• Career Center

    How to Cope With Post-Busy Season Depression

    By | May 3, 2016

    When busy season ends, it takes time for many accountants to adjust to the 40ish-hour workweek again.

    For those of you who don't suffer from the martyrdom complex the return to a somewhat normal life is a welcome change. But for others, there are different feelings:

    My brain told me a lot of lies when I was working in an accounting firm. Among them:

    • Keep working, you're doing great;
    • Eating at your desk will save time;
    • My performance rating is important;
    • Those Nature Valley Bars in the vending machine are healthy;
    • Drinking alcohol to cope with stress is fine;
    • Your manager really appreciates this.

    But I never recall thinking, "I'm sad now that I have my life back." Granted, some accountants are depressed in general, but that's another matter entirely. But now that I think about it, something else could be at play here: good ol' fashioned boredom:

    [S]tudies have found that too little stress can be bad. Stress related to boredom leads employees to engage in counterproductive work behavior, such as spending aimless time on the Internet for non-work reasons, gossiping about colleagues, and taking way too much time completing work assignments.

    As for how to deal with boredom (assuming that's the problem), there is no shortage of ideas on the web to help you cure that. My personal favorite being Lifehacker's "Take more web browsing breaks." The arguably more productive "Learn a new skill" is good too.

    However, #2 — "Embrace your boredom: It fosters creativity" is what ended up working for me best. When I was bored in my public accounting days, I read. A lot. All that reading (i.e. web browsing) led to me blogging which led to this job that I'm doing right now. In a way, boredom totally changed my life. Now I don't have time to be bored.

    So, I get it. Sometimes when things are slow, there is a creeping sensation that you're not doing enough or that you're about to be put out to pasture. That's depressing! But keeping yourself busy in some way — any way — will help keep your mind off not not being busy anymore.

    Who's dying inside without busy season? How do you deal with it? Consider this your therapy session. Talking helps, too.

    • N.E.R.D.

      “Who’s dying inside without busy season?”

      • Reasonable Assurance

        well done sir.

        • Mose Schrute

          I can’t believe post-busy season depression is a thing…

          • Scharfinator

            I think it’s more of a loss of the stress than anything else. People get hooked on the chemical release of all those hours and bullshit.

        • Deloitte Douche

          It appears that Reasonable Assurance’s cure to post-busy season depression is making a triumphant return to Going Concern’s comment threads!

    • dumpus

      that whole “learn a new skill” thing is a derivative of the very basic “do shit other than work.”

      seriously. get out. enjoy the daylight after work. join a kickball league or a 9 hole golf league. run, walk, cycle, swim. go bang some out with a significant other. just go do something. enrich your life in some fashion that isn’t subject to a 1-5 rating.

      it sucks now even outside of public accounting to see kids wondering around at like 5:30pm in the office not sure if they should be finding more work to do. people get sucked into a work rut. just as you need to work up to a full busy season schedule, you need to learn to work out of that schedule too.

      • Why Can’t I Post as a Guest?

        when you bang some out with your significant other you dont get a rating?

        • dumpus

          i probably do, but just like in public accounting i tuned that out a while ago.

          i judge my performance more based on the number of self-help books she has on her bookcase. just like in the looks department, there’s a useful sweet spot somewhere between 5 and 8.

    • SmallFry

      after completing the season, it almost felt like hitting a mental finish line. it was hard to get the same vigor i had during the season the following week or two.

      i was very guilty of surfing the web quite a bit in that half empty office. anyone that showed up were mostly zombie-ish anyway since they haven’t fully recovered either. But that down time was much needed.

      I can see how some people might be depressed. I can imagine having to bottle up all that emotion during the season as you plow through the hours in that numbed state come crashing down onto you after the season ends, when that cold heart starts to feel again…

      • GAAP Wedge

        The last sentence of this is way too real

      • JessterCPA

        Mind bottling.

    • TurtlyEnough

      Busy season ended? Will somebody please notify our partner group…

      • Auditor4Now


    • GAAP Wedge

      You thought nature valley bars were healthy?!? Hah, loser

      • Smack That

        this guy

    • DoubleEntry

      For me, it’s the shock of having an extra 3-4 hours a day at home. I ask myself questions like “What do I usually do with my time?” or “Is my life boring?” but very quickly fall right back into my usual routines. I wouldn’t call it a “depression” but it’s definitely an abrupt change. The beginning of busy season kind of ramps up as more work starts coming in, but then boom one day I’m working until 8pm and the next I am eating breakfast at home and going home for dinner too. Weird.

    • Honna3030

      I don’t necessarily agree with this advice. I think the depression comes from overexerting our adrenal system during busy season, producing too much cortisol which taxes our entire nervous system. When the busy season ends, we still have all that cortisol lurking but no where to put it. What you need to do is exercise, spend some time in the sun, connect with friends and let the adrenaline slowly wear off, not make yourself superficially busy. What ends up happening is people become addicted to the feeling of anxiety and that’s when they try to become senior managers.

    • Ironically if you work in Advisory for the accountancy firms, and for that matter, Internal Audit in industry, the issue is how to survive the summer holidays in July and August as everyone you need to see is out of the office. Yes, it is boring.