Before December even started, I was already feeling anxious about my busy season as an accountant, which begins January 1st. There is so much to do! I worry about meeting reporting deadlines and I worry that something important will fall through the cracks. I have the kind of anxiety that keeps me awake at night.
In reading the Sunday paper last week, I learned a new word for that familiar feeling of agitation. In an article on the economy, Jared Bernstein wrote: “The stock market is clearly on shpilkes (Yiddish for “pins and needles”)…” Bernstein tried to explain what is going on with economy and not how to prevent shpilkes. Nevertheless, I found some hints between the lines.
Just as the stock market is not always rational, my anxiety is not always rational. Sometimes I overreact to bad news or get upset by what someone else says or does. Sometimes I get distracted by all the noise. Sometimes I feel like l’m being pulled in too many directions.
With its highs and lows, life can feel like a roller coaster ride. It can feel like you’re on a merry-go-round, pointlessly going around and around and never getting any where. It can feel like you are on pins and needles.
Bernstein reminded me of the importance of having the right perspective. Sometimes we blow things out of proportion. Sometimes we worry too much about the future because things aren’t going smoothly now. Sometimes we can’t see clearly because we’re listening to people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Keep things in perspective. Don’t overreact. Check the facts.
A little article about the economy reminded me how important it is to filter out the noise. Bernstein writes, “Go ahead and watch the roller coaster if you must, but if it makes you sick, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” There is no point in worrying about things you can’t control. If you filter out the noise, then you can focus on what you can control. You can arm yourself with useful information. You can be rational and proactive not just reactive.
In my job, the best strategy for reducing anxiety is planning and preparation. I reduce my worries of missing something important by making checklists of my tasks and their due dates. I am doing whatever I can ahead of time.
Preparation is huge but I cannot prepare myself for everything. Unexpected things happen. In July, my coworker resigned. I had no idea he was thinking of leaving. We have a small office so I had to pick up half his responsibilities until we hired a replacement. Being flexible helped me make the best of a stressful situation. I looked at it as an opportunity to learn something new.
When I am trying to juggle too many things, I get frazzled and overwhelmed. Last year, I found it stressful when auditors interrupted my work with requests for information. As annoying as it is, being audited is part of my job. I don’t like to admit that I either need help or I need more time. I am learning that there is no shame in asking for help. It’s a lot easier to share the burden.
Looking back at the most stressful moments of last year, I can see that sometimes I forgot to take a deep breath and a moment to relax and refresh my mind. I was too focused on how much I needed to do. I didn’t take advantage of the power in the pause.
- Keep things in perspective.
- Don’t overreact.
- Check the facts and arm yourself with information.
- Filter out the noise and focus on the right message.
- Plan and prepare for whatever you’re worried about.
- Be flexible when life throws you the unexpected curve ball.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Share the burden.
- Pause, reflect, and focus your energy on what is most important.
- Breathe, just breathe.