The looming IRS tax deadline may be stressful for many Americans. Stress related to tax deadlines can increase reliance on the unhealthy behaviors, such as eating to alleviate stress, making poor diet choices, smoking, drinking and being inactive, that many people already use to cope with everyday stressors related to money, work, personal and family health matters and raising children. Increased reliance on unhealthy behaviors to manage stress can lead to long-term, serious health problems. Specifically, research has shown that for people coping with existing health problems, financial and interpersonal stress can exacerbate their conditions.
"People who cope with stress in unhealthy ways may alleviate symptoms of stress in the short term, but end up creating significant personal health problems over time, and, ironically, more stress," says psychologist Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, APA executive director for professional practice. "Research shows that stress, and the unhealthy behaviors people use to manage it, contribute to some of our country's biggest health problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. So it's imperative that people take steps to address issues like financial stressors in healthier ways."
APA's recent Stress in America survey found that money is a top source of stress for adults. Sixty-nine percent of people attribute their stress to money and 65 percent report that work is a cause of stress, interrelated issues that are emphasized for many during the tax-filing process. According to the APA survey, What Americans Think of Willpower, many Americans set financial goals in 2012 — more than half (52 percent) said that they planned to save more money, and 37 percent reported a goal to pay off debt — yet more than one quarter said that willpower (27 percent) or time (26 percent) were barriers preventing them from making changes.
APA offers these strategies for managing financial stress: