How to Deal with Tax Season Anxiety

It’s that dreaded time of year again…tax season. No matter how many times it rolls around, somehow taxes find a way to spike our stress and anxiety. We’re flooded by what if’s and worries. What if I don’t have all of my necessary paperwork?? What if the IRS comes after me if I fill out this section wrong?? It’s enough to send even a therapist like yours truly into an anxiety tailspin.

Here are a few helpful tips to offset some of the tax season stress:

1. Start Early

If you have the ability to do so, one of the nicest things you can do for yourself is to begin working on your taxes ahead of time. Anxiety spikes in situations in which we feel trapped, and a looming tax deadline can certainly trigger that trapped/stuck feeling.

Starting early allows you to chip away at your taxes in more manageable chunks and not feel rushed or pressured.

2. Do Little Bits at a Time

With anxiety, we can often fall into a pattern of avoidance. The idea of sitting down to do ALL of our taxes at once can feel overwhelming and so we push the task off to tomorrow…and then the next day…and then the next.

Instead, start small and simple. Maybe the to-do item for today is gathering your W-2 (or any other paperwork that you have) and setting it out on your desk. Or maybe the to-do item is signing into whatever online tax program you use and reading the welcome instructions. And that’s it for today! If you feel up for tackling another step, great! But if not, that’s okay because you’ve already accomplished the step you set out to do that day.

With each step done, we feel a little less anxious and a little more confident, making the process as a whole feel less overwhelming.

3. Be Nice to Yourself

Doing our taxes is already hard, why add insult to injury by literally insulting ourselves while doing them? I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly let a few harsh self-criticisms slip through when working on my taxes. When that happens, those negative comments about ourselves only add to our stress and anxiety and increase our likelihood of procrastinating even further.

Instead, try approaching yourself with the same kindness and encouragement that you'd give a close friend. “I know this is stressful and overwhelming. I see how hard you’re trying. Remember that you’ve done this before which means you can do it again. You’ve got this!”

It can also help to have some sort of reward waiting for you. Maybe you treat yourself to your favorite silly movie after you’re done. Or go for a relaxing walk to shake off the stress. Or maybe meet up with a friend to talk and vent out your tax-induced stress.

Having something to look forward to can act as an incentive and help you to push through the discomfort of the task.

4. Ask for Help

None of us are tax experts except for actual tax professionals! Would we criticize ourselves for not knowing how to do our own root canal? Of course not! We rely on dentists (aka the professionals) in those situations. Yes, we can brush our teeth ourselves, but sometimes we need to bring in professional support for bigger concerns. Same goes with taxes. While we can do them ourselves, it’s also important to recognize that there are dedicated professionals for this very thing and it’s okay to lean on them, whether it’s to take care of our taxes completely or to simply provide some clarification here and there.

If you’d like to learn more strategies to manage other types of stressors, please reach out to me!

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