Stress-Free AEP: 11 Tips for Surviving Annual Enrollment Period 2021Posted on June 30th, 2020 by Cameron Schulz
Stress-free. Wouldn’t that be nice? For those preparing to enter into the most chaotic season of the year—Annual Enrollment Period—doesn’t Stress-free AEP sound even better? Annual Enrollment Period, also known as Annual Election Period, or simply AEP is a high-stakes, high-strain time of year, but it’s a vital factor for healthcare organizations and consumers. The truth is, stress-free is an illusion, but you can certainly take steps to stress less during AEP 2021. You probably know that already, but it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder. Here are 11 tips for a “stress-free” or, more realistically, stress less AEP.
11 Tips for Surviving Annual Enrollment Period 2021
Planning reduces uncertainty, which can be a major source of stress and anxiety. Create a schedule that delegates time for all important daily tasks such as consulting with prospects, performing necessary clerical tasks, and unwinding at the end of the day. Have a plan for before, during, and after AEP to ensure that you’re addressing changing priorities. For more tips on how to plan for AEP check out our previous blog How to Plan for AEP like a Powerhouse.
Pro-Tip: Don’t go overboard. Planning your days down to the very last minute can be stressful too. Be sure remain flexible and give yourself ample breathing room.
Having a well-thought-out schedule will keep priorities top-of-mind and prevent overcommitment. Overcommitting minimizes your effectiveness across the board. Consider the common phrase “quality over quantity” when agreeing to engagements. You want to ensure that you’re dedicating enough time to each of your clients and prospects to create a solid foundation for your relationship. Rushing from one meeting to the next will limit the information you’re able to gather (and retain). It will lower your chances of becoming their trusted advisor. Furthermore, overbooking will diminish the personal time necessary to remain healthy and productive. Overcommitment is the expressway to burnout. Do yourself a favor and commit to steering clear of overcommitment.
Update your Tools:
As with all things, COVID-19 changed the way you’ll sell during AEP 2021. Virtual selling will be a major shift from your traditional selling tactics for AEP. You'll need new or different tools than you’ve used in years passed. From e-sign software (to certify virtual agreements) to blue-light glasses (to reduce eye strain), extra tools will be necessary to maintain the same level of authenticity, personalization, and productivity.
“Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries.”
As confessed in the introduction, to be completely stress free is a pipedream. Managing stress is possible though and staying active is an important step to doing so. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of activity per week to maintain your health. Try to block off at least 30 minutes on your schedule each day to get up, get active, and release some stress.
In crazy times, like AEP, it can be easy to take in absurd amounts of caffeine and frequently forget lunch. As standard as these habits may be, they add unnecessary internal stress to your body. Limit caffeine intake (because it would be foolish to suggest you cut it completely). Choose foods that are high in nutrients like protein, vitamin B, vitamin C, and magnesium. A healthy diet will boost your natural energy, support adrenal functions, balance your blood sugar levels, and lower your stress levels.
Excessive screen time has links to headaches, insomnia, chronic pain, and obesity, all of which can contribute to stress. With the rapid transition to virtual meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting your screen time isn’t an option. Striking a balance is the best way to avoid the negative side effects and lower your stress levels. Take time out of your day to unplug from your electronics, turn off the screens, and engage in analog activity.
If you’re not sure what to do while you’re unplugged, try relaxing. If you don’t take time to unwind at the end of the day, you may carry tension from work with you long after you’ve left the office. Dwelling on the negative is a surefire way to stress yourself out. Take that unplugged time to clear the work stress from your mind and focus on enjoying yourself. Have a happy hour with friends, read a book, or meditate. Do whatever helps ease your mind from the pressures of the day.
Make time for Hobbies:
Making time for your hobbies is another perfect way to relax. Whether you love hiking, writing, knitting, or drawing, take time to do something you find fun and interesting. AEP will require you to spend a lot of time focusing on what others need and want. It’s only natural that you take some time to focus on yourself once you’re off the clock.
“When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”
—Greater Good Magazine, published by UC Berkeley
Practicing mindfulness will help you avoid the stress that comes with fixating on previous mistakes or possible negative outcomes. While it’s necessary to be prepared for many scenarios and to learn from past mistakes, it’s counterproductive to obsess over such things. Focus on the present, rather than the burdens of the past or the uncertainties of the future.
After a long day of work, being social may seem overwhelming, but it's necessary for maintaining mental health and reducing stress. According to Mental Health America, socialization can increase happiness, health, and life expectancy. Additionally, Mayo Clinic reports that social support can even improve your ability to cope with stress. So, although seeing more people may seem excessive, make sure you’re making connections on a regular basis to support your well-being.
If you’re not getting an ample amount of sleep, you can’t give your prospects and clients everything you’ve got. And with consumers becoming more and more informed, you can’t afford to give them less than 110%. Much like social connections, sleep is essential to your overall well-being. Getting enough sleep (approximately 7-9 hours) will give you more energy, help you focus, and improve your mood—all of which will be helpful with the other steps for achieving a less stressful AEP.
What works for you?
These tips may seem a bit general, but when it comes to coping with stress, everyone has specific methods that work best for them. The purpose of these tips is to give you some perspective on possible underlying factors you may not consider while your brain is full of work-related issues. Staying on top of these 11 action items, can prevent added stress and relieve inevitable stress. Use them as goals for which you must create your own personal game plan to be successful. If you find your answer for stressing less during AEP, tell us—what works for you?
Download the Stress-Free AEP Questionnaire to help manage your stress during AEP 2021!