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The phrase “Nothing is certain except for death and taxes” is not accurate. It might be more accurate to say “Nothing is certain except for death FROM taxes.”

As crazy as it seems, every year and every tax season, the pressure to file for returns by a deadline gives tax payers, preparers, and accountants plenty of business while adding enough stress to garner the attention of the medical community. Unfortunately, the stress of tax season is a very real, possibly dangerous issue. If you find yourself overly stressed about sitting down with Uncle Sam, you’re definitely not alone. 

In fact, The American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” report shows that money has consistently been a top concern for adults since 2007 when it started surveying Americans about stress. “When we ask people what it is that is causing stress in their life, it’s about money and uncertainty,” said Vaile Wright, the group’s psychologist and director of research and special projects.

Our bodies respond to stressful life events, like tax day, through a series of biological responses. Hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are dumped into our systems and increase our heart rates, leaving us with the fight or flight reaction. Even though that natural, built-in response can keep us safe in life-threatening situations, chronic stress will result in anxiety, high blood pressure, and even heart disease.

That’s right: Tax stress can kill you.

However, there is a healthy amount of stress that psychologists call the Yerkes-Dodson Law. It is a model of the relationship between stress and task performance — performance decreases when a person is not stressed enough or too stressed. “Stress is your body’s way of responding to adverse or challenging circumstances. It can motivate us even, but it’s important to pay attention to how this stress is manifesting,” Wright explained.

Finding that sweet spot of stress is becoming more difficult for young adults trying to balance education and finances.

According to the Stress in America report, “We are seeing that younger adults are reporting significant levels of stress related to money,” Wright noted. For those born between the mid-1990s and the early to mid-2000s, also known as Generation Z, more than 81% considered money to be significantly stressful. 

“This generation that’s coming out of college now is facing a dilemma that no other generation is facing, and that’s automatically stepping out into the world as an adult being knee-deep in debt: student loan debt,” said Tim C. Lee, CEO, and founder of TCL Financial & Tax Services in Jackson, Mississippi.

“One of the unhealthy behaviors we see is avoidance. We have a tendency to avoid and put off during tax season. What happens is that when we continue to avoid over a long term, we are inadvertently telling ourselves that this task is so hard, we cannot deal with it, and it becomes overwhelming,” Wright said. “I encourage people to do the things to prepare ahead of time. Also, if you have good healthy habits in place, don’t abandon them.”

Lee explains, “Some people see it as a way of life because they don’t know any better. I’ve seen people come in that are 60 years old who haven’t even paid a dollar for retirement. A lot of it is people who think it is normal behavior. People are very stressed out about it.”

So what’s the solution? Don’t pay taxes!

Wait. No. That definitely won’t work. We just wanted to make sure you’re still paying attention.

Now is the time to hurry up and get it done. Don’t procrastinate. Like any difficult or stressful thing, doing a little bit every day is a far better strategy than putting it off. It reduces stress and helps protect your heart!

Want it even easier? Employ an accountant or someone you know who can crunch numbers if number crunching isn’t your thing. Paying a professional will literally be an investment in your health!

If we don’t delay, we can zoom past April 15th into spring without feeling Uncle Sam breathing down our necks.