Here's How To Avoid Stressing Out When You Have *A Lot* On Your Plate, According To Experts

Remaining calm when you're really stressed out is one of the hardest things to do. But when you have a million things going on at once, from deadlines to social obligations, adding "how to teach yourself not to stress" seems like one more thing on an already endless to-do list. But you know what, y'all? Learning how to manage stress should be at the top of your priority list, because once you figure that one out, everything else can kind of fall right into place, you know?

Is it easy to teach yourself not to stress? I mean, no. Definitely not. When you're applying for a new job, planning your best friend's surprise party, taking care of a sick pet, and you're dating someone new, even taking a moment to breathe might seem laughable. But habitual stress can take a pretty big toll on your physical and emotional health, as well as your ability to actually navigate the present moment productively. According to the Office on Women's Health, an overwhelming amount of stress can weaken your immune system, it can potentially lead to health issues like migraines, heart problems, stomach issues, and it can even mess with your sex drive.

Of course, if you're at the point where it feels like your stress isn't manageable on your own, it's in your best interest to reach out to a health care professional for help. In the meantime, consider some of these expert-recommended tips for learning how to keep your cool when life gets a little overwhelming.

Be real with yourself about your priorities

When your stress is at its maximum, it can easily seem like everything you need to do simply must get done right at that moment. As a result, it can be really hard to take a beat and focus on what's actually important.

"Remember to keep an eye on the bigger picture and question a lot of assumptions you are making during this busy time," life transition and confidence coach, Rebecca Sparks, tells Elite Daily over email. "For example, take a look at your to-do list and ask yourself, 'What’s really that urgent, and can any of it wait a half hour or even half a day?'"

It’s important to decipher between what’s truly urgent, and what’s just making a lot of noise and demanding your immediate time and focus, she explains. "Remember, you don’t have to be everything to everyone. Nor does everything have to happen right now," says Sparks. "In order to show up happy and healthy every day and manage stress, we have to get honest about what’s a priority and what’s just making a lot of noise."

Establish healthy boundaries

Remember, you always have the power to say "yes" or "no" when someone asks you to do something, or even, "Give me five minutes so I can think about this."

As Sparks points out, if you’re a people-pleaser, saying no can feel like you’re abandoning someone, or like you’ve become a terrible person, but of course, more often than not, that simply isn't true. "In fact, those few seconds of discomfort are well worth avoiding the stress of taking on an extra activity or doing something that doesn’t contribute value to your life," Sparks explains.

"So, if you are feeling stressed, ask yourself — are your boundaries clear? Or are they quite flexible?" says Sparks. "If the latter is true, then it’s time to start setting some clear boundaries for yourself and others, so that they know when and how often you are available."

Remind yourself of the good things in your life

According to counselor and relationship expert David Bennett, taking a moment to shift your perspective to the positives in life can help you stay grounded during stressful times.

"Cultivating gratitude not only can lead to a reduction in perceived stress, but it can help a person feel more socially supported," he tells Elite Daily. "I make it a point to list five things I'm grateful for that happened recently on the way to work."

Practice mindfulness

You've heard it a thousand times for a reason, y'all: because it works. "A mindfulness practice helps to lower blood pressure, slow the heart rate, and relax the nervous system," Connie Habash, a marriage and family therapist, yoga teacher, and interfaith minister, tells Elite Daily.

Not sure where to start, exactly? No worries — Habash suggests doing the following: "Pay attention to your breath. Look around at what you see out the window, especially in nature or your front yard. Listen to the sounds that you hear," she explains. "If you’re overwhelmed with everything on the desk or the laundry pile, take some time to close your eyes and feel the sensations in the body."

Don’t judge these sensations or worry about them, says Habash. Just notice and lean into them. "The less you’re engaged with thinking and the more you engage the senses in the moment, the more calm you’ll experience," she explains.

Imagine you're a tree

I know, I know. This one might seem a little out of left field, but according to Jill Howell, a board-certified art therapist and licensed professional counselor, the sheer power of your imagination can play a huge role in helping you manage your stress. She tells Elite Daily that one exercise she teaches her patients to do during stressful moments is called "Me the Tree."

Here's how to do it: "Plant both feet firmly on the ground and bend your knees slightly. Imagine that you are a tree. Your torso and legs are the trunk," Howell explains. "Visualize your roots going down into the ground."

Even if you're inside, perhaps in an office, that's totally fine, says Howell. "Picture those roots traveling down through each of the floors of the building, down through the basement, and then into the earth," she explains. "Imagine your roots grounding into the earth, down into the core of the earth."

The idea here is to imagine yourself being physically grounded in something so that the same effect can translate to your state of mind. Hey, it's worth a shot, right?

Identify the things you must have, not the things you must do

Jennifer Silvershein, psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker, says that she'll often recommend her clients identify the "must-haves" within their day — and no, not the things on their to-do list, but rather, the things that make them feel genuinely centered and happy.

"This could be coffee in the morning with their partner before they leave for work knowing they'll have a busy day and they may not be able to connect until they're both back home," she tells Elite Daily. "Or it could mean blocking out a five-minute period midday for a meditation."