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Stress is bad for you

Paid for by H&R Block

Tax season is upon us once again, and if the mere thought of W-2s and Schedule Cs makes your stomach do flip-flops, you’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by United Way Worldwide, 74 percent of millennial respondents feel some level of stress about filing their taxes, with the most common worries including making a mistake (48 percent) and not getting a full refund (23 percent).

While short bursts of stress are a necessary evolutionary response to danger—one that enables our life-preserving “fight or flight” instincts—prolonged periods of stress can wreak havoc on our bodies, says Dr. Aaron Spitz, an Orange County, California-based urologist.

“Adrenaline is a chemical that our body makes and can release very rapidly in reaction to perceived threat—it’s what constricts blood vessels in our fingers and toes and opens up the blood vessels in our hearts, lungs, liver, and brain, and is also what causes us to have intense focus and concentration and tighten up our muscles,” he says.

“Where it becomes unhealthy is when that goes from an acute, sudden thing to chronic, frequent, and continuous. So when we worry about first-world problems or about money concerns or other situations that really aren’t promising us physical harm for which we need all those physiological responses, they still nonetheless are triggering the release of adrenaline and another hormone called cortisol.”

When your body is exposed to cortisol and adrenaline for long periods, say, when you’re putting off filing your taxes, watch out–they’ll start to do damage.

These troubling side effects can manifest themselves in myriad ways, everything from increased blood pressure and a lowered immune system to heartburn and diarrhea. In extreme cases, they can even lead to heart attack or stroke.

Symptoms may also manifest externally—for example, hunching shoulders and grinding teeth. Cortisol also has a reputation for causing weight gain.

In addition to physical symptoms, stress’ psychological impact can also affect interpersonal relationships, according to psychotherapist Matt Lundquist of New York’s Tribeca Therapy.

“It gets in the way of intimacy,” he says. “The kind of conditions that are necessary for intimacy are feelings of safety and calm. It’s not just sexual intimacy but all sorts of intimacy—where you’re able to connect with your kids or be present at the dinner table.”

Lundquist says that other psychological signs that your stress is taking its toll could include trouble sleeping and nightmares.

Of course, there’s no need to put yourself through these unhealthy periods of worrying when you can simply take action. Procrastination—whether filing your taxes or asking out your crush—only exacerbates the problem.

“I’m a big believer in going at the problem,” says Lundquist. “[Procrastination] is the worst possible idea. I think people who do it, in as much as they’re saying, ‘I’m not thinking about that,’ I think they’re lying to themselves that that is actually working. I think it just buries it deeper in the ground, and I don’t think it actually makes it any better.”

So take it from an expert: Avoid prolonged, health-hindering stress by getting those taxes done now. Agonizing until April 15 will only make it worse—for body and soul.

From H&R Block:
H&R Block believes everyone deserves better tax prep. That’s why H&R Block provides upfront, transparent pricing, the most ways to file your taxes, and help whether you file in person or online. Visit hrblock.com to learn about all the ways Block has your back.