To Lessen Stress, We Must Get Better at Saying No
Establishing boundaries revealed as one of the biggest takeaways from last week’s personal resilience webinar.
It comes as no surprise to most CPAs that accounting is one of the most stressful professions. However, until recently, it may not have had such incredible statistics behind the belief:
- Accounting staff experience the most significant increases in role stress and burnout.
- Accounting seniors report significantly higher intensions to leave their current firms.
- More than half of accountants (56%) said they were suffering from stress and burnout (compared to 41% across all other professions).
- Nearly half of accountants were worried about being treated differently if they admitted being stressed.
During the January webinar, “The Value of Personal Resilience: What Business Professionals Need to Know,” hosted by the Center for Accounting Transformation and moderated by the Center’s Inspiration Architect Donny Shimamoto, CPA, CITP, CGMA, thought leaders discussed how important self-awareness and self-care are to CPAs, especially during busy season. Joined by fellow CPAs Randy Crabtree, Courtney Deronde and Amber Setter (inactive), as well as noted psychologist Samuel Kim, Shimamoto engaged the panelists in discussing various angles of personal resilience to attenuate the negative effects of workplace stress.
Don’t Ignore Symptoms – Or Allow Them to Continue
In 2014, Randy Crabtree, CPA, co-founder and partner of Tri-Merit Specialty Tax Professionals, picked up breakfast with his brother for a morning meeting. Shortly after parking his car, he realized he was having a stroke. While swift medical help was vital to his recovery, he experienced another stroke just four days later. Crabtree said that began his descent.
“That’s what started my downfall,” he explained. “Just like never-ending deadlines and all these things can start someone’s mental downfall if we don’t start control it… What happened is I started getting a panic attack six months after my stroke.”
Crabtree said he later learned events, places, and circumstances were triggering PTSD in him. That caused panic attacks, which led to more stress and more anxiety. After years of research and working with a competent therapist, he is much better, and his business is booming, primarily because he has realigned his priorities with his time management.
Speaking of Time Management…
As the CEO of Forge Financial & Management Consulting, Courtney DeRonde knew hard work would pay off. However, she says, that may have gotten out of hand.
“I used to believe that working more hours meant I would get more done and that if I couldn’t get it done today, I would do it tonight. If I couldn’t get it done, this week, I would do it this weekend, and that I just had to hustle more and put in more effort and that I would be rewarded with success. And it just required some personal sacrifice. That’s the mindset that I had. That’s what I experienced as a model in public accounting. And, and that’s what I used to believe.”
She did some research, read some books and eventually came to an epiphany.
“What I now know is that more hours doesn’t equal more productivity,” she said. “Time is fixed. And when we try to manage our time, we are believing that we can stretch it and flex it. And that’s just not the reality. That’s not how time works. We all have the same number of minutes in a day, hours in the day days in the week, and we cannot create more time.”
Coaching Can Help Prioritize
The panelists encouraged attendees to place the highest priority on their physical and mental health during busy season and to not fear asking for help, whether that’s in the form of professional coaching or professional therapy.
Amber Setter, an executive leadership coach with Conscious Public Accountants, a professional coaching firm, said, “As a professional coach, what we’re really doing is we are helping people to uncover what matters most to them and how to build a plan that reflects the life that they really want to be leading.”
Setter told the group about her upbringing, sharing painful stories of a family member’s addiction, and how that helped shape her own mindfulness and her future career.
“I love helping people understand and basically build new patterns of thought that are driving their behaviors,” she added.
Sometimes, however, we need more help.
Stop the Stigma. Now.
In a report published February 2022, The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales published a report, “Stressed Accountants Too Busy to Seek Mental Health Support.” That report stated, “Alarmingly, almost a third of accountants said they would be concerned about their manager or HR department believing them to be unreliable if they sought help for their mental health.”
However, each panelist agreed that anyone who feels burned out or stressed should get help, whether through talking to family and friends, coworkers, mentors, or professional coaches. Of course, the list of confidants could include a professional therapist.
Samuel Kim, a licensed psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Denver, said, “One of the first questions I always get is from people who feel like, ‘I’ve tried all these different things, I’ve read all the books, I’ve watched the TED talks, I’ve talked to colleagues, I’ve leaned on friends and family, but there still seems to be something that’s not quite working in my life.’ Another group of clients that I’ve worked with it are those whose stress levels have just exceeded their ability to handle all of that, their ability to cope with all that stress.”
He continued to point out the benefits of finding the perfect therapeutic fit.
“I’m sure many of you have had an issue or problem gone to a family member or friend or a colleague,” Kim said. “And before you even get 20 seconds into talking about what it is you’re going through; they already are pulling out all these different tools for you to try. And you think, ‘Well, no, that doesn’t quite help me. That’s not something that fits me.’”
While credentials, competency, and experience should play vital roles in the selection of professional help, Kim said it basically boils down to the right match.
“After you meet with the person, do you feel comfortable talking with this person?” Kim said. “Because they can have all the training and many, many years of experience. But if you don’t feel comfortable talking about all the things that are going on in your life in an open manner, then it’s not going to be a great place for you to get that treatment.”
CPAs Must Help Themselves, Too
CPAs, they all agreed, are largely not open to asking for help for one reason: They are used to helping everyone else.
“You ask anybody why they got into tax and accounting, and they always say, ‘Oh, I want to help people.’ That’s where our mindset is,” Crabtree said. “But we lose the fact that, hey, we also have to help ourselves.”
“The Value of Personal Resilience: What Business Professionals Need to Know” is now available as an on-demand (non-CPE) webinar from the Center .