Tax day is stressful for everyone, especially accountants. As the deadline gets closer, tempers get shorter and the pressure builds. Working under stress isn’t good for your health, and it can lead to less efficient work and more mistakes, which translates to still more stress. Yet workplace stress afflicts workers at every level, in every industry. Here’s how to break the stress cycle.
Stress knows no boundaries
Stress in the workplace isn’t confined to accountants or to tax day. Workers in all professions experience job-related stress all year long. According to the American Institute of Stress, pressure on the job can lead to an increased risk of heart attack, hypertension and other disorders. The Institute cites workload as the most common contributing factor for on-the-job stress, accounting for 46% of the pressure we feel.
Some jobs are often considered more stressful than others, and certainly, firefighters and police experience stress that those of us with desk jobs cannot fathom. But, generally, workplace stress has more to do with the demands of a particular job and the amount of control you feel you have over your work environment. Entrepreneurs tend to feel there are a lot of demands on them, but they also feel they have more control over their work than workers in large companies. Nevertheless, there will be times in every entrepreneur’s journey when they feel like a CPA on April 14th
Stress on the job can be exacerbated by stress at home. In fact, the AIS says that 20% of workplace stress can be attributed to the attempt to balance work and personal demands.
Decreasing stress on the job – and elsewhere
There are steps you can take to decrease stress in the short term. Try some of these stress-reducing techniques to calm down during the day.
• Meditate – find a quiet spot. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor and close your eyes. Repeat a mantra, either out loud or to yourself. You can say whatever you want, like ‘It’s almost over,’ or ‘Peace.’ Putting your hand on your belly will help you synchronize your breathing with your mantra. Focus on your mantra and your breathing to eliminate distractions.
• Breathe deeply – Inhale through your nose, and feel the breath move from your abdomen all the way to your head. Close your eyes and keep your hand on your belly as you breathe.
• Relax your body – At the end of a stressful day, you can feel the tension in your neck and shoulders. Place a heat wrap around your shoulders for ten minutes while you close your eyes and relax your muscles. Then use a tennis ball or foam roller to massage your shoulders and back.
To reduce the stress in your life overall, it may be time for some lifestyle changes. Take a longer-term approach to stress reduction with these tips.
• Recharge – It may seem like a good idea to stay up late and get up early to get more work done, but if you don’t get enough sleep you won’t work efficiently. Schedule in enough time to get at least seven hours of sleep each night and you’ll get more done during your waking hours.
• Renegotiate – Too many demands on your time with too little control over that time is a principle cause of stress. If someone else is calling the shots, or if you have a partner who’s not pulling their weight, see if you can divide the workload more equitably.
• Create balance – Try to carve out time each day for work, family and personal time. The time you spend on each may vary from day to day, and there may be days when you omit one of these priorities completely, but think about ways to achieve balance between the three. If you feel that you’re neglecting one area of your life, don’t worry—that just adds stress. Just try again to balance your time.
• Check out – Just as the accountant cannot escape to the islands for the second week in April, you may not be able to take a week-long vacation just before a new product launches. But planning even a short vacation can ease the stress in the weeks and months leading up to your getaway. Just be sure you follow through on your plans and take the time off when you plan to.
Protect yourself and your business
Even if you can keep the stress to a minimum, it’s much easier to make a mistake when you’re under pressure. Even if you do everything right, you could have a customer who’s irate because they owe money to the IRS, and they think it’s your fault. Make sure you have adequate general liability insurance, which will protect your business from a claim or lawsuit, even if you haven’t made a mistake. You’ll have one less thing to worry about.
How do you handle stress as deadlines gets closer? Tell us in the comments below.