Right Networks Blog

How to Embrace the Insanity and Stress of Tax Season

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Stress is no joke.

The American Psychological Association in their annual Stress in America survey, found the following:

  • Money and work are the two leading causes of stress.
  • Two in five adults have overeaten or eaten poorly in response to stress in the past 30 days.
  • In nearly one-third of adults, stress has a strong or very strong impact on their physical health.

But there is an often-overlooked upside to stress. CPAs, accountants, tax pros, and bookkeepers take note: You can harness the positive power of stress to make your work life better, even during the craziest time of the year. Here’s how.

  1. Stress only happens when you care. If the demands of your job make you anxious, see it as a sign that you care about your work. You want to do a good job for your clients, for your supervisor, for yourself. These are all good things. It shows that you’re engaged with your work and that it inspires you to do great work.
    Tip: Caring about your work is a good thing, but be careful that it doesn’t consume your life. Be invested in your work but also take care of yourself. Take time for family, exercise, and fun to give yourself some much-needed relief.
  2. Reframe stress in a new way. Think back to high school or college. Before that big game or opening night of the new play, you talked about excitement and nerves and being “amped up.” Yet before a final exam or dissertation, you talked about “choking up” and “freaking out.” The feelings were the same but the words used to describe them were different. Approach your work stress the same way. See your stress as excitement that prepares you to tackle a huge task. It’s your body’s way of letting you know to prepare and get ready for work.
    Tip: When your stress levels slip over from excitement into dread, listen to your body. That’s a sign that you need to take a break. No change of mindset will overcome actual exhaustion. 
  3. Recall your past responses to stress and how it revealed your inner strength. If you’ve been in the tax or accounting field for very long, then you’ve experienced the stress of tax season before. To deal with your stress now, remember how well you’ve dealt with it in the past. You’ve powered through past tax seasons and you’ll power through this one too. You’ve learned a lot in your career. That knowledge accumulates from season to season helping you manage whatever stresses come your way better than ever before.
    Tip: Keep a journal during tax season. Note each time you have a victory or learn a lesson. That journal can then become another tool you use the next time this stressful season arrives.
  4. Use stress as a chance to connect with others. Stress often reminds us how much we need and value our coworkers. A shared experience during difficult times draws people together. Look for opportunities to commiserate and help coworkers whenever you can. They will usually return the favor in your time of need. Use this season to build relationships and a stronger social network.
    Tip: Build relationships wisely. Connect with people who are helpful and exhibit wise ways of coping with stress. Don’t connect with teammates who seem to embrace drama, chaos, and complaining.
  5. See stress as a performance enhancer. Stress is a primal response. It’s how humans cope in frightening and dangerous situations. Tense times actually heighten your focus. Stress gives you motivation and energy to achieve the tasks set before you. The right level of stress sharpens your ability to get your work done.
    Tip: Stress is a good motivator, but too much demotivates us. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress, that can weaken your performance and cause you to shut down.

If you want to survive tax season, embrace all the good things stress can do for you. What other upsides of stress have you experienced?