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Firm Management

Stress Should be a Powerful Driving Force, Not an Obstacle

Stress will always be around, it’s up to you and how you deal with it, which will affect your mental and even physical health. Now is the perfect time to clear your mind, do some strategic planning, and begin making process improvements to find ways to...


By Richard Roppa-Roberts and Emily Hedrick.

May is mental health awareness month, and after the stress of April, our accounting and bookkeeping communities need to take time to reset and recharge. The overall uncertainty of the last two years plus tax laws continuously changing, plus clients that fear taxes and the IRS and all those new notices coming out seemingly daily… it’s no wonder we’ve all been super stressed.

Thankfully, we’ve made it past the tax deadline and now it’s time to reflect on the season. 

  • What went well? 
  • What didn’t go so well? 
  • What triggered stress for you? 
  • What changes can you make so that the next tax season runs just a little bit smoother?

Work these practices into your day-to-day to help manage your personal and professional stress. 

First, what is stress?

Stress can be defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

Life is stressful- from work relationships and deadlines to family matters and everything in between. Learning to cope with stress and finding healthy ways to deal with stressful situations can go a long way in living a healthy life. First, let’s understand the difference between healthy and harmful stress.

Healthy stress

  • Short-term
  • Focuses your energy; inspires you
  • A positive impact on function and productivity
  • Operating within your perceived capabilities 
  • Feeling good, operating in a growth mindset

Harmful stress

  • Prolonged stress
  • Consumes your mindspace; creates worry and fear
  • A negative impact on function and productivity
  • Overwhelming, hard to cope with
  • Feeling jittery, anxious, unable

Ways to manage stress:

Whether it’s a big deadline hanging over your head, or a small mishap during the day, it’s important to take intentional steps to prevent stress from interfering with you in a harmful way. We will look at a few different strategies that can help but remember you have to find what tactics work best for you. Try implementing these different strategies in combination, and even building a routine for best results.

Schedule breaks

Chances are, you have a lot of work to get done, like every single day – and no matter what you do, the list grows because it’s accounting and your clients keep spending money that you have to reconcile and more.  Maybe you’re feeling a lot of pressure to do it. It’s easy to put your head down and get caught up in the work, but you need breaks! Make it a point to schedule breaks on your calendar throughout the day. These can be short breaks, five minutes to walk to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee or grab a water, or 15 minutes to sit down and have a snack, or take a quick walk and get some sunshine. During these breaks, try to disconnect from technology to give your mind some time to relax and reset. This can do a world of wonders to help break up your workday and prevent feeling overwhelmed by your work. 

Set boundaries 

External pressure is a huge cause of stress- whether it’s your calendar, your vendors or partners, or even family. It is so important to set boundaries for yourself. Choose a time to log off from work every evening. Try turning off notifications during “off-hours” so you aren’t tempted to respond to messages and emails. If this is hard for you, try setting physical boundaries as well. At the end of the day, place all of your work-related items in a drawer or box in your office, and don’t look at them until you get started the next day.

Find tools to help

Work is work, but there are always ways to work smarter. Look for the processes and tasks that consume your mind or time, and see if there are better ways to do them. Look for automation. Instead of going back and forth to get a meeting scheduled, set up a calendar link so people can choose the day and time to meet based on availability and have the scheduler integrate with your preferred meeting system. Want to keep your social media active without worrying about it? Create and schedule your posts with a social media management platform. You can eliminate manual data entry with a platform like Bookkeep, make your engagement letter process quicker and easier with Ignition, or even automate your financial reports with Genius Sheets. Ultimately, you want to spend your time working efficiently. See what tools your peers are using to streamline their workflow.  

Take care of yourself

Stress is normal, but burnout can happen when we dedicate too much of ourselves to our work. Remember to take some time for self-care. Spend time doing activities you like and you’ll be amazed at how work won’t even cross your mind. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, and even some physical activity- to be your healthiest, best self. 

Try taking a few minutes to introduce more mindfulness into your day-to-day, through journaling, yoga, or meditation. You can easily find journal prompts online and yoga, meditation, and breathwork videos on YouTube, or through other wellness applications. These can also help you combat stressors and increase mental wellbeing. If practicing mindfulness is not already in your routine, it can be a game-changer when it comes to stress management. 

Take time off (if you can)

This might be the hardest to do. You might be in the middle of a big project or deadline, or even disregard days off because you don’t want the stress of coming back to a bunch of work. But guess what- you are the boss, right?  You get to set the stage how you like! 

And taking time off is a great way to relax and recharge. Start with a day or half-day off, this is a chance for you to give some time back to yourself. If you can, be strategic about the time you take off so you can maximize the opportunity. When you do take time off, make sure to confirm with your team that you’ll be offline and unavailable. If you do have to be available for some portion of your vacation, make sure you set boundaries about what that will look like. If you need help with vacation boundaries, check out my article from last year, How to take time off (and not deal with work).

It’s never-ending

Yes, the bulk of your seasonal work is done, but now it’s time to recharge and begin planning for the next year. Stress will always be around, it’s up to you and how you deal with it, which will affect your mental and even physical health. Now is the perfect time to clear your mind, do some strategic planning, and begin making process improvements to find ways to work smarter this year, and the next, and the next one after that too!


Emily Hedrick is the marketing lead at Bookkeep, an automation platform for accountants, bookkeepers, and business owners. She is currently a student at Northcentral University pursuing her Master’s of Business Administration.

Richard Roppa-Roberts is the founder of Quasar Cowboy Consulting, where he helps accounting firms and their clients with technology, workflow, engagement process, sales, marketing, and long-term planning.