3 Mental Health Strategies For COVID & Winter

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There is a perfect storm brewing and many sales teams are unprepared. Pandemic depression is about to collide with seasonal depression, which means sales teams need mental health strategies to survive COVID and these winter months.

Shortly after COVID-19 began, the Sales Health Alliance conducted a survey to measure how the pandemic was impacting Mental Health in sales. From the 237 responses; 52% of salespeople described their Mental Health as “Worse” now, compared to the 6 months leading up to COVID.

Several survey studies have found equally troubling numbers. One study found depression symptoms in the US were more than 3-fold higher during COVID-19 compared with before the pandemic.

Similarly, another poll found 11% of adults reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosable anxiety or depressive disorder in the first half of 2019. By July 2020, in the middle of the pandemic – that number had jumped to 40%. These findings were similar to what the CDC reported in June 2020 as well.

This means declining Mental Health may soon be the most common pre-existing condition in the US.

Prioritizing Mental Health in Sales is no longer optional for companies and individual salespeople. If sales teams wish to maintain consistent sales performance during these winter months they need to have a plan.

Here are three Mental Health strategies you can use to improve sales resilience and performance through better Mental Health.

3 Mental Health Strategies to Survive COVID, Winter & Sales

1 – Daily Walks & Building A WFH Environment

Prior to COVID and regularly working from home, many of us would commute to work. Don’t underestimate how powerful this change in environment can be to your Mental Health.

The commute to work provides thousands of subconscious cues – locking your door, taking the subway, seeing your office – that tell your body to prepare for “work mode”. Then the commute home provides a different set of subconscious cues – shutting down your computer, seeing your house, opening your door – that tell your body it’s time to relax.

Many of us are no longer experiencing these environmental cues and it is impacting our Mental Health.

There have been days when we roll out of bed and immediately start working. Before we realize it – it’s 5pm and we haven’t left the house. When this happens, it’s very hard for our body to know when its time to shutdown and relax. As a result, our mind keeps racing and prevents us from having a restorative sleep.

To make this transition easier, we need to create new environmental cues. Starting your day and ending your day with a walk can help you build a new commute. But there is a trick to making this work; you need to prepare your work and home environment before you start your commute.

Remove Counter Cues & Behaviours

Did your sales floor have dirty dishes in the sink, toys on the ground or laundry hanging?

No.

To make your morning commute effective – you need to have a clean work environment you enter into after your walk in the morning. Remove environmental cues that might signal to your body it’s time to relax and save any non-work behaviours/ chores for outside selling hours.

The same applies to your evening commute. Prior to leaving, make sure computers are turned off, Slack is muted and your To-Do list for the next day is complete.

The goal is to remove as many environmental cues and behaviours that counter the state you’re trying to achieve when returning from your morning or afternoon commute. Consistently starting work and ending work at the same time each day can also help. This allows your body develop a routine and transition between states more easily.

As the Norwegians say – there is no such thing as bad weather – only bad clothing. Bundle up and make your commute even on colder days.

2 – Get Your Heart Rate Up

It’s cold outside and most gyms or workout studios are closed due to social distancing. Finding ways to get your exercise in while working from home is one of the best Mental Health strategies you can implement.

In Alex Korb’s book Upward Spiral, he explains how regular exercise increases nerve growth factors, such as brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). These are like steroids for your brain and help new neurons grow. BDNF makes your brain stronger so it’s more resistant to all kinds of problems – including depression.

Exercise also increases the firing rate of serotonin neurons, which causes them to release more serotonin. When more serotonin is released – your brain is forced to produce more to keep up with demand. What’s even more interesting is serotonin stimulates the production of BDNF and BDNF strengthens serotonin neurons.

Why am I telling you about BDNF and serotonin?

Most anti-depressants focus on increasing both, which means exercise is your natural way to protect itself from depression. Therefore, it’s not surprising to learn some research has shown that exercise can work as well as anti-depressants for some people.

Make Socially Distant Exercise Easy

Exercise has countless other benefits ranging from increased energy, mental clarity and motivation to better sleep and stress reduction. Benefits that will also make you a more effective seller.

The key to achieving these benefits is consistency. The key to consistency is making access to exercise easy. Something closed gyms, small apartments and colder weather do not help with.

These are three purchases my girlfriend and I have made to make it easy to exercise consistently during COVID and the winter months:

  1. Echelon Bike (Cardio): Cheaper than a Peloton and their virtual classes come with a 90 day free trial. At $500 we feel it’s a reasonable upfront cost we can likely recoup when we sell the bike in the spring/summer. The bike also takes up very little space.
  2. Bodylastics (Strength): Pre-pandemic I was going to the gym 3-4 times a week to lift weights. These bands have allowed me to get extremely effective strength workouts in at home. I’ll likely be cancelling my gym membership in the near future because of how effective they have been.
  3. Skipping Rope (Cardio): Skipping is one of the best cardio workouts for your body. It can also be done in a very small space. One study found 10 minutes of daily skipping was as effective at improving cardiovascular health as jogging for 30 minutes a day. Learning to skip is like learning a new skill – at the beginning you will be terrible at it. Stick with it and your Mental Health will benefit.

Sales is a Mental Game. Ensuring you have ways to get your heart rate up during the cold winter months will help you survive COVID and keep your sales mind sharp.

3 – Track Your Mental Health

In the famous words of sales coach Jack Daly:

“What gets measured, is what gets done.”

If you are not measuring your Mental Health and exercise on a regular basis, it can be very easy to forget about self-care activities. Before we know it – we’re anxious, depressed and burnt out with our sales performance suffering. Measuring your Mental Health and fitness on a regular basis will help keep you Mental Health strategies front of mind.

One of the easiest ways to do this is through a wearable technology like WHOOP.

WHOOP Tracker

WHOOP measures your daily strain, sleep performance and how ready your body is to perform. Based off your data, it will then provide recommendations like when you should go to sleep and level of workout intensity to ensure your body is in its optimal state.

The data is also accurate. A recent study by Arizona University proved WHOOP is the most accurate non-invasive sleep monitor and helped detect COVID in pro golfer Nick Watney.

There have been countless days when I’ve adjusted my workout intensity to ensure I’m using stress to my advantage and not overdoing it. Or days when I’ve moved a non-essential afternoon meeting to squeeze in an afternoon nap before a big meeting, because I haven’t slept well.

Choices I’ve made to put my Mental Health first.

WHOOP also tracks your HRV, which stands for Heart Rate Variability. This metric helps measure your autonomic nervous system that is widely considered one of the best objective metrics for physical fitness and determining your body’s readiness to perform. Research has shown your HRV is also impacted by stress, which has been a helpful data point and reminder to prioritize self-care activities on low HRV/Recovery days.

Salespeople are corporate athletes and sales is a Mental game.

Showing up in an optimal state each day is one of the best ways to improve your sales performance. I’m not sponsored by WHOOP, however you can use my referral code to receive a free month and strap.

If you’re looking for a free tool – Avail is a well-being app you can try as well. It uses well-being surveys to capture and measure your Mental Health on an ongoing basis. Then the app will suggest relevant Mental Health resources based off your data and personalized to you.

It Will Be A Learning Process

Implementing these Mental Health strategies will certainly help you keep your Mental Health front of mind during the winter. With any type of change in behaviour or routine its important to remember that there is going to be a learning curve.

There are going to be days when bad habits take over and you miss your commutes or a workout. That’s ok – go easy on yourself. One rule I live by that has helped me show myself more compassion, while trying to build a new habit is this:

It’s Ok to miss one day – but never miss two in a row.

I promise if you follow that rule closely, you’ll be able to make strides in improving your Mental Health.

For more Mental Health strategies to help you become a corporate athlete – checkout the online course below. It will further develop your EQ, Resilience and Mental Health training to help you level up your mental game and sales performance.

Online Course: Improve Sales Performance Through Better Mental Health

About The Author

mental health advocate Jeff Riseley

Jeff Riseley is currently the Founder of the Sales Health Alliance and Mental Health Advocate. With over a decade of sales experience – Jeff understands the importance of Mental Health in achieving peak sales performance.

Jeff combines his sales (Sales Knowledge Institute) and Mental Health expertise to improve sales performance through a mix of sales mentorship and mental health best practices. His strategies have helped sales teams improve their sales process, while helping them become more motivated, resilient and better equipped to tackle stressful events within sales.

He is currently delivering these strategies through on-site workshops, coaching and speaking engagements. To explore working with Jeff contact him at [email protected]

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