4 Ways to Unwind for a Less Stressful Tax Season
Tax season has arrived, and with it a nearly constant stream of stress for the next several weeks.
Whether you’re preparing tax returns for your clients or you’re gathering all your own financial information in preparation for filing your business tax returns, this isn’t an easy season for anyone. There are deadlines, non-stop requests for your time and talent, and the worry that you’ve either taken too many or too few deductions.
Rather than spend the next several weeks wound up so tight you could snap at any moment, try one of these 4 ways to unwind so you can relax, recharge, and do your best work.
Take a Break
It may seem impossible to take a break during a busy season. You’re already buried under a pile of must-get-dones, and taking half a day or, the horror, a full day off to do something else will turn the pile into an avalanche.
But will it really?
If you’re overtired and overworked, it may take you twice as long to finish what should be a simple, 15-minute task. That 30 minutes you spent on one task them pushes your other work back 15 minutes, which adds to your stress and feeling that you’re not going to get it all done, and just compounds your brain fry.
Rather than sit and spin your wheels for twice as long to get the same amount of work done, take some time off. Whether it’s a whole day or just an hour, going and doing something else besides working can give your brain the break it needs to recharge.
And when you come back to your work, you’re ready to dig back in, so that 15-minute task takes only 15 minutes instead of 30.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how often or how long you should take breaks to prevent increased stress, but taking a small break, even just 15 to 30 minutes a few times per day can help you refocus and get your head back in the game where it needs to be.
You know the feeling when you’re in the gym, the music’s pumping, and you’re in the zone with your workout? You feel invincible, your head is clear, and you walk out to your car feeling ready to get on with the day.
Although it often gets pushed to the wayside, especially during busy times of life, exercise is one of the best, most natural stress-relievers out there.
Whether you go lift heavy things for an hour, run five miles, join a kickboxing class, or just go for a nice, long walk all by yourself, exercise releases endorphins those “feel good” chemicals to your brain, leaving you feeling happier than when you began your workout. Your mind becomes more clear, allowing you to better focus on the things that are important once you get back to your desk.
Setting up a good exercise routine to help your productivity and reduce stress doesn’t have to be complicated.
If you’re already working out regularly, make a commitment to yourself that you won’t skip any days, even if you’ve got all the excuses in the world to do so. Write your workout down in your appointment book or set a reminder in your phone; this is a commitment you’ve made to yourself and your well-being, and you need to keep it.
For those who don’t have a set routine yet, you don’t have to go all-out the first time you step into the gym. Set an appointment with yourself for a daily 30-minute walk, or try out a new class at the gym.
On those days when you’re really buried under work and don’t feel you can fit everything in, take a short break every hour to walk around your office or do some jumping jacks and push-ups. Even a little bit of exercise can rejuvenate you and keep you centered.
You’re working incredibly hard, every single day, to get through this busy season. Not only do you deserve a break, but you deserve a little treat, too!
If good coffee is your thing, make a weekly date with yourself to leave a little earlier and stop for that fancy latte and, instead of getting it to go and running off, find a seat and enjoy it. Watch everyone as they come in and out, rushing at the start of their work days, and just observe.
Or, if you prefer to make your coffee at home, sit down and enjoy the peace and quiet while you sip your favorite drink.
Prefer a delicious dessert? Order or make something fancy and make it a party! Sit down with some good, relaxing music and low lights and savor every bite.
Set up goal posts for yourself. If you get a certain amount of important work done by Friday afternoon, make a promise to yourself that you’ll treat yourself a bit that evening or weekend. Go out to eat, shop for a new pair of shoes, or see the latest movie in the theater.
Whatever your favorite treat, it’s OK to indulge a little as a reward for all your hard work and dedication. As long as you don’t totally blow your budget or overindulge, giving yourself something to work towards can be a great motivator, and it often feels better to indulge after you’ve earned it than if you hadn’t worked for that treat.
Write It Down
Often, our feelings of overwhelm come from having too much stored in our heads. If you’re the type of person that keeps mental lists of everything, it’s easy for those lists to get out of hand and leave you scrambling to remember what was on them.
Instead of trusting on your brain to remember everything, which can lead to things slipping between the cracks, get as much down on paper as possible.
Set aside 10 or 15 minutes at the beginning of each week to do what’s called a “brain dump” or freewrite.
Use an old-fashioned pad of paper and a pen and just write whatever comes to your mind. Don’t judge, don’t censor, and don’t try to organize. If all that comes to mind is one word, just continue writing that word until something else pops up.
Nothing is off-limits here, either. Write your grocery list, that reminder to update your will that’s been bugging you on and off for months, or that you’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed by the amount of work you need to do. Get as much down on paper as you can because, once it’s on paper, it doesn’t have to live in your head anymore.
After you’ve finished with your brain dump session, go through and sort out any to-dos that you can identify. Build a master list of these to-dos and keep it handy for when you’re planning out your days and your long-term goals.
Don’t try to cheat and use your computer to freewrite, either. The simple act of physically writing out the items on your list is part of what makes this idea so powerful to tame your stress, and trying to do an end-run around the writing is going to prove less effective.
If you can dedicate an entire notebook or journal to your brain dumps, even better. You’ll start to see patterns emerging, and you’ve got everything in one place in case you want to reference something later.
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