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Accounting Stress: 3 Tips to Keep Busy Season from Tying You in Knots

The saying, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes,” is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. For those in the tax and accounting profession, there are a few things that come with busy season like longer hours and often stress. However, managing accounting stress can be easier during tax time with three simple tips.

Staying Ahead of Accounting Stress

Stress, by definition, is the feeling of being overwhelmed; an emotional tension that affects our mental and physical wellbeing. Stress can manifest itself in many ways when we feel we are unable to cope with a situation. Designed to give us short bursts of energy to handle urgent situations, the stress hormone cortisol is released by our adrenal gland. This “fight or flight” response is great in sticky situations like being startled by a large, growling dog. But when stressful situations are prolonged – often for months during busy season – the physical responses of increased blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormone levels are also prolonged and can lead to ongoing issues like chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.

When stress isn’t caused by a sudden incident, but rather “sneaks up” on you, it often affects you in ways that make it difficult to recognize the root cause of the issue. If you experience chronic back pain or jaw pain, insomnia, or frequent migraines, they could be caused by stress.

When you know busy season means longer hours and added work, you can anticipate the increased stress and build ways into your day to relieve stress – even when you aren’t directly feeling the effects – to keep an even-keel so when storms arise you are ready.

3 Tips to Combat and Cope with Accounting Stress

Common ways people cope with stress are not necessarily the healthiest ways. When we reach for fast food, sweets and alcohol to “medicate” the stress away, it doesn’t really go away. In fact, those quick fixes often end up creating even bigger problems in the long run such as weight-gain or increased cholesterol levels? Gym memberships or other exercise options are great alternatives (it really is healthier to curl a 5 lb. dumbbell than a 12 oz. beer), but some may find it difficult to start a new fitness routine – or stick to one – when crunch time hits and longer hours push well-intentioned fitness routines out the window.

What can you do to manage stress during busy season? How can you avoid the added stress of new year’s resolutions? Sometimes the guilt of reaching for a donut or missing your new spin class because of your tax time workload is hard to overcome. Here are three tips that are easy to incorporate and can make a big impact on your health.

1.      Humor

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter has both short- and long-term health benefits. Short term: laughter stimulates your heart and lungs, increases endorphins, results in a relaxed feeling, and stimulates circulation. Long term: laughter releases neuropeptides that can improve your immune system, relieve pain, reduce depression and anxiety.

Laughter has many of the same benefits as exercise and studies have shown that laughter can help you live longer. Searching for accounting jokes or accounting humor can provide a plethora of jokes, cartoons and puns that can add laughter to your day, especially helpful to keep accounting stress at bay during busy season. You can find a little inspiration from Ben Wyatt on Parks & Recreation.

Finding humor in situations that could otherwise warrant anger or frustration provides relief from stress and is often associated with having a positive attitude. Developing the ability to laugh at yourself and situations you find yourself in can vent pressure from building up to unhealthy levels.

2.      Music

Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno and Stanford University have said that music can profoundly impact both body and emotions, even possessing the ability to mimic medication’s effect on brain function. A list of the ten most relaxing songs according to neuroscientific research could become your stress-relief playlist. The top song, “Weightless,” reduced overall anxiety 65% in study participants.

So, if you are listening to these relaxing songs at work, their effectiveness may surprise you. For balance, you may want to intersperse some energizing or motivating songs to also help with productivity. AICPA interviewed some CPAs to find out their top energizing tunes.

3.      Nostalgia

“Nostalgia can boost psychological well-being,” says Clay Routledge, author of “Nostalgia, A Psychological Resource.” Revisiting cherished memories can increase oxytocin and serotonin, boosting your mood and bringing a sense of wellbeing. Nostalgia is like the mental equivalent to grandma’s home cooking; it’s like “comfort food” for your mood.  

Combine two or more of these tips – like taking a mental walk down memory lane while listening to a favorite song from high school (remember mixtapes?). Even watching reruns of classic sitcoms you enjoyed as a child can combine all three for a one-two-three punch to knock stress off its self-assigned pedestal during busy season.

Automation is Another Tool to Manage Stress by Simplifying Time-Consuming Processes

Removing barriers and reducing time-consuming tasks can go a long way to reducing stress levels. Automation helps reduce the burden of repetitive and often labor-intensive responsibilities. Review tasks and procedures to reveal what areas are sucking time and contributing to increased stress, then research alternative solutions. When repetitive or lengthy jobs can be automated, time is freed up to focus on other tasks.

The SafeSend Suite automates every client touchpoint across the tax engagement, including tax return assembly and delivery and the manual tasks associated with the back-and-forth of client communication.

When your firm can save time and prevent stress, the entire busy season becomes a much smoother experience for staff and clients alike. And who couldn’t use a healthier work-life balance during busy season?

Give stress the boot this busy season. The only knot you’ll have is the one at the end of your rope – the rope you’re swinging through busy season on while you’re jamming to “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Jungle Love,” or “Jungle Boogie.”

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SafeSend Returns is the flagship solution in the SafeSend Suite and a multi-year winner of the CPA Practice Advisor Technology Innovation Award. SafeSend Returns eliminates the manual, labor-intensive elements many tax departments experience producing client-ready tax returns. 

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