Monday, 7 April, 2008 9:45 PM
Tax Out Americans As April 15 Nears
courtesy of www.chicagoist.com
WASHINGTON -- With
cash-strapped Americans already worried about the effects of an
economic downturn, the April 15 deadline to file federal income
taxes may seem overwhelming or frightening, especially for those
who fear that they will owe the government money. The American Psychological
Association (APA) cautions that while this time of year may seem
excessively difficult, relying on harmful behaviors to alleviate
stress may contribute to physical and emotional health problems
in the future.
"The nation's troubled
economy is causing a strain not only on wallets but also on how
stressed we feel," said Dr. Stephanie Smith, a Colorado psychologist.
"Many of us bury our heads in the sand because our finances
are so overwhelming. This can just make the problem -- and ultimately
our anxiety about the problem -- worse. Start small and start somewhere.
Think of tax-filing time as an opportunity to evaluate your financial
situation and money habits and figure out ways to change."
Money is a leading concern
for most Americans. According to APA's 2007 Stress in America poll,
nearly 75 percent of Americans say work and money are two significant
stressors in their lives. And as the nation faces a possible recession,
more Americans may feel panicky about their future, leading to an
increase in stress about their finances and job.
The survey also reveals
that many Americans choose unhealthy ways to cope with their stress.
More than 40 percent say they overeat or eat unhealthy foods during
stressful times, 48 percent have lost sleep, and two-thirds of smokers
report they smoke even more.
"It's tempting to
turn to bad habits, but stress and health are so strongly linked
that it's important for people to take care of themselves,"
said Dr. Nancy Molitor, a Chicago-area psychologist. "Engaging
in unhealthy behaviors usually makes things worse and then distracts
you from making the necessary changes in your financial situation
that could ultimately make life better."
APA offers these strategies
for managing financial stress:
-- Identify your stressors
and make a plan. Take a look at your particular financial situation
and what causes you stress. List specific ways you can reduce your
spending. Although this may seem daunting, putting things down on
paper and committing to a plan can reduce stress.
-- Examine your priorities.
Ask yourself what your money goals are. If your priorities are not
matching up with your spending habits, this can be a source of anxiety
and conflict, especially between partners.
-- Talk about your worries.
We tend to be secretive about our financial situation, especially
when things aren't going well, and this can lead to more stress.
Open up to your partner, a trusted friend or family member about
-- Recognize how you
deal with stress related to money. Some people deal with stress
by comfort eating, smoking, drinking or gambling. Pay attention
to how you manage your stress, and consider the damage that negative
coping methods can do to your health.
-- Substitute unhealthy
for healthy ways to manage stress. Healthy stress-reducing activities
can be inexpensive and quick -- like taking a short walk, meditating
or talking things out with friends or family. If you're feeling
overwhelmed by talk of the economy on the evening news, turn it
off. Remember that unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of
time and can be difficult to change, so focus on changing one thing
at a time.
Credit counseling services,
tax advisors and financial planners are available to help you take
control over your money situation. If you continue to be overwhelmed
by stress or the unhealthy behaviors you use to cope, you may want
to talk with a psychologist who can help you address the emotions
behind your financial worries, better manage stress and change unhealthy
behaviors. Psychologists are experts trained to understand the connection
between the mind and body as well as the factors that promote behavior
change. For more information on stress and mind/body health, visit
The American Psychological
Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific
and professional organization representing psychology in the United
States and is the world's largest association of psychologists.
APA's membership includes more than 148,000 researchers, educators,
clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54
subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial
and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology
as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human
Source: American Psychological