Burnout and stress: Is your bucket overflowing?by
It’s been a tough year for accountants and their clients. Previewing her upcoming AccountingWEB Live Expo ‘Wellbeing in the workplace’ session, Lianne Weaver provides some practical tips to help you cope with stress overload.
Stress is a normal response to a real or perceived threat. Not only have we all experienced it, but we NEED to experience it as it motivates us to take action to fight or flight the stressor if necessary.
However, with a treadmill year of stresses that keeps on turning, it’s not surprising that many in the profession are starting to feel burned out. Late nights, demanding clients, new technologies, newer business challenges… and did I mention the pandemic?
In recognition of the toll the last 18 months has had on the mental wellbeing of accountants, I will be joining a team of experts at the upcoming AccountingWEB Live Expo to explore how you can spot the warning signs that all isn’t so well in your team and tactics you can put in practice behind a desk or walking to a client meeting.
My co-panelist Lucy Cohen, the founder of Mazuma Accountants, said it best: “Burnout and stress has been huge over the last two years and I think that is at the forefront of people’s minds now more than it ever has been. This is a golden opportunity to put a strategy in place.”
Indeed, when you are dealing with the onslaught of MTD changes, Covid complications and Brexit confusion on top of difficult clients and an increasing workload, all of a sudden it all feels too much.
Handling our stress bucket
As a preview for the AccountingWEB Expo ‘wellness in the workplace’ panel discussion, let’s look at how you can handle an overflowing stress bucket.
We often talk about our capacity to handle stress as our stress container or stress bucket. Our bucket can change size but it essentially represents our ability to cope.
When life throws one or two regular stressors into the bucket, such as a deadline and a traffic jam, we may feel that the bucket is getting heavy to carry around but we are likely to cope.
However, when stress continues to flow in and we do not have the tools or mechanisms to help release some of that stress, we risk the bucket overflowing. This can cause an emotional outburst, physical illness, mental exhaustion or mental illness.
We cannot always control how much stress flows into our bucket. Sometimes life seems to want to give us challenge after challenge, so our best way of avoiding our bucket overflowing is by developing some healthy coping mechanisms. These work as a release tap on the bucket and allow some of that stress to flow out.
Of course, when we feel our stress bucket is overflowing we can also resort to some less than healthy coping mechanisms, such as self medicating with alcohol, drugs, caffeine or even activities like gambling or excess online shopping. While these may distract us in the short term, they tend to cause additional stress in the long term.
So what are good coping mechanisms to empty your stress bucket?
Talk: Talking to someone who will listen and who you trust is a great way of releasing stress. Choose wisely as you want to share with someone who is not going to cause you additional stress, nor someone who is going to disregard how you feel. If you cannot talk to someone in your social or professional circle, speak to your GP who can refer you to support groups or take a look at charities such as Mind and Anxiety UK.
Exercise: When we are stressed we often start to neglect the things that make us feel good but exercise is proven to help release our stress. After just 20 mins of walking, endorphins start working their magic in the brain, relieving stress and making you feel happier. Physical activity also helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.
Breathe: Our breath constantly tells our brain how we are feeling and is therefore one of the first indicators that we feel stressed. If you breathe through your mouth and/or rapidly from your chest, your brain receives a signal that you are in danger and will therefore start to release those stress chemicals. For your brain to believe you are safe, breathe slowly and deeply through your nose. There are many breathing exercises that will help you calm your body and in turn your mind - take a look at apps such as Calm or Headspace.
Talk to yourself: As stress increases, notice how you’re talking to yourself. Are you causing yourself more stress by saying things like “I can’t cope” or “I’ll never be able to do this”? Ask yourself how you would speak to a friend if they were in this situation. The chances are you would be kinder and more patient with them, so try to apply those thoughts to yourself. Above all, remind yourself that no matter how stressful this situation may feel, you are safe and this is not a life or death situation.
Keep an eye on your bucket: Pay attention to your stress bucket, even when your stress levels are lower. Start to notice what activities lower your stress levels and pay attention to how they make you feel. This will give you tools to use when your bucket becomes fuller.
Above all, if you feel that you are struggling with stress and your bucket is continually overflowing, please do seek some help and support.
Lianne Weaver will be speaking at AccountingWEB Live Expo on 1-2 December 2021 alongside such guests as Rebecca Benneyworth, Peter Rayney, Paul Aplin, Anita Monteith, Carl Reader, Steve Collings, Reza Hooda plus representatives from HMRC.
AccountingWEB Live Expo takes place on 1-2 December 2021 at Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry. Registration is now open. A full content programme will be announced in early October enabling you to register for specific sessions. Please visit the AccountingWEB Live Expo website for full details and to sign up to our newsletter.
You might also be interested in
Lianne Weaver is the Managing Director of Beam Development & Training Ltd, which delivers unique wellbeing, happiness, personal development and resilience training to companies and individuals both in the classroom and online. She works with government organisations, banks, law firms as well as SME’s. Lianne is also a therapist, working...