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Gaining a Healthy Attitude about Stress: Try to Look at the Bright Side

We’ve seen and heard so many of you vent about how stressed you are about the CPA Exam. We get it. It’s a scary test, and once you start the process, it seeps in to every part of your life. Stressing for an exam or an upcoming challenge in your life is okay! A healthy level of stress and nervousness can keep you on your toes and push you to work hard. What’s not okay is when you let that stress damage something that’s more important than any exam will ever be-- your mental health and enjoyment of life. The purpose of this blog is to introduce some ways everyone can manage stress and stay sane during the CPA Exam process.


Dr. William James said: “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” This means changing the way you think. In order to do this, you need to practice mindfulness, which includes practices such as breathing, meditation, letting go of distractions, and being in the moment. Mindfulness “…helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment. We could say that it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is.” You’re stressed about the exam in the coming future, right? What if you were just focused on what’s happening right now in your life, and not thinking about tomorrow and tomorrow and what if, tomorrow? Work hard today. Stressing for the exam in the future won’t help you. The most important moment is now. Make it count.

Another key player in managing your stress is your attitude and your outlook on life. There are 3 traits of people who cope well with stress: their levels of commitment, their ability recognize what’s in their control, and their acceptance of change. If you’ve committed to your CPA Exam goals, stay committed and don’t go back on your dreams by stressing. You’ve come this far, give yourself a little credit, eh? And remember, the only control you have during the exam process is how you study and how you treat yourself. After you take the test, you will no longer have control over what happens. Your ability to recognize this will help you dispel your stress. Sometimes the industry will throw curveballs and exam policies or formats will change. Heck, even your CPA Review will change. For you as a student, the key is to embrace these changes and see them as waves that will push you to improve and reach your goals rather than as impediments to your success.

If everything we’ve just said makes absolutely no sense to you, then our advice is simple: remember the basics. You will eat well. You will sleep enough. You won’t stop doing the things that make you happy. Abe Lincoln once said “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion.” It really is as simple as that!  You want to manage your stress? Just choose NOT to stress. Here’s how: first, think about why you’re stressing. Maybe you haven’t studied enough. Or perhaps you’re scared that you’re not cut out for this. Possibly the thought of four exams makes you want to run and hide. Let’s go to the root of each of those problems and solve the issues: give yourself time to study more, take some actions that convince you that you can do this (more accounting classes, research, etc), and take this process one exam at a time. The stress will pop up again, but remember the basics! They will get your further than you think.


Our last words: there will always be challenges in your life, whether in the form of the CPA exam, your boss, your mother-in-law (ha ha), or a health issue. But the causes of stress are not the challenges themselves. You are your biggest obstacle. Change the way you think, and you will conquer the stress.

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Tags: CPA Exam Success Guide, RogerCPA

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