Many illnesses are accompanied by more or less nervous strain, and its natural control will assist nature and enable medicines to work more quickly. The slowest process of recovery, and that which most needs the relief of a wholesome non-resistance, is when the illness is the result entirely of over-worked nerves. Nature allows herself to be tried to the utmost before she permits nervous prostration. She insists upon being paid in full, principal and interest, before she heals such illness. So severe is she in this case that a patient may appear in every way physically well and strong weeks, nay, months, before he really is so. It was the nerves that broke down last, and the nerves are the last to be restored. It is, however, wonderful to see how much more rapid and certain recovery is if the patient will only separate himself from his nervous system, and refuse all useless strain.
Here are some simple directions which may help nervous patients, if considered in regular order. They can hardly be read too often if the man or woman is in for a long siege; and if simply and steadily obeyed, they will shorten the siege by many days, nay, by many weeks or months, in some cases.
Remember that Nature tends towards health. All you want is nourishment, fresh air, exercise, rest, and patience.
All your worries and anxieties now are tired nerves.
When a worry appears, drop it. If it appears again, drop it again. And so continue to drop it if it appears fifty or a hundred times a day or more.
If you feel like crying, cry; but know that it is the tired nerves that are crying, and don’t wonder why you are so foolish,–don’t feel ashamed of yourself.
If you cannot sleep, don’t care. Get all the rest you can without sleeping. That will bring sleep when it is ready to come, or you are ready to have it.
Don’t wonder whether you are going to sleep or not. Go to bed to rest, and let sleep come when it pleases.
Think about everything in Nature. Follow the growing of the trees and flowers. Remember all the beauties in Nature you have ever seen.
Say Mother-Goose rhymes over and over, trying how many you can remember.
Read bright stories for children, and quiet novels, especially Jane Austen’s.
Sometimes it helps to work on arithmetic.
Keep aloof from emotions.
Think of other people.
Never think of yourself. Bear in mind that nerves always get well in waves; and if you thought yourself so much better,–almost well, indeed,–and then have a bad time of suffering, don’t wonder why it is, or what could have brought it on. Know that it is part of the recovery-process; take it as easily as you can, and then ignore it.
Don’t try to do any number of things to get yourself well; don’t change doctors any number of times, or take countless medicines. Every doctor knows he cannot hurry your recovery, whatever he may say, and you only retard it by being over-anxious to get strong. Drop every bit of unnecessary muscular tension.
When you walk, feel your feet heavy, as if your shoes were full of lead, and think in your feet.
Be as much like a child as possible. Play with children as one of them, and think with them when you can.
As you begin to recover, find something every day to do for others. Best let it be in the way of house-work, or gardening, or something to do with your hands.
Take care of yourself every day as a matter of course, as you would dress or undress; and be sure that health is coming. Say over and over to yourself: Nourishment, fresh air, exercise, rest, PATIENCE.
When you are well, and resume your former life, if old associations recall the unhappy nervous feelings, know that it is only the associations; pay no attention to the suffering, and work right on. Only be careful to take life very quietly until you are quite used to being well again.
An illness that is merely nervous is an immense opportunity, if one will only realize it as such. It not only makes one more genuinely appreciative of the best health, and the way to keep it, it opens the sympathies and gives a feeling for one’s fellow-creatures which, having once found, we cannot prize too highly.
It would seem hard to believe that all must suffer to find a delicate sympathy; it can hardly be so. To be always strong, and at the same time full of warm sympathy, is possible, with more thought. When illness or adverse circumstances bring it, the gate has been opened for us.
If illness is taken as an opportunity to better health, not to more illness, our mental attitude will put complaint out of the question; and as the practice spreads it will as surely decrease the tendency to illness in others as it will shorten its duration in ourselves.