Longer hours, stressed clients, and fast-approaching deadlines can be a recipe for increased stress levels and burnout. The mental health of accountants is something we should all be aware of, especially during busy seasons. Accountants who poorly manage their stress levels can run the risk of poor health that may have a negative impact on their overall productivity. Stress management is important, and not just during tax season and peak deadlines.
Pre-COVID, 98 percent of people in the accounting profession reported that they felt stressed at work. Post-COVID, 35 percent of accounting professionals rated their mental health as “bad”, with pandemic-related concerns having a colossal impact on their collective well-being. However, with the lockdown easing and the anticipation of summer months settling back into a sense of normality, Accounting WEB’s wellbeing pulse survey showed that accountants’ mental health is slowly returning to manageable levels—Many others, however, remain in emotional peril.
Stress at work warning signs
Whether you’re fed-up with long, demanding hours, losing valuable sleep time on work, feeling forced to work while on holiday and even when you’re sick, or if you are simply struggling to maintain momentum, you may find yourself becoming anxious, irritable, or withdrawn. Other signs of workplace stress include:
- Loss of interest in work
- Problems sleeping or not sleeping at all
- Trouble concentrating
- Heavy workloads and looming deadlines
- Unrealistic expectations
- Poor work-life balance and social withdrawal
- Physical health and hygiene issues
- Dietary issues that could affect physical well-being
Your mental health matters
During busy times, like tax season, it is important to practice self-care to help manage work-related stress and ensure you are in the best mindset for yourself, your company and your clients. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your overall stress levels and regain a sense of control at work.
Tip 1: Support your health with exercise and breathing
In times of stress or during difficult situations, remind yourself to take quick breaks in between tasks, especially on a busy day. Stepping away from the task you’re working on is one of the fastest ways to bring stress levels down. It doesn’t need to be a large amount of time away from what you’re doing, a few minutes can do the trick.
Whether it’s a 5-minute stretch, a 10-minute walk around the block, or simply getting up to make a snack, make sure to take some downtime every day to refresh yourself. As Psychology Today puts it: “Movement is medicine.” Taking a few “movement breaks” in-between work can greatly help you improve focus and concentration.
Breathing, guided meditations, or box breathing are other alternatives that can help calm you down in a stressful situation. Taking care of yourself doesn’t require a total lifestyle overhaul. Even small things can lift your mood and increase your energy. A couple apps we like that help remind us to take breaks are:
- StretchMinder – Mobility Break: This app has hundreds of guided five-minute video and audio exercises – all which can be done at your desk – plus it has a built-in work break timer to let you know when you should get up and moving.
- Take a (sync) Break: It lets you create custom work-break time patterns with automatic notifications that you can share with others while working in your office or at home.
- Stand Up!: This app is a fun, flexible work break timer that fits any schedule. Set alarms on your phone and confirm you’re up helps keep you on track throughout the day.
Tip 2: Beat stressful situations by accessing your own work habits
Not having a clear sense of your duties can heighten stress levels and eventually lead to burnout. It causes anxiety for many people, especially when they don’t feel like they have the right tools to help prioritize tasks and deadlines.
Once you’ve identified your top priorities, you can determine at which parts of the day you are “most productive” and schedule these important “focus-intensive tasks” for those times. For some, that might mean getting the bulk of work done early in the morning, while others might focus better when working throughout the night. Your peak attention hours are the best times specific to you when you are best suited to complete your most difficult tasks.
On the other end of the scale are times when you’re really drained or distracted. You can fill those times with more menial tasks, such as cleaning out emails and completing administrative work. These are the tasks that need to be done but don’t require much mental concentration.
If you track, schedule and organize your time based on your level of attention, you can better plan out quality working time to do the stuff that matters most.
Tip 3: Gives yourself a reward after the busy season
It’s always a good idea to have something to look forward to after a long, busy tax season, or other accounting deadlines. Rewards – no matter how big or small – can be a great motivator for reinforcing good time management and further reducing stress.
For instance, you could celebrate finishing a report by taking a 15-minute walk outside or taking an extra-long lunch when you meet a critical deadline. These small rewards keep you motivated on the job and can help you achieve a better work-life balance.
In addition to daily rewards, don’t forget to plan outings and activities for the weekend. Knowing that a weekend at the beach is at hand, complete with soaking up the sun and sipping on a cocktail, can make everything a lot more bearable in the present. You’ll enter the workweek rejuvenated, recharged and refocused. Here’s a few examples of what I like to do on my weekends:
- Have a picnic at the beach with friends/family (and my dog, George!)
- Schedule a massage and spa day
- Take a day trip someplace I’ve never been (or to one of my favorite places, like Santa Barbara)
Bringing it all together
Your productivity as an accountant relies on your ability to effectively manage your time and stress. Getting a handle on your levels of stress will not only help your business run more efficiently, it will help you better serve your clients. Nearly all of us feel that there are not enough hours in the day, but are you making the most of your time?
To see Checkrun in action, sign up for a 30-minute demo and see how you can improve your payment approval workflows and save a lot of headaches, time and money. Want a sneak peek? Watch our short two-minute introduction video.