Coping with stress and depression

Jan 01, 2017
If you’re living with stress or depression, or work with someone who is, the Institute’s new guide will help you become better able to promote mental health and wellbeing in your practice, your workplace and yourself.

Accountants are in the top four professions to experience depression, according to research conducted by the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. What’s more, researchers in the UK found that eight out of 10 accountants suffer from stress-related problems with 77% of respondents citing long working hours as a cause of concern and 71% describing their work-life balance as poor.

This isn’t surprising if you look at your workload and then factor in all the things you’d like to do ‘when you get time’ – not to mention the expectations your colleagues, clients, family and friends have of you.

To help you understand the nature of stress and depression, Chartered Accountants Ireland has published A Professional’s Guide to Understanding Stress and Depression, a downloadable PDF that draws on Dr Claire Hayes’ 30 years’ experience as a clinical psychologist and her experience as Clinical Director of Aware.

Prevent stress from spiralling into depression

The World Health Organisation defines work-related stress as “the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities, and which challenge their ability to cope”. It also defines depression as a common mental disorder, characterised by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness and poor concentration. While a small amount of stress can be a positive, if left unchecked it can spiral into depression. There are three important steps you can take to prevent this:

1. Know when you need support: it’s essential that you know what causes you stress, how you cope with it and what your warning signs are when stress becomes too much to cope with on your own.

2. Ask for support: what is it that makes asking others for support so difficult? It might be that we think that others will judge us harshly. More often, it is because we judge ourselves harshly. We condemn ourselves as inadequate, pathetic and useless if we see ourselves as not coping. We anticipate that other people will judge us too. We compare ourselves to others and decide that other people’s need for support is greater and minimise just how much we’re experiencing. We might convince ourselves that there’s no point in asking for help as no-one else could possibly understand and that, even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to do anything anyway. Despite all this, it’s vital to ask for support.

3. Take support: it can be very tempting to resist other people’s efforts to help us. For a whole range of reasons, we may prefer to disregard appropriate supports, even when we’ve asked for them. Indeed, taking support can be humbling. It may involve an honest conversation with your GP, your life partner, a trusted family member, a professional partner, your boss, your colleagues and perhaps your clients. True support generally focuses on the truth of what’s going on for you. While that can be difficult, it can also be very freeing – particularly when you discover that real support is always there.

Seeking support

A deep sense of hopelessness can accompany depression. It can be too easy to find evidence that there’s no point, that no-one will understand and even that death might be a preferable option. If anyone believes that things are so bad that they cannot get better, it can be difficult – and at times, impossible – to convince them otherwise. If you really believe that no-one can help you, give someone you trust the benefit of the doubt and tell them what is going on for you. Give them the opportunity to support you and give yourself the gift of taking help. The best person to confide in is usually your GP but if you don’t want to do that, for whatever reason, choose someone who will support you.

A Professional’s Guide to Understanding Stress and Depression by Dr Claire Hayes is available for download free of charge. Printed copies are also available at a cost of €5 each, with all profits going to Chartered Accountants Support.

5 ways to cope with stress

  1. Gently and deliberately accept your feelings of distress as signs that you are experiencing stress and as invitations to respond in a way that’s helpful.
  2. Become aware of your thoughts and classify them as helpful or unhelpful.
  3. Explore what underlying core beliefs might be there. Key ones tend to include: ‘I am not good enough’; ‘I must be perfect and never make a mistake’; ‘Other people are better than me’; ‘I can’t trust or rely on other people’.
  4. Focus on the actions you take in response to challenging situations and begin to recognise each of these as helpful or unhelpful.
  5. Be able to stand back from your particular stressor or stressors to get a sense of perspective and to see how challenging situations can be turned into opportunities to develop resilience.