This Christmas, switching off is more important than ever for accountants’ wellbeing. With January coming up and the impact of the pandemic continuing to affect your clients, the festive period provides a valuable opportunity to take a breath before Self-Assessment kicks off in the New Year.
Christmas 2020: A Christmas like no other
Christmas will be a chance for accountants to take a break from an unusually difficult year and rest before the demands of January. For many, this Christmas will be the first chance to switch off from work in 10 months, so we’re sharing three steps to help you make the most of your well-deserved time off.
Consider blocking out a few hours to set yourself up for January before you finish on Christmas Eve. That might mean you send a batch of reminder emails off to your clients – be sure to include a clear line to let them know that you’re out of the office and will respond in the New Year – or draft yourself a rough schedule for the coming month to map out your plans.
You could also prepare resources to help your clients and save you time. Create a playlist on YouTube with helpful tutorials, and make a library of useful HMRC links. That way, when you run into common issues in January you don’t have to spend valuable minutes explaining relatively simple information to your clients.
A little bit of planning now will help you feel more prepared for Self-Assessment season and make it easier to switch off your mind when you switch off your computer.
A good way to clear those anxious thoughts is a CBT technique known as ‘Taking your thoughts to court’. The exercise is designed to help you assess your worries and see if you can affect the impact they have on your mental wellbeing.
For example, you’ve just spent most of the year helping clients navigate massive downturns in business and access HMRC support. Some businesses will have closed and you’ve helped them wrap up their affairs. In amongst all of that, you’ve also taken on the emotional burden of seeing clients – some of them long term, some of them friends – cope with the impact of the pandemic.
It is easy to fall into negative thought patterns – the “what if” trap. You may wonder what you could’ve done differently to help them. That’s when you can put your thoughts on trial and reflect on the facts and reality of the situation.
This exercise means you can dismiss unhelpful and unhealthy thoughts, rather than continue to dwell on them over your time off. Download our worksheet for free here, with thanks to our charity of the year Mental Health UK for the resources used to create it.
Three: Switch off
Now’s the moment you’ve waited all year for; it’s time to switch off!
For those forming Christmas bubbles, staying away from work is easier. But if you’re at home and there’s not much else going on, it might be tempting to log on and clear a few of those tasks you just scheduled for January. Before you know it, you’ve been glued to the screen for hours and your stress levels are rising.
You could try putting your laptop away on Christmas Eve – “out of sight, out of mind” – or you could stick a “STOP” note to it so you have a visual reminder to step away. Instead, put on a movie you enjoy or plan and cook a meal you normally don’t have time to make. Call a friend you’ve been missing this year or head out for a walk with them, depending on the rules for your area.
You could also try mindfulness or meditation using apps like Calm or Mindful to give yourself a chance to breathe and unwind.
Talk to someone
Should you find yourself in need of a little extra support over Christmas, Mental Health UK founding member charity Rethink has a fantastic list of resources.
A message from Rob Ellis, CEO of BTCSoftware
"As the year draws to a close it’s important to acknowledge the incredible job accountants across the country have done in supporting their clients through extraordinarily tough and unusual circumstances. I hope that you enjoy your well-deserved Christmas break and make use of the time off to relax ahead of the busy season. On behalf of everyone at BTCSoftware, I want to thank not only our customers but accountants everywhere for your dedication to your clients' wellbeing. Have a very merry Christmas, and I wish you well for the coming year."