Sources: Nerves And Common Sense
IT is a common saying that we should let our heads save our heels,
but few of us know the depth of it or the freedom and health that
can come from obedience to it.
For one thing we get into ruts. If a woman grows tired sewing she
takes it for granted that she must always be tired. Sometimes she
frets and complains, which only adds to her fatigue.
Sometimes she goes on living in a dogged state of overtiredness
until there comes a "last straw" which brings on some organic
disease, and still another "straw" which kills her altogether.
We, none of us, seem to realize that our heads can save not only our
heels, but our hearts, and our lungs, our spines and our
brains--indeed our whole nervous systems.
Men and women sometimes seem to prefer to go on working--chronically
tired--getting no joy from life whatever, rather than to take the
trouble to think enough to gain the habit of working restfully.
Sometimes, to be sure, they are so tired that the little extra
exertion of the brain required to learn to get rid of the fatigue
seems too much for them.
It seems easier to work in a rut of strain and discomfort than to
make the effort to get out of the rut--even though they know that by
doing so they will not only be better themselves, but will do their
Now really the action of the brain which is needed to help one to
work restfully is quite distinct from the action which does the
work, and a little effort of the brain in a new direction rests and
refreshes the part of the brain which is drudging along day after
day, and not only that, but when one has gained the habit of working
more easily life is happier and more worth while. If once we could
become convinced of that fact it would be a simple matter for the
head to learn to save the heels and for the whole body to be more
vigorous in consequence.
Take sewing, for instance: If a woman must sew all day long without
cessation and she can appreciate that ten or fifteen minutes taken
out of the day once in the morning and once in the afternoon is
going to save fatigue and help her to do her sewing better, doesn't
it seem simply a lack of common sense if she is not willing to take
that half hour and use it for its right purpose? Or, if she is
employed with others, is it not a lack of common sense combined with
cruelty in her employer if he will not permit the use of fifteen
minutes twice a day to help his employees to do their work better
and to keep more healthy in the process of working?
It seems to me that all most of us need is to have our attention
drawn to the facts in such cases as this and then we shall be
willing and anxious to correct the mistakes.
First, we do not know, and, secondly, we do not think,
intelligently. It is within our reach to do both.
Let me put the facts about healthy sewing in numerical order:--
First--A woman should never sew nor be allowed to sew in bad air.
The more or less cramped attitude of the chest in sewing makes it
especially necessary that the lungs should be well supplied with
oxygen, else the blood will lose vitality, the appetite will go and
the nerves will be straining to bring the muscles up to work which
they could do quite easily if they were receiving the right amount
of nourishment from air and food.
Second--When our work gives our muscles a tendency steadily in one
direction we must aim to counteract that tendency by using exercises
with a will to pull them in the opposite way.
If a man writes constantly, to stop writing half a dozen times a day
and stretch the fingers of his hand wide apart and let them relax
back slowly will help him so that he need not be afraid of writer's
Now a woman's tendency in sewing is to have her chest contracted and
settled down on her stomach, and her head bent forward. Let her stop
even twice a day, lift her chest off her stomach, see that the
lifting of her chest takes her shoulders back, let her head gently
fall back, take a long quiet breath in that attitude, then bring the
head up slowly, take some long quiet breaths like gentle sighs,
gradually let the lungs settle back into their habitual state of
breathing, and then try the exercise again.
If this exercise is repeated three times in succession with quiet
care, its effect will be very evident in the refreshment felt when a
woman begins sewing again.
At the very most it can only take two minutes to go through the
whole exercise and be ready to repeat it.
That will mean six minutes for the three successive times.
Six minutes can easily be made up by the renewed vigor that comes
from the long breath and change of attitude. Stopping for the
exercise three times a day will only take eighteen--or at the most
twenty-minutes out of the day's work and it will put much more than
that into the work in new power.
Third--We must remember that we need not sew in a badly cramped
position. Of course the, exercises will help us out of the
habitually cramped attitude, but we cannot expect them to help us so
much unless we make an effort while sewing to be as little cramped
The exercises give us a new standard of erectness, and that new
standard will make us sensitive to the wrong attitude.
We will constantly notice when our chests get cramped and settled
down on our stomachs and by expanding them and lifting them, even as
we sew, the healthy attitude will get to be second nature.
Fourth--We must sew with our hands and our arms, not with our
spines, the backs of our necks, or our legs. The unnecessary strain
she puts into her sewing makes a woman more tired than anything
else. To avoid this she must get sensitive to the strain, and every
time she perceives it drop it; consciously, with a decided use of
her will, until she has established the habit of working without
strain. The gentle raising of the head to the erect position after
the breathing exercise will let out a great deal of strain, and so
make us more sensitive to its return when we begin to sew, and the
more sensitive we get to it the sooner we can drop it.
I think I hear a woman say, "I have neither the time nor the
strength to attend to all this." My answer is, such exercise will
save time and strength in the end.