With the looming IRS tax deadline on April 18, it’s not uncommon for Americans to experience financial stress. How people handle that stress can have an impact on overall health Stress related to tax deadlines and finances in general can increase reliance on the unhealthy behaviors many people already use to cope with everyday stressors.
The American Psychological Association’s (APA) Stress in AmericaTM survey has found year after year that money is the significant source of stress for adults. The 2016 survey reported that 61 percent of Americans say that money is a very or somewhat significant source of stress in their lives. In addition, 62 percent anticipate money being a significant source of stress in the next several years.
Research shows that when people do not cope with stress effectively, it can lead to or increase already existing anxiety. One way people commonly deal with anxiety is by avoiding whatever it is that makes them anxious. Avoiding one’s finances, especially during tax season, will likely create more financial problems, and more anxiety and stress, in the long term.
APA offers the following strategies for managing financial stress:
Identify money stressors — Think about what types of situations set off feelings of stress. It could be ordinary things like reviewing bills, completing tax forms or figuring out how to pay for expenses like home repairs and school tuition.
Get started now — It can be easy to come up with excuses to put off doing taxes. However, the longer people wait, the more stress they will experience. Taking care of taxes right away will reduce stress and make tax season a lot more manageable.
Understand what money means to you — Money is often symbolic of emotional issues that may seem unrelated to personal finances such as power, control and love. What does money represent to you? How might that increase stress when making financial decisions? Asking yourself these questions can help provide some insight into your relationship with money and help you find some solutions.
Find healthy ways to manage stress — Consider healthy, stress-reducing activities such as taking a short walk, listening to music or talking things out with friends or family. Try to develop different types of healthy stress management behaviors so that when in a financial crisis, there will be strategies available to help reduce stress. Keep in mind, unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time and can be difficult to change. Don’t take on too much at once. Focus on changing only one behavior at a time.
Ask for professional support — Accepting help from friends and family who care and will listen can improve the ability to manage stress. Financial planners can also help regain control over a difficult money situation. Anyone who finds themselves overwhelmed by financial stress may want to talk with a psychologist who can help address the emotions connected to finances, manage stress and change money behaviors.
To learn more about mind/body health, visit the American Psychological Association at www.apa.org/helpcenter and follow @APAHelpCenter.