By Joshua Gliddon
“My clients are incredibly panicked,” says Holly Shoebridge, principal of Oceans Accounting on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. “People are winding up their businesses, they’ve lost hundreds of thousands in income, they can’t pay their mortgage or their rent, and they can’t feed themselves.”
Shoebridge’s experience is probably similar to what other accountants are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clients are beside themselves, and they’re coming to you to try to get some sort of plan together.
This means you’re working longer hours and you’re taking on other peoples’ stress as your own. You’re also probably worried about your family, your friends and yourself. The coronavirus doesn’t discriminate. So how do you keep your mental health in check in these challenging times?
Zachary Hayes, business director at HA Accounting and a small business mental health advocate, takes this approach to maintain stable mental health.
“You need to have a sense of release, so do something for yourself – go for a walk, do some meditation, get in the ocean, whatever it takes,” says Hayes.
“You need to have a sense of release, so do something for yourself – go for a walk, do some meditation, get in the ocean, whatever it takes.”
“You also need to release your own fear and anxiety and then try to move away from a feeling of being overwhelmed.”
Mental health organisation Beyond Blue has tips anyone can apply to their lives to gain a break from the constant stream of bad news.
A Beyond Blue spokesperson told Acuity it’s important to try to maintain perspective. It is perfectly reasonable to be concerned, they said, but it’s also important to know medical experts and governments are doing their best to contain the virus, and to create a vaccine protecting everyone.
And while it’s tempting to read every piece of news and watch every broadcast going to air, it’s better to limit your news intake – especially if you or your family find it scary or upsetting. Try visiting a reputable news website once a day, and then switching off.
There are also many reliable websites provided by governments and bodies such as the World Health Organisation providing up-to-date information that’s not sensationalised and can provide the resources you need to get on with your day and help clients, family and friends.
As accountants, your clients are probably banging on the doors at the moment, but Hayes says it’s important to take a step back, take a deep breath and only do what you can. There are only so many hours in the day, and with so many people working from home, technology can also become a challenge – as well as an opportunity.
“Check in with all your clients for five minutes, make sure they are OK, and then schedule a longer video meeting when it’s convenient,” says Hayes. “Game plan the worst-case scenario and then rip the band-aid off.
“It’s important as an accountant not to take on the fears and anxieties of your clients.”
Shoebridge says she employs techniques such as meditation and getting out into the environment (in small groups, naturally) to help her maintain perspective. She’s also a keen surfer and said while many beaches have been closed for reasons of social distancing, there are remote locations where it’s possible to get in the water and catch some waves.
“I had a couple of surfs in the last few days and it was the highlight of my week,” she says.
No matter what works for you, the lesson is clear – within reason, do something you enjoy, and do something for yourself to maintain your mental health.