April 12, 2019 / 6:25 PM / 6 days ago

Meditate to the tax finish line

NEW YORK(Reuters) - Stressed out by the tax deadline on April 15?

FILE PHOTO: A tax sign is pictured on an H&R Block tax office in Los Angeles, California, April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Yes, of course, there is an app for that.

Some 52 percent of Americans find the filing process stressful, according to a survey by tax-prep firm TaxSlayer. That is why wellness app Headspace is trying to talk us through this difficult time with a new guided meditation collection called “Money on the Mind.”

The popular app Happify also features two different four-week programs, or “tracks,” on money: “Stop Singing the Financial Blues,” and “How Money Can Buy Happiness.”

Around tax time last year, users clicked on Headspace’s “Balance” collection five times more than usual. And for its “Money on the Mind” collection of meditations, usage of that content spiked by 60 percent.

This April, Headspace is making some of its money-related content free to all its 45 million members. More content is available to paying subscribers.

“These moments are triggers for stress, and so our users come to us for support about how to cope,” said Megan Jones Bell, Headspace’s chief science officer.

Some 20 to 25 percent of Americans wait until the final few weeks before the deadline to file their returns, according to a survey by tax-software firm TurboTax, a division of Intuit Inc.

And for those who are not able to sign on the dotted line in time, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is projecting almost 15 million extension requests this year.

If you are up against the deadline and need to clear your head, consider these tips:

* Carve out time.

Wellness apps like Headspace use a combination of guided meditation, advice and courses to help users free their minds. It can feel counterintuitive that just sitting and breathing is going to help you with the 100 different tasks that need to be accomplished to complete your tax return.

But carve some space for this into your day and build it into your routine or it will not get done.

Bell suggests logging on in the morning, when new habits have a better chance of taking root and being sustained. The best results in stress reduction and resilience come when you are going through these mental exercises multiple times a week.

* Keep at it.

A one-off meditation session probably is not going to do you a whole lot of good, especially if you have a whopping tax bill due. But continue the habit for a while.

Jacquette Timmons, a New York City-based financial behaviorist and author of “Financial Intimacy,” suggests giving yourself 30 days - and meditating more often than not - to see how your mind and body react to the practice.

Timmons herself meditates around five times per week.

Using tools like these for 10 days, for instance, results in a 14 percent decrease in stress, according to published Headspace studies. Make it to 60 days, and you are up to a 17 percent stress reduction.

* Confront, do not avoid.

Mindfulness tools are not meant as a form of escapism, to let you float away from all your worries. After all, taxes are still due on April 15, no matter how chill you are.

But they are meant to make your mind and emotions more resilient, so that you can address the root problem without freaking out about it.

Do not expect any magical outcomes for your tax worries, but the practice can get you in the right frame of mind to deal with Uncle Sam.

“I think this can help people,” Timmons said. “Not every meditation is going to bring you an ‘A-ha moment,’ but if you do it cumulatively, it will give you some clarity of mind.”

Editing by Beth Pinsker and G Crosse

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