CPA Exam + Mental Health: 5 Tips
If you feel like studying for the CPA Exam is taking a mental or emotional toll on you, you’re not alone! Feeling anxious or stressed when a big life event like the CPA Exam is coming up is extremely common - so much so that there’s numerous articles and internet groups dedicated to discussing the topic. Almost every CPA Exam candidate can say that they’ve experienced worry and doubt during the course of their studying at least a few times, if not many. However, these feelings of worry can not only impact your studying progress but more importantly, negatively impact your mental health. Burdening yourself with anxiety can be detrimental to your mental wellbeing, so it’s important to keep up your mental stamina during this stressful time. Becker has put together some tips and strategies that you can use to avoid feeling drained or burnt out while studying for your exams.
- Clearly separate your study time and your relaxation time
Studying hard to power through four review sections and giving your mind a break to unwind from what you’ve learned are both equally important priorities. Even so, many students tend to have an imbalance of the two, often studying too much and relaxing too little. This most commonly occurs because of time pressure as exam day draws nearer, or from becoming discouraged with difficult concepts.
However, it’s essential to make space in your calendar for activities not related to studying. If you need to set aside blocks of time, whether it be for 30 minutes, a few hours or even more to just zone out, then do it! The beauty of self study is that you can make your own schedule. Besides making sure that you have relaxation time pencilled in to your study plan, make sure that each time block for studying or chilling out is 100% dedicated to each activity. Often, students fall into a trap of half-studying and half-scrolling, which ends up neither being productive nor relaxing. Make sure you’re focusing on one goal at a time so you can feel refreshed and accomplished at the end of the day!
- Implement a self-care regimen, and stick to it!
Self-care is often associated with low productivity and idle time. However, integrating a self-care routine into your weekly schedule is a necessity so that you’re fully rested before you resume studying.
Listen to your body and evaluate what you need; self-care can encompass anything that helps you take a break, so it’s imperative to always make time for it. It helps tremendously to have a self-care routine to ensure that you’re actually taking this necessary time away from your books. Your routine doesn’t necessarily have to include a spa treatment or anything fancy and expensive, but having a few hours set aside to simply go for a walk, read a magazine, bake cookies, call a friend or watch Netflix at a regular cadence will ensure you have adequate and consistent time to unwind.
- Seek support from other students
Surrounding yourself with a supportive group of people can put your mind at ease and help you get through rough study days. Make sure that you aren’t isolating yourself from the outside world to study, even if you feel like you need to.
Know that you aren’t alone on your journey to becoming a CPA - in fact, many other prospective CPAs like you are also looking for encouragement and inspiration from fellow, like-minded test takers. Besides keeping up with friends and family, connecting with others who identify with your situation can be immensely helpful, as you can lean on each other for support. Becker’s Facebook community offers a space where students studying for the exams can interact with one another, exchange advice or just talk. Finding someone who is in a similar situation, even a coworker or older mentor who has previously taken the CPA Exams, can help to reassure you that you’re on the right path and that all of your hard work will be worth it.
- Limit your “stress time”
Healthy stress management is critical to maintaining a positive mental outlook. While feeling stressed can occasionally motivate you to study, too much CPA Exam stress can have the opposite effect and lead to ineffective study time along with a distressed mental state. It’s good to be able to identify where you should be focusing your efforts, but continually overloading yourself with nerve-wracking thoughts will inevitably do more harm than good.
If you’re someone who gets fixated and overwhelmed with feelings of stress, and often find yourself down a rabbithole of stressful thoughts, one technique you can use is to limit the amount of allowable “worry time” in your day, aka time solely dedicated to think about things that are bothering you. Carve out a small amount of time to allow yourself to feel stressed, in small increments - but make sure to keep this time limited, only to around 15 minutes or so. That way, when you find yourself stressing during the day, you can be sure to channel all of these feelings into one small window of time. This can help mitigate a constant feeling of unease, and prevent you from over analyzing and worrying throughout the day.
- Go easy on yourself!
When you haven't yet reached a study goal or if you’ve gotten behind on a few modules, it’s easy to throw in the towel and come down hard on yourself. Make sure to remind yourself that you’ve got this, and forgive yourself for small slip-ups. Remember that studying for the CPA Exam is a marathon, not a sprint. Give yourself a break for occasionally falling behind, and allow yourself a few days off here and there. Remind yourself of why you’re pursuing the CPA path in the first place and that above all, it’s more than okay to slow down your pace and put yourself first. After all - who’s better than you?
Need more tips on managing your personal time while studying for the CPA Exam? Read Becker’s best tips for balancing the two.