On one of the earliest episodes of this podcast, episode #17 – Beating Burnout, I discussed the topic of burnout and how incredibly challenging it is for accountant moms who have so much on their shoulders, both personally and professionally. That episode resonated with a lot of listeners and since the topic of burnout is still so prevalent, especially for working moms dealing with a global pandemic, I wanted to go even deeper this week.
I know that so many of you are at a crossroads, where you are so overwhelmed and stressed that you either want to quit, run away or a combination of both. You know first hand that the struggle is real and probably have the common belief that there’s nothing that can be done to have a more balanced life and reduce your burnout.
In the earlier episode on burnout, I shared that some of the signs of burnout to pay attention to include:
- Beginning to feel a lack of energy
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Lack of focus or forgetfulness
- Prone to catching whatever cold is going around the office
- Feeling on edge
- Feeling hopelessness
- More tense and irritable than usual
- Loss of enjoyment
- Noticing a good deal of negative self-talk
- Isolating yourself
- Not able to be as productive as usual
Whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur, studies have also shown that women experience burnout faster than men, making this an important topic to address. In addition, the risks of heart conditions, strokes and even diabetes are drastically increased in women who experience continual stress at work and at home, making burnout something to address as early as possible.
If you are like so many of the accountant moms I talk to, you might be at the point of exhaustion, wishing there was a better way to have the career you desire, to support your family financially, to be there for your children, but also to not be so frustrated, stressed and overwhelmed so much of the time. Unfortunately, as accountants we often get the message to just “suck it up” and keep pressing on.
For all the highly intelligent, often high-achieving, perfectionistic, people-pleasing, accountant moms out there, the road to burnout can happen at any time in your career, whether you are in public or private accounting. For those of you who are afraid to acknowledge that you’re getting burned out, it’s okay; it doesn’t need to be a dirty little secret any longer.
What I hope you get from this episode is that reducing accountant mom burnout is not only possible, but doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might believe. Just because burnout is common, especially among accountants and working moms, doesn’t mean you can’t get it under control and have a much easier time having both the career goals and the family life you want.
There is no shame in the fact that you are experiencing burnout, but I also want you to know that it doesn’t have to be as normal as you may have been led to believe. There is a way to reduce burnout so you can live the happy, balanced life that you desire and deserve, without having to give up on the career you’ve worked so hard for.
This week I’m going to explain where burnout comes from, especially for accountant moms, and what you can do to reduce your accountant mom burnout.
Where burnout comes from
One of the most frustrating things for the accountant moms that I speak to, is that so many are experiencing the same thing, which often makes them feel like there’s really no solution. Sometimes it’s even like a warped badge of honor to be a busy, burned out accountant, as if that proves how dedicated you are, as opposed to the accountant who’s less stressed and overwhelmed.
I was once in the hallway of my office building and heard two accountants talking about another accountant in our building. One man said to the other that he saw a particular accountant smiling in the hallway during tax season and that his car wasn’t in the parking lot at 8 pm like everyone else’s, so therefore he must not be very good at what he does.
It’s interesting how, on the one hand, our personal perceptions and the public perception of accountants is that you’re supposed to be stressed out, but on the other hand, it can be something you also feel like you need to sweep under the rug. It’s a strange dance between wanting to be perceived as busy, but also not wanting to admit that that busyness is leading to burnout.
So while it’s so important to not suffer in silence and to be part of a supportive community like we have at CPA MOMS, it can also be a catch-22 because when other accountant moms share their experience with burnout, it can then become the main thing you want to commiserate about. As you hear other working moms share their war stories, it can make you feel even more justified for your burnout as well.
Obviously, there’s no denying that it’s challenging to balance an accounting career with having a family, but the more you normalize burnout, and the more you look for others that have normalized it as well, the harder it will be to reduce it for yourself. When you’re only focused on the problem and justifying it, it’s difficult to be open to the solution.
But before I share the solution, I want to help open your eyes to see the cause of burnout in a different way than you might be currently seeing it, or how others see it. By being able to understand burnout differently, you’ll also be able to do something about it, in a way that puts you in control and not at the mercy of your job, your schedule, or anything else you have in your life.
The key to understanding burnout better is knowing that your body follows your brain, so if you are feeling tired, lethargic, or exhausted, the reason isn’t because you’re an accountant and a mom. This might be a hard pill to swallow but unfortunately, it’s not your job, your business, your to-do list, the extension of tax season, or the fact that you have a lot of responsibilities, that’s causing you to feel burned out.
If you’re confused or want to argue with me right now, I get it. For a long time my clients also thought that their burnout was caused by so many things and that if they just changed jobs, hired more help for their business, or got a cleaning woman once a week for their home, that they wouldn’t feel burned out.
But unfortunately doing those things was just a temporary fix because of their belief about why they were burned out in the first place. The most important thing I want to help you understand is that when you believe something or someone is going to be the solution to your feelings of burnout, you’re setting yourself up to fail because it isn’t anything outside of you that’s actually creating the feeling of burnout.
The truth is that, since your body is only doing what it’s supposed to do, which means it’s responding to your brain, then all those beliefs about how accountants are supposed to be busy, and all those conversations and justifications for why you feel burned out, are wrapping you up in a tight web of what I like to call “burnout advocacy”. Whenever you or others legitimize burnout, you strengthen the neural pathways in your brain, causing your brain to look for more reasons why you should feel burned out.
What this all means is that if you want to reduce accountant mom burnout, you have to reduce the body/brain connection that says your career, your workload, the time of year, or any other host of things is responsible for your feelings of burnout. You’ve got to start distancing yourself from the story of the busy accountant who is always overwhelmed and tired, and start looking for a way to describe what you do and how you do it in a way that feels more balanced, more powerful, and more peaceful.
But this is only the starting point because once you begin to drop the story you and others have repeated over and over again, there are other things you can do to reduce burnout.
What you can do to reduce your burnout
At this point you might be feeling a little confused because you’ve been making the connection between the situations in your life and your feeling of burnout, but that’s exactly what I want you to recognize. I really want you to take an honest look at everything and everyone you’ve been blaming for why you feel burned out.
I’m not telling you to deny the fact that you have responsibilities and demands on your time, but what I am trying to help you to see is that how you think and talk about those things in your life is always optional. If you get anything from this episode, I really want you to hear this – it’s not useful to describe things in such a heavy way that you then wind up feeling even more overwhelmed and burned out just by virtue of how you think and how you describe those things.
For example, if you are an employee and you have an accounting job, that’s clearly a fact. But the issue when it comes to burnout is when you choose to describe that the job is difficult, talk about how your boss is a micromanager, that tax season is hard, or that being an accountant mom is just too much.
In order to reduce accountant mom burnout, you first need to pay attention to how you think about the people, places and things in your life and question what you are indulging in, in your mind. What is the story that is on a rinse and repeat cycle in your brain?
Once you catch it, then you can choose to stop it as well. I highly recommend that you just keep reminding yourself that there is a body/brain connection and how you feel, whether it’s energized or burned out, is never caused by anything outside of you; it’s only ever because of your brain.
The second thing that will help you reduce burnout is to stop avoiding and procrastinating making decisions, whether they’re big or small. Nothing is more draining to you both mentally and physically than a lack of decision-making skills.
A lack of decisions creates a never-ending loop in your brain whether you realize it or not, creating more stress and fatigue. In order to help you with this, as I’ve shared in previous episodes, you can always use the “Do it, dump it, delegate it” method where you either handle it right now or calendar a time to handle it, you dump it in the “trash”, or you delegate it to someone else.
And a word of caution – don’t let any perfectionist tendencies get in the way of making a decision because that will only add more mental stress, creating more of the feeling of burnout. A lack of decisions is confusing and exhausting, so take a few minutes to make a list of the things you need to decide and then give yourself a deadline to make those decisions.
The third thing that will help you reduce burnout is an expression I just heard in a podcast – “overworking in unproductive effort”. This is a big issue for accountant moms who have more things to get done than most other accountants, and still only 24 hours to get it all done.
What it means to overwork in unproductive effort is that you know you have things you need to get done, but then you allow yourself to get distracted with other things. As I’ve shared before, your brain gets easily distracted when it doesn’t want to do something because it’s difficult or not pleasurable (ie, most accounting work), but then you wind up overworking to make up for the time spent with distractions.
To help reduce accountant mom burnout when it comes to overworking, you need to be onto yourself and plan your time based on the result you’re going to produce, not based on the actions you’re going to take. For example, you need to decide that at the end of one hour you will have a tax return reviewed, forcing your brain to focus and reducing your ability to waste time checking email, scrolling Facebook or distracting yourself in many other ways.
And the last way that will help you reduce burnout is to have better boundaries. When you’re overly available, overly accommodating, or trying to please everyone, you are the one who suffers in the end with burnout.
In order to reduce burnout, you need to take charge of how you are scheduling your time, making sure you schedule your free time before anything else; even before your work or family commitments. You also need to have a long-term vision for your career and your life and decide what boundaries you need to set in order to achieve that vision.
Boundaries not only benefit you, but they also benefit everyone else in your life as well because until you reduce your burnout, you’re not going to be able to be the accountant or the mom you want to be. A life without boundaries is unsustainable, so do yourself, your career, and your family a favor and start setting boundaries around your time and anything else that needs a boundary placed.
No matter whether you are just noticing signs of burnout, or you’ve been experiencing it for a while but just normalized it, there’s always a way to reduce and even eradicate burnout. As you start to address it in your life and become an example of what’s possible, you also make it possible for other accountant moms to change the conversation around burnout as well.
Hopefully now you can begin to find ways to support your new story; the one about the accountant mom who has a successful career as well as a family, and who doesn’t let burnout derail her goals and dreams.
- Whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur, studies have also shown that women experience burnout faster than men, making this an important topic to address.
- If you are like so many of the accountant moms I talk to, you might be at the point of exhaustion, wishing there was a better way to have the career you desire, to support your family financially, to be there for your children, but also to not be so frustrated, stressed and overwhelmed so much of the time.
- The key to understanding burnout better is knowing that your body follows your brain, so if you are feeling tired, lethargic, or exhausted, the reason isn’t because you’re an accountant and a mom.
- No matter whether you are just noticing signs of burnout, or you’ve been experiencing it for a while but just normalized it, there’s always a way to reduce and even eradicate burnout.