By Sunny Adams, CPA | Manager, Audit & Assurance
Tips to Help You Manage Stress
Feeling stressed? Anticipating a stressful event or season in your life? You are not alone. Stress is a normal part of life and is common for most people. We all experience stress at one point or another, but what makes the difference in our experience is how we respond.
Working in public accounting surely has its perks. However, it also has the infamous busy season, which begins in January and ends around April 15th. Hands down, this is the most stressful time of my year. Work hours increase by approximately 38%, with an unparalleled increase in demand to meet deadlines. For over 10 years, I have prepared for this season with one goal: endure. Each December, I would literally pump myself up to suffer through the inevitable stress that was to come. However, in December of 2020, while writing my goals for 2021, I thought, “Why can’t I make it a goal not to be stressed this busy season?” Mind. Blown. Why had I never thought of this before? Why had I so willingly accepted the overwhelming stress as part of my job? Lightbulb still burning bright, I latched onto the idea with fervent determination to succeed, understanding that stress is a normal part of life, but if managed properly, may be used to my advantage.
Through this article, we will explore various ways to manage stress. By the end, you will have a blueprint on which you may build and an inventory of mindful considerations with regard to your personal stress management.
“Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated.” – Ancient Chinese General Sun Tzu
Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. Chronic stress is prolonged and constant feelings of stress and can be harmful to your health. On the other hand, in short periods, stress can positively impact your performance to escape danger or meet deadlines. In other words, not all stress is bad. Identifying the difference is key.
Detection – How to Identify Stress
Learning to recognize stress and its source(s) will enable you to respond appropriately and change course in a timely manner. To achieve this, you can use self-awareness or request the help of a close friend or family member. Monitoring changes in your stress levels can help you identify how co-workers, family, and others may be affected by changes in your mood and how their moods may affect you.
What to look for (list is not inclusive):
- Eating to calm down.
- Negative thinking.
- Sleeping too little, too much or both.
- Mood swings.
- Rushing around but not getting much done.
- Weight loss or gain.
- Becoming withdrawn.
- Inability to concentrate or make simple decisions.
You may see the stress clouds looming, or maybe you are in the midst of the storm. In either case, if you are feeling as though there is nothing that you can do about your stress, you have more control than you may think. There are various ways to minimize the pressure you are anticipating or feeling. Remember, “Pressure can burst a pipe, or pressure can make a diamond.” – Robert Horry
- Balance responsibilities: Learn to say “No.” There simply comes a time when there is more to do than there are hours in a day. Maintain open lines of communication with those depending on you, set realistic expectations, and ask for help when needed. For the rest, just remember that you cannot do it all, and that is okay.
- Avoid or minimize facetime with people who stress you out.
- Take control of or change your environment.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle (eat healthy food, make time to exercise, and get proper sleep).
- Spend time with family and friends and share how you are feeling.
- Learn to avoid procrastination.
- Laugh – A good laugh goes a long way. It not only relieves a mental load but induces physical changes too.
- Use relaxation techniques (meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness, etc.)
- Adjust your attitude and outlook: “The way you look at life and its inevitable challenges makes a huge difference in your ability to handle stress.” – Stress Management Helpguide.org
There are many resources available to help you deal with stress: stress management classes, rehab programs, therapists, etc. Remember, always consult with your physician before beginning any new health regimen.
Managing stress does not mean pasting a smile on your face and pretending that everything is okay even when it is not. Effective stress management will benefit you and those around you and allow you to live a happier, healthier, and more productive life.