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5 important things to know about your mental health for 2022

By RealCare
24 January 2022 | 1 minute read
The Rise Initiative is committed to helping agents understand how our brains work to help us manage our mental wellness and support better performance.

Promoted by RealCare.

While our resilience is being tested harder than ever before, a better understanding of the neuroscience of mental health puts some foundations underneath common motivational advice and can help you deal with anxiety and stress from a position of knowledge and power.

We had such aspirations for 2022, but here we are again! Another round and version of Covid, a changing property market, isolation, general exhaustion and bigger workloads created by resignations and absences due to ill health - we’re all carrying a huge mental load even before we turn up to work each day. Please don’t despair.

Here are five important things you should know about your mental health. (*Warning, some points may be triggering. Helplines provided at the end of this article) 

1. Poor mental health affects real estate agents more than other professions

Figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that one in five Australians aged between 16 and 85 experience mental illness. But those working in real estate trend even higher - and this was well before Covid. The Revive Project 2017 showed 47% of real estate employees had work-based anxiety, while 58% said they did not have a work-life balance. In addition, 25% said they were burnt out and 26% use alcohol to cope with stress. 

Why does this happen? A combination of competition and competitive mindsets, the ease of becoming an agent but lack of training, an always-on and always-available seven day stressful work week, commission-based income for sales agents and a never-ending to-do list for property managers. 

There’s also the fact that with an emphasis on always winning the next client, it’s easy to focus on the transaction rather than the connection, and in turn, this leaves us highly disconnected. This can be seen in our suicide rates are tragically higher than any other profession. According to the Victorian Coroners office, real estate has been classified as a high-risk industry with 13 out of 100,000 employees annually taking their own lives. 

We share these awful statistics not to depress anyone but to let you know if you are feeling dark, you are absolutely not alone and it is not your fault. This is an industry-wide issue that needs industry-wide support to address. Discussing these issues opening and transparently is the best way to remove the stigma and embarrassment and is the first step to dealing with them. If you need help, reach out. (Details at the bottom of this article)

2. Mental health is not black and white

We have a tendency to simplify mental health, and think that we’re either all deliriously happy and singing kumbayah, or utterly depressed and needing institutional help or serious medication. That ordinary feeling in the middle - that’s not mental health - is it??! But the United Nations defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

So the official definition of mental health is not an absence of any drama or stress, it’s having the ability to deal with it without being driven too far off centre. 

And to that end, mental health is not a black or white, either/or scenario. It’s actually more of a spectrum that we constantly move along. Imagine that in the centre is coping and feeling okay. To the right of coping, is that sense of thriving and being in ‘flow’. But get too caught up in the stimulation of thriving and flow and you find yourself heading towards mania. 

Equally, to the left of coping is a sense of languishing. We have all felt this during Covid and lockdowns - a sense that we’re not quite in control and overwhelmed by what’s in front of us and not sure how to tackle it. When these feelings persist longer term, we move towards depression. 

But if we can move down we can also move up. To do so, it helps to understand what triggers us and ways to ‘hack’ our feelings when they become overwhelming. 

3. Our lizard brains impact our thoughts

You’ve probably heard of your lizard or dinosaur brain. These are the Amygdala and Hypothalamus and are the oldest sections of our brains and act on what feels like instinct but is really a surge of hormones. They’re different to the Cerebral Cortex which is where we do all our logical thinking. 

Our Amygdala is the section of our brain that is designed to interpret danger, while the purpose of the Hypothalamus is to activate a safety plan as soon as that signal is received. You’ve also probably heard of the ‘Fight or Flight’ which is two of the basic ways that the Hypothalamus will try to protect you. But did you also know that there are two other responses - ‘Freeze or Frantic’? When our Amygdala releases the hormones that tell us we’re in danger, our Hypothalamus will tell us to flee from danger, stand fast and fight it, freeze and hope it passes over, or take action to prevent it from happening again. Once we’re safe, we get a happy hormone hit in the form of dopamine as a reward. 

Back when we lived in caves, this was super useful dealing with the enemy of sabre tooth tigers and woolly mammoths. That dopamine hit was a signal that we’d lived to see another day. Huzzah! However, when the threat is an invisible virus that has been dragging on for years, the outcomes become more nuanced. We’re all still waiting for the dopamine signal to let us know we’re safe. It’s why every day feels like the next.

The thing to understand about our Lizard and our Big Brains is that while the Hypothalamus or the Amygdala are running the show, it is very hard for your Cerebral Cortex to think clearly. The flood of stress hormones makes it almost impossible to think logically. It’s why we’re advised not to drive after we’ve had a shock, and why soldiers are drilled rigorously in behaviour under fire - so that their response is muscle memory and automatic, not thought through. 

And here’s something else important to know - that the constant exposure of our brains to stress hormones changes our brain chemistry. Languishing - and feeling helpless - is an automatic response to prolonged stress hormones on the brain, while constant activity is a motivated response to prolonged stress. This explains why we feel either completely flat and unable to get out of our PJs, or buzzing and simply unable to switch off even if we know we should. 

So right now for most agents and property managers, we’ve had two years of the stress hormones buzzing around our brains created by the threat of the pandemic, ON TOP OF the already high stress of our jobs which escalated due to the challenges imposed upon us by Covid. In such circumstances, it’s completely normal to feel absolutely exhausted. It is not a sign of a lack of motivation or discipline. It’s neuroscience.

5. You can hack your brain to think differently

You’ve also probably heard the advice that if you’re feeling a bit down, you should go for a walk or do some exercise to alleviate your stress or call or spend time with a friend. Great! At a time when you have a million things happening, you should also add exercise to your to-do list. Or at when the mess in your head feels like the morning after a party gone wrong, you should burden others with your thoughts. Like that’s going to happen!

But here’s why it should. The role of exercise is not about weight loss when it comes to mental wellness (although that can be a happy by-product). It’s more about the fact that getting moving literally changes our point of view, and starts to alter the chemical balance in our brain by releasing happy hormones. These include endorphins which reduce stress, dopamine which delivers pleasure, serotonin which stabilises our moods and oxytocin, the love hormone. 

Maybe you don’t have a 5km run in you, but playing with the dog for half an hour in the sunshine, doing a meditation, having a laugh with a friend, buying a heartfelt gift or sending a card to someone you love - these things don’t fix everything immediately, but they help. And done consistently, they build up your resilience. 

In social psychology, it’s called Triadic Reciprocal Determinism, which is just a fancy way of explaining that our Thoughts, Behaviours and Feelings are all connected and relate to one another. So if one of them is dominating and overwhelming you, working with the other two - rather than focusing on the one that is out of control - can be a way to start to bring everything back into alignment. 

6. Strong mental wellness drives strong performance 

Using the UN definition that mental wellness is about thriving, not just avoiding ill health, we can use all of this knowledge about how our brains work to drive our performance and mental wellness so that we are working towards feeling great more often rather than just ‘not bad’. 

Understanding that you are not alone if you are struggling and that others have come through these periods successfully, that environmental stress is affecting the chemistry of our brains, and the steps you can take to both alleviate that and build your resilience and break through the patterns of behaviour when they threaten to overwhelm can be highly empowering. 

The key is to recognise your triggers, have a plan of action when they come into play, and to build good habits and support networks to ensure that happy hormones are also part of your daily and weekly routines to help counter any stress you may be under. 

You don’t have to get up at 5am (unless that will truly spark joy for you), but see your mental wellness as a muscle that can benefit from strength training and start to build support of it into your daily routines. Just taking even one or two actions regularly can start to make a difference. 

Where to get help: Download the Real Care app and/or access a full list of mental health support services at https://riseconference.com.au/sos/

Regular exercise can support mental wellness and performance by giving you a shot of happy hormones to counter stress.

If you would like to have a member of the Rise Initiative discuss mental wellness with your team, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

5 important things to know about your mental health for 2022
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