I

n this sped-up, multi-tasking, interactive world of ours, itís easy to forget how to relax and take it easy.

I find it hard sometimes to sit and read or listen to music. My inner voice screams ďLazy! You could be doing something!Ē

Relaxing is not only helpful, itís absolutely necessary for our bodies to recover from the daily stressors we encounter each day, whether we are a full-time Soldier or a full-time mom.

If we let stress get out of hand, concentration and effectiveness suffers, according to the website, www.mindtools.com. Not getting enough sleep or balancing work with relaxing hobbies and non-competitive sports can actually harm us, making us more vulnerable to illness or risk burnout. I remember my mother would unwind by knitting or crocheting a blanket or hat.

This past Friday, I decided I had enough of stress and went fishing at Kingís Mountain Point in the Uwharrie National Forest near Troy, N.C. Okay, that isnít completely true. My partner, Chris, insisted I go fishing so I could unwind.

I am so glad I listened. Badin Lake was calm and peaceful. There was hardly anyone there and the fish were biting. We watched great blue herons soar across the lake and listened to woodpeckers knocking on trees for food. I could feel the weekís stress slowly melt away.

To help your stress dissipate, the website has some advice on keeping oneís life balanced between work and play.

Vacations:

Where possible, take two weeks off instead of one. It has been said people donít truly relax until the end of the first week.

Sleep:

The average number of hours people need for sleep is 8, give or take a few hours. This nightly ritual helps to clear the problems and issues of the previous day. I have found that sometimes I have solved a nagging issue from the day before just by letting my subconscious relax.

Sometimes stress makes restful sleeping more difficult, creating a destructive cycle of concentration and loss of energy. Mindtools.com give some excellent advice when your brain will not shut up at bedtime:

Stop doing mentally demanding work a few hours before you go to sleep

Try some light reading before bedtime to relax your body, eyes and mind.

If stubborn thoughts still attack you, write them down in a notebook, then let them go. In the morning, read what you wrote and take action if necessary.

Keep the same bedtime. I am so guilty of this on the weekends. By doing this, your body and mind will get used to the routine.

Caffeine and alcohol can interrupt sleep. I have found stopping my cola/coffee intake by 2 p.m. helps a lot. Drinking to excess can also cause some people to wake up in the middle of the night and become unable to go back to sleep.

Meditation can also help guide oneself to relaxing sleep.

So when my inner voice starts screaming again, I stuff a sock in it and take in some needed rest and relaxation.