Tax season tips for taking care of yourself
It's very important at this time of year for accountants to look after their physical and mental wellbeing. Rachael Power offers some helpful advice.
Scoff at the idea if you like, but with Blue Monday approaching on 26 January we thought it was a good time to offer some simple tips to get you looking after your health.
Get up from the desk!
A mountain of tax returns to be filed means a lot of time spent at the desk. If you have to be tied down for a long period of time during the day, schedule in breaks so you can move around.
Sitting for extended periods of time is very bad for your health. Recent studies show it increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease - though obviously if you do it over months and years.
It's also bad for your back, eyes and circulation to be hunched over a screen or poring over documents. It's important for practitioners to take regular eye tests - some workplaces offer these for free - in addition to getting regular exercise that works and stretches the back muscles and gets blood flowing to your limbs.
Even if you look at bit crazy, get up from your desk every 20-30 minutes for at least 5-10 minutes per time. Make a cup of tea, do some simple stretches (away from curious stares) or take a stroll down the road. It may seem small, and simple, but it may save your eyesight/back/sanity in the long run.
Put that Lion bar down
Do not - I repeat, do not - be tempted to overindulge just because 'it's tax season and I deserve it'. Yes, you're hardworking and yes you deserve to have a treat every now and again - but overindulging on chocolate/crisps/chinese takeaways/smokes/alcohol isn't going to make you feel great.
Instead, prepare some healthy snacks the night before within reaching distance for when those cravings hit.
For example, include healthy fats such as nuts and seeds (M&S do some very tasty mixes). Low sugar breakfast bars (you can bake your own) are another good alternative, as are tasty salads, wraps, slimline sandwiches, chopped fruit, rice cakes or oatcakes.
Limit the glass of red wine to the weekend too - it's all the sweeter.
And if you're a smoker, consider trying out a vaporiser. You'll probably still have to go outside and the health risks are still unknown, but it's a better short term solution. If you do need to get your nicotine the old fashioned way, try to limit yourself to fewer cigarette breaks as an alternative.
Count some sheep
Sleep deprivation, even a few days of it, can impair judgement, concentration levels and our stamina at work. So it's imperative that for work as well as for health reasons we all get enough shut eye.
Someone who believes very strongly in this is owner of the Huffington post, Ariana Huffington. She believes that the key to getting ahead is to get more sleep - her Ted talk is a good watch.
And she's right. Not only does your body repair itself while sleeping, not getting enough makes you more susceptible to colds, flus, diabetes and weight gain.
Lying awake at night worrying about that trouble return you've got to get done isn't going to do you - or it - any good.
So shut off all devices including TVs, tablets and phones, at least an hour before bed. A warm shower or bath and a cup of either cocoa or chamomile tea may help to nod off. If not, exercise a few hours before bed, or try to tire yourself out somehow.
Meditation is another great way to clear your mind, and if you don't know how to do it apps such as Headspace and Omvana may be able to help (you can break the smartphone rule for this, just don't sneak onto FaceBook).
Get some (ice cold) fresh air
Getting exercise is very important. Whatever you're into, whether a walk or a cycle or swim, just get it done - at least three to four times per week for half an hour a time.
If you can do this out in the open air, all the better. Spending lots of time inside is bad for allergies and can lower your mood while the evenings are still short. So try to get out and about in the fresh air even to walk the dog.
Shut the noise out
Staff, friends, family, clients, HMRC - it can all get a little overwhelming, especially for introverted types. There's no doubt that this is a busy time of year, but you don't have to let the noise get to you.
Find a few minutes each day to sit back, close your eyes and relax yourself, in silence. If you know how and it's your sort of thing, meditate. Having a quiet or 'safe' space to retreat to (think shed, spare office room or even a quiet corner of the library) will reduce anxiety and stress built up through processing too much information at once.
Have a good old fashioned gas
Never underestimate the benefits of talking your worries out to someone close and trusted. Be open about how you are feeling - if you're overwhelmed, let it out. Rant. Harm comes from negative emotions or thoughts held inside - a problem shared isn't necessarily a problem halved, but it will do your mental wellbeing the world of good, even if you don't feel the immediate benefits.
If you don't feel you've got someone to turn to try calling a helpline for an impartial listener. The Samaratans, CABA for chartered accountants and SupportLine are all good places to start.
But a family member or friend are always good to have on hand. And remember as a wise doctor once said: "Those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind".
- Beat Self Assessment stress
- How to become stress resilient
- Stress Awareness: Tips to help you cope
- CABA video: Managing your stress effectively
For more resources on stress management for accountants, see our dedicated stress page.