Stress Free Tax Day

By: Other | April 9, 2013

Written by Fabiola Figueroa, Ph.D.

It’s that time of year again.  Uncle Sam has arrived.  As April 15th approaches, many individuals feel an increase in stress about the uncertainty of the outcome of their taxes.  Historically, money has been a national concern.  According to the American Psychological Association (2009), 80% of Americans perceive the current nation’s financial situation as stressful. Job stability, the ability to afford healthcare, and pay bills, are at the brunt of most economic worries.  Tax season can be very stressful and can affect health and practical decision making when it comes to money matters.  The good news is that there are healthy and easy ways to manage stress and the seasonal pressure of Tax Day.  This requires attention to self-care and a little extra preparation.  Being proactive right now can significantly decrease potential for long-term financial worry and thus you will be less likely to experience emotional and health problems in the future.

The following are simple and effective ways to help manage financial stress:

  1. Review your financial costs and debt. This can be a little overwhelming at first, but the more you know, the more you can become proactive in planning and reducing any unnecessary costs and making your finances more manageable. Simple small steps such as setting a daily budget and paying a little more towards any incurring debts can make a significant difference. Examine the problems areas. What are your unnecessary costs? Can you reduce in certain areas? Can you plan to pay more than the minimum amount?
  2. Set measurable financial goals. Most people set career goals, family goals, personal goals…What about financial goals? What is it about finances that cause so much worry? Finances can be like any other area in life. Ask yourself what your vision is. What do you want your finances to look like in 6 months, 12 months, and 5 years? How will you get there? Your goals need to match with your spending habits, and if they don’t; it’s time to do a little shuffling around with priorities.
  3. Reward yourself. When you reach your financial goals, reward yourself. Whether this means rewarding yourself with the relief that you are in a better financial situation than you were 6 months ago or rewarding yourself with a night out, it’s important to recognize your efforts and success.
  4. Freely express your concerns and questions regarding financial matters. Most of us are hesitant to bring up money matters to others or our loved ones for fear of acknowledging that the current situation is not as ideal as we would like. However, talking about it can bring on support and empathy which are cornerstones to healthy relationships. Talk to someone you trust. This can make a big difference, even if it’s just to get those feelings off your chest.
  5. Examine how you manage your stress specifically related to money. Do you avoid? Do you get overwhelmed? Do you find comfort in unhealthy habits? Everyone has a different way of dealing with stress. It’s important to acknowledge if any of these ways are unhealthy and have led to negative consequences.
  6. Practice healthy ways to cope with your financial stress. Relaxation management is a simple and easy way to reduce stress. Take deep breaths. Go for a walk. Watch a movie. Talk to a friend. Play with your children. Read a book. There are many inexpensive and quick ways to makes us feel better. Try them out. You will find something as simple as the above can bring on a great sense of peace

Financial stress is certainly not easy. If you find yourself continuing to feel stressed and use negative coping strategies to deal with stress, you may want to consider seeking a therapist who can help you address and understand these emotions and behaviors related to your financial situation. Therapists who follow a Cognitive-Behavioral approach understand the connection between thoughts and emotions and how these translate into behaviors. Talking to a therapist can help promote healthy behavior changes and this can apply to all areas of your life, including your finances.

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