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How Women Can Keep From Being Nervous

Categories: Uncategorized
Sources: Nerves And Common Sense

MANY people suffer unnecessarily from "nerves" just for the want of

a little knowledge of how to adjust themselves in order that the

nerves may get well. As an example, I have in mind a little woman

who had been ill for eight years--eight of what might have been the

best years of her life--all because neither she nor her family knew

the straight road toward getting well. Now that she has found the

path she has gained h
alth wonderfully in six months, and promises

to be better than ever before in her life.

Let me tell you how she became ill and then I can explain her

process of getting well again. One night she was overtired and could

not get to sleep, and became very much annoyed at various noises

that were about the house. Just after she had succeeded in stopping

one noise she would go back to bed and hear several others. Finally,

she was so worked up and nervously strained over the noises that her

hearing became exaggerated, and she was troubled by noises that

other people would not have even heard; so she managed to keep

herself awake all night.

The next day the strain of the overfatigue was, of course, very much

increased, not only by the wakeful night, but also by the annoyance

which had kept her awake. The family were distressed that she should

not have slept all night; talked a great deal about it, and called

in the doctor.

The woman's strained nerves were on edge all day, so that her

feelings were easily hurt, and her brothers and sisters became, as

they thought, justly impatient at what they considered her silly

babyishness. This, of course, roused her to more strain. The

overcare and the feeble, unintelligent sympathy that she had from

some members of her family kept her weak and self-centered, and the

ignorant, selfish impatience with which the others treated her

increased her nervous strain. After this there followed various

other worries and a personal sense of annoyance--all of which made

her more nervous.

Then--the stomach and brain are so closely associated--her digestion

began to cause her discomfort: a lump in her stomach, her food

"would not digest," and various other symptoms, all of which mean

strained and overwrought nerves, although they are more often

attributed merely to a disordered stomach. She worried as to what

she had better eat and what she had better not eat. If her stomach

was tired and some simple food disagreed with her all the discomfort

was attributed to the food, instead of to the real cause,--a tired

stomach,--and the cause back of that,--strained nerves. The

consequence was that one kind of wholesome food after another was

cut off as being impossible for her to eat. Anything that this poor

little invalid did not like about circumstances or people she felt

ugly and cried over. Finally, the entire family were centered about

her illness, either in overcare or annoyance.

You see, she kept constantly repeating her brain impression of

overfatigue: first annoyance because she stayed awake; then

annoyance at noises; then excited distress that she should have

stayed awake all night; then resistance and anger at other people

who interfered with her. Over and over that brain impression of

nervous illness was repeated by the woman herself and people about

her until she seemed settled into it for the rest of her life. It

was like expecting a sore to get well while it was constantly being

rubbed and irritated. A woman might have the healthiest blood in the

world, but if she cut herself and then rubbed and irritated the cut,

and put salt in it, it would be impossible for it to heal.

Now let me tell you how this little woman got well. The first thing

she did was to take some very simple relaxing exercises while she

was lying in bed. She raised her arms very slowly and as loosely as

she could from the elbow and then her hands from the wrist, and

stretched and relaxed her fingers steadily, then dropped her hand

and forearm heavily, and felt it drop slowly at first, then quickly

and quietly, with its own weight. She tried to shut her eyes like a

baby going to sleep, and followed that with long, gentle, quiet

breaths. These and other exercises gave her an impression of quiet

relaxation so that she became more sensitive to superfluous tension.

When she felt annoyed at noises she easily noticed that in response

to the annoyance her whole body became tense and strained. After she

had done her exercises and felt quiet and rested something would

happen or some one would say something that went against the grain,

and quick as a wink all the good of the exercises would be gone and

she would be tight and strained again, and nervously irritated.

Very soon she saw clearly that she must learn to drop the habit of

physical strain if she wanted to get well; but she also learned what

was more--far more--important than that: that _she must conquer the

cause of the strain or she could never permanently drop it._ She saw

that the cause was resentment and resistance to the noises--the

circumstances, the people, and all the variety of things that had

"made her nervous."

Then she began her steady journey toward strong nerves and a

wholesome, happy life. She began the process of changing her brain

impressions. If she heard noises that annoyed her she would use her

will to direct her attention toward dropping resistance to the

noises, and in order to drop her mental resistance she gave her

attention to loosening out the bodily contractions. Finally she

became interested in the new process as in a series of deep and true

experiments. Of course her living and intelligent interest enabled

her to gain very much faster, for she not only enjoyed her growing

freedom, but she also enjoyed seeing her experiments work. Nature

always tends toward health, and if we stop interfering with her she

will get us well.

There is just this difference between the healing of a physical sore

and the healing of strained and irritated nerves With the one our

bodies are healed, and things go on in them about the same as

before. With the other, every use of the will to free ourselves from

the irritation and its cause not only enables us to get free from

the nervous illness, but in addition brings us new nerve vigor.

When nervous illness is met deeply enough and in the normal way, the

result is that the nerves become stronger than ever before.

Often the effect of nervous strain in women is constant talking.

Talk--talk--talk, and mostly about themselves, their ailments, their

worries, and the hindrances that are put in their way to prevent

their getting well. This talking is not a relief, as people

sometimes feel. It is a direct waste of vigor. But the waste would

be greater if the talk were repressed. The only real help comes when

the talker herself recognizes the strain of her talk and "loosens"

into silence.

People must find themselves out to get well--really well--from

nervous suffering. The cause of nervous strain is so often in the

character and in the way we meet circumstances and people that it

seems essential to recognize our mistakes in that direction, and to

face them squarely before we can do our part toward removing the

causes of any nervous illness.

Remember it is not circumstances that keep us ill. It is not people

that cause our illness. It is not our environment that overcomes us.

It is the way we face and deal with circumstances, with people, and

with environment that keeps our nerves irritated or keeps them quiet

and wholesome and steady.

Let me tell the story of two men, both of whom were brought low by

severe nervous breakdown. One complained of his environment,

complained of circumstances, complained of people. Everything and

every one was the cause of his suffering, except himself. The result

was that he weakened his brain by the constant willful and enforced

strain, so that what little health he regained was the result of

Nature's steady and powerful tendency toward health, and in spite of

the man himself.

The other man--to give a practical instance--returned from a journey

taken in order to regain the strength which he had lost from not

knowing how to work. His business agent met him at the railroad

station with a piece of very bad news. Instead of being frightened

and resisting and contracting in every nerve of his body, he took it

at once as an opportunity to drop resistance. He had learned to

relax his body, and by doing relaxing and quieting exercises over

and over he had given himself a brain impression of quiet and "let

go" which he could recall at will. Instead of expressing distress at

the bad news he used his will at once to drop resistance and relax;

and, to the surprise of his informant, who had felt that he must

break his bad news as easily as possible, he said "Anything else?"

Yes, there was another piece of news about as bad as the first. "Go

on," answered the man who had been sick with nerves; "tell me

something else."

And so he did, until he had told him five different things which

were about as disagreeable and painful to hear as could have been.

For every bit of news our friend used his will with decision to drop

the resistance, which would, of course, at once arise in response to

all that seemed to go against him.

He had, of course, to work at intervals for long afterward to keep

free from the resistance; but the habit is getting more and more

established as life goes on with him, and the result is a brain

clearer than ever before in his life, a power of nerve which is a

surprise to every one about him, and a most successful business


The success in business is, however, a minor matter. His brain would

have cleared and his nerve strengthened just the same if what might

be called the business luck had continued to go against him, as it

seemed to do for the first few months after his recovery. That

everything did go against him for some time was the greatest

blessing he could have had. The way he met all the reverses

increased his nerve power steadily and consistently.

These two men are fair examples of two extremes. The first one did

not know how to meet life. If he had had the opportunity to learn he

might have done as well as the other. The second had worked and

studied to help himself out of nerves, and had found the true secret

of doing it.

Some men, however, and, I regret to say, more women, have the

weakening habit so strong upon them that they are unwilling to learn

how to get well, even when they have the opportunity. It seems so

strange to see people suffer intensely--and be unwilling to face and

follow the only way that will lead them out of their torture.

The trouble is we want our own way and nervous health, too, and with

those who have once broken down nervously the only chance of

permanent health is through learning to drop the strain of

resistance when things do not go their way. This is proved over and

over by the constant relapse into "nerves" which comes to those who

have simply been healed over. Even with those who appear to have

been well for some time, if they have not acquired the habit of

dropping their mental and physical tension you can always detect an

overcare for themselves which means dormant fear--or even active

fear in the background.

There are some wounds which the surgeons keep open, even though the

process is most painful, because they know that to heal really they

must heal from the inside. Healing over on the outside only means

decay underneath, and eventual death. This is in most cases exactly

synonymous with the healing of broken-down nerves. They must be

healed in causes to be permanently cured. Sometimes the change that

comes in the process is so great that it is like reversing an


If the little woman whom I mentioned first had practiced relaxing

and quieting exercises every day for years, and had not used the

quiet impression gained by the exercises to help her in dropping

mental resistances, she never would have gained her health.

Concentrating steadily on dropping the tension of the body is very

radically helpful in dropping resistance from the mind, and the

right idea is to do the exercises over and over until the impression

of quiet openness is, by constant repetition, so strong with us that

we can recall it at will whenever we need it. Finally, after

repeated tests, we gain the habit of meeting the difficulties of

life without strain--first in little ways, and then in larger ways.

The most quieting, relaxing, and strengthening of all exercises for

the nerves comes in deep and rhythmic breathing, and in voice

exercises in connection with it. Nervous strain is more evident in a

voice than in any other expressive part of man or woman. It

sometimes seems as if all other relaxing exercises were mainly

useful because of opening a way for us to breathe better. There is a

pressure on every part of the body when we inhale, and a consequent

reaction when we exhale, and the more passive the body is when we

take our deep breaths the more freely and quietly the blood can

circulate all the way through it, and, of course, all nervous and

muscular contraction impairs circulation, and all impaired

circulation emphasizes nervous contraction.

To any one who is suffering from "nerves," in a lesser or greater

degree, it could not fail to be of very great help to take half an

hour in the morning, lie flat on the back, with the body as loose

and heavy as it can be made, and then study taking gentle, quiet,

and rhythmic breaths, long and short. Try to have the body so loose

and open and responsive that it will open as you inhale and relax as

you exhale, just as a rubber bag would. Of course, it will take

time, but the refreshing quiet is sure to come if the practice is

repeated regularly for a long enough time, and eventually we would

no more miss it than we would go without our dinner.

We must be careful after each deep, long breath to rest quietly and

let our lungs do as they please. Be careful to begin the breaths

delicately and gently, to inhale with the same gentleness with which

we begin, and to make the change from inhaling to exhaling with the

greatest delicacy possible--keeping the body loose.

For the shorter breaths we can count three, or five, or ten to

inhale, and the same number to exhale, until we have the rhythm

established, and then go on breathing without counting, as if we

were sound asleep. Always aim for gentleness and delicacy. If we

have not half an hour to spare to lie quietly and breathe we can

practice the breathing while we walk. It is wonderful how we detect

strain and resistance in our breath, and the restfulness which comes

when we breathe so gently that the breath seems to come and go

without our volition brings new life with it.

We must expect to gain slowly and be patient; we must remember that

nerves always get well by ups and downs, and use our wills to make

every down lead to a higher up. If we want the lasting benefit, or

any real benefit at all when we get the brain impression of quiet

freedom from these breathing exercises, we must insist upon

recalling that impression every time a test comes, and face the

circumstances, or the person, or the duty with a voluntary

insistence upon a quiet, open brain, rather than a tense, resistant


It will come hard at first, but we are sure to get there if we keep

steadily at it, for it is really the Law of the Lord God Almighty

that we are learning to obey, and this process of learning gives us

steadily an enlarged appreciation of what trust in the Lord really

is. There is no trust without obedience, and an intelligent

obedience begets trust. The nerves touch the soul on one side and

the body on the other, and we must work for freedom of soul and body

in response to spiritual and physical law if we want to get sick

nerves well. If we do not remember always a childlike attitude

toward the Lord the best nerve training is only an easy way of being


To sum it all up--if you want to learn to help yourself out of

"nerves" learn to rest when you rest and to work without strain when

you work; learn to loosen out of the muscular contractions which the

nerves cause; learn to drop the mental resistances which cause the

"nerves," and which take the form of anger, resentment, worry,

anxiety, impatience, annoyance, or self-pity; eat only nourishing

food, eat it slowly, and chew it well; breathe the freshest air you

can, and breathe it deeply, gently, and rhythmically; take what

healthy, vigorous exercise you find possible; do your daily work to

the best of your ability; give your attention so entirely to the

process of gaining health for the sake of your work and other people

that you have no mind left with which to complain of being ill, and

see that all this effort aims toward a more intelligent obedience to

and trustfulness in the Power that gives us life. Wholesome,

sustained concentration is in the very essence of healthy nerves.