June 15, 2021 by Peter B. Laird
Ask the Psychiatrist: Is Tax Day the Only Thing That’s Causing You Stress?
“Are you experiencing anxiety about Tax Day?” asks Rachel Rohaidy, M.D., referring to the upcoming May 17th IRS deadline for filing your taxes. Dr. Rohaidy, a board certified psychiatrist at Baptist Health Primary Care and medical director of The Recovery Village at Baptist Health, says that what you’re actually feeling is “the anxiety that comes from fear of the unknown and the inability to be resilient in your reactions.”
As a psychiatrist, Dr. Rohaidy believes in the practice of positive psychiatry and positive psychology to enable patients to develop the skills they need to cope with anxiety, alleviate suffering and increase their wellbeing.
“Positive psychiatry believes people can learn to control response to stress by practicing mindfulness,” Dr. Rohaidy says. “One of the easiest ways to practice mindfulness is to sit with your emotions and recognize them. Feelings of anger, sadness and frustration that increase stress can actually be reduced over time.”
When helping patients learn how to get through stressful times, whether it’s preparing and paying one’s taxes or dealing with a difficult situation at home or work, Dr. Rohaidy says she likes to emphasize three important elements of positive psychiatry and positive psychology: resilience, optimism and social engagement.
According to Dr. Rohaidy, the job of a mental health professional is incomplete if all they focus on is the problem by just prescribing medicine. Medication, she cautions, is not the answer for everyone.
“Resilience and social engagement are better treatment options,” notes Dr. Rohaidy, who says that using positive psychiatry and positive psychology everyday can help you not only with your emotional wellbeing but can help you maintain good health as well.
“They’ve also been proven to lead to greater longevity and improved outcomes when coping with illnesses such as cancer or chronic conditions like rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” she says.
Being resilient is the capacity to respond to adversity in a healthy way, says Dr. Rohaidy. More than just responding to setbacks, it’s a mindset that can be used to develop mental flexibility and optimism, which she says are essential components of resilience.
“Studies show the impact of creating a healthy mindset,” Dr. Rohaidy adds. “Over time, this practice lowers depression, reduces suicides and helps in the reduction of substance abuse in people involved in trauma.”
Dr. Rohaidy identifies the essentials of resilience, which include:
- Self-awareness – Recognizing stressors in your life and identifying situations and patterns that are self-destructive is key to really knowing yourself. “Ask yourself how you react to things, understand that and learn,” Dr. Rohaidy advises.
- Self-regulation – Being able to regulate your emotions is key to developing a healthy perspective on things that happen in life. “Don’t say, ‘I don’t want to talk about these things.’ Be willing to express emotions and move forward,” Dr. Rohaidy says.
- Optimism – Identifying the goodness in yourself and others goes a long way in building optimism, Dr. Rohaidy says. “Ask yourself, ‘What can I control, what is challenging me?’ Catch yourself when you have negative thoughts and learn to control those thoughts.”
- How do you react to situations? – Try your best to control how you feel and to stay positive, even in the face of adversity.
- Mental agility – Developing a flexible thinking perspective and embracing a willingness to try new strategies aids resilience.
- Flexibility – At the outset of the pandemic, especially in the work force, people were very rigid when using Zoom or Facetime. Accept that changes happen, and be willing to accommodate and try new things.
- Character strength – Identifying this key strength in yourself and others helps your resilience. “Learn to overcome the stress that develops when unforeseen situations occur and think things through before you act,” Dr. Rohaidy says. “Feel good about yourself for working through the problem successfully.”
- Social connectiveness – Be willing to ask for and offer help, Dr. Rohaidy advises. “Don’t just say, ‘I want to do it on my own.’ Remember, we’re human and we all need help at times,” she says. Also, reach out to family and friends who need help. “Being available is not only helpful to them, it also helps you feel better because you’ve done something for somebody else.”
Being positive takes work, according to Dr. Rohaidy, and it’s something you have to work on every single day. “Become more self-aware and think about how you process things,” she says. “Be willing to learn new tasks on the road to becoming more resilient.”
So, if Tax Day or some other situation in your life is weighing heavily on you, think positively. “Instead of dreading having to file your taxes or worrying about how much you owe this year, be thankful you have a steady job that provides taxable income,” Dr. Rohaidy says. “Not everyone can say that.”