Stress Relief Tips to Get You Through AEP

With less than two months to take advantage of Medicare’s biggest selling season, agents undoubtedly feel a lot of pressure to be productive during the Annual Enrollment Period.

We’ve put together some ideas to manage your stress and avoid burnout during your busy season.

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Nurture Basic Health

It’s easy to feel like production numbers are all that matters during AEP. However, neglecting your basic health needs – eating, sleeping, and exercise – can have extremely detrimental effects on your body. The Mayo Clinic offers these guidelines for maintaining your body’s energy levels and immune system:

  • 10 to 20 minutes of quiet reflection/meditation per day
  • 30 minutes of exercise per day
  • 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night
  • Lots of fruit, veggies, and whole grains every day

Once the essentials are taken care of, you can dive deeper into understanding your own stress and finding long-term ways to manage it. For example, think about what frustrated you last enrollment season (e.g. broken printer, long commutes to appointments) and how you can avoid it this year.

Keep a record of your successes in a gratitude journal and read it whenever you feel like things aren’t going well. Alternatively, you could create red and green jars (or use tissue boxes) and put notes in each about what went well and what didn’t. Be sure to hang onto either project so you can remember what worked best – or which mistakes to avoid – come next busy season.

Keep a success journal and read it when you feel like things aren’t going well

Try to avoid negative “self-talk” habits like catastrophizing and all-or-nothing thinking. You may have some unsuccessful appointments or bad days, but it doesn’t mean you’re a complete failure at your job. Keep sending yourself positive thoughts in times of stress! For more guidance, check out these positive self-talk tips from the American Heart Association.

You may have unsuccessful appointments or bad days but it doesn’t mean you’re a failure

Work Smarter

If you spent time preparing for AEP – reviewing CMS rules, learning new plan details, and organizing leads – you can feel confident that you’re off to a good start.

So now that you’re here, try to resist the urge to work constantly by maintaining a defined schedule. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, 48 percent of workers who “frequently” use their phone for email outside of normal work hours reported experiencing stress for “a lot of the day yesterday.” Allow yourself to wait until tomorrow morning to respond to messages you get later at night.

You can save time by drafting standard written responses for client communications, such as thank you notes to send after an appointment. And don’t forget to stock up on supplies as well: enrollment kits, printer ink, folders, pens, etc. Even the little things can cause a breakdown when you’re already feeling stressed!

Save time by drafting standard responses to clients, such as thank you notes

Consider hiring extra administrative help if you have the funds. Get a secretary who can answer calls, organize your sales materials, and set follow-up appointments. If you have an agency, designate a “crisis manager” to deal with issues requiring immediate attention. Establishing these roles will make you more efficient and help you appear more professional to clients.

Can’t afford extra hands? Schedule administration days once a week where you can catch up on paperwork, schedule appointments, and plan for upcoming meetings.

Budgeting and compensation can also be a stressful part of AEP. CMS rules mandate that all sales made during open enrollment won’t be paid out until January when new plans take effect. If your Scope of Appointment allows, be sure to cross-sell ancillary products for a faster payday.

Finally, consider starting or joining an agent support group – even if it’s just on Facebook or a small group text message. Ritter also has its own Facebook group for insurance agents! Check out the Ritter Round Table on Facebook!

Utilize Technology for Insurance Agents

When every enrollment counts, your stress levels are bound to reflect your understanding of carrier and consumer tools.

When available, use e-Apps to ensure greater accuracy and avoid having to redo applications because of poor handwriting or missing information. Familiarize yourself with the software features beforehand so you’re comfortable during an appointment.

After a sale, encourage your clients to download their insurer’s mobile app so they have easy access to benefits summaries and member ID information. You should still be available to answer questions about their new coverage, but the mobile app will require less of your feedback.

Worried about commuting to appointments? Download a navigation app such as Google Maps or Waze to more accurately predict how long it will take you to get there. Waze allows you to schedule a trip ahead of time, then they send you a notification alerting you when it’s time to leave. You can also lighten the mood of your commute by changing the Waze navigation voice – featured celebrities have included Morgan Freeman, Shaquille O’Neal, Colonel Sanders, and Darth Vader.

Have Some Fun

It’s important to take a time out once in a while during AEP to avoid burnout. According to the Mayo Clinic, simply laughing can have significant short- and long-term effects on improving stress. Laughter can stimulate breathing, reset your stress response, ease muscle tension, improve your immune system, and elevate your mood. So go ahead – treat yourself to a little fun time this AEP!

Below are a few guilt-free ideas. Just be sure you use them as a reward for working hard and not as a way to procrastinate!

  • Indulge in an entertainment break – watch a movie or go out for a drink with friends.
  • Practice a hobby or gain the satisfaction of completing a project you can finish in a couple of hours – maybe save bathroom demo for another day.
  • Find some inner peace. Go for a hike, take a nap, do yoga, or simply leave your phone on silent for an hour.
  • Play with a pet. Numerous studies have supported the positive healing effects of animals on stress relief. According to a report by Harvard Medical School, spending time with a pet can lower blood pressure, improve psychological well-being, and boost self-esteem.
  • If you have an agency, plan fun events for your staff like happy hour or a yoga class. Bringing in food, specifically pizza, has also been proven to boost employee productivity.

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While AEP is certainly an important time to be productive and work hard, too much stress will only leave you feeling burnt out and wanting to quit.

Don’t forget to turn off once in a while and have some fun this AEP — you deserve it!

Incorporate some of our strategies to work smarter and take advantage of technology to expedite the client side of things. However, don’t forget to show yourself a little TLC, too. Pay attention to your basic health needs, and don’t forget to “turn off” once in a while and have some fun as well! You deserve it.

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