Oi. It’s March, and for the first time in my life, I haven’t filed my taxes yet. I just finished a full year at a new job where I started making more money. Plus I’ve been freelancing and I’m never sure that I prepaid enough to the government. The thought of logging into my tax software is leaving a knot in my stomach. On top of that, the IRS scammers are in full gear. (NB The IRS will never call you about the money you owe them, it’s always a scam. It doesn’t make it any less stressful when you first hear it though…)
I know I’m not alone. I don’t think anyone likes this time of year in the US. Here are a few things you can do to manage that stress.
Nothing is worse than getting started and realizing that you are missing paperwork or records. The days before you sit down to file, make sure you collect the documents you need in one place so there isn’t a mad rush when you want to get things done.
Set aside time.
Don’t try to cram in your taxes into half an hour or do them on the run. Set aside a couple of hours where you can focus on filling out a gazillion boxes without having to worry about 10 other things you could be doing.
Pay for help.
Accountancy is a profession for a reason – keeping good books and filing taxes is complicated. If you have multiple sources of income, had a major life change or just plain get anxious about taxes, hire a professional. There are tax preparers and accountants who work with people at a variety of income levels and it can be an incredible relief to have someone else deal with the stress of filling out all those forms.
Once you have all the necessary documents, find the time to do your taxes. The closer it is to tax day it is, the more stressful it will be. Filing earlier means there is time to fix errors or to hunt down documents you didn’t expect to need. It also means that technical difficulties don’t keep you from filing on time.
Light a candle.
We could all use a little help relaxing, and a soothing candle or diffuser with your favorite scent can help you relax. Even science shows that scents can help us to relax. I have a candle that always makes me feel centered, no matter what crazy task I am trying to complete.
Try yoga breathing or taking deep breaths when you feel the stress starting to take over. A few moments spent centering yourself can help you prevent anxiety from building.
Exercise relieves stress and even just taking a quick walk around your office or the block can help you release tension from your body and give you a mental break from the stress of filling out form after form.
Don’t judge yourself
Your tax bill is not a reflection of your worth or success as a human. Owing money doesn’t make you a bad person and getting a huge refund doesn’t make you awesome. Taxes are a part of life and many factors affect what you have to pay each year, many of them are out of your control. It also doesn’t matter if you file January 1st or the last possible moment. So while owing money can be hard, don’t be hard on yourself because you do.
Tax season can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be the cause of new grey hairs. Taking a few of these tips can help you stay centered and nausea-free while you prepare your taxes this year.
Mary Fran Wiley is a well known gluten-free and positive living blogger from Chicago where she writes Curiouser and Curiouser, maintains the Chronic Positivity Project, and has been featured in Allergic Living Magazine, Care2.com and Today.com.