You won’t find the accounting profession listed as one of the most high-pressure professions in the world. But, the truth of the matter is that this one is a really tough profession to be in and mental health issues are rife amongst accounting professionals.
Mental issues are not as uncommon as we might think they are.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 20.6% of all U.S. adults were suffering from AMI (Any Mental Illness).
The institute defines AMI as:
“a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. AMI can vary in impact, ranging from no impairment to mild, moderate, and even severe impairment.”
Considering the scope and scale of the problem, it is imperative that accounting professionals do not take their mental health issues lightly or ignore them altogether, thinking it comes with the territory. It does, but it is imperative that they take necessary steps to solve any mental health issues (anxiety, depression, stress etc.) that they might be facing.
Battling Pandemic Related Stress
We are well into the busy tax season now and couple all that workload related stress with pandemic related anxiety issues and CPAs, EAs and other accounting and tax professionals are facing a double whammy. According to the APA (American Psychiatric Association), a mammoth 36% of Americans said COVID-19 was impacting their mental health in an adverse manner. It’s not just the COVID-19 related anxiety issues that are a problem. Accounting professionals also have to get their minds around new tax laws and changes as a result of the pandemic. They are asked to become more agile than they were before and this is putting more pressure on them.
There is absolutely no doubt that pandemics can be stressful for people. The CDS says being under stress can result in fear and worry about your own health and that of your family members. It can disturb sleeping and eating patterns; a person might also have difficulties in sleeping and concentration. And all in all it might result in a worsening of their mental health.
This is not a good situation to be in for accounting professionals at all. The question is as, a stakeholder in the accounting profession, do you realize the magnitude of this problem?
Realization results in a solution.
So it’s important to look inwards and try to analyze your state of mind. If you think you are having trouble focusing on the things that matter (professionally) and the instances of feeling down, are increasing day-by-day, it is important to understand why this is happening. It’s important to not ignore such behavioral traits. A prevalence of negativity is never a good thing irrespective of whether it is your personal or professional life.
As an accountant, your mind needs to be working at full capacity, because there is an intrinsic need to be accurate and compliant when you are handling tasks such as tax accounting, internal auditing, financial analysis, management accounting and more.
Having an off day is natural, but having a series of off days is not on. So, how can accountants cope.
Here are a few steps you can take for starters:
Don’t Ignore Personal Health
A feeling of being overwhelmed, overworked is natural in the busy tax season. But, this doesn’t mean, you can ignore your personal health. It is your personal health that will play a huge role in determining your professional health (so to speak).
You need to get your immune system in order and the focus should primarily be on eating healthy and taking meals on time to ensure that your body gets all the energy it needs to address stress and anxiety.
There are plenty of wellness programs out there (offered online these days) that you can join and all it requires is a couple of hours each week to get the ball rolling for your health. If you can, and if you are up for it, it’s imperative that you go for walks, exercise (indoors and outdoors) and take very step in the book to reduce stress.
The whole point is giving your health some time. All those long hours spent preparing taxes, are taking a toll on both your mind and body. By giving them the time they so desperately need, you will be doing yourself a huge favor.
Become More Organized
We are living in world, where ‘working from home’ might become the norm. Quite a number of accountants are feeling like a ‘fish out of water’ trying to come to terms with an unfamiliar way of working. They are finding it difficult to get some semblance of comfort in their new home-based workspace.
It might not work well if you haven’t clearly identified a dedicated workspace that is like your own little office in your home. There must be a clear distinction between your home and office space so that you are able to keep it organized and start thinking of it as your own office.
What’s more, there is chance that you start spending too much time in your office; your workday doesn’t end as it does in the normal course of events. This is recipe for disaster. The whole point of designating is an office space is not just to infuse ‘remote work’ with a breath of professionalism, but also ensuring that you are able to unplug from your work at the end of office hours.
Get out of the ‘at work all the time’ mode.
Achieve a Sense of Calm and Peace
The world and all the activities that make up this world are undergoing a reset. Learn the art of patience, and keep telling yourself that it’s not business as usual any more. Mistakes will happen and stress levels will be high (don’t press the panic button). You are facing an ever evolving situation and things will take time to fall in place.
Being patient means you must exercise patience in each and every aspect of your professional life even while interacting with your clients and co-workers. It’s important to understand that everyone is suffering and facing their own unique challenges.
It is important to have a sense of perspective.
Look for Innovative Solutions
Desperate times call for innovative measures. If you think you are overloaded with work and it is the kind problem that cannot be solved in-house, it is time to look outside for solution. Why not try remote accounting to relieve some of that burden?
Also, think strategically. Don’t think short-term, think long-term. Think of the problems you are facing as an opportunity to put in place a long-term solution for your firm/practice. Hiring remote workers or outsourcing your work to a firm with deep-seated expertise in US taxation and accounting is a great way to scale and improve business profitability.
Essentially, you will be able to get more work done, keeping costs in check and generate more revenue. Also, all this will happen keeping your stress levels in check. That’s a big win isn’t it.
But, this is just one of the solutions you need to implement. Take firm steps to build resilience for your firm.
Get Emotional Support
Despite your best efforts in trying to sort out your stress and anxiety issues, there is still a chance that you might end up having such bouts off and on. This is the time when you need to reach out and take the support of people who are close to you. Don’t retreat into a shell, thinking no one will understand your problem, so why bother discussing it. You will be surprised that some of the more effective solutions will come from surprising quarters.
So, discuss your problems with your family, colleagues, friends and anyone else you think you will be comfortable sharing your problems with. Don’t be an island.
Get Medical Support
Chronic mental health issues demand that you take medical help. It is important that you get the right help at the right time and there is no shame in reaching out for medical help to sort out your problem. The point is you need a solution for your problem and if this exists in the form of medical help, go get it.
Unfortunately, almost everywhere in the world, mental health issues are a taboo subject as people think such issues are embarrassing and people fear being labeled – crazy. If you have any such notions going around in your head, remove them immediately. We have discussed some figures right at the start of the article and mental health is a cause for concern amongst a sizable US population. You are not alone. So, go get help.
The tax season impacts the best of us in an adverse manner. The solution is not to lose our cool and understand that we not living in normal times, so its’s not a good idea to put extra pressure on ourselves. Yes, that you need to prepare all those taxes is not up for debate, but if you are not your usual self, and this is impacting your productivity, you shouldn’t put extra pressure on yourself.
The solution is to understand why and how your efficiency and productivity is being impacted and finding solutions that will be of help. Proper food intake and leading a healthy lifestyle can be an answer to most of your problems. Also, don’t disengage yourself from your friends and family. It is important to socialize, albeit keeping the safety protocols in mind. Jump on a video call with your family/extended family periodically to ensure you are socializing and not taking your personal and family life for granted.
And, take a breather if and when possible. If there is anything that the pandemic has taught us, it is life is fleeting and it is important to have family and friends on hand to keep sane and navigate any and every challenge you might face.