Dear Lianne: 'Has anyone else had enough?'
Wellbeing expert Lianne Weaver responds to an AccountingWEB member who feels they can't cope with their practice anymore.
Dear Lianne: “Is it just me or has anyone else had enough? I don't know how much longer I can cope.
Normal workload, Grant advice and support, Furlough claims, VAT reverse charge, Brexit etc etc… We need to be able to get back to a normal level of workload, review all of our clients and increase fees, ask others to move on.
Our two bookeepers do all VAT processing, payroll etc, but clients just seem to be getting more and more demanding and impatient - I don't think for one minute this is specific to us, as we have good working relationships with most clients, and previously, where there are issues, they are told to move on.
We feel we cannot increase our fees under the current climate, but do charge for grant and furlough claims.”
The accountancy profession has always had a reputation as being challenging for our mental health and resilience. However, many in the profession will agree that the past year has felt relentless in its challenges, both personal and professional.
AWEB member murphy1’s question really demonstrates the situation many will have found themselves in – feeling overwhelmed, over-demanded and over-stretched, while possibly being under-appreciated and under-resourced. Many have been left struggling with thoughts that they can’t cope or maybe even whether they’ve had enough of the whole profession.
I can assure you that you are not alone in this nor is accountancy the only profession experiencing this at such high levels – doctors, police and social workers are expressing similar feelings too.
One thing that struck me with murphy1’s post is a really common thought that many of us have from time to time: “I don’t know how much longer I can cope”.
This is a powerful thought that many of us experience and it often serves to make us feel weaker and even more stressed than before. Whilst the circumstances we may find ourselves in are undoubtedly challenging, we do always have an element of control in the story we tell ourselves.
As human beings, we are wired to create stories in order to understand the world we are in and often these stories are unhelpful and untrue. We believe these to be factual accounts of events, rather than recognising that they are stories that we could challenge.
Our brain’s primary purpose is to keep us physically safe – for this reason, it’s wired to focus more upon the negative than the positive. This is known as the negativity bias (see previous blog).
Think of the brain as Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive – every negative experience we have is given more importance by the brain in a bid to prevent us from getting hurt.
This works in physical terms – if you touch a fire once you do not need to go back the next day and see if it still hurts by touching it again. However, in emotional terms, our need to focus upon the negative means that we can often become hyper aware of the bad things and unaware of any positive things.
When we consider that we tell stories to provide meaning to events coupled with the fact that we focus more on the negatives, it makes sense that these stories we tell ourselves are unlikely to be positive.
The fact of the matter is that life will always throw events our way – whether we perceive that event to be negative or positive largely depends upon the story we tell ourselves.
The great news is that we can always choose a different story if our current one is causing us pain and suffering. Right now, murphy1 is certainly coping, even if it feels hard.
However, the belief that they “can’t cope” is doing more harm than help. Practice choosing a new story such as “this is hard but I am strong”, or “I can cope”, or “I will get through this”.
Here are some of my favourite tools to help whenever you are feeling overwhelmed or as if you are unable to cope:
- Change the story: ask yourself what is the story I am telling myself – if it makes you feel awful, choose a new one.
- Look for the good: due to the brain’s negativity bias, we are all far more likely to be able to notice the bad things over the good things. Challenge yourself everyday to find three things you are specifically grateful for, even if it’s ‘a lovely cup of tea’ or ‘a client who was kind’.
- Talk: talk to someone trusted about your fears and concerns. When we keep things inside we can quickly lose perspective, but sharing them with someone we trust can help us start to see things a little clearer.
- Thoughts aren’t facts: pay attention to the thoughts you are having and realise that we don’t have to believe everything we think. Unless measurable, our thoughts are more likely to be opinions rather than facts, so we do not have to believe them all.
Times have certainly been challenging and relentless but please know you are not alone and there are certainly ways in which you can help yourself to feel more in control.
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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...