The burden of additional compliances has overwhelmed practitioners but Nick Elston says: don’t throw in the towel just yet.
Nick Elston has lived with heightened anxiety for most of his life. But things came to a head in 2012 when he reached a breakdown. These days, he uses his lived experience to raise awareness of mental health, through speaking at conferences and coaching.
With the burnout culture gripping the profession, Elston plays ‘agony uncle’ to accountants in his new column by answering your wellbeing concerns.
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Dear Nick: “Over the last five years or so I’ve found myself working longer hours, even with an increase in staff and fairly good adoption of cloud bookkeeping with my clients.
“The strain of constantly having to work through additional compliance such as GDPR and MTD has taken their toll on my health. I had something of a breakdown in 2018, and my doctor has pretty much told me to retire, but I’m not in a position to do that yet at 58 years old.”
Nick Elson replies: Two of the biggest challenges we face from a mental health perspective in this day and age are overwhelm and disconnection.
These are amplified by technology, change, and regulations. So I completely feel the pain of where you are right now, especially pushing yourself to that point of breakdown. I’ve been there.
You say that you are not in a position to retire right now. I can only assume that you mean financially. However, the decision to retire has many implications, so I could be barking up the wrong tree there.
Whatever the reason, you are obviously not ready to step down right now – but I would strongly suggest that you do need a plan.
You see, when people reach the point of breakdown they also lose hope, and when we lose hope we lose everything.
There’s a quote that I love and use a lot: ‘every storm runs out of rain’. Whatever is happening right now, however you are feeling, just know that there is an end date to that. Everything passes.
So what you need to do is this and you probably haven’t thought about this in a long time in the busy-ness of life:
- Sit down, with a blank piece of paper. Start to mind-map how your life would look if nothing were impossible. Be as creative and unrestricted as possible.
- Creativity breeds hope and inspiration. Work out what you need to put yourself in the position that you could retire – these become your goals.
- Start to put in place the people/processes/mechanisms where you can restore the work-life balance, maybe delegate the elements that overwhelm you and start to ‘manage the manageables’ – control every element that you are able to and let go of the ones you can’t.
- Go! We plan and plan but the magic happens when we just do it.
- Schedule recovery. Actually diarise the things that you love to do, ring fence it to protect your energy and health. If you are an introvert (someone who recharges in your own company) then spend some alone time. If you are an extrovert (someone who recharges in the company of others) then immerse yourself in family and friends.
- Build a support network of people that can help and empower you – maybe people who specialise in the areas of business you find stressful. By focusing on your strengths you will rebuild your confidence.
I hope that this helps you. Just remember you are certainly not alone. Even though when we reach these points we quite often feel we are.
*The question was taken from Richard Sergeant’s article: MTD takes its toll on accountants’ stress levels.
If you have a wellbeing problem and you need Nick's advice, either comment below or send a brief direct message to Nick.