Love: Text or call somebody you care about, such as a coworker or friend, and make plans to meet up or just talk about your day. “When you reach out to someone you love, that reduces stress immediately,” Hall says. Show yourself some love, too, and buy yourself flowers or treat yourself to something you enjoy.
  • Food: This encompasses all five of your senses — food for both thought and nourishment. Pay attention to aromas, colors, and sounds you like and how they make you feel. Avoid sugary or salty foods, and eat items like blueberries and tuna, which help produce serotonin. Spicy foods, if you can handle them, can create endorphins, Hall notes.

Reminding yourself to do one of these four types of activities multiple times a day can create healthy rituals, something real estate professionals often lack, Hall says. “Practitioners lose a lot of rituals because of their schedule [such as] eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner with family or going to bed at the same time every night. Humans have to have rituals because that’s what roots them. So you have to create your own.”

Regardless of whether she follows the best relaxation habits, Gellatly says taking care of yourself is the best way to be able to perform at your best for your clients. She’s learned that there are times where she needs to put herself first. “When I’m on for work, I’m on. And when I’m home, I’m home,” she says. “It’s very tempting to get back to clients right away, but I have to ask myself, ‘Can this wait an hour?’ Unless you take good care of yourself, you’re not really good for other people.”

Are You Effective at Destressing?
REALTOR® Magazine asked its Facebook followers how they relax after a long week of showings, listing appointments, and client meetings. Here’s a few of our favorite responses:

  • “I like to walk in the door and just plop my butt on the couch beside my 10-year-old daughter, put my arm around her, and just listen to everything she has to say!” —Annette Handley, Keller Williams of Central PA East, Harrisburg, Pa.
  • “Plan a trip to the beach so I have something to look forward to.” —Carol Moson, CRS, SRES, RE/MAX Greater Atlanta, Marietta, Ga.
  • “Be thankful and excited. Go home, get a good night’s sleep, and do it again tomorrow. No complaining.” —Brandon Schuppe, Skydan Real Estate Sales, Western Springs, Ill.
  • “Sew, catch up on TV shows, and plan the work week.” —Jayne Hatcher, Georgia Residential Realty, Smyrna, Ga.
  • “Walk the dogs — they are such cutie pies.” —Leanne Goff, TrailRidge, REALTORS®, Lafayette, Colo.
  • “Xbox and wine.” —Angie Shirley, Realty Executives Premier, Valparaiso, Ind.