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    The busy spring season is in full swing, and by now, you’re probably dreaming of a much-needed break away from it all.

    Though a week-long yoga retreat in the California hills might not be an option, there are ways you can take time for yourself to recenter, refocus, and just take a mental load off — without leaving town or spending lots of cash

    Want to survive the busy season in one piece? Here are some simple, affordable, and effective ways to practice self-care, no matter how strapped for time you might be:

    1. Try a mindfulness or meditation app. Don’t have time for a full-on meditation session every morning? Just need to center yourself between showings or clients? There are dozens of mobile apps that help — and fast. Aura offers “micro” meditations that last just three minutes. Use them to relieve stress or just take a mental break for a few. Buddhify has short meditation sessions designed for specific points in your day — work breaks, waiting, commuting, walking, and more. Calm and Headspace are also popular options. The former offers relaxing soundtracks and short meditations, while the latter boasts spoken-word exercises to relax and stimulate the brain.
    2. Write a thank you note. No matter how stressful the day gets, there’s always something to be thankful for. When anxiety gets high and work stresses seem overwhelming, take a five-minute break to write a note of gratitude to someone. Maybe it’s a current or former client, maybe it’s a lender who referred you a new buyer, or maybe it’s just a friend or loved one who made you feel special recently. Reminding yourself of the good can keep all the bad from bringing you down.
    3. Focus on your belly button. In Tai Chi and other ancient practices, the navel is your body’s center — where all your energy is held. Focusing on this area can help improve and increase awareness. Place your hands around your navel and breath deeply in and out. Notice how your breath affects your navel region and consciously focus on the lower abdomen. You should start to feel more relaxed and at ease in minutes.
    4. Practice 5-5-5. When you’re feeling particularly stressed, try the 5-5-5 method. It can be done in your car, on a walk, or even just sitting at your desk. Here’s how it works: out loud, name five things you’re experiencing with each sense — five things you can see, five things you can feel, five things you can hear, five things you can smell and five things you can taste. This brings you more into the present, gets you out of your head, and increases your overall awareness.
    5. Stand like a tree. Standing in a tree-like pose brings awareness to the body and your place in the world. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and imagine a rope extending from the top of your head straight up into the sky. Stand with your spine as straight as possible, feel your feet connected to the ground, and let your arms, torso, and fingers extend out into the world. Breathe deeply and close your eyes for about two minutes.
    6. Consider mindful walking. Standing or sitting can often make stress and anxiety worse. If you’ve been stagnant for a while, try walking intentionally — staying fully present in every step and movement of your body. Breathe in or out with each stride, coming to a consistent rhythm as you move. If you can try mindful walking in nature or another wide open area, you’ll see an even bigger benefit.
    7. Keep a journal. Put a small notebook and pen in your bag or briefcase, and use them when you need a little re-centering. You don’t need to write full-on diary entries, but writing down a few sentences about your emotions can often relieve stress and anxiety when they’re at their highest.
    8. Breathe deeply for five minutes. It sounds simple, but just focusing on your breathing — and only that — can be a great way to get out of your head and relax your entire being. Sit up straight, close your eyes, and put on nature sounds or white noise. Inhale slowly through your nose, feeling the breath as it enters your lungs. Then, breathe out slowly through your mouth, relaxing your body as you exhale. Do this for at least five minutes to feel its full effects.

    Let’s face it: things are probably going to get even more hectic as we head into summer. But don’t let the busy season drag you down. Practice a few of these re-centering techniques, and take a few minutes for yourself when and where you need it. Your career — and your mental health — will thank you for it in the long run.

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