CPA News Blog

Stress and the CPA

It is that time of year again. All your friends and family know the going has gotten tough. Busy season reaching it's peak. The good thing is that you've proved you can hack it. Getting through college and into a career in the accounting field requires sacrifice, hard work, long study hours, intelligence, and being tough enough to grit it out.

You may be finding the hardest is knowing when to give yourself a break.

Busy season is really putting it lightly

Right now is one of those times where all life's factors are coming together. Spring break and wedding seasons are starting up, you're studying for the CPA Exam, trying to stay in shape, manage relationships... Sometimes it's impossible to keep up, so we just keep our mental to-do list running long. This is okay. It happens to everyone. All adults who have responsibilities know what it's like to feel like you're falling behind. The key is knowing when you aren't operating at your best.

Change is gradual, but all of a sudden one day it can feel like your razor blade mental sharpness is replaced with a butter knife. This can be because you're just worn out. Emotionally you're drained and need a little rest. This is when it can be easy to tell yourself to buck up. Life is nothing more than a matter of effort right? Well, it might be, but it might be more. Stress releases cortisol and after a long enough time this cortisol can build up in the brain and cause mental differences we're not used to. That feeling of lacking sharpness can be directly related to cortisol build up. This stress and all the work can even lead to depression.

During Michigan State Universities Medical School Matriculation ceremony the orator was talking to students being admitted, but then the presenter turned to the friends and family in the audience and warned them about the level of stress students were about to face. He warned that the mental and emotional gauntlet they were about to go through was a serious one. HE even told those in the audience their sons, daughters, spouses, and parents entering into medical school stood a good chance to become depressed. Well, you know as good as anyone the CPA Exam is one of the hardest, and the similar effects are ones you should be aware of as well. Here are some symptoms you'll want to look out for.

 

Forgetfulness related to stress

It's the third time today you can't find your keys, you walk to the copy machine not sure what you went there for, and after going to the grocery store for one thing, you can't remember what in the world it is once you get there. The excess cortisol built up in your brain inhibits you from remembering things like you usually do. This memory loss can be frustrating, but it's a sign that you are in the early stages of burning out. Don't excuse thise out of the normal behavior as something normal, because it shouldn't be. Taking time to take care of yourself and regularly shedding a little stress and tension might save you the quality of work and the time it takes you complete your tasks in the long run.

 

Excessive Fatigue

This is a hard one to judge because it's so subjective. You have to ask if you are tired vs. are you exceptionally tired to the point where it is inhibiting your ordinary life. You still might be able to force out some productivity, but if the rest of your life is suffering you need to take a break. Taking a break is not necessarily about today, it's about tomorrow. It's about coming back, recovering from the current problems so you can deal with whatever comes next, and having a healthy outlook through it all. If you're running on empty and keep going, don't expect good results. The healthiest people are those who have learn and practice health in terms of getting better and then staying better. Don't worry if you feel past fatigue; it merely means you know your limit and what doesn't help you recover.

 

Sleeplessness, weight gain, and moodswings

If you find yourself exhausted yet can't seem to fall asleep at night you are probably too stressed. Again, chronic cortisol is the enemy here as it is in many of these issues. Experiencing mood swings is also a symptom of excess cortisol. Now, it may make sense for all these symptoms to cause you to be irritable, but it may also be the results of the cortisol again. Worst off is how cyclical the stress/cortisol cycle is. When it gets out of hand you'll even notice the physical effects of weight gain.

 

What you can do

While it may feel like you need days to recover, a little bit of a break can go a long way. If you've gotten to the point where you've lost ambition for anything outside of work you might need some help. Ask a friend to check in on you, get out of the house, grab a froyo and play a game for an hour at night. Read a book that you enjoy at lunch. Take time to get away from your stressors. Definitely eliminate the stressors through analysis and hard work, but also realize your body works best when it's not always running in high gear. To keep up the best speeds overall you need to stay healthy by slowing it down every once in a while.

 

If you are having serious issues related to depression, cortisol levels, fatigue, and general health causing more stress you should see a doctor or therapist. Maintaining your body to run at peak performance is necessary and healthy. In the long run, you need to listen to your body. Failing to do so may result in a little reprieve, but you're probably going to start the stress cycle again, but with fewer and shorter gaps between.

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