Whether you are in public or private accounting, if there’s one thing that all accountants have to deal with, it’s pressure. Before the pandemic, the accounting profession was already dealing with a fair amount of pressure as a whole, but since the pandemic shifted so much of what we do, where we do it, and added so many changes that accountants have to make sense of for their companies and clients, there’s even more heaviness weighing on us.
When you add the pressure that accountants in general have, to the pressure that working mothers have, especially since the pandemic, it’s no wonder so many of us are buckling under it all. It’s a common sentiment among the accountants that I speak to and coach that “It’s just too much”.
Although we’d all like to live pressure-free, peaceful lives, it’s also important to consider the fact that pressure isn’t always the enemy – it isn’t always a bad thing. If you think about it, pressure is actually what can propel us forward if we’re not moving, but unfortunately, if there’s too much pressure and things get out of balance, that’s when pressure can become overwhelming and damaging.
The interesting thing is that in the deadline driven world of accounting, there are work-imposed pressures that cannot be avoided, but as moms we often create self-imposed pressures. For example, we add pressure to ourselves and our children in our expectations and beliefs about the way things “should” be – how we should be as mothers, and how they should be as our children.
While it sounds positive to say that we want a stress-free job or a stress-free life with little or no pressure, pressure can actually be healthy, as long as it’s pushing you along and not drowning or steam rolling you. The forward movement that can be created by pressure is actually important as you define what you want now and in the future.
To show you what I mean, if you’ve ever had a job or a time when you were bored out of your mind, you can probably see where it might be okay for a little while, but eventually that loss of momentum would start to weigh on you. Without anything pushing you towards some movement, you might find yourself stuck wondering how you got there or how to get out.
The interesting thing is that we think we don’t want to have pressure, but that’s usually when we want relief from the enormous amount of pressure we’re currently experiencing. It’s when we’re looking for an escape from the way we’re feeling, that we think that having no pressure at all is the answer.
But just like there’s a healthy range for your blood pressure, in reality the pressure being too low is as concerning for a doctor as the pressure being too high. Low blood pressure can cause dizziness, fainting, fatigue, and loss of concentration, all due to the blood not flowing at the optimal range of momentum that your body needs to function properly.
The same thing goes for you – a healthy range of pressure is what can keep you balanced and moving forward, allowing your life to function properly. The question then becomes – how can you make the switch from unhealthy to healthy pressure? What’s really within your control when it comes to pressure?
This week I’m going to discuss the warning signs of unhealthy pressure, the root cause of unhealthy pressure. and how you can switch from unhealthy to healthy pressure.
Warning signs of unhealthy pressure
The interesting thing that I’ve found when it comes to a lot of the issues we have balancing an accounting career with being a mom, is that we tend to normalize how we’re feeling, whether it’s being stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, because of one important thing – it’s what’s familiar. I’ve shared this on the podcast before, but our brain is motivated to keep things the same because change would take effort and your brain likes to expend as little energy as possible.
So what can unfortunately happen is that we often miss the warning signs for ourselves and others, that unhealthy pressure is present. We’re so caught up just trying to survive, that we can miss the warning signs of unhealthy pressure and often only recognize it after the fact or when something happens like someone quits or we have a health diagnosis.
Since it can sometimes be easier to see the warning signs in other people, let’s start there. Whether you’re in a leadership position at work or not, here are some of the warning signs of unhealthy pressure. Someone might be in the overwhelming stage of unhealthy pressure if:
- They’re not showing up on time
- They’re not keeping their commitments
- They have a hard time holding a train of thought
- They complain a lot
- They’re not solution focused
- They feel justified
- They seem more withdrawn
- They seem more irritable than usual
When you notice some of these behaviors, there can obviously be a lot of factors involved – a change in personal circumstance, outside pressure from others,, changes in circumstances at work, things going on at home, struggles with different relationships, children, finances, or issues with their health, to name just a few. There are so many challenges that can be happening behind the scenes.
But again, we can also tend to normalize how we handle different things, never really getting to the root, or the cause, of the issue. Thankfully, once you understand the root cause of unhealthy pressure, you can learn a much better way to switch out of unhealthy pressure and instead, learn how to handle healthy pressure.
Now think about that list of warning signs and see if any apply to you – are you not showing up on time, not keeping your commitments, have a hard time holding a train of thought, complain a lot, not finding solutions, feeling justified, being more withdrawn, or feeling more irritable than usual. These are important for you to be able to see in yourself as well.
While certain levels of pressure in a field such as accounting are unavoidable, the key is to understand what creates unhealthy pressure so that you can actually do something about it. Most people want to deal with the symptoms by changing the situation, but when you can get to the root cause, you can actually take your power back.
The root cause of unhealthy pressure
So many of us, myself included, blame the situations and the circumstances in our life for the amount of pressure that we’re experiencing. We want to blame the time of year, the amount of work we have, or our situation at home, for why we’re feeling stress and pressure.
I know you’re going to want to argue with me, but the best news that I can give you is that nothing and no one is actually causing the pressure we feel. It’s totally natural to want to blame circumstances or situations for our feeling of pressure, but once you truly understand that that is not the case, you’ll be able to switch from unhealthy to healthy pressure much more easily.
Remember, healthy pressure creates momentum and moves us forward, therefore, we want to be able to handle healthy pressure. By understanding the root cause of unhealthy pressure, we can take back control when things seem like they’re not within our control.
Here’s what I want you to know about unhealthy pressure, especially as an accountant and a mom – the root cause of unhealthy pressure is your brain, specifically the thoughts your brain is believing about you. Basically unhealthy pressure comes down to one thing – self-doubt.
The truth is that there are things out there in the world that happen, that are facts, and then there are the thoughts and beliefs we have about those facts. Most of us, myself included until I learned how to manage my mind, just let our default brain think how it wants to think about all those things out there in the world, and we don’t realize that we also have an executive functioning part of our brain that is so much more powerful than the default part of our brain.
Unfortunately, as young girls and then women, we’ve had many years and a lot of messages and programming that has been stored in this default part of our brain. The repetitive thoughts that that part of the brain often offers us typically goes something like – “This is too much. You can’t handle this all. You’re going to fail. You should probably give up. Look at all the times you’ve failed in the past. You’re not good enough.” Does any of that sound familiar?
It’s important to know that since your negative-biased brain has over 60,000 thoughts a day and a lot of those thoughts are negative towards you, it’s no wonder that you have self-doubt about your ability to handle situations. Even labeling things as “challenging” or “stressful” is a sneaky way that your default brain convinces you that you’re not capable or good enough, creating an unhealthy tug-of-war between self-doubt and self-confidence.
The key is understanding that there are things in the world that are facts, like the fact that you have work to get done for a client, or your spouse told you that they’re unhappy with your relationship, or your son got a C on a math test and his teacher wants to meet with you – but those things don’t cause unhealthy pressure. The root cause of unhealthy pressure regarding any of these situations is your thoughts and beliefs about your ability to handle them.
For example, if your spouse told you that they’re unhappy with your relationship and you think “I’m never going to be able to handle a divorce”, you can see why you would be feeling pressure and feeling overwhelmed. From those feelings you would probably spin in your head about worst case scenarios, not be able to focus at work, and not be able to decide on the best course of action, creating a lot of unhealthy pressure for yourself.
But in this scenario, unhealthy pressure is not caused by the fact that your spouse told you that they’re unhappy with your relationship, it’s your thought “I’m never going to be able to handle a divorce” that’s causing it. It’s the self-doubt that is causing you to feel unhealthy pressure, which then leads you to not take steps to handle the situation, eventually proving to yourself that you can’t handle a divorce or whatever happens with your spouse.
Let’s take the scenario where you have to get a lot of work done for a client, the deadline is approaching and you think “I’m never going to get this all done in time”. The truth is that the amount of work you have and the deadline isn’t what’s created pressure for you, it’s your thought “I’m never going to get this all done in time” that creates the feeling of unhealthy pressure.
It can be challenging at first because we’re so used to blaming things like the amount of work we have or the deadlines we’re faced with, but it’s really important that you understand that the cause of unhealthy pressure is not the people, places and things in your life. The good news is that the cause is actually your brain and you can definitely do something about that.
Thankfully, there is a much better way to shift unhealthy pressure into healthy pressure, so let me show you how.
How to switch from unhealthy to healthy pressure
So many of you are overwhelmed with balancing your careers with your families that you may not even know what healthy pressure is or feels like. You might be feeling like you’re just drowning and wishing someone would throw you a life preserver.
So here’s what healthy pressure looks like:
- Having a steady stream of things to get done at work
- Having a steady stream of things to get done at home
- Having a to-do list
- Having people to see and places to be
- Having expectations and deadlines
- Focusing and staying on one task after another
- Handling the unexpected
- Helping others
- Adding value
- Coming up with good ideas and solutions
- Working well with others
- Giving and taking suggestions
- Not working so hard to prove your worth
Notice how nothing on that list is probably out of the ordinary for you – it sounds like a pretty typical life of an accountant and a mom. So if that’s what healthy pressure looks like then why do we feel so much unhealthy pressure? The answer is because of what we think about our ability to handle each of those things on the list.
In order to switch from unhealthy to healthy pressure, you don’t need your life to change, you need your perception to change. Having healthy pressure means you like where you’re coming from when you show up at work and at home – it’s taking care of things without the added layer of mind drama.
Making the switch from unhealthy to healthy pressure doesn’t require you to run away to a remote island, even though that may sound like the answer. It only requires you to be much more aware of how you’re thinking about the things in your life.
The amount of work you have to do and the time you have to do it in, the unexpected project that the client needs done by next week, the words your husband says to you about your relationship, the grades your son is getting in Math – none of it needs to create unhealthy pressure once you become aware of what you’re thinking about the facts of the situation. Nothing creates the feeling of stress and overwhelm other than your brain.
In order to switch from unhealthy pressure to healthy pressure, you only need to become aware of what you’re thinking about the facts of a situation and choose a more helpful way to think about it that replaces self-doubt with something more neutral or more empowering. Thoughts like “It’s possible that I can get this done in the time I have”, “I’m open to looking at this differently”, or “I’m curious about what my next step could be”, would all make it much easier to switch from unhealthy to healthy pressure.
The point is that the facts of a situation do not need to overwhelm or stress you out because the truth is that they’re not the reason you feel that way. The only reason you feel unhealthy pressure is because of your optional thoughts.
This truth has literally changed every area of my life, especially how I balance having an accounting career with having a family, and especially how I manage my time. When you learn how to manage your mind, something that I teach in The Balanced Accountant Program, you learn how to be nicer to yourself and believe in yourself instead of falling prey to unhealthy pressure.
While it’s normal to experience pressure, especially as an accountant and a mom, you have much more control than you may realize to lessen that pressure. You’re doing a great job – you just need to understand your unique accountant brain better.
- Whether you are in public or private accounting, if there’s one thing that all accountants have to deal with, it’s pressure.
- The interesting thing is that in the deadline driven world of accounting, there are work-imposed pressures that cannot be avoided, but as moms we often create self-imposed pressures.
- Just like there’s a healthy range for your blood pressure, in reality the pressure being too low is as concerning for a doctor as the pressure being too high. The same thing goes for you – a healthy range of pressure is what can keep you balanced and moving forward, allowing your life to function properly.