site logo

Working Restfully

Categories: Uncategorized
Sources: Nerves And Common Sense

ONCE met a man who had to do an important piece of scientific work

in a given time. He worked from Saturday afternoon at 2 o'clock

until Monday morning at 10 o'clock without interruption, except for

one hour's sleep and the necessary time it took for nourishment.

After he had finished he was, of course, intensely tired, but

instead of going right to bed and to sleep, and taking all that

brain strain to sl
ep with him he took his dog and his gun and went

hunting for several hours.

Turning his attention to something so entirely different gave the

other part of his brain a chance to recover itself a little. The

fresh air revived him, and the gentle exercise started up his

circulation, If he had gone directly to sleep after his work, the

chances are that it would have taken him days to recover from the

fatigue, for nature would have had too much against her to have

reacted quickly from so abnormal a strain--getting an entire change

of attention and starting up his circulation in the fresh air gave

nature just the start she needed. After that she could work steadily

while he slept, and he awakened rested and refreshed.

To write from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning seems a stupid

thing to do--no matter what the pressure is. To work for an abnormal

time or at an abnormal rate is almost always stupid and short


There are exceptions, however, and it would be good if for those

exceptions people knew how to take the best care of themselves. But

it is not only after such abnormal work that we need to know how to

react most restfully. It is important after all work, and especially

for those who have some steady labor for the whole day.

Every one is more or less tired at the end of the day and the

temptation is to drop into a chair or lie down on the sofa or to go

right to bed and go to sleep. Don't do it.

Get some entire, active change for your brain, if it is only for

fifteen minutes or half an hour. If you live in the city, even to go

to walk and look into the shop windows is better than nothing. In

that way you get fresh air, and if one knows how to look into shop

windows without wanting anything or everything they see there, then

it is very entertaining.

It is a good game to look into a shop window for two or three

minutes and then look away and see how well you can remember

everything in it. It is important always to take shop windows that

are out of one's own line of work.

If you live in the country, a little walk out of doors is pleasanter

than in the city, for the air is better; and there is much that is

interesting, in the way of trees and sky, and stars, at night.

As you walk, make a conscious effort to look out and about you.

Forget the work of the day, and take good long breaths.

When you do not feel like going out of doors, take a story book--or

some other reading, if you prefer--and put your mind right on it for

half an hour. The use of a really good novel cannot be

overestimated. It not only serves as recreation, but it introduces

us to phases of human nature that otherwise we would know nothing

whatever about. A very great change from the day's work can be found

in a good novel and a very happy change.

If the air in the theaters were fresher and good seats did not cost

so much a good play, well acted, would be better than a good novel.

Sometimes it freshens us up to play a game after the day's work is

over, and for those who love music there is of course the greatest

rest in that. But there again comes in the question of cost.

Why does not some kind soul start concerts for the people where, for

a nominal admission, the best music can be heard? And why does not

some other kind soul start a theater for the people where, for a

very small price of admission, they can see the best plays and see

them well acted?

We have public libraries in all our cities and towns, and a

librarian in one large city loves to tell the tale of a poor woman

in the slums with her door barred with furniture for fear of the

drunken raiders in the house, quietly reading a book from the public


There are many similar stories to go with that. If we had really

good theaters and really good concerts to be reached as simply and

as easily as the books in our public libraries, the healthy

influence throughout the cities would be proportionately increased.

The trouble is that people cater as much to the rich with their

ideas of a national theater as the theatrical syndicate itself.

I could not pretend to suggest amusements that would appeal to any

or every reader, but I can make my point clear that when one is

tired it is healthy to have a change of activity before going to


"Oh," I hear, "I can't! I can't! I am too tired."

I know the feeling.

I have no doubt the man who wrote for nearly two days had a very

strong tendency to go right to bed, but he had common sense behind

it, and he knew the result would be better if he followed his common

sense rather than his inclination. And so it proved.

It seems very hard to realize that it is not the best thing to go

right to bed or to sit and do nothing when one is so tired as to

make it seem impossible to do anything else.

It would be wrong to take vigorous physical exercise after great

brain or body fatigue, but entire change of attention and gentle

exercise is just what is needed, although care should always be

taken not to keep at it too long. Any readers who make up their

minds to try this process of resting will soon prove its happy


A quotation from a recent daily paper reads, "'Rest while you work,'

says Annie Payson Call,"--and then the editor adds, "and get fired,"

and although the opportunity for the joke was probably thought too

good to lose, it was a natural misinterpretation of a very practical


I can easily imagine a woman--especially a tired out and bitter

woman--reading directions telling how to work restfully and

exclaiming with all the vehemence of her bitterness: "That is all

very well to write about. It sounds well, but let any one take hold

of my work and try to do it restfully.

"If my employer should come along and see me working in a lazy way

like that, he would very soon discharge me. No, no. I am tired out;

I must keep at it as long as I can, and when I cannot keep at it any

longer, I will die--and there is the end."

"It is nothing but drudge, drudge for your bread and butter--and

what does your bread and butter amount to when you get it?"

There are thousands of women working to-day with bodies and minds so

steeped in their fatigue that they cannot or will not take an idea

outside of their rut of work. The rut has grown so deep, and they

have sunken in so far that they cannot look over the edge.

It is true that it is easier to do good hard work in the lines to

which one has been accustomed than to do easy work which is strange.

Nerves will go on in old accustomed habits--even habits of tiresome

strain--more easily than they will be changed into new habits of

working without strain.

The mind, too, gets saturated with a sense of fatigue until the

fatigue seems normal, and to feel well rested would--at first--seem

abnormal. This being a fact, it is a logical result that an

habitually tired and strained mind will indignantly refuse the idea

that it can do more work and do it better without the strain.

There is a sharp corner to be turned to learn to work without

strain, when one has had the habit of working with it. After the

corner is turned, it requires steady, careful study to understand

the new normal habit of working restfully, and to get the new habit


When once it is established, this normal habit of work develops its

own requirements, and the working without strain becomes to us an

essential part of the work itself.

For taken as a whole, more work is done and the work is done better

when we avoid strain than when we do not. What is required to find

this out is common sense and strength of character.

Character grows with practice; it builds and builds on itself when

once it has a fair start, and a very little intelligence is needed

if once the will is used to direct the body and mind in the lines of

common sense.

Intelligence grows, too, as we use it. Everything good in the soul

grows with use; everything bad, destroys.

Let us make a distinction to begin with between "rest while you

work" and "working restfully."

"Rest while you work" might imply laziness. There is a time for rest

and there is a time for work. When we work we should work entirely.

When we rest we should rest entirely.

If we try to mix rest and work, we do neither well. That is true.

But if we work restfully, we work then with the greatest amount of

power and the least amount of effort.

That means more work and work better done after the right habit is

established than we did before, when the wrong habit was

established. The difficulty comes, and the danger of "getting

fired," when we are changing our habit.

To obviate that difficulty, we must be content to change our habit

more slowly. Suppose we come home Saturday night all tired out; go

to bed and go to sleep, and wake Sunday almost more tired than when

we went to bed. On Sunday we do not have to go to work.

Let us take a little time for the sole purpose of thinking our work

over, and trying to find where the unnecessary strain is.

"But," I hear some one say, "I am too tired to think." Now it is a

scientific fact that when our brains are all tired out in one

direction, if we use our wills to start them working in another

direction, they will get rested.

"But," again I hear, "if I think about my work, why isn't that

using my brain in the same direction?" Because in thinking to apply

new principles to work, of which you have never thought before, you

are thinking in a new direction.

Not only that, but in applying new and true principles to your work

you are bringing new life into the work itself.

On this Sunday morning, when you take an hour to devote yourself to

the study of how you can work without getting overtired ask yourself

the following questions:--

(1) "What do I resist in or about my work?" Find out each thing that

you do resist, and drop the contractions that come in your body,

with the intention of dropping the resistances in your mind.

(2) "Do I drop my work at meals and eat quietly?"

(3) "Do I take every opportunity that I can to get fresh air, and

take good, full breaths of it?"

(4) "Do I feel hurried and pushed in my work? Do I realize that no

matter how much of a hurry there may be, I can hurry more

effectively if I drop the strain of the hurry?"

(5) "How much superfluous strain do I use in my work? Do I work with

a feeling of strain? How can I observe better in order to become

conscious of the strain and drop it?"

These are enough questions for one time! If you concentrate on these

questions and on finding the answers, and do it diligently, you will

be surprised to see how the true answers will come to you, and how

much clearer they will become as you put them into daily practice.