Accountants: Avoid Burnout During Tax Season

by | Feb 22, 2024

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Have you been feeling a little stressed out and overwhelmed these days? Are your days a bit more challenging than they were last year? If so, you’re not alone.

I know it can be very stressful for accountants during the busy season. You may have a long list of client audits to complete in a short period of time. You may have a client who insists on a finished product by a certain date. Deadlines may seem to pile up on each other without any breaks, not to mention the unpredictable, long work hours. Before the burn out catches up to you, make a plan to deal with it. Unfortunately, stress is just part of the job for accountants, but it doesn’t have to be if you know how to deal with it right.

Understand your limits

Accounting can be just as stressful as majoring in medicine, psychology, law and the like. It requires a considerable amount of concentration and close attention to detail. The work can just be too overwhelming for some to handle, let alone the stress of having to do it with such speed. However, stress is a normal part of life. We all experience it in varying degrees at different times. But when stress becomes overwhelming, it’s not good news for your physical or mental health. Whether you work as an accountant, are studying to become one, or are an entrepreneur who finds yourself dealing with other people’s accounting, you can still fall victim to work-related stress.

Did you know?

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 well-being pulse survey showed that accountants’ mental health is slowly returning to manageable levels — Many others, however, remain in emotional peril.

Being a seasoned professional, you know that there is no quick fix to rid yourself of stress. However, practicing time-honored strategies can help you manage the effects and feel more centered and in control.

Signs you need to take a break

Stress is a very common issue among accountants, whether their own or someone else’s. Juggling multiple clients, longer hours, accounting systems and all the other responsibilities that comes with being an accountant can cause a lot of stress, especially during tax season or a busy time in the office. No matter how much work you do, if you’re working under pressure and stressed out it doesn’t make you productive and more likely to make mistakes and overlook important things.

Here are a few stress-related signs that you may need to take a break:

  • Loss of interest in work
  • Problems sleeping or not sleeping at all
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Work is piling up and deadlines are approaching
  • Poor work-life balance and social withdrawal
  • Physical health and hygiene issues
  • Dietary issues that may affect your physical well-being

Self care tips for accountants – your mental health matters

Finding a way to deal with your stress is vital for you to maintain your health. 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: Take care of your body and mind

Stress is a normal part of life. The human body and mind reacts to stress in order to get accustomed to different situations. While stress relieves pain and makes up for the energy consumed by the brain, it also results in difficulties focusing. This, in turn, makes accounting related tasks more complex and difficult to perform.

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, Lambeau!)
  • 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.