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    How to Cope With Tax-Time Stress

    Experts explain ways to avoid the emotional storms of tax season.

    Avoiding Burnout continued...

    "I was an oddity because I made the time for exercise even if I had to cut back," she said. "I saw a lot of intelligent, hardworking people burn themselves out because they didn't take care of themselves."

    Many accountants drink too much coffee to stay alert during the day and then take tranquilizers or drink alcohol to get to sleep at night, McKee says. They become irritated and anxious and suffer from headaches, colds, upset stomachs, and sore muscles.

    Studies performed on accountants have found a temporary rise in cholesterol levels during tax time. Accountants sometimes complain of cardiac problems during tax time, though it's unclear whether that translates into long-term health problems, McKee says.

    Taking It 'EZ' During Tax Season

    To reduce employee stress, some accounting firms have offered gym discounts, chair massages, catered meals, and team games. While applauding such programs generally, stress experts say that each person must find the solution that is best for him or her.

    Common stress-reduction techniques such as meditation or massage may strike people with so-called "Type A" personalities as boring or stressful, says Paul J. Rosch, MD, president of the American Institute on Stress. For this group, Rosch suggests therapeutic methods such as stress-inoculation training.

    Stress-reduction techniques for accountants must also account for the realities of life during tax time, says McKee. McKee makes relaxation tapes for his clients that typically run 15 minutes or more. Those same tapes may run as short as two minutes for McKee's accounting clients.

    Many people -- not just tax preparers -- have an all-or-nothing attitude toward wellness, Moreno says. This means that when a crunch time comes, all the usual rules about healthy eating or fitness go out the window. But if you're breaking the rules during busy periods, it's harder to follow them when things slow down, she says.

    Stress-Free Accounting

    A few tips for harried accountants, courtesy of Moreno, owner of wellness coaching firm PeopleFit USA:

    • Reduce, rather than postpone, your fitness program. If it takes too much time to go to the gym, then do light exercise at work. Take the stairs to the office or do squats at your desk.

    • Don't skip breakfast or work through lunch just because you're busy. You'll get fatigued or starved and end up filling the void with junk food. Instead, fuel up at regular intervals on foods like fruit, nuts, yogurt, or hard-boiled eggs. They're healthy and easy to pack.

    • Don't use food to relieve your stress. Try stretching, deep breathing, or a little exercise instead.
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