This is a guest post by Linda Bailey.

Many of us have too much stress in our lives. All these pressures—whether from work, family, school, community, church, or even recreational commitments—can take a toll on us. Finding ways to deal with the stress is important to a healthy and happier life.

I will be the first to admit I have been, and at times still am, a stressed out wreck, and sometimes can even turn into a semi-crazed lunatic. My family would be willing to give you first hand stories to prove this point if you asked them.

This is something I came to realize about myself many years ago and knew I had to do something about or I would drive every person I cared about away from me very quickly—and along the way I would drive myself crazy, often ending up in tears.

I have always been a bit high strung, but in my younger years it seemed to serve me well in that I got a lot accomplished when I was under pressure. I was praised by my superiors and co-workers for the amount of work I could get done quickly. As long as I was kept busy I had no time for a meltdown.  The problem came when I had down time. My body and emotions would let me know very quickly the amount of stress I was under.

In addition to being a fast worker, I was also a bit of a perfectionist, which intensified and electrified the experience. I wanted everything to be perfect.

I worked mainly for large companies. At one time I was the assistant to four vice presidents and there was never a still moment while I was at work.

With young children at home, I knew that job could not last. I made the decision to change jobs even though it was something I enjoyed. I can be slow to recognize these situations and it turned out to be a big stress reducing “aha” moment.

This is the first step in reducing stress in your life—stepping back and looking, really looking, at what your stress triggers are, and doing something about them. I knew I had to look for another job even if it was less exciting or prestigious. My children needed to come first.

My mom had come to live with us and was helping with my children. That gave me peace of mind—another great stress reducer, because I knew my children were being loved and cared for by someone who loved them much as I did. And Mom had been alone, and in another state, so moving in with us was also a plus for her, and another reducer for me (not worrying how she was doing.) Of course, her ways of doing things was different than mine, which brought some stress with it, but it was much less stressful than it had been.

A few years later, I realized I was causing myself unneeded stress in another area. I had another “aha” moment at Christmas. My house was the family hub for celebrations. We were centrally located and had the most room for guests, and we had Mom.

Every year I tried to outdo myself on Christmas. Our family would get together on Christmas Eve and the in-laws would get Christmas day. I was always coming up with new and interesting dishes and bringing back the previous year’s favorite dishes. I wanted everything to be perfect and everyone to be happy. I wanted the perfect gifts for each person and worked endlessly to see this happen.

Inevitably, each year I would have a meltdown and be the brunt of endless jokes and taunting by my family because I was trying so very hard to make everything perfect. There was definitely something wrong, and I realized it wasn’t all on them.

One year, my brothers came with their families as usual, but had not completely finished their shopping and wanted to go grab a few last minute items. Between them they had six children and I had two. I told them I would take care of the kids. I love to play with the kids. I’m the crazy relative who makes them laugh. But I was also doing my usual “trying to make the perfect dinner” as well.

My daughter was fourteen and one of my nephews was thirteen, so I suggested that they take the younger kids out to play hide and seek. The next thing I knew the kids were back in the house and bored. The little ones were starting to whine and the big ones were complaining.

As the stress level started to rise, I had the idea of putting each of the children to work, helping me prepare the meal. This was a huge moment for me—letting go of the control and the perfection of the Christmas meal. A sense of peace washed over me as I realized the kids were more important than perfection.

The kids had a blast. I enjoyed seeing the joy on their faces as they helped me, and when their parents returned they were extremely proud of them. And noone said anything about the less than perfect presentation of the meal.

As Christmas drew near this past year and I was looking for the perfect gifts, I was watching other shoppers. I saw worn out children crying and found myself thinking that a few well thought out plans could take a load of stress off during this season. And on a related note, one immense stress reliever for me is setting aside a few moments of quietness and planning before jumping into a full run as the day begins.

In closing, one final recommendation: Take some time to think about your life and what is important to you. Then think about the activities causing more stress than good for you and your loved ones and make some changes. Things don’t have to be perfect, but relationships need to be nurtured and encouraged. Life is much more than getting ahead, being first, being perfect, or being in control. Our happiness, and the happiness of the ones we love, is what’s most important.

What are your experiences? Join the conversation with your comments…

Linda Bailey is a Texas-based writer who loves to write on the topics of housekeeping, green living, home décor, and more. You can contact her at b.lindahousekeeping @