Isn't it interesting that we take our cars in for regular oil changes and service even when there's nothing particularly wrong with them.

We call it maintenance, and it's something that we recognize as a necessary strategy for prolonging the life of our cars. It makes sense: If we want to keep them running, we need to take care of them.

What would happen if we didn't change the oil and just kept on driving?

Well, eventually the engine would cease to work, and we'd have a broken vehicle.

The same is true for our bodies, minds, spirits and emotional state. If we consciously and preventatively take care of them, they will last a lot longer and function more efficiently.

In terms of our bodies, we don't have to wait until we're in pain to get some assistance.

Going to the doctor for a yearly checkup is a great idea. Do we do it, though?

Honestly, until I got married it had never even crossed my mind. Going to the doctor was for wimps, so unless I had something broken in two places, a visit to my doctor was out of the question.

It wasn't until my wife forced me to go that I began to see the wisdom in prevention.

As we've gotten older, she's added a yearly skin checkup. Growing up in Greece and then Southern California, I've had tremendous exposure to the sun (and without sunscreen mind you). The follies of youth, thinking we're indestructible!

Well, it catches up with you, so now I actually look forward to these yearly checkups. I know they've saved my life.

Now how about our emotional health? When was the last time you took a day off and did nothing other than contemplate the direction of your life?

If you can't remember, it's been too long.

I know some people might see this as being unproductive. What if you don't make appointments, go to any meetings, close any deals, answer any phones or return any e-mails, but instead you sit, ponder, meditate, connect with God and write about the direction of your life?

The result might be that you make a necessary course correction.

This may not only add quality years to your life, but it will add balance and perspective.

Will it be worth it?

You bet it will, and, as a result, you'll be a better spouse, employee, parent, friend and, ultimately, a better person.

Your most vital relationships will get the benefit of the best you, including (and especially) your relationship with you. It's time to take a life time out, even for a day and see the benefits of learning to manage your stress better rather than allowing stress to manage you.

Dealing with stress effectively, however, requires a lot more than a yearly checkup or taking a day off once in a blue moon. It requires a daily, if not weekly, commitment to what I'd like to call "me time."

Now this may sound somewhat selfish, and it is — but in a good way. Taking half an hour each day to exercise (one of the best stress busters) by going for a walk will do wonders, and not just for your physical health.

Allowing ourselves the time to quietly read spiritually uplifting books and/or scriptures can create minor miracles. It gives us the opportunity to elevate our mood and see our lives and our problems from a more positive perspective.

When it comes to stress, I have found there is also a direct link between my ability to manage my emotions and my relationship with God. If there's distance in my relationship with him, then my stress levels are usually elevated. As my faith, mental connection and awareness of God grow stronger, the stress gets reduced, even though the circumstances may not have changed.

And there's no better or faster way to draw closer to God that through a long, honest and thoughtful prayer, especially when you take the time afterward to listen to him and feel his presence and love.

Making a commitment to do these things will certainly reduce our stress levels and lead to a healthy, happy life.

Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship expert and author of "The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Surviving to Thriving."