How to Make Tax Season Less Stressful (Guest Article)

“Tax season is almost here, sharing a guest article from fellow life and career coach Julie Morris. The article has been written keeping individual tax and small business owners based in United States.”

For some reason, tax season has been given a bad reputation and is often associated with stress, anxiety, and even chaos. According to a Pew Research survey, 56 percent of people dislike doing their taxes, citing reasons such as complicated paperwork and the amount of time that must be dedicated to doing taxes. However, 34 percent like, and even love, doing their taxes and with a few tips, you might be able to make your tax preparation experience a little more enjoyable.

Do I Need to File?

Before you get into tax mode, it is important to stop and think about whether or not you are actually required to file. According to Efile, the filing requirement depends on your filing status (single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, qualifying widower), age, income, dependency status, and other special requirements. If you are unsure, use the IRS tax return tool to determine if you are required to file a federal tax return. You will need basic information such as your filing status and federal income tax withheld.

According to 1040.com, there are some situations when is beneficial to file even if you aren’t required to such as if you had federal income tax withheld from your pay or you made estimated tax payments. In addition, there are a few tax credits that could give you a refund even if you don’t have to file such as the Earned Income Credit, Additional Child Tax Credit, or the American Opportunity Credit. In order to qualify for these credits, you must file.

Gather Important Documents

As tax season draws near, you will receive a variety of tax documents in the mail. Make sure you keep and store these documents in a safe place where they won’t get lost in the shuffle of everyday life. Time states that there are a plethora of documents you might receive. For income information, you might receive Form W-2 (wages), 1099-INT (interest), 1099-DIV (dividends), 1099-B (investment sales), 1099-R (retirement), SSA-1099 (Social Security benefits), 1099-G (unemployment benefits and state tax returns), 1099-C (forgiven debt). If you plan on itemizing deductions, you will need forms such as a 1098 (mortgage interest), 1095-A (insurance marketplace statement), 1095-B (health coverage), or 1099-SA (HSA/MSA distribution.

If you receive a document and you are unsure if it will be necessary come tax time, keep it anyway. Consider storing all tax documents in a folder or binder with labels to make finding what you need easy and quick.

Decide Which Method to File

Do you want to have a professional file your taxes or do you prefer to file your taxes yourself using either e-file tax software, like 1099 software, or paper filing? Nerd Wallet suggests taking into consideration how complicated your tax situation is, how much time you have to dedicate to the process, how much you want to spend, and how involved you want to be. For example, paper filing your return is free other than the cost of postage, but tax software for preparing basic returns could cost anywhere from $20 to $50, and increases to $100 or more if you plan to itemize. If you choose to hire a tax professional, you can expect to pay about $175 for basic returns, and $275 for an itemized return. These prices aren’t set in stone, and it will vary with each situation, but it shows just how much of a difference the method of filing makes. While some may only be comfortable with a professional handling their taxes, others may find doing their own taxes to be easy and more convenient.

Regardless of what method you choose, try to make a decision in advance of tax season to ensure you are able to get your taxes completed before the deadline of April 15.

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Emotional Mastery: Channeling Anger

Friends, this post is a part of an upcoming webinar series for a life of fulfillment and happiness – “Emotional Mastery”, with my dear friend Suresh Sivaraman (Blog: themindfulinfluencer).

We will soon announce the dates for the first live event. As a prelude, here are the links to a gift pack of 5-video series, “Emotional Mastery: Channeling your Anger”. Thank you so much Suresh for such an insightful conversation!

We start the conversation with an interesting question – are we witnessing a culture that excessively glorifies and ignites anger? We share some statistics and discuss how anger has become such a common attitude in day-to- day life. Be it in the form of aggression, a part of discipline or even so called “macho” image and “fighting” spirit.

Do we ever take a pause and think “Why are we so angry and with whom?”

In the next part we discuss impacts of anger on our lives. In Suresh’s words, “Anger is a KILL JOY of sorts. When you allow anger to fester for too long, it is difficult to find happiness. You tend to ignore the positives in life, and focus excessively on what is wrong and out of order.”

The final part of the discussion covers a simple 2-pronged framework – “Recognize (Notice and Take stock) and Handle (RegulateFigure out and Move on)”, that you can apply easily and channel your anger for better outcomes in life.

Suresh and myself eagerly look forward to your comments, personal experiences and suggestions.

Stay well and stay inspired!

~ Piyush

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International Yoga Day 2016: YogaUtsav@Yeldur, Karnataka – A Real ‘Ananda’ Experience

Firstly, thank you for being patient all this while and trust me, you won’t be disappointed when you will read the upcoming posts on my blog. I have been busy lately in researching and practically experimenting with a lot of techniques that can be used for personal energy management and change management. More to follow but for now all I have to say is that “you control your state of mind”.

As you might have guessed from the title, this blog post is about my experiences from an event that I attended on 21st June, International Yoga day 2016 – by YogaUtsav team, in association with Village Kids India Trust and National High School at Yeldur Village, Karnataka. Kudos to YogaUtsav team and Village Kids India trust volunteers for organizing such a well intentional and soulful event. Everyone involved in the event – teaching staff at school, guest of honor, volunteers and most importantly the participating school kids; each of them were inspirational and beaming with positivity. I feel truly blessed to be a part of such a wonderful experience.

YogaUtsav-Yeldur 402

When I initially looked at the event schedule, I thought it will be a good Karnataka village experience and a break from work routine. Only if I knew then that by the end of the event and day in that village, I will be so much more recharged and will have so many beautiful memories to share.YogaUtsav-Yeldur 182
At 5am, serenity in the village was like nature doing meditation and that fresh air…I can still smell and feel in my nostrils…what a start to a lovely day, sheer bliss! I was literally feeling as if I have been “plugged –in” to a source of abundant positive energy.

Village scene in the morning – residents chit-chatting, some playing badminton, some on a morning walk and others getting ready for their work. Not much different from our city routine but oh wait, I realized the difference within few minutes; first – no one seemed to be in a hurry, second – they were not busy looking at their smartphones and third and most important for us Bangaloreans – No Traffic!!! 🙂

I can go on writing about every minute I spent there but sharing some “fire-fly moments” that will remain forever with me:

  • Kids making mistakes just to make sure that I go to them and correct their yoga postures. Those naughty smiles were so infectious!
  • Kids who knew they had pretty perfect postures, also calling me just to check if they were doing fine. Their sense of pride was so innocent!
  • Ladies of our group clicked selfies with a young boy; seeing his embarrassment was so endearing!
  • A young boy celebrated his birthday with us and when we sang “happy birthday”, his happiness was so sincere!
  • Encouragement, support and respect that we received from the guests and the school staff was so motivating!
  • Kids surrounding our team after the event which made us feel like a celebrity. It was indeed overwhelming for me!
  • A young boy holding my hand when we were leaving after the event and asking me if I had lunch, that sparkle in his eyes was so honest!
  • Love and affection from the family who made lip-smacking lunch for us and then served it with even more generosity. It was truly so humbling!

YogaUtsav-Yeldur 743-3

It was a gentle reminder that happiness is all around us, all we need to do is open-up and embrace these beautiful moments. Happiness is in the moment!

Stay happy and stay blessed!

~ Piyush

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Happy New Year!

Thank you D. Simone for these beautiful lines!

“May Light always surround you;
Hope kindle and rebound you.
May your Hurts turn to Healing;
Your Heart embrace Feeling.
May Wounds become Wisdom;
Every Kindness a Prism.
May Laughter infect you;
Your Passion resurrect you.
May Goodness inspire
your Deepest Desires.
Through all that you Reach For,
May your arms Never Tire.”

Stay healthy and have a dream!

~ Piyush

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How do we recharge ourselves?

Actual question in my mind was – are we recharged enough? But when I started thinking on that I realized that if I know how we recharge ourselves, I will have the answer to the main question – if it’s enough or not!

So, I reframed the question to – how do we recharge ourselves?

Now some of the obvious recharging options, which I call “direct plug into power socket” type recharge, are:

  • Good night sleep
  • Morning walk or exercise
  • Healthy meals
  • Good work environment
  • Having a hobby or ‘me’ time
  • Time out with loved ones
  • Any celebration or festival
  • Breaks or vacation
  • Prayer or meditation

This list depends on individual’s choice, routine and circumstances. Important thing to notice here is that most of these need some bit of planning or effort from our side. And to make that effort itself, we need some initial charge to provide motivation.

So, in this post I will discuss such options of recharge, which can keep our battery at a ‘motivated’ level. I call them “fire-fly moments” type recharge options. Just remember this analogy of a person collecting fire-flies in a glass jar to have enough light on a dark night.

To give you an idea, some of the “fire-fly moment” examples from my own experience are:

  • Getting up beside a loved one and exchanging sleepy smiles
  • Looking at the morning sky, trees, birds and absorbing the enthusiasm of the atmosphere
  • Saying hello with full excitement to fellow morning walkers
  • Exchanging smile or a little chat with a neighbor’s kid going to school
  • Exchanging greeting with a neighbor going to office
  • Acknowledging someone’s effort with a little chitchat; like a traffic police officer, road side vendor, bus conductor or a cab driver
  • A simple act of chivalry in the bus by offering a seat or space to someone
  • Sharing some light moments during lunch or coffee break with colleagues
  • Sincerely appreciating a colleague for a job well done
  • Surprising loved one by carrying their favorite snack item in the evening
  • Listening to loved one’s day experience
  • Listening or humming a favorite song together with your loved one, kid or a friend
  • Dancing on a favorite song with your loved one
  • Remembering a good old time on a telephonic conversation
  • Even recollecting or discussing such experiences with your loved ones

We can see that we don’t even need to create them, these”fire-fly moments” are constantly happening around us. All we need is to open ourselves for these real “social connection” experiences with people around us and the environment.

So simple yet so powerful, isn’t it?

Above list can easily run into pages depending on our willingness to recognize, consciously experience and creatively convert even the faintest of such “fire-fly moment” into a powerful recharge option.

Just by living in the moment and enjoying these simple experiences to the fullest, we can easily get enough energy for making that extra ‘conscious’ effort and achieve more in life.

And the best part is that most of these experiences are two-way recharging option, so not only we get recharged; we recharge others around us.

Just imagine how much joy we can spread in the process of keeping ourselves recharged!

Think about it…

Stay well and live in the moment!

~ Piyush

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Are we drinking our water right?

Are we drinking our water right? We keep hearing a lot of dos and don’ts about it, how much and when.  Some are confusing, some contradictory and some we just adopt as they simply sound logical.  This is my attempt at simplifying our understanding around water.

A bit of science first. Let’s look at the percentage of water in our body composition:

  • The human body contains from 55% to 78% water, depending on body size. A healthy adult body usually has around 71-72% of water (Is it a coincidence that our planet has same percentage of water?).
  • Brain - 75% water; Blood - 83% water; Muscles - 75% water; Bones - 22% water

Some major functions of water in our body:

  • Helps carry nutrients and oxygen to our cells
  • Helps liver and kidney in flushing out waste
  • Provides moisture and protects tissues/organs
  • Protects and cushions our vital organs
  • Lubricates joints
  • Regulates our body temperature

If interested in science behind water and our body, read more on how water acts as a solvent, plays an essential role in metabolic processes and cellular respiration.

Next, I have picked top 7 facts around water consumption that will help us in making conscious choice for or against any popular recommendation now and in future:

  1. Water consumption depends on the level of activity, temperature, humidity, and other health factors.
  2. ‘Water’ consumption requirement of our body is fulfilled by all the liquid or food that we consume and not just water.
  3. Human body is designed with a smart, in-built water requirement indicator – it is called thirst. So listen to the body signals, along with understanding exceptions.
  4. It takes approximately 60 minutes for the liquid to travel from your gut to your muscles. So, in exceptional situation like extreme weather conditions, strenuous physical activities or certain medical condition; we might be dehydrated even before we start to feel thirsty.
  5. Depending on whether we have consumed water empty stomach or along with food (type of food), it takes from 5 minutes to 120 minutes for water to fully absorb into our bloodstream from the time of drinking.
  6. Feeling thirsty does not mean we are dehydrated. Dehydration sets in when a person has lost 2% of body weight. So for a person with 100 kilogram weight, this means losing 2 kg of water.
  7. Not all water you drink gets absorbed by the body, especially if you drink a lot of water. Access water ‘needs’ to be flushed out in form of urine, sweat or stool.

Now based on these facts, bottom line is that water consumption will vary from person to person and we should trust our ‘thirst’ mechanism.  If it is less body will indicate, if it is more body will remove; it is all taken care for normal health in normal conditions.

Lastly, 3 simple tips from my experience are:

  1. Drink water when you feel thirsty and in moderation. Researchers believe that drinking 10% more than what quenches your thirst is the ideal amount.
  2. Drinking a glass or two of water, first thing in morning is a fairly accepted good practice. We can add lemon/honey to warm water or water can be kept overnight in a copper vessel.
  3. Knowing the importance of water, drink it slowly with a feeling of gratitude and with a conscious awareness of all the benefits it gives. This will go a long way!

Stay uncomplicated and stay healthy!

~ Piyush

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Scribbling – 1

While I am still thinking on my next post, sharing a pic and some lines inspired from my recent trip.

ज़मीन अलग थी, आसमान वही था,

लोग अलग थे पर दर्द वही था|

दरिया अलग था, पानी वही था,
लोग अलग थे पर प्यासा वही था|

नोट अलग थे, उलझन वही थी,
लोग अलग थे पर रंज ओ गम* वही था|

परिंदे अलग थे, उड़ान वही थी,
लोग अलग थे पर बंजारा* वही था|

मूरत अलग थी, खुदा वही था,
लोग अलग थे पर मुस्तकबिल* वही था|

तू वही थी, मैं वही था,
हालात अलग थे पर इश्क़ वही था||

~ पियूष

*रंज ओ गम - Anger and Sadness; बंजारा - Nomad; मुस्तकबिल - Future

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Relationship – Is it about me or us?

Well, what a week I have had after my first post - Are we living or existing ? . I am overwhelmed with the encouragement from all the friends and family. I would like to thank each one of you for taking time to read it and sharing insightful thoughts.

I now feel a lot more comfortable touching another topic close to my heart– “Relationship – Is it about me or us?”

I would be using a metaphor to make it easy for our brains to ask the right kind of questions, look at the picture above - a couple maneuvering a kayak through a river. Though relationships are much more complex but I could immediately see a lot of similarities. Let’s for this post imagine a kayak as a relationship, that we are taking together on an amazing and unpredictable journey of life.

*Note for my left-brain, even if the couple in picture were on different kayaks, imagine it like those couple races where you need to reach the finish-line together.

Now to simplify further, I have divided this journey into 2 sections: Section 1 – The planning and preparation phase;  Section 2 – The journey itself. For both these sections, we will have questions for an individual - ‘me’ questions and questions that we discuss together – ‘us’ questions.

Section 1 – The planning and preparation phase - This is similar to the initial phase of a relationship.

Let’s first look at the ‘me’ set of questions:

  • Do I know my strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do I know my partner’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do I trust my partner?
  • Do I know where I am headed ?
  • Am I 100% committed to do my best, no matter what?
  • Am I ready for the journey – physically, mentally and emotionally?

Then comes the ‘us’ set of questions, need to be discussed together:

  • Do we understand each other’s language?
  • Are we transparent about each other’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • Have we discussed and picked our ‘roles’ based on our strength?
  • Are we aware of each other’s expectations from the journey?
  • Are we committed to support each other on this journey, no matter what?
  • Are we ready for the journey together –physically, mentally and emotionally?

Section 2 – The journey itself

If only a journey could be so simple that it can be planned entirely. The preparation might make it smooth through the easy segments of the river but there is always some unpredictability.  This could be a rough patch or a tricky rapid or a free fall or even a boulder in the path of our kayak.

The real test of mettle is in the journey itself, especially through rough patches… that’s how life is, isn’t it?

And remember this is not the time to castigate each other...What's done is done...Life is happening NOW!

Again, some ‘me’ questions first:

  • Am I paddling in sync with my partner?
  • Am I paying attention to my own fatigue?
  • Am I paying attention to my partner’s fatigue?
  • Am I having space to stretch?
  • Am I giving my partner space to stretch?
  • Am I supporting my partner to the best of my abilities?
  • Am I acknowledging and appreciating my partner’s support?
  • Am I encouraging my partner?
  • Am I communicating to my partner?
  • Am I listening to my partner?
  • Am I living or existing?
  • Am I happy?

And the only ‘us’ questions I could think of during the journey:

Now at the end of this post, I am thinking,  is relationship beyond ‘me’ or  even beyond ‘us’? Could there be another dimension which can take it to new heights - (me)?

Think about it...

Stay well and stay inspired!

~ Piyush

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Are we living or existing?

It was a casual discussion with friends over tea and the conversation revolved around one question..."Are we living or existing?" Profound question indeed!

Though I honestly wanted to have an easier topic for the first blog post, I could not stop thinking about it. So here is my attempt at thinking out loud.

"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all." - Oscar Wilde

Some say it is the 'dreams' that differentiate living from existing. Some say it is the 'control over life' that makes living empowering over mere existing. Some suggest that if we have 'power to drive', then we are living; and if we are watching our life elapsing from the back-seat, then we are quite simply existing.

No doubt, they are all correct. But before we get into answering the 'bigger' question, there are some 'simpler' questions that we need to ask ourselves:

How do I feel right now?

How do I want to feel?

Am I even 'existing' consciously?

If we have answers to these then we are on a right path. If not, then this is where we need to begin our journey of contemplation.

First step is to acknowledge and have gratitude that we 'exist'; add feelings to it and we are naturally on the second step - existing consciously. Next when we start feeling happy in existing consciously, we start to have dreams.

And once one of those dreams start keeping us up at night, we start 'living'!

"Dream Dream Dream...Dreams transform into thoughts and thoughts result in actions." - A P J Abdul Kalam

Until we start 'living', let's thank ourselves for 'existing'.

Stay well and stay inspired!

~ Piyush

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