As businesses shutter, borders close and the world’s population stays indoors to self-isolate during this global pandemic, people are facing unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety—from worrying about their health, families and finances to an uncertain future.
Lack of contact with the outside world is particularly stressful, especially for extroverts. Many REALTORS® tend to fall into this category. You like working with people, so self-isolation can be particularly difficult. While it’s possible to conduct business from home through video chats and virtual open houses, it’s not quite the same as meeting clients face-to-face.
An infectious outbreak like COVID-19 causes stress on many levels. According to the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), this can include fear about your own health and those of your loved ones, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, worsening of chronic health problems and increased use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
“Stressors such as the risk of illness associated with a pandemic will affect people differently,” according to a CPA fact sheet. “We can be affected psychologically (for example, feeling worried), as well as physically (for example, sleeping poorly). Stressors that are beyond our personal control are especially difficult to cope with well.”
Here are some ways REALTORS® can deal with stress and anxiety during these unprecedented times:
Seek out credible sources of information
We’re inundated with information about COVID-19 thanks to television and the internet. But there’s plenty of misinformation and fake news being spread on social media—which, for example, has resulted in people drinking bleach to ‘kill’ the coronavirus—so be wary of anything you see on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Seek out credible resources of information such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health Canada and trusted news outlets.
You can also stay connected to the REALTOR® community in Canada and see what CREA is doing for your business by visiting our resource hub: What REALTORS® Should Know About COVID-19. Learn more about current guidelines and resources available to you, including the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Emergency Wage (CEW) subsidy.
Cut back on news and social media
While it’s important to stay informed, it’s also important to limit how much time you spend going down the coronavirus rabbit hole. It’s easy to spend hours reading the latest updates, watching news clips, scanning threads on Twitter—all of which increase anxiety. WHO recommends limiting media exposure to twice a day (especially for those already prone to anxiety).
Get off the couch
Exercise is one of the best ways to combat stress and anxiety. Indeed, it reduces the body’s stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, according to Harvard Health, while stimulating ‘feel good’ endorphins in the brain. Of course, keeping active can be difficult when you’re cooped up inside the house. Walks and runs are still permissible—just make sure to stay at least two metres away from others. There are also plenty of online workouts you can do in the comfort of your living room, from HIIT training and bootcamps to yoga, Pilates and dance. FitnessBlender offers more than 500 free online workout videos, Nike Training Club provides free workouts and nutrition advice to its community of “living room athletes” and MindBody livestreams workouts from studios in your community.
Tell us about your favourite at-home work out in the Comments below.
Keep up healthy eating habits
Increasing anxiety levels could lead to stress eating (and stocking up on pantry supplies means there’s probably more snacks around the house than usual). While it’s important to cut yourself some slack during these difficult times, eating healthy foods ultimately helps to reduce stress and shore up your immune system. Oatmeal, for example, can boost serotonin, a calming brain chemical. Also keep in mind that too much caffeine could make you even more anxious.
Avoid substance abuse
While some people turn to potato chips, others turn to alcohol or cigarettes to deal with their increased anxiety levels. “This may appear to help reduce stress initially, but in the long run can make things worse,” according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). “The brain and body develop a tolerance to the numbing effects of these substances, and people have to compensate by using more and more. That leads to additional harms and often delays the recovery from the stress.”
Take care of your brain
Just as important as exercise and nutrition is the state of your mental health. Meditation, deep breathing or relaxation techniques can be immensely helpful, even for those who’ve never done it before. While there are several formal meditation practices, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to meditate. But for those who prefer some guidance (and a sense of community), apps like InsightTimer and Calm can help keep track of daily progress. There are also forms of ‘moving’ meditation such as yoga, walking and even washing the dishes.
Practise good sleep hygiene
Sleep schedules can go by the wayside during self-isolation, when the hours and days and weeks start to blur together. With increased levels of anxiety, some people may have a hard time falling asleep; others may oversleep. CAMH recommends keeping a consistent sleep schedule, practising relaxation or meditation before bedtime and scheduling physical activity earlier in the day. ‘Sleep hygiene’ means keeping your bedroom dark, the temperature cool and avoiding TV or screen time before bed.
Connect with others
Even while self-isolating and social distancing, staying connected—at least virtually—with family, friends, even clients is critically important for mental health and wellbeing. Take it a step beyond text messaging, whether through a phone call, video chat, virtual happy hour or online pajama dance party (there are plenty of video chat services available, like Zoom, FaceTime and Skype). It’s also a good way to stay connected with clients and offer virtual open houses.
If keeping busy helps you cope, you can focus on doing things to grow your business like updating your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, listening to real estate podcasts or creating social media content.
Seek out formal supports
There are more formal supports for those who need them, such as online support groups, distress lines and app-based self-management tools. Anxiety Canada offers self-management strategies for anxiety on its website, as well as the MindShift CBT app that uses cognitive behavioural therapy for “mental health relief.” The Canadian Mental Health Association also has a self-directed course called Bounce Back Online to help manage low mood, stress and anxiety. If in crisis, contact Crisis Services Canada online or by phone at 833-456-4566.
These are difficult times, so it’s important to take care of ourselves and one another as much as we can, so that we can all weather this crisis together.
If you have tips for managing stress and anxiety, leave them in the Comments below.