The Ultimate Guide to Relieve Stress in Your Career

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Stress – one of the biggest causes of a career crisis.

The never-ending workloads. Short timelines. Dealing with difficult clients. Inadequate systems for dealing with it.

There are a lot things that cause stress in our lives. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. What matters is learning how to relieve stress better so it doesn’t overtake our lives.

According to the Work Stress Survey, over 80% (!!!) of Americans said their jobs cause them stress. What was the leading cause? An unreasonable workload.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Think of the corporate buzz-words you hear throughout your day:

  • Productivity
  • Cost Reduction
  • Output
  • Synergies

There isn’t a company out there that hasn’t mentioned one of these terms during the last month. And you know what happens when a company pushes on improving these areas. Pushing people to produce more in less time in the name of productivity. Cutting jobs to help with cost reductions or synergies. This only adds to our already full plates.

In the accounting and finance world, stress is viewed as “just part of the job”. Look at public accounting’s “busy season”. This is the time in every accountant’s life where they are pushed to sacrifice everything for their job. You need to be at work more than at home. You sacrifice sleep and self-care. All to provide service to a client for an unreasonable sum of money given the workload.

Scrolling through #BusySeason on Twitter gives me stress flashbacks.

But stress doesn’t need to overtake our lives. For many of us, we can improve our stress levels by learning strategies to relieve stress better.

Stress is one of the biggest struggles in my career. Stress affects my sleep, my time with my family, and my health. I’m discovering I don’t handle stress well. My ability to relieve stress is directly related to the impact it has on my life. I am still on my path to financial independence – I can’t let stress derail me.

I need to improve my ability to relieve stress and I’m guessing many of you are like me. It is time for a change and I need to add tools to my stress fighting toolbox.

Stress will always be a part of our lives. We need to discover the tools and techniques to help keep it from overtaking us.

The Ultimate Guide to Relieve Stress in Your Career

Relieve Stress with These Strategies

1. Exercise

One of the best ways to help manage your stress is to get moving. Exercise, from lifting weights to walking, can help better manage your stress levels.

Exercise also pumps up the production of endorphins, the feel-good neurotransmitters of the brain. Ever have a work out and get that “high” afterwards, those are endorphins at work.

Exercise can also be a form of meditation – a way to get the day’s pressures and stresses out of your head. It allows you time to concentrate on something else – to get some relief.

Getting started with exercise doesn’t need to be dead lifts and squats.

Try going for a walk at night after work.
Do a yoga video online each morning.
Find a partner and play a game of tennis each week.
Or dive in and start a weight training program at a local gym.

Find your way to relieve stress from your life – even if it is only an hour at a time.

Further Resources:

2. Meditate

Meditation is an important tool in the fight against stress. Meditation can help calm you and bring some peace to your life. It helps to fight information overload each day. It allows you to concentrate on one thing instead of having a scattered mind.

During meditation, there is one thing that is most important, focusing on your breath. You can let go of the worry of deadlines, an ever growing to-do list, or that email from your boss that came in at 6pm on a Friday.

The best thing about meditation is that the benefits stay with you. The feelings of calm don’t end when your meditation stops. The feelings of clam and releases from your daily stress can stay with you long after your session ends.

Meditation is like a muscle. You need to train it. And it takes time.

It’s hard to concentrate only on your breath and clear your mind. Some days you will only get a couple good minutes from a 10 or 20 minute session and that’s okay. The feeling of clam you get from meditation is infectious. Once you experience it, you’ll want to keep getting better to feel it more often.

Meditation is easy to get started with. There are many guided meditations on YouTube and numerous apps to walk you through the process.

Taking time to concentrate only on your breath is a great way to relieve stress. It may be time to add meditation to your morning routine.

Further Resources:

3. Learn to Say No

If you always have too many projects put on your plate, begin saying no to some. Work isn’t about saying yes to everything. Sometimes you need to say no to show people that you can’t take on everything. You need to teach people to value your time as much as they value theirs.

Does that mean you can’t help others? Not at all. But no one can take on every request given to them. And no one can complete every task given to them that day.

Don’t be an office firefighter for other people’s lit matches. Value your time and focus on the things that actually matter and provide company value.

Try telling someone that your plate is too full to take on that added task. If your experience if like mine, you’ll learn that other people have much more flexibility. Everyone’s problem is most important in that moment, even if they actually aren’t. Many deadlines are flexible. Don’t take on everything yourself – say no when the opportunity presents itself.

Further Resources:

4. Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude for the things in your life can help relieve stress and put things in perspective.

Studies have shown that developing a sense of gratitude helps improve your mood, increase your emotional well-being, and help reduce stress levels.

Think about your life. Every moment we have the opportunity to live it is something to be thankful for. Not all moments are great. But every moment has something to appreciate; something to be grateful to experience. Maybe it’s the fact that you get to sleep in a warm bed or breathe fresh air.

Practicing gratitude is difficult. Gratitude is especially difficult when a flight in cancelled after a week away from home or your car breaks down again. It takes a major mindset shift to change your thinking from a place of victim to a place of thankfulness.

I try to remind myself to be grateful by using The 5 Minute Journal. It prompts me to list out three things I am grateful each day. Taking this time helps me reflect on what I have in my life to be thankful for. It helps put the things I am currently stressing out about in perspective.

We have a lot to be thankful for – take the time to acknowledge it.

Further Resources:

5. Don’t Forget the Life in Work/Life Balance

Work/life balance is more than a buzzword that every company is throwing around these days. It is reminding yourself that you aren’t your job. Your career doesn’t define who you are.

It is about taking time to do things you enjoy – to release yourself from the stresses of your day to day. And too many of us forget that we exist outside of our profession.

The US is one of the worst countries in the world at using all the vacation time given to us. In 2014, the amount of unused vacation days in the US was at a 40 year high. People are literally not taking paid time off that is being given to them. That is part of your salary! Luckily this trend is beginning to shift to the good. But not taking time off is hurting our abilities to separate ourselves from our work and to de-stress.

Help get your stress under control by emphasizing the life in work/life balance. You are less productive when your stress levels increase. Instead of working late into the night, get out of the office and do something you enjoy. Take days off from time to time so you can rest your mind and concentrate on things that are important to you. Your work will always be there. You don’t have to be.

As much as companies promote work/life balance, it is ultimately up to you if you will have it or not. Companies aren’t going to force you not to work. They aren’t going to say no to you working extra hours. You need to be the one that puts that life back in work/life balance.

Further Resources:

6. Get Enough Sleep

You’ve heard this before; sleep is very important for the human body. Sleep helps repair our muscles and increase our memory. It makes us more productive and helps with the overall functionality of our bodies.

Best of all – sleep can help keep your stress under control.

But what seems to go away when people have too much work on their plates to get done? Sleep.

We work later or head to the office earlier. Our nightly 7-9 hours of sleep turns into 3-5. Less sleep makes you less productive. That only increases the stress on your plate.

Research has found that during periods of REM sleep, stress hormones actually decrease. When we are awake or in non-REM sleep, norepinephrine, a hormone associated with stress, is produced in the brain. Yet, this production stops during REM sleep, leading to less of the hormone in our system.

REM sleep occurs during the final hours of sleep. If you aren’t getting a full 7-9 hours of sleep a night, you are missing out on this stress lowering activity.

Sleep is very important to our health, both physical and mental. Push yourself to get the recommended amount each night. This will help keep your stress under control and your body functioning the best it can.

Don’t compound your stress by not getting enough sleep.

Further Resources:

7. Create a System to Better Plan and Prioritize

It feels like our to do list never gets smaller. Every day we cross items off, only to add more. Don’t use a to do list? Then you are keeping all that information in your head. This only leads to endlessly thinking of everything you have to do.

This cluster fuck of tasks is going to make anyone’s stress levels explode.

So how do you fight task overload and know what to work on each day without losing your mind?

Utilize systems to bring some order to your to do lists and get out of your head.

I tried to keep everything in my head for years. Each night I would think about all the tasks I needed to finish, adding to that list as ideas pop into my head. My sleep suffered. I thought about work too much. My stress stayed high.

Then I read Getting Things Done and decided I needed to create some structure.

Now I use Todoist, a To Do List app, to capture all the tasks I need to complete, getting them out of my head. I trust a system to hold all the information I tried to remember in the past. It allows me to see everything I need to do in one place. I am better able to plan my days and don’t lose track of projects that need to be completed. I don’t use the full Getting Things Done system, but I was able to use ideas from it to create a system that works for me.

By using a system and planning out your days, you establish the items that are important to you to get done. It also relieves the chaos that exists when we try to keep everything in our mind.

Relieve the chaos in your mind. Create a system to plan and prioritize your days and relieve stress in the process.

Further Resources:

8. Change the Situation

Stress is inevitable. Every job has it. Every life has it.

But some places put more of it on people than someone should reasonably be able to handle. I worked for a great company for a years before it was sold to private equity. Afterwards the work was no longer enjoyable and the stress skyrocketed. It got to the point where I knew that I needed to make a change.

No situation is worth it if the stress level destroys you. Everyone deserves happiness in their lives, but too much stress kills happiness.

A job shouldn’t be painful. You shouldn’t dread going to work everyday. If things don’t feel right, explore making a change.

Further Resources:

But How Do You Do These Things?

Listicles are great at giving you a quick glance at things you can try. But what does implementing these things look like in real life? I decided to task my Twitter followers for their best tips on how to relieve stress in their lives. I found a lot of similarities to the strategies listed above.

Let’s Check Out the Advice!


Stress is one of the biggest challenges for people in the working world. It can hurt our relationships, our health, and our productivity. It is important to learn strategies to help relieve stress so it doesn’t overtake your life.

Stress is inevitable. Learn to better relieve stress so it doesn’t overtake your life.

Your Turn

What is your relationship with stress? How do you relieve stress and keep it from taking over your life?
Austin Neill


  1. April 5, 2018

    You were checking to see if we read all the way through weren’t you? That’s why items 7 and 8 had the same heading but different content. I agreed with your tips but would add one more. Win, suceed, get promotions and big raises . Nothing is as stressful as a dead end job. killing it at work and being rewarded for it is a superb stress reducer.

    • t
      April 5, 2018

      You caught me! It was definitely about making sure people read the whole thing and totally not because I missed updating the header during my multiple read through 😀

      That is a good one! If you don’t feel engaged with what you are doing, that is only going to make things harder on you!

  2. April 5, 2018

    This was phenomenal, great job.

    I love how deep you dug into each point.

    Some good takeaways!

    • t
      April 5, 2018

      Thanks FS! And thank you for contributing some advice!

  3. April 6, 2018

    CCA –

    I love the article – speaking from a fellow CPA who just wrapped up my 7th busy season. Exercise, sleep and the list of what priorities are – was helpful to not let the stress get to a level that was absolutely unbearable, as I had let happen in the past. THank you for sharing!


    • t
      April 15, 2018

      Glad to hear you found a system that helps you survive the accounting world. Seven busy seasons is impressive – I bailed on public after 3!

  4. April 7, 2018

    Love this post- super cool roundup of some really good advice! Thanks for including my reply in here too- sometimes I wonder if people really go back and read all of the responses. I am glad to know that you do 😊

    • t
      April 15, 2018

      Thanks for contributing to the advice! I think it is helpful to people to see how other people are able to deal with their stress so they can implement the tips in their lives!

  5. April 19, 2018

    Genuine conversation with my boss:

    Her – I’ve noticed you don’t handle stress very well. We need to help you with that. What do you think is causing you to feel stressed?

    Me – (Trying to be diplomatic) Sometimes I find it difficult to read your tone and you often seem angry

    Her – we’re here to talk about you not me

    I need to put some of your strategies in place! Many thanks for the additional resources too

  6. April 19, 2018

    “Don’t be the office firefighter for everyone else’s lit match”. – Love it

    Also completely agree with exercise, trail running is the only way I mentally survived the financial crisis working in banking.

  7. April 19, 2018

    You provided a great list of suggestions. I think that it comes down to taking care of yourself. Take time to exercise, never skip lunch, take 10 min breaks, and get enough rest. By taking care of yourself, you will be able to keep up a high level of productivity.

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