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Tax day is Monday. Here's how to reduce stress and get your taxes done

Financial stress can happen all year long. While tax season is only a window of time, it comes with something that can be daunting: a deadline.
Tax day is Monday. Here's how to reduce stress and get your taxes done
Posted at 12:26 PM, Apr 14, 2024

For many people, tax season isn't only about gathering W-2 forms or calling an accountant. It can also bring intense feelings of stress or anxiety about dealing with finances.

Financial stress during tax season can manifest in different ways, whether that's procrastinating on your tax return until the last minute or experiencing intense stress about filing incorrectly. If you're dealing with financial stress right now, you're not alone.

"Many Americans experience high stress during tax times, and many Americans are dealing with financial stress," financial wellness expert Joyce Marter said.

You might think emotions and money don't go together, but they often affect each other, said Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, financial therapist and founder of Mind Money Balance.

"Our money and mental health intersect because they're two parts of our overall wellness," said Bryan-Podvin.

Here are recommendations from experts to reduce financial stress during tax season while still getting your return done by the deadline:

Don't avoid, plan

Financial stress can happen all year long. While tax season is only a window of time, it comes with something that can be daunting: a deadline. Some might find a deadline motivates them to get things done, while others can feel paralyzed by it, said Dr. Tanya Farber, a psychologist at McLean Hospital, a mental health facility in Massachusetts.

"If we're overwhelmed by our anxiety, that's where it may lead us to avoid thinking about finances or trying to avoid thinking about taxes," Farber said.

Although you do have an option of filing for an extension, Farber doesn't recommend prolonging the period when you have to worry about taxes. Instead, a good first step is to make a detailed plan to tackle them.

Farber recommends you break down all of the steps and start completing them one by one. A key step is to start gathering all of your documents, such as your W-2 or 1099 forms, savings and investment records, eligible deductions and tax credits, ahead of sitting down to file your taxes. Once you have a list of steps, scheduling times to complete the tasks will make it easier to build momentum.

If you need help making a plan, search for tax checklists, which can be a great tool to make sure you have everything you need.

Face your fears

For many, anxiety over filing taxes comes from fear, Farber said. Whether it's fear of making a mistake in your return or unexpectedly owing thousands of dollars, these fears can overwhelm you to the point of avoiding even looking at your taxes.

If you identify that fear is what's stopping you from filing, Farber recommends that you ask yourself if whatever you're afraid of is likely to happen.

"When we have fears, they're possible, probable or definite," Farber said. "And oftentimes anxiety is the highest when we're assuming the worst-case scenario."

If thinking about your fears by yourself is not helping, Bryan-Podvin recommends you discuss them with a friend or a family member. In many cases, talking with someone else might help you focus on what might actually happen rather than focusing on the worst-case scenarios.

Focus on self-care

If tax season brings a lot of financial stress for you, Bryan-Podvin recommends that you increase the amount of self-care activities you're doing. Activities such as taking a walk, spending time with your dog or getting enough sleep can help soothe stress.

"We are going to be doing things that are difficult and depleting and anxiety-provoking so doing more things that are restorative can help us balance that," Farber said.

Doing restorative activities can work as a toolbox of coping skills when you're in the middle of a stressful situation, like filing taxes.

Ask for support

You might feel like you'll be judged if you talk about money, but that's often not the case. Talking about finances with your friends or family can be a moment to receive support, she said.

"Talking with others is going to give you access to more information and resources and also helps remove the shame and stigma because you're not alone," Marter said.

Whether it's talking with a tax professional or reaching out to your most tax-savvy family member, proactively seeking support will help you avoid being stressed if you're filing very close to the deadline.

Additionally, if you are experiencing mental health struggles, there are several resources you can use to find professional help.

In the U.S., you can dial 211 to speak with a mental health expert, confidentially and for free.

Other mental health resources include:

Veterans Crisis Line: call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Crisis Text Line: Text the word 'Home' to 741-741

The Trevor Lifeline for LGBTQ Youth: 1-866-488-7386

The Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860


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