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Most luxury agents love working hard, working fast, and working wonders for their clients. And to that end, a healthy, manageable amount of stress is a normal — and even motivating — aspect of the job. However, these normal stressors have been badly exacerbated by three disruptive market conditions.
1. The fear of missing out
With the pace of the market today, it can feel as if everyone is more anxious and demanding. With extremely short timelines to make decisions, buyers are jumping into multiple offer situations — and when the dust settles and they actually have time to think, I’ve seen many instances where buyers or sellers change their minds, and a number of deals fall out of escrow because of it.
2. The lack of inventory
The competition for listings has become a major source of extra stress, and some agents are even cutting their commission in order to win the business. At the end of the day, this only sets a precedent that will hurt them — and the quality they can deliver to their clients — in the future.
3. Expectations vs. reality
With ever-changing markets that alternately favor buyers and sellers, there is often a significant disconnect between the two sides of the transaction. Buyers need to be patient, sellers need to be pragmatic, and the agents representing them need to be collaborative and coach their clients through the confusion. Only then will the deals be a success for everyone.
As luxury agents, we’ve always known that “therapist” is a de facto part of our job description, and we take pride in our ability to talk, listen, and care for our clients, being the calm in the storm when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
But when you begin to experience excessive stress or burnout, that ability can be compromised before you’re even aware that something’s wrong. Operating from a place of fatigue or frustration prevents you from seeing situations with clarity, and this affects everything from your negotiation skills to your capacity for finding creative solutions. So how can you proactively prevent this from happening?
5 strategies for keeping your stress to a minimum
We can all develop stress reduction routines that work for us personally. For example, I’m an avid runner; for more than 35 years, I’ve done at least three miles every morning to clear my mind and prepare for the day ahead. I also do yoga at least five times a week, which has taught me to slow down and take a long, deep breath when my work is hectic. On top of that, I treat organization like it’s an extreme sport. Keeping order in everything from my desk to my closet is a fun challenge — and one that simplifies my life and sharpens my focus.
These are examples of the sorts of systems we can design and implement for ourselves on an individual basis. But for more broadly applicable methods, I suggest the following:
1. Call it like you see it
Don’t deny your stress. Name the problem, stare it in the face, and acknowledge it. First and foremost, being able to recognize the signs of burnout allows you to activate the systems you’ve put in place to mitigate it. Then you can work through the problem.
2. Write that to-do list
We all multitask, and being busy is what I love most about this job. But when we’re dealing with too much at once, the quality of our output deteriorates. At these times, it’s crucial to sort your priorities and work through them in a systematic manner. There’s no better stress reliever than being witness to your own amazing productivity.
3. You can ask for help
Many luxury real estate offices have operations and management teams whose role and goal is to support agents in order to grow the business. I love having a Leadership Team and General Counsel who can give immediate, thoughtful responses to my questions. If you have access to similar resources, make the most of them — and at the very least, you have valued colleagues you can talk to in tough times.
4. You can give help, too
I can’t emphasize enough how helpful it is to talk, so if you see someone who’s struggling, reach out. I’ve always believed that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that by proactively helping each other, we help our community, our industry, and ourselves by expanding our own professional networks.
5. Embrace the positive
I mentioned that when stress is manageable, it can also be motivational — and sometimes, the difference between a positive and negative stressor is just your mindset.
When times are stressful, I like to take a moment to gaze out the window, see the sunshine, and appreciate the privilege of where I get to work, who I get to work with, and the difference I get to make in my clients’ lives. But burnout is real, and when it strikes, it’s hard to beat it by yourself. If you feel yourself falling behind, remember to speak up, seek help, and know that you’re not alone.
Stress vs. Burnout
Excessive stress can lead to burnout, and both are harmful to your health. But they’re not quite the same. If you’re feeling fed up or overwhelmed, which of these descriptions applies to you more?
a) You’re too engaged in your work, and no matter how hard to you try, it’s never good enough
b) You’re disengaged from work, and feeling both physically exhausted and mentally defeated
a) Your emotions are heightened, and negative experiences feel extreme and difficult to take
b) You feel emotionally numb, apathetic, and cynical, but sometimes irritable and resentful too
a) You believe that everything will be better as soon as you can check off all your urgent tasks
b) You’re convinced you’re useless, unproductive, and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel
If you relate more to the first option, chances are you’re overly stressed. If you identify more with the second, you could be burning out.
Stress often involves a feeling of “too much,” whereas burnout is all about “not enough.” Both have short-term and long-term health implications, so seek help to lighten your work burden, refocus your perspective around the positive things in your life, and allocate enough time for sleep, relaxation, and exercise.
It sounds easier said than done — but you’d be surprised at how quickly these problems can be solved if you let yourself lean on others.
For more resources on preventing burnout, visit the NAR site for articles on maintaining a healthy work/life balance.
As one of San Diego’s most successful luxury and coastal real estate experts for 24 years, Linda Sansone is widely respected by colleagues and clients alike for her integrity, in-depth market knowledge, and industry leadership.
With a Master’s Degree, a CPA, and background as a CFO, Linda is a rarity in the real estate industry. Before moving to Rancho Santa Fe, she honed her skills as a CPA at Deloitte, one of the most respected financial firms in the country, and as a CFO running large industrial real estate and architecture firms on the East Coast.