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Sukanya Mitra

The Contorted CPA

Has busy season 2012 turned you and your employees into contortionists? Experts provide tips on how to unwind and still meet your deadline.

April 9, 2012
by Sukanya Mitra

Have you been feeling like you’ve been on back-to-back red-eye flights, body cramped in the same locked position for hours, your feet on constant pins-and-needles mode, back killing you at the end of the day, cramped fingers, and more? Well, you’re not alone. Many of your fellow CPAs belong to this same group as the April 17 deadline gets closer.

For starters, stretch out those fingers. Andrea Dietzen, wellness manager at Carlsbad, Calif.-based Pure Wellness, says all that typing and writing can lead to injuries to both your hands and wrists. Besides stretching your fingers, she suggests doing the following exercises:

  • Holding your right arm directly in front of you with your palm facing up. Using your left hand, pull back all the fingers on your right hand except the thumb. Hold this position for five to ten seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
  • Holding both your hands in front of you and make fists. Then move them around in circles five times clockwise and then repeat moving them counter-clockwise.
  • Make tight fists with both hands and hold for about five seconds. Release your fists and immediately stretch your fingers out as wide as they can go. Repeat this two to three times more.

Vicki Bartelt, HR specialist at Seattle-based Inspirage, LLC., agrees. “Have employees who work relentlessly at their computers set an hourly alarm in Outlook or on their cell phones to trigger them to stand up, breathe deep, stretch, shake out their wrists, and divert their eyes from the screen for one to two minutes,” she said. Taking these frequent breaks are important because “prolonged sitting [not only] causes body fatigue, neck aches, back aches, bloodshot eyes, [but also] blood clots in the legs,” she added.

Dr. Marty Shoemaker, faculty member at Douglas College, Vancouver, Canada, emphasized taking several short breaks rather than a few long breaks because it reduces stress. He likened this to making daily entries. “If you want to have accurate books, ‘daily entries’ are [far better] than trying to catch up monthly.” Similarly “taking the types of breaks and exercises that are fastest and easiest to perform regularly during high stress times,” will help you relax.

Don’t Overuse Your Brain

Dr. Preeti Vats, psychologist and consultant at New Jersey-based Trainers Worldwide and Cecile Riddle, principal business coach, trainer, mentor and professional speaker at Melbourne, Australia-based Prime Performance felt that stress at home will hamper your ability to work well. Riddle suggested incorporating your daily home routine with your work schedule to lighten stress. “Look at all aspects of your life and make sure you make the time to include them. You will work more effectively if you include self-care activities, as well as social interactions and quality time in your relationships.”

Vats cautioned against negativity in the workplace causing stress and draining your capabilities at work and on the home-front. Lack of communication is a key cause of negativity and adversely affects productivity. To ward off negativity, Vats advised giving just, “three to four tasks to your brain at one time. Beyond that, the brain starts sending signals of stress to the body and stress hormones start getting released into the bloodstream, resulting in efficiency freeze.”

Last Words

Michael Horowitz knows all too well what you are facing during crunch time. While he admitted not having followed his own advice, he wished he had. “As a former practicing CPA, I know firsthand [that] most CPAs spend too much time working and not attending to the other parts of their lives. Taking that short break to refocus [and] clearing your head is critical to keeping up the pace these professionals experience.”

Horowitz quoted Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr who describe the ‘Ideal Performance State’ in their book The Making of a Corporate Athlete (2001) as, “chronic stress without recovery depletes energy reserves, leads to burnout and breakdown, and ultimately undermines performance,” to drive his point home.

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Sukanya Mitra is managing editor of the AICPA Insider™ e-newsletter group.