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Title: Nervous Breakdowns and How to Avoid Them
Author: Musgrove, Charles David
Language: English
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Transcriber’s Note


In this text version of “Nervous Breakdowns and How to Avoid Them”
words in italics are marked with _underscores_.

Sidenotes have been moved to the start of the paragraph to which they
refer. All sidenotes were originally printed in bold.

Inconsistent hyphenation and irregular grammar are retained. Minor
changes to punctuation have been made without comment. Other changes
are listed at the end of the book.



      NERVOUS BREAKDOWNS

    AND HOW TO AVOID THEM



    _All rights reserved_

    Nervous Breakdowns and
      How to Avoid Them

             BY

    CHARLES D. MUSGROVE
            M.D.

          NEW YORK
  FUNK AND WAGNALLS COMPANY

            1913

BRISTOL, ENG.: J. W. ARROWSMITH LTD., QUAY STREET.



CONTENTS.


                                                _Page_
                  CHAPTER I.

  BREAKDOWNS                                          1

    The shock. The kind of person most liable.
    The nature of breakdowns. Neurasthenia, the
    two types.


                  CHAPTER II.

  THE DANGER SIGNAL                                   9

    The signs of a breakdown. Each individual
    his or her own standard. Breakdowns
    preventable.


                  CHAPTER III.

  HEALTH                                             19

    Health, not illness, the standard. What
    health is. The motor-car. The human
    machinery. Interplay between the various
    parts. Combustion--Ashes or waste matter,
    and how got rid of. The nervous ramifications.
    Starvation and poisoning. Compensation.
    Cause of breakdown. The remedy.


                  CHAPTER IV.

  THE VALUE OF HEALTH                                31

    Happiness. Efficiency of work.


                  CHAPTER V.

  REWARDS AND PENALTIES                              38

    The health seeker. The reward of care.
    The inevitable penalty. Nature’s disregard of
    motives. The laws of health. Food, fresh air,
    exercise and rest.


                  CHAPTER VI.

  THE HUMAN ENGINE, AND HOW TO STOKE IT              47

    The locomotive stoker. The human furnace:
    (1) The sort of food to take, (2) The amount
    necessary, (3) How to take it, (4) When to
    take it.


                  CHAPTER VII.

  WHAT TO EAT                                        51

    Differences of constitution. Likes and dislikes.
    Good and bad cooking. Proteids or meat foods.
    Meat and gout. Starchy foods. Bread. The
    saliva. The slow poison of dyspepsia. Eggs.
    Soups. Fat. Milk. Sour milk treatment.
    Sauces. Hunger the best sauce. Tea. Coffee.
    Alcohol.


                  CHAPTER VIII.

  HOW TO EAT FOOD                                    67

    Mastication. The importance of sound teeth.


                  CHAPTER IX.

  HOW MUCH FOOD TO TAKE                              73

    Personal requirements. As a rule people eat
    too much. Dangers of excess. Diet at middle
    age. Diet for the obese.


                  CHAPTER X.

  WHEN TO TAKE FOOD                                  80

    Punctuality essential. Interval between
    meals. The digestive troubles of a hundred
    years ago and to-day.


                  CHAPTER XI.

  FRESH AIR                                          86

    The human furnace always alight. Fresh
    air and the nervous system. Fresh air in the
    home. The two-edged sword. Consumption.
    Common colds. Sitting-rooms and bedrooms.
    How to obtain fresh air without draughts.
    Breathing through the nose. Breathing
    exercises. Cleanliness. Tidiness.


                  CHAPTER XII.

  EXERCISE                                          100

    Overwork or want of exercise? Exercise at
    middle age. Value of exercise. Regularity.
    Violent exercise. Cramp. Outdoor games,
    walking, cycling, etc. The pavement walk.
    Starting indoor exercises. Cautions as to
    dumb-bells, etc. Object of exercise. Swedish
    drill. Imitation of games. Massage.


                  CHAPTER XIII.

  BATHS AND BATHING                                 112

    Hot baths. Temperature. Effect on various
    ailments. How they act. Cold baths.
    Outdoor bathing. Turkish baths.


                  CHAPTER XIV.

  REST                                              121

    The spirit of unrest. Modern life. Periodic
    rest. What rest is. Recuperation. Power of
    self-repair in the body. Bodily rest, and how
    obtained. Rest of mind. Change is rest.


                  CHAPTER XV.

  SLEEP                                             130

    Beauty sleep. Ebb and flow in human
    system. Remedies for sleeplessness.


                  CHAPTER XVI.

  HOLIDAYS                                          137

    The annual holiday. Where and how to go.
    Continental trips. Preparations for a holiday.
    Diet and exercise. The restful holiday. Tired
    eyes. The return.


                  CHAPTER XVII.

  RECREATION, HOBBIES                               147

    Games and hobbies. Hobbies and home
    life. Hobbies in the prevention and treatment
    of breakdowns. Choice of a hobby.


                  CHAPTER XVIII.

  WORK                                              156

    Necessity for it. Mental exercise. The cry
    for young men. Conditions of work. _Before._
    Bad effect of hurry. _During._ Hygiene. Noises.
    Telephone. Bad light. Midday rest. Meals.
    Nature of work. Working against time. Public
    work. _After._ Exercise. Rest. Recreation.


                  CHAPTER XIX.

  WORRY                                             169

    Worry, not work, that kills. The effect on
    the mind. Worry and neurasthenia. How to
    avoid worry. The influence of the body on the
    mind. Anticipation. Beset by work.
    Stimulants. Overwork _versus_ worry. Hobbies
    as a remedy.


                  CHAPTER XX.

  THE STRONG MAN                                    182

    What strength is. Find out the weak points.
    Know your own temperament. Adjusting the
    mind. The secret of preventing breakdowns.



Nervous Breakdowns and How to Avoid Them.



CHAPTER I.

BREAKDOWNS IN GENERAL.


An express train was on its way from London to Edinburgh. It was
running at sixty miles an hour, and the passengers, as comfortable as
if they had been sitting in easy chairs by their own firesides, were
engaged in reading, sleeping, talking or looking out of the windows.
Not a thought of any impending trouble crossed their minds.

Suddenly they felt a jar, followed by a jerk; the train slowed down,
and within ten seconds had come to a standstill. Then there was general
commotion, and heads appeared at every window, to see or inquire what
was the matter. There was no station in sight, and no signal against
them. Yet that train, which a few moments earlier had been speeding
along in all its power and pride, had come to a dead stop.

And when those passengers alighted from their compartments and began to
investigate matters, they were no nearer a solution of the mystery.
The train had not left the rails, the carriage wheels were intact, the
engine was undamaged, the fires burning and the steam up. Yet something
had happened, and whatever it was, it had rendered that train a useless
mass of timber and steel for the time being. It was still a fine thing
to look at, but as a means of locomotion it was of no more use than a
child’s toy would have been.

[Sidenote: The shock.]

Yet, great as was the trepidation of those passengers, it was nothing
to the shock experienced by the man who in the prime of life, and
perhaps just when he bids fair to reach the heights towards which he
has been striving with all his might for long years, suddenly finds
that he is incapable of the very work of which he had prided himself he
was master.

It may be that he has toiled since youth in order to attain a certain
position, and just when it comes within his reach his nerve fails him,
and he cannot put out his hand to take it. The energy and ability which
have carried him so far along the road fail him at the critical moment.

Or it may be that he has struggled through laborious days and nights
and amid many disappointments for fame. Just as he is about to realise
his ambitions he breaks down, and becomes an embittered misanthrope.
The genius which has enabled him to climb so many rungs of the ladder
becomes inert, and he cannot mount the last step.

Another spends his life in a good cause--philanthropy, religion,
public work of any sort. At the very time when, by the experience he
has gained, his years of greatest usefulness stretch before him, he is
cut off, incapacitated by nervous debility.

And it is not only men who go through this experience; the same may
befall women. Often has it happened that a woman has devoted herself so
assiduously to the care of her family, regardless of her own disturbed
meals and broken rest, that just when her children needed her most of
all--and that is when they were growing up--her strength has failed her
and she has become an invalid.

The lamentable part about breakdowns is the fact that they attack those
who can least be spared. It is not the clodhopper, the navvy or the
labourer, the careless or the incompetent, who suffer from them. On
the contrary, we meet with them among skilled workmen, business men
of the greatest ability, professional men of the highest acumen and
experience. The former can be replaced, whilst these others have carved
a niche for themselves which no one else can fill.

It is the natures of finest fibre which accomplish the most, and it is
they who are most liable to give way beneath the strain. A common mug
may fall to the ground unharmed, where a piece of costly china would
be smashed to atoms. When a masterpiece of art is lost or stolen, the
whole nation grieves after it. How much more so when a man of repute,
either in great ways or small, is invalided and his services lost to
the world.

[Sidenote: The problem of the day.]

There is no doubt that breakdowns constitute one of the most momentous
problems of the day. We hear of them on all hands, in different guises
and under various terms. Go into any company you like, and it is safe
to say that before many minutes have passed matters of health will be
under discussion, and oftentimes they are nerves or breakdowns in some
form or other.

It is only natural, perhaps, that this should be so. Yet too frequently
the only result of these aimless conversations is to accentuate
suffering, instead of leading to the acquisition of any useful
information which might help to relieve it. Unfortunately, the general
public seems to have made up its mind that nervous disorders are an
inevitable concomitant of modern life. They fear them just as they fear
influenza, wondering who will be the next to be attacked.

Yet there is no comparison between the two complaints. For the one is
due to a germ which pounces upon the good and the bad, the wise and the
foolish, the thoughtful and the careless, with absolute impartiality;
whilst the other is brought about by a number of conditions, all
associated with our mode of life, for which we are responsible, and
over which we have a vast amount of control.

Influenza comes like a bolt from the blue, attacking its victims with
disconcerting suddenness. To be sure, breakdowns may appear, in many
cases at least, to come in a fell swoop; but what seems so abrupt and
unlooked for is usually the climax to a long-continued process of
undermining, like the collapse of a house, which has succumbed to the
ravages of time. Yet the events which have led up to it may have been
spread over a large number of years.

[Sidenote: The nature of a breakdown.]

Occasionally we hear of someone who has been disabled all of a sudden
by some definite form of ailment, paralysis, cancer or heart disease,
it may be. Such cases are, however, the exception, and they are not
the breakdowns with which we are now concerned. In the great majority
of instances “breaking down” is the final stage of a long process of
“running down.” There is as much difference between the two classes of
cases as between an engine which has come to a stop because a wheel has
come off or a connecting-rod broken, and one that has become useless
owing to neglect or prolonged wear and tear.

The period of running down may last for months or years, and it is
characterised by various symptoms, physical and nervous. It is the
former which are at the root of the matter, but the others predominate
more and more, until, when the final breakdown occurs, they overwhelm
the bodily symptoms altogether. On this account it is usually
designated by terms expressing this nervous element: nervous exhaustion
or debility, neurasthenia or simply nerves. Yet all these are only
different phases or stages of the same complaint.

What, then, is the nature of this complaint? It is one that has
suffered from much misapprehension, chiefly through the use of the
term “nervous exhaustion.” This phrase has given rise to an impression
in the lay mind that there is a limit to the nervous force with which
human beings are endowed, as though each one started with a certain
quantity which must come to an end sooner or later.

This idea is a fallacy, for nervous energy is in process of being
manufactured every hour we live. And Nature stores up out of this
supply a reserve from which we may draw in any emergency that may
demand a special output.

This reserve fund is constantly varying. It is replenished during the
hours of sleep, it is called upon during the period of wakefulness.
Sometimes an extra call has to be made upon it. A woman may have her
night’s rest broken, or she may even lose her sleep altogether for
several nights in succession. Or a man may have a sudden stress of work
which cannot be avoided. Then the reserve may be depleted, but that
does not constitute a breakdown. If care is taken to ensure sufficient
rest afterwards, the surplus is regained. It is only when a constant
drain is put upon it that serious damage results.

[Sidenote: The two types.]

And in many cases of breakdown the question of exhaustion plays no
part. For most neurasthenics show no loss of energy; in fact, many of
them exhibit an increased output. The crux of the whole matter is not
exhaustion, but a loss of control over the nervous forces. This loss
may show itself in two distinct ways. It may either prevent the energy
from manifesting itself, or it may discharge it in a spasmodic manner.

One market-day, in a country town, there were two horses, both of
which, so far as their utility was concerned, were equally inefficient.
Yet neither were lacking in energy. The one was excitable, plunging
about to the danger of the public, and in any direction except the
right one. The other was, on the contrary, perfectly quiet, standing
harnessed to a vehicle, but unable to move it. This animal had strength
and nerve force in plenty, yet it was incapable of making use of it.
For a drunken ostler had harnessed it the wrong way round, with its
head towards the cart.

The same types can often be recognised in those who suffer from nervous
breakdown. Some patients become fidgety and restless, rushing about
from pillar to post, worrying their employees or their fellow-workers,
and fussing around in the home until the rest of the household dreads
the sight of them.

Others are precisely the opposite of this. They become moody and
taciturn, or disinclined to meet their friends or take part in a
conversation. A woman will sit by herself most of the time, not caring
even to have her children about her. A man will have a difficulty in
making up his mind not only on important points of business, but it
may be on the most trivial matters. He begins to look at his work as
stupidly as the aforesaid horse stared helplessly at the cart he was
supposed to pull.

Where does the fault lie? Not in too much energy or too little, but in
some derangement of the system, whereby the patient’s faculties either
go astray or are rendered inert. And in order to discover the real
source of the mischief, it is necessary to look, not at the climax, but
farther back, through a long sequence of events which have been leading
up to it.



CHAPTER II.

THE DANGER SIGNAL.


It will naturally be asked by what sign is a man or woman to know when
they are threatened with a breakdown.

By no one sign in particular. One cloud does not make a wet day. It is
only when other clouds begin to gather and we feel a certain change in
the atmosphere that we surmise that rain is coming. The signs which
warn us of the approach of a storm are almost too indefinite for words.

[Sidenote: Signs of a breakdown.]

The symptoms by which a man is led to think he is on the verge of a
breakdown are equally vague. That is what makes them all the harder
to locate and to bear. If he has sciatica, pleurisy or a gumboil, he
can speak of his ailments and tell people what is the matter with him.
The neurasthenic has not even this consolation. His symptoms are so
indefinite that he can scarcely find words in which to express them; if
he could do so, he would shrink from mentioning them for fear that his
friends would laugh at him.

For it must be understood that neurasthenia is a very different matter
from hysteria or hypochondriasis. The hysterical subject craves for
sympathy, and will imitate all sorts of ailments in order to secure
it. The hypochondriacal imagines he has all manner of diseases and
loves to talk about them to anyone who has the patience to listen to
his tale of woe.

The neurasthenics are the very opposite of this. They are usually
people of refined susceptibilities, sensitive about themselves and
their feelings. They have, therefore, to bear their burden alone.
They see the clouds gathering on their mental horizon and their sky
getting darker and darker. The future becomes laden with foreboding,
and all around there is the presentiment of a storm that is about to
break. Often they keep their feelings to themselves, until at last
these become of such intensity that they can no longer be hidden.
Such persons often welcome a definite illness, if only because it
gives them something unmistakable to speak about, affording them the
opportunity of calling in the medical aid of which--quite wrongly, be
it observed--they had previously been ashamed to avail themselves.

We are sometimes told that headache, giddiness, pains in the region
of the spine, weak digestion and a host of similar complaints are
preliminary signs of oncoming breakdown. Yet, whilst they often
accompany the latter condition, they are also significant of many other
ailments, which have nothing to do with it. Sciatica may be the result
of a chill, spinal pains of an influenza cold, whilst headache may be
due to biliousness, faulty eyesight or a variety of other conditions.
The fact that we suffer from any one of them does not imply that we are
threatened with a breakdown. For all that, it is not well to neglect
these complaints, for it is certain that if we have any tendency to
nervous trouble they will hasten it on.

To suggest, however, that such symptoms are preliminary to a nervous
collapse would be to inspire, in the minds of many people, a sense of
terror which would precipitate the very disaster we are anxious to
avoid.

One thing, however, it is necessary to emphasise. If any symptom of
this sort--and the remark applies especially to headaches--is found
consistently to come on during the hours of work, alleviating after the
work is over for the day, it should be taken as a danger signal. For
when anyone’s occupation brings on a headache, the complaint is much
more likely to be due to some weakness of the nervous system than to
any fault in digestion or eyesight. And the same applies to many other
symptoms also.

The phenomena I am about to describe are those suggestive of nervous
weakness, and any man or woman who recognises themselves in the picture
I shall attempt to draw had better take warning. They need not alarm
themselves unduly, but they will be well advised to pull up short.

There is one point which must always be kept in mind. It does not
follow that because a person is easily tired, or is irritable or
depressed or dreads any ordeal awaiting him, or is nervous in any
direction, that he or she is drifting towards a breakdown. It is when
people who have previously been free from such weaknesses find that
they are acquiring them that they must face the fact their nervous
systems are on the down grade. Each individual must be taken as his
or her own standard. What is natural for some would be unnatural for
others. A person is ill when he falls below his own level of health,
either of body or mind. The various signs of neurasthenia or breakdown
depend, not on comparing a man with anyone else, but in measuring him
by his former self.

[Sidenote: Loss of strength.]

One of the most constant symptoms is a gradual decline in strength,
either of body or mind, without any organic disease to account for it.
If a man whose heart, lungs and kidneys have been proved sound begins
to suffer from fatigue after an amount of exercise such as he would not
previously have noticed, everything points to the fact of its being the
result of some impairment in his nervous system. More particularly so
if the tiredness is of an unpleasant nature. There is a delightful form
of fatigue and there is a painful one. There is nothing more enjoyable
than the gentle aching which a healthy man feels as he stretches out
his limbs in a comfortable chair after a good day’s walking, shooting,
golf or whatever else it may have been. He feels, in mind and body
alike, a delicious sense of half-sleepy lassitude, which affords to a
higher degree than anything else a sense of repose and well-being.

That is very different from the weariness that dogs a man’s footsteps
wherever he goes, or is even with him during his sleeping hours, so
that he rises in the morning more tired than when he lay down. When
that happens something in his organisation has gone wrong.

Equally significant is the langour that attacks people when they are
following their daily avocations. Of course, it is natural that as
people grow older they should find themselves less capable of exertion
than they were in their younger days. Most persons over forty years of
age have to take things somewhat more quietly than before. They are
not so well able to run, and perhaps have to walk more deliberately,
but that is very different from feeling fatigued when there has been
no justification for it. Yet even that is not a matter of such gravity
as when a man who has taken a keen interest in his daily work, of
whatever sort it may be, discovers that it is becoming more and more
of an effort. Or it may be a woman, who finds her household duties,
which had hitherto been a pleasure to her, becoming a bugbear. And when
anyone, either man or woman, begins to look forward habitually with
dread to the work of the following day, their health is in sore need of
attention.

[Sidenote: Worry.]

Yet in most cases all that they do is to reproach themselves for their
indolence and apply themselves to their duties still more assiduously,
with the usual result that they worry themselves and everybody else.
And the harder they try the worse things get, until at last the work
in which they had taken such a pride becomes a nightmare to them.
They begin to shrink from the thought of it, yet it forces itself
continually upon their notice. Perhaps even the evenings, which should
bring a sense of refreshing and repose, are spoiled by fretting over
the events of the day that is gone and worrying as to the work of the
morrow; the housewife in trepidation as to her duties in the home, the
workman to his job, the commercial man to his business, the parson to
his next appearance in the pulpit.

The result is that in many cases the work suffers.

Worry and anxiety are the common lot of mankind, at any rate in this
age of stress and competition. Yet it is not the common cares of life
which have a detrimental effect on the human system, but this useless,
exaggerated vexation of spirit. When a man has lost the power of
leaving his worries behind him, it is time that he began to take heed,
for sooner or later they will affect his work. If he allows himself
to drift, wasting his energies by futile struggling against his own
disabilities, his mental faculties will begin to show signs of wear and
tear.

[Sidenote: Memory.]

It may be that his memory will play him tricks, words and facts failing
him at the critical moments. There is no surer sign of neurasthenia
than when a man who has always been a ready speaker, begins to hesitate
for words in which to express himself. The worst symptom of all is when
people noted for their firm, decisive characters find themselves unable
to make up their minds, either on some subject of general interest or
on points connected with their own pursuits.

[Sidenote: Pleasures pall.]

An even worse phase of fatigue is that which intrudes upon the hours of
recreation. It is bad enough for people to become unduly tired at their
work; it is worse when they become tired at their play. When amusements
cease to afford any gratification, and people lose interest in their
favourite hobbies and pursuits, their nervous systems are perilously
near a breakdown. This weakness has passed into a further and a more
serious stage.

Then social intercourse is apt to weary them. They find a difficulty
in concentrating their attention on a conversation, especially if the
subject under discussion happens to be one demanding close attention.
Sometimes, however, even an ordinary chat will tire them out. It may
be that they are unable to read the lightest literature, the effort to
follow a story proves too much for them.

[Sidenote: Change of disposition.]

In consequence of all this, they fall into a sad plight. For not only
are they deprived of the solace of amusing themselves, but their
friends are apt to fight shy of them. When people get into this state
they become ultra-sensitive, and see slights and insults where none
were meant. They are liable to lose their sense of humour too, and can
neither appreciate nor take a joke. After that, it is not long before
they see their friends deserting them, which means that they are driven
back upon themselves.

That, on the top of everything else, depresses them, and they worry
still more over unnecessary trifles. Probably they become sleepless,
and that will hasten on as nothing else can do the inevitable climax.

Irritability of temper is often one of the first signs of this malady,
not of course in those who are naturally quarrelsome, but in those
who have hitherto been of a genial, companionable disposition. In
fact, change of disposition is one of the most significant features in
nervous breakdowns. A man who has always taken the greatest pleasure
in the society of his children will begin to snap at them without any
cause. Their very presence seems to fidget him.

His companions find it out, too, for not uncommonly he begins to lose
his temper when he is beaten at a game, a thing he has rarely before
been known to do. But what is the clearest danger signal of all is
when men or women see this irritability worming its way into the
solitude of their own thoughts. In one case of neurasthenia the first
sign consisted of the fact that the patient found, whenever he was
alone, a tendency to have resentful and bitter thoughts even of his
best friends. Once or twice he even cut his chin while shaving, simply
because he was feeling so angry with a chum, who had not given him the
slightest reason for animosity. Sometimes it happens that a man who has
not been in the habit of swearing will find himself using bad language
in the course of his soliloquies. Once he starts doing that, he may
know, without any doubt whatsoever, that his nervous system has gone
wrong.

[Sidenote: Increased nervousness.]

Increasing nervousness is a predominant feature of neurasthenia. It
appears in various guises. A man who has never found any difficulty in
holding his own in his dealings with others will suddenly find himself
looking forward to an interview with fears and qualms. When the time
comes he may be able to string himself up to the pitch, but it will
only be by an effort such as he is quite unaccustomed to, and the
nervous tension will perhaps leave him spent and exhausted.

Others, who have never known the meaning of the word nerves, will feel
ashamed and angry with themselves when they start at the sound of a
loud noise or a banging door, or are afraid to enter a dark room.

Not infrequently it happens that people who have been the first to
welcome a friend in the street will commence to make a practice of
crossing the road when they see anyone approaching.

Or their nervousness may take the form of a fear of the unknown. The
future becomes full of dark spectres. Visions of poverty, even of the
workhouse itself, will attack a man whose financial affairs are on a
safe footing. A common sign of disordered nerves is a constant dread
of illness. If an epidemic of influenza is prevalent, the neurasthenic
will feel certain that he is to be the next victim, and his sensations,
purely imaginary it may be, will confirm his forebodings.

[Sidenote: Loss of zest.]

In whatever way neurasthenia assails anyone, it has one certain
effect. It deprives them of the joy and zest of life, and when once
that has disappeared there is little left. People have their different
temperaments. Some are of a sanguine type, and it is no effort for
them to be blithe and gay. Others are cast in a more sombre mould; not
that they are thereby miserable, for such people can enjoy themselves
as much as anyone else, but in a quieter way. But when their nervous
system shows signs of damage, they lose their sense of contentment just
as the others lose their flow of vivacity.

All these are the premonitory signs of a breakdown, and if they are
neglected the crash may come. The man finds that he cannot face his
work, the woman is unable to carry out her duties in the home. Life
becomes dark and void, and all that made it worth living seems to have
gone.

Then too often they are assailed by the worst dread of all, the fear
that they will lose their reason. For their comfort we may say that,
tragic as a breakdown may be, there is a wide gulf between it and
insanity.

And those who are in the preliminary stages, and have not arrived at
that of a breakdown, may console themselves with the fact that the
latter is one of the most preventable of conditions. It is the aim of
this book to show the different ways in which it may be avoided.



CHAPTER III.

HEALTH.


It is surprising, in these days when everybody is an authority on
matters of health, how few people there are who can tell you what it
really is. The majority, if asked to describe it, would probably say
that a man is healthy when he is not ill.

[Sidenote: Health, not illness, the standard.]

Now when you come to analyse this statement, it conclusively shows one
thing, namely that people take illness as the standard. Most human
beings, in civilised countries at any rate, have something the matter
with them--a weak digestion, tendency to sore throats or colds, or a
predisposition to ailments of one sort or another.

Yet the fact that most people suffer from illness is no reason for
calling it a natural condition. It is health that is natural; illness
is an anomaly. Medical men themselves are the first to recognise the
truth of this statement. Animals as a rule are sound and vigorous
so long as they are in a wild state. It is only when they are in
captivity that they become delicate. Similarly savages are much freer
from disease than civilised races. It is when they live in artificial
surroundings that they become prone to sickness.

Health is not a negative thing. It is a state in which every part is
sound and acts in harmony with every other part.

[Sidenote: The nature of health.]

A motor-car consists of a great number of different parts--the gear,
the engine, the petrol supply, the firing. It is not sufficient that
each section should be in good order. For each must also fit in, both
mechanically and in point of time, with every other. The petrol pipe
may be clear, but unless the spark reaches the cylinders exactly in
the nick of time there will be misfiring, and a loss of power in
consequence.

This loss of power is not the only harm done. It means that there will
be unnecessary friction also, causing extra wear and tear to the engine
and gear. If this occurs but seldom, and is put right at once when
detected, little damage may be done. If repeated often, and allowed to
go on uncared for, the whole structure of the car will suffer and the
life of the machine be shortened.

It does not follow that the car will come to a standstill. It will
continue to run, but badly. For like every other engine, it has the
faculty of compensation. That is to say, when one part is out of order
other parts will take on some of its work, and help, for a time at
least, to make good the deficiency.

For instance, in a four-cylinder car one of the cylinders may cease to
act. Yet the other three will take on a certain part of the work, and
help to some extent to make up the deficiencies of the faulty one.

This will be only for a time, however, for the additional strain will
slowly but surely have a bad effect on the rest of the engine, and
through it on the other parts of the machine. One by one these will
give way, and have to be compensated in turn. If still neglected and
left to take care of itself, there will come a time when so many
sections are affected, that the remainder cannot overcome the mischief,
and compensation will fail. The car will become practically useless.
Perhaps, like the one-hoss shay, it will collapse _en masse_. It has
gone beyond the stage of running badly, it has broken down.

[Sidenote: The human machine.]

The human system is much like a motor-car, in that it consists of
a vast number of parts acting in unison. Yet it is infinitely more
wonderful, for it is much more complicated, and can create its own
supply of energy. It is made, roughly speaking, of a framework of
bone and muscle, a delicately-adjusted alimentary system, whereby it
takes in and assimilates food, and of a circulatory apparatus which
drives blood and nourishment to all parts of the body. It contains also
a nervous system, compared with which these other parts are crude,
mechanical contrivances. For it is on their nervous supply that they
depend for their usefulness. Cut the nerves that go to a limb, and the
finest muscles in the world are as helpless as the meat in a butcher’s
shop. Deprive the heart of its nerve supply for a single minute, and it
will never beat again.

Yet we pay vastly more attention to a weak heart, as it is called, or
still more so to a broken leg, than we do to a threatened failure in
the nervous system, which outweighs them all in importance. Once that
has got out of order, the driving power is gone. Not only the heart
and muscles, but every other faculty we possess loses its energy and
usefulness.

So closely allied, however, are the different parts, that the nervous
system itself, which governs all else, is dependent for its welfare on
the very organs it governs. Like the power of a king, it rests not only
on its own intrinsic qualities, but also on the strength and harmony of
the units over which it rules.

[Sidenote: Interplay.]

And there is a constant interplay going on between the various parts
of the body. No one organ or system can stand alone. If it is working
badly, it affects other parts, and disturbs the harmony on which the
health of the whole depends.

One of the most marked examples of this is to be found in the action
and reaction which take place between the digestive organs and the
nervous system. The presence of congenial company at meal-times is one
of the best aids to digestion; a cantankerous discussion is the very
opposite. Similarly, if a man sits down to his dinner with a grievance
or a worry on his mind, it is safe to predict dyspepsia.

A lady once received a telegram containing disastrous news just as
she was finishing a meal. Up to that time she had never known what
indigestion was, yet for the next couple of days she suffered from it
in a most acute form. The nervous shock had thrown the stomach out of
order, inhibiting the secretion of gastric juice.

We cannot help troubles of this sort, but it is only once in a
lifetime, perhaps, that we get a message of that sort during the
progress of a meal. It is to be feared, however, that it is of almost
daily occurrence for some people to sit down to table worrying over
the business of the day. And the accumulated effects of these minor
disturbances may in the long run prove more detrimental than one big
one.

Conversely, the stomach has an equally potent influence over the
nervous system. Everyone knows that when their digestion is out of
order, and they are feeling uncomfortable or bilious, their heads are
not so clear as usual. And with this there is a feeling of langour
and irritability, and a difficulty in doing work efficiently. This is
because the body fails to get its proper supply of nourishment, and
also because it is poisoned at the same time. In order to understand
the manner in which this is brought about, it is necessary to know
something as to the events which are taking place throughout the body
every moment of our lives.

[Sidenote: Combustion and elimination.]

When food is taken it is first digested and then passes out of the
stomach, and is carried by means of the circulation to all parts of the
body. It nourishes the various tissues, replacing the loss which is
constantly going on.

For there is throughout the whole system a process corresponding to
combustion, and this combustion, like the furnace of an engine, is the
source of our energy.

As in an ordinary fire, ashes are produced in the form of waste matter
of a poisonous nature. This waste must be removed from the tissues,
else it interferes with the process, as a neglected fire is apt to
become choked up and burn badly.

This removal is also accomplished by the circulation. In any community
you may see on any ordinary working day two sets of carts, those
belonging to tradesmen which distribute groceries and vegetables, and
the scavengers’ carts which gather up the refuse. The same processes go
on in the human body, with the difference that in this case the same
agency which brings the supplies also carries away the waste.

These impurities are eliminated from the body by means of the lungs,
the skin, the kidneys and bowels. And in order that this elimination
may be sufficient, the circulation must be maintained in all parts
of the body. Unless the blood is kept moving, this waste matter will
tend to collect somewhere or other and give rise to trouble. The way
in which this motion is kept up is by exercise, which squeezes out the
fluid like an automatic sponge. If the body was kept perfectly still
for weeks, it would became loaded with this impure material, as a room
that is shut up is found to collect, in such a surprising manner, dust
and dirt.

When it reaches the lungs it is purified by means of the air. For the
air which we exhale is very different from that which is breathed in,
the former being charged with impurities. The drowsy feeling which we
experience in a crowded, ill-ventilated room is due entirely to the
influence of these toxic gases. The purer the atmosphere we breathe,
the more effective it is in carrying off impurities from the blood, so
that fresh air and hygiene are essential to health, whilst exercise
acts as a valuable adjunct by increasing the respirations.

Yet exercise itself, important as it is, needs to be carried out in
moderation. For the muscles, whilst fulfilling the vital functions just
enumerated, produce a poison of their own, if exertion be too violent
or prolonged. The severe cramp from which athletes are liable to suffer
is due to an accumulation of this toxin.

This poison is eliminated from the system during repose, and especially
during sleep. Rest is therefore as requisite as exercise itself, and
unless the body gets regular rest and sufficient of it, severe damage
may result. The muscles will not only become permeated with their own
peculiar poison, but will be so enfeebled as to be unable to assist
in discharging the waste matter which is constantly being formed
throughout the whole system.

These impurities are the source of many of the ills with which mankind
is afflicted--headaches, vague pains in various parts, languor, and the
great majority of rheumatic troubles. But their worst effect of all is
that which they exert on the nervous organisation.

[Sidenote: Waste matter and the nervous system.]

For the ramifications of the nervous system penetrate to every part
of the body, including the internal organs. From its seat of honour
in the brain and spinal cord it sends its messages to every tissue in
the body, and receives messages in return. It may be compared to an
electric power station, which distributes its current to every part of
a town. But with this difference, if the electric light in a house goes
wrong, it does not affect the main station, whereas if any portion of
the body however small or insignificant gives way, it adversely affects
the central parts of the nervous system. And if the various sections
and organs do not work together smoothly, the nervous system, which
governs them all, suffers along with them.

The nervous system suffers in two ways when the internal organs and
other parts of the body fail to do their work properly.

[Sidenote: Starvation.]

First of all, it languishes from starvation. This does not mean that
the individual is not taking sufficient quantity of food. He may
be taking enough, even too much, but it is not being digested or
assimilated satisfactorily, and though there is plenty of food there is
a deficiency of nutriment.

[Sidenote: Poisoning.]

Secondly, it may suffer from poisoning. This may be the result of
dyspepsia, for when food lies in the stomach undigested, it is apt to
ferment, producing a poison that circulates throughout the body. Or
it may be because the impurities, which are found throughout the whole
body, are not being got rid of, owing to a want of exercise and fresh
air. Or it may be owing to undue wear and tear in consequence of a lack
of sufficient rest.

Too often it is a combination of the two processes, the nervous system
being attacked by starvation and poisoning at the same time.

The whole of man’s structure is a marvellous automaton, and once the
nervous element is disturbed the trouble which first upset the harmony
is increased tenfold.

[Sidenote: Compensation.]

Yet the mischief may not be apparent all at once, for the whole
organisation is so accurately balanced that defects in one part will
be compensated for by other organs. And whilst this is a safeguard in
one way, it is a serious menace in another. For the fault is apt to be
overlooked, until at last the process has gone on to such an extent
that the balance is upset. The machine does not stop running, but, like
a motor-car in similar circumstances, it begins to run badly. The man
himself becomes what is called “run down.”

It is a provision of Nature that the nervous system, being the
mainspring of our existence, holds out longer than any other structure
in the body. If it did not do so most of us would have been dead or
broken down long ago. Yet it means that when the loss of balance
reaches such a point that compensation fails, the breakdown is all the
more disastrous.

[Sidenote: The cause of the breakdown.]

Then, when the crash comes, we blame our nerves, our civilisation, our
worries and troubles, our heredity, anything in short except ourselves.
Of course, there are cases in which circumstances have entered over
which the patient has had no control. Sometimes neurasthenia follows
a severe illness or a bad accident. Sometimes it comes on at critical
periods of life. And in some instances heredity has played a part.
There are some unfortunate individuals who have been born with weak
frames and little stamina, so that even the ordinary conditions of
life, however favourable, prove too much for them.

[Sidenote: The Remedy.]

Such cases are the exception. In the great majority of instances the
faults which have undermined the system are the results of mistakes,
either through ignorance or thoughtlessness, in the mode of life. Not
necessarily, observe, a vicious mode of life. The victims may have
been consistently sober and virtuous. Yet they may have been guilty
of egregious errors in regard to the quantity or quality of the food
they have taken, or the way in which they have eaten it or in their
neglect of fresh air, exercise or rest. The fault may lie in any one
of these elements, or in more than one; in all of them, perhaps. And
it is only by close examination of the habits of life that the source
of the mischief can be brought to light. In like manner the treatment
of nervous breakdowns consists in remedying these faults, once they
have been ascertained. Patients seldom understand this fact. What they
particularly desire is a tonic to restore their jaded energies, on the
principle, evidently, of whipping up a tired horse to make him go.

They look for some patent food which shall build them up in marvellous
manner. Articles of this sort are valuable aids in cases where
starvation from lack of sufficient food has been the cause of the
trouble. But where there has been an error in diet, it has been, in
an overwhelming proportion of cases, an excess of food rather than a
lack of it, and when this has been so, it is about as rational to give
such remedies, as it would be to pile more coals on to a fire that was
already choked.

It is not sufficient merely to treat individual symptoms, taking
phenacetine for headache, pepsin for indigestion, and so forth; for
that is but to touch the fringe of the matter, leaving the real secret
of the trouble undealt with.

Neither is it of any use to tell the sufferer that there is nothing
the matter, that all he requires is to rouse himself or cease his
restlessness, as the case may be. You might as well tell a drowning man
who cannot swim to buck up and be cheerful.

The rest cure, so much in vogue, may have its advantages in some cases,
but too frequently the patient leaves the institution only to resume
his former mode of life, and repeat the very mistakes which brought on
the illness. A consumptive might as well never enter a sanatorium if he
is to return to a badly-ventilated house and unwholesome surroundings.

Not uncommonly it happens that a man will make up his mind to have a
course of treatment at some spa, even though it means a sacrifice of
time and money. When he is told that it is his manner of life that
needs overhauling, the commonplaceness of the observation affronts him.
Like Naaman, he expects to be sent, if not to the waters of Jordan,
at any rate to those of Homburg or some such resort, and he strongly
objects to being told that all he needs he can get at home.

Some time ago I was travelling from London to Buxton. There were two
other men in the carriage, and one of them was telling the other that
he was going there for his health. He said that he found it necessary
to go several times a year, as he got so run down. The other man asked
him what treatment he had on these occasions, did he have baths or
drink the waters or what?

“No,” answered the first one, “I simply get up early and go to bed in
good time and take plain food.”

“And why don’t you do it at home instead?” inquired the other.

There was no reply.



CHAPTER IV.

THE VALUE OF HEALTH.


The supreme value of good health is the fact that it is associated with
happiness and a greater capacity for good work.

[Sidenote: Health and happiness.]

It is not our environment but our state of health which handicaps us.
Mark Tapley succeeded in ejaculating “jolly” under the most depressing
circumstances. I know nothing as to Mark’s medical history, but I
should not hesitate to affirm that he did not suffer from a disordered
liver.

Everything in this world varies according to the way it is looked at,
and we are all liable to develop mental astigmatism when we are not
feeling up to the mark. A man will say and do things that are foreign
to his nature when he is waiting in impatient hunger for his dinner.
Wives who are wise have found this out, and wait until the brute has
been fed before they broach the subject of a new hat.

A man who has nothing special to worry him, and who if any difficult
position arose would face it without flinching, will brood over his
affairs during the hours of a sleepless night until he has created
troubles enough to last him for the rest of his life. His business may
be running like clockwork, but before morning he will have convinced
himself that he is on the road to the workhouse. A good night’s rest,
a brisk walk, even a cup of tea will work wonders in a careworn man or
woman, who has almost come to the conclusion that life was not worth
living.

One of the most prominent symptoms of jaundice is the depression which
accompanies that malady. There is a solid substratum of truth in the
old saying, “Looking at the world through jaundiced eyes.”

The most trying part of nursing sick people is the cantankerousness
which even the best-tempered persons tend to develop when they are
ill or in pain. The most considerate of patients are apt to become
positively unreasonable at such times. Yet because of their sufferings
they need all the sympathy and patience that can be bestowed upon them.
And as a rule, so long as they are really ill and laid aside, they
get it. What the world gets sick of is the croaker, who never ceases
talking about his ailments. People may sympathise with him for a time,
but before long they get tired of hearing about his complaints. It is
only human nature to prefer listening to skylarks rather than to frogs.

[Sidenote: Health and work.]

Perhaps the most serious effect of ill-health is the loss of confidence
which it entails. Many a man of frail physique and little stamina has
been left behind by others not nearly so richly endowed with skill or
intellectual ability. He has the accomplishments, but not the power to
use them. He is so afraid of making mistakes, that the psychological
moment has gone past before he has made up his mind, and time after
time he fails to take the tide at the flood.

Trace back the history of characters such as this, and you will find
that in almost all cases they have been weakly boys, who on account of
their lack of vigour and health were always afraid to take the plunge.
They might learn to swim, but they could not learn to dive.

A rising young Member of Parliament was once asked what quality was
most indispensable for success in the House of Commons? Some expected
him to say the art of speaking, others the faculty of rapid thinking,
others again firmness of convictions. All were surprised when he
replied, “Good bodily health. That,” he said, “was more important
than anything else.”

When you come to analyse that statement, it is found to imply more
than the strength to endure the enervating atmosphere of the House
or the tedium of long sittings. It means that if a man is well and
strong he is able to seize every opportunity of speaking, or otherwise
showing his capabilities and making use of them. Good health is not
merely a valuable asset in itself, it unlocks the door of all the other
faculties.

Most of us are not going into Parliament, but most of us have to make
our living. And no matter in what way we have to do it, whether by
artisanship, business or professional career, vigour and robustness are
essential to success.

An employer when about to engage a hand will most certainly give the
preference to a candidate who looks strong and seems in good spirits.
And this for more than mere consideration as to workmen’s compensation.
For we have all learned to associate cheerfulness with ability. If a
man undertakes a job as if he enjoys it, even if it is only a plumber
mending a kitchen sink, we naturally conclude that he knows what he is
about. If on the other hand he looks worried, we suspect that he has
come across difficulties that he does not understand. If he seems to
have no confidence in himself, we cease to have any confidence in him.

We are all more inclined to extend our patronage to a tradesman who
serves with a beaming smile than to one who looks as if he would be
thankful to see the last of us.

And in any avocation good health goes a long way by contributing that
quiet contentment of mind which is a _sine qua non_ to the attainment
of excellence.

It is a dictum in the medical profession that you can always tell the
state of a surgeon’s digestion by the amount of confidence with which
he makes his incisions.

The parson who enters the pulpit with an air of robust vigour is vastly
better calculated to secure the attention of his hearers than one who
crawls in looking as if he wished it were all over.

A man who is at the head of a large business awoke one morning feeling
out of sorts. His breakfast disagreed with him, and he arrived at
his destination in a state of irritability. Then he rapped out at his
subordinates until he had flurried them to such an extent that they
could not do their work properly. And of course after that everything
else went wrong. When he was called on to come to a decision in regard
to an important contract, he got the worst of the bargain simply
through lack of a little tact. Yet ordinarily he was noted for powers
of dealing, and for a judgment that was rarely at fault. That day he
was the victim of his own stomach.

Want of stamina has deprived the world of some who might have done much
to ease its woes and help its advancement. For it effectually limits
the sphere of a man’s operations. There are some of conspicuous ability
who have had to waste their talents in some quiet backwater, when had
they but had the requisite amount of strength they might have occupied
a prominent place in public affairs. Young men who have possessed every
other fitting quality have been rejected for the missionary cause
because their health was not good enough to stand the hardships of such
a life.

Some may ask as to whether good work has not been done by those
crippled by ill-health. Undoubtedly it has been done, yet as a rule it
has been by those endowed with talents which enabled them to carry out
their work in seclusion--writers, poets, composers and so forth--not by
those compelled to take their place among the rank and file in the busy
world of men and things. Too often in the latter case they have fallen
behind and been submerged. Even if success has been their lot, it has
been at such a cost to mind and body alike as to make it scarcely worth
the while.

Yet even those who have been in the fortunate position of being able to
exercise their talents in solitude, far from the madding crowd, have
betrayed the influence of their infirmities in the nature of their
works. Schubert and Chopin both wrote exquisite music, yet their weak
state of health still reveals itself in the melancholy strain which
pervades their compositions. The same is characteristic of some of
the writers and poets. Robert Louis Stevenson is the great exception.
But the disease which attacked him in his young days, and dogged his
steps mercilessly to the end of his life, was one that is oftentimes,
strangely enough, characterised by buoyancy and enthusiasm, in marked
contrast to the prevailing depression of the confirmed dyspeptic, of
which Carlyle was such a marked example. Yet what chiefly enabled
Stevenson to keep up the vigour and inimitable style of his writing to
the day of his death was the unremitting care which he took in order to
regulate his life in such a way as to preserve his energies and keep
his mental powers intact to the very end. That last broken sentence,
the most pathetic ever written, in _Weir of Hermiston_, is more than
an expression of his great genius; it is a lasting tribute to the
vigilance with which he safeguarded such strength as he possessed. It
is a lasting reproach to those who have been gifted with robust health,
and by their own heedlessness have lost what is man’s most priceless
possession. People may disregard the laws of health and appear for
a time to go unscathed. But the day of retribution will come, and
outraged Nature assert itself. Sooner or later the inevitable penalty
must be paid.



CHAPTER V.

REWARDS AND PENALTIES.


[Sidenote: The health-seeker.]

Some people expect health, as others expect riches, to fall into their
lap. Either because they do not know, or do not care, they prefer to
leave their health to look after itself. They call it trusting to
Nature. And when they see other people studying the best way to be
strong and well, they call them cranks and faddists.

There is a vast difference, however, between the faddist and the
genuine health-seeker. The individual who thinks the world is going to
be saved by eating brown bread or any other article of diet, regardless
of the fact that what agrees with one may upset another, is nothing
short of a nuisance. The man who strives to exercise his common sense,
and to find out what suits him, either from his own experience or from
the advice of those in a position to give him useful information, is
worthy of all respect.

It is all very well to talk of leaving things to Nature, but does
Nature always do her work in the best possible way?

Leave a garden to Nature for a year, and you will have a clear answer
to that question. It will be overgrown with weeds. Leave a tract of
country to Nature, and it becomes a wilderness. Leave your health to
Nature, and it will be nothing short of a miracle if she does not make
a mess of it.

Talk to any elderly man, who has succeeded in keeping himself fit and
strong, and almost certainly you will find that he has well-defined
ideas on the maintenance of health. He has found out what agrees with
him and what does not. Sometimes he appears to be careless as to what
he eats, taking things that would disagree with many other persons. Yet
he is only taking them because he has discovered that they suit his
constitution. Moreover, you will notice, if you watch him closely, that
he is extremely particular as to the way in which he eats that food
and all his other food as well. A man is either a physician or a fool
at forty, it is said. The worst of it is that by the time most of us
have reached that age we have managed to inflict more harm than can be
undone.

Nowadays nearly everything is taught in the schools, including perhaps
a few subjects that might well be spared. When the teaching of health
is made compulsory, we shall make rapid strides in regard to national
physique. The medical inspection of schools was one of the greatest
advances ever made. And when in addition every child is instructed
in the elementary rules of health, the country will be spared a vast
amount of time and money, such as is expended at present in looking
after the feeble and diseased. We do not expect a boy or girl to learn
any other subject on its own account or of its own freewill, and we
have no right to expect them to learn the secrets of health. They must
be taught them just as they are taught to read and write. Above all,
they must have it impressed upon them that health is largely a matter
of care and study.

[Sidenote: The reward of care.]

The reason why some people are stronger than others is, in the great
majority of cases, because they have taken care of themselves, rather
than because they have inherited more robust frames and greater staying
powers. There are some, it is true, who have to struggle against
ill-health from their earliest childhood. All through life, it may be,
they have to contend against their own infirmities.

Yet not uncommonly it has turned out that those who have been
handicapped from the start have in the long run passed their more
robust comrades. It is not always the healthy baby that develops into
the hardiest member of the family. The puny little one has been known
to have the best of it in regard to health by the time it has grown up.

And when this happens it is simply a reward for taking care. Parents
are bound to pay more attention to a weakly child, while the robust
ones are often left to take their chance, and as they grow up into
boyhood and manhood, the delicate one has still to exercise care and
look after his health, if only for his own comfort. He knows, even in
his schooldays, that if he eats too much pastry or sweets, or neglects
to change his clothes if he gets a wetting, he will have to suffer for
it. All this time his hardy brother is running all sorts of risks, and
playing ducks and drakes with his digestion and his constitution in
general.

When they are approaching middle age, the strong one has developed into
a gouty, dyspeptic individual, who does not know what it is to feel
well for a single week at a time. And the weakly one may be better and
stronger than he has ever been in his life before.

He has never been able to do anything by leaps and bounds, but he has
plodded steadily on, exercising care and common sense, and looking
after his health in every possible way. It is another example of the
hare and the tortoise.

Two men were crossing a ship’s gangway, which had a rail at one side
but was unprotected on the other. The first was a frail, nervous man,
while his friend who followed him was a strong, lusty fellow. The
delicate one took care to keep a firm grip on the rail. He reached the
ship’s side in safety. The second man disdained to avail himself of its
aid, and walked up the gangway with his hands in his pockets, paying no
heed to his steps. Suddenly he lost his balance and fell into the water.

He scrambled out and cursed his bad luck. “He was the most unfortunate
beggar that ever lived,” he said. He completely lost sight of the fact
that it was his own carelessness which had brought about the mishap.

And it is a common occurrence to hear people, who have been running
all sorts of unnecessary risks, complaining of their bad fortune when
illness overtakes them. They get wet through and sit in their damp
clothes, and are very much aggrieved when they take a chill. Or they
gorge themselves with pastry or sweetmeats, and consider themselves
martyrs when they suffer from a bilious attack.

[Sidenote: The inevitable penalty.]

There is one penalty ever before us, that which must be paid by all who
transgress the laws of health. I say penalty, not punishment. A boy who
has purloined a plum cake and eaten inordinately of it may obtain his
mother’s forgiveness, but the chances are that he will be penalised by
having to endure a bout of stomach-ache.

In all this I have no wish to imply that those who disregard the laws
of health do so from self-indulgence. On the contrary, the great
majority of breakdowns occur in those who have overtaxed their strength
whilst toiling to support their wives and families, or to minister to
the welfare or comfort of those around them, or to labour in some way
or other on behalf of humanity.

In a Midland town two young parsons worked side by side. One of them
was a genial sort of fellow, who seemed to have plenty of time for
everything, work and play alike. When his labours were over for the
day, people enjoyed having him in for a bit of supper and a chat.

On bright days, Mondays particularly, he would mount his bicycle or
shoulder his golf clubs, and set off to have a good time of it. His
doings were a puzzle to his confrère, who never had a minute to spare,
and rushed at his work, sermon-making, visiting, and meetings alike,
with feverish anxiety. Even his meals were hurried through in the same
manner, for those, like recreation, he regarded as an interference with
his duties.

When his daily work came to an end, he would proceed to make up for
lost time by reading or writing till long after midnight, with the
result that such sleep as he got when he went to bed was simply the
broken sleep of brain exhaustion.

Little wonder that he always looked strained and anxious, and that when
he went into the pulpit on Sundays he failed to get into touch with his
hearers. With all his unceasing efforts, he could not but realise that
his friend had a vastly greater hold on the people than he was ever
able to acquire. Then he would conclude that it must be due to some
fault in himself, and would begin to look for it in the wrong place,
viz. in his own soul. It must be some black place in his own heart, he
thought, which was hindering his work.

Now when a man indulges in too much introspection he is very liable to
develop a morbid conscience, and see evil in himself that is purely
imaginary. Hypochondriacs of any sort are a nuisance both to themselves
and other people, but none more so than the spiritual hypochondriac.
The consequence of these heart-searchings was that he would increase
his efforts, and try to squeeze more work into the day.

He was sitting at breakfast one day scanning the morning paper, when
a head-line attracted his notice, “Death of the Rev. X. Y.” The
paragraph described how X. Y., whom the young parson had always taken
as his model for energy and unremitting toil, had had to relinquish his
duties owing to a nervous breakdown, brought on by overwork and the
lack of holidays or recreation of any sort.

The young man’s eyes dilated with horror as he went on reading and
realised the unmistakable fact that X. Y. had brought about his own
death. The thought that such a fate might one day be his own sent a
shudder through him, especially when it dawned upon him that he had
been doing his work on precisely the same lines as those which had
culminated in this tragedy.

It is not often that a man is so fortunate as to have such an
object-lesson as this. More frequently he is allowed to persist in ways
which lead, if not to a disaster like the one referred to, at any rate
to a breakdown, which puts a stop to his career of usefulness.

[Sidenote: No account of motives.]

No matter how lofty may be the motives, Nature takes no account of
them. She is a jealous mistress, and insists on having her due share
of attention, allowing of no excuses. The mother who neglects her
own needs through attending to the wants of her children will suffer
equally with the silly girl who starves herself in order to keep her
figure slim.

If a man stands out in the driving rain, he is equally susceptible to
cold, whether he stood there in order to watch a football match or to
take part in an evangelistic meeting. It is as injurious to sit in a
draught in a church as in a music-hall. A stuffy atmosphere is no less
detrimental to health whether we encounter it whilst visiting a sick
friend or in spending the time in a gambling den.

Two of the worst cases of breakdown which I ever heard of occurred
respectively in the case of a working man, who had starved himself in
the necessaries of life in order to bring up three orphan nephews and
nieces, and in that of a young professional man, who sat up every night
for weeks, after doing his work by day, to nurse his wife through a
dangerous illness.

[Sidenote: Health lies in our own hands.]

There are hundreds of people drifting towards a breakdown, not because
of their circumstances or the nature of their avocation, but because
of the way in which they choose to live and do their work. Health is
a matter that lies in our own hands to a far greater extent than is
usually supposed. All who wish to fulfil their mission in life to
the best of their ability, and maintain their power of work as long
as possible, must keep one eye on their work and the other on their
health. Whilst doing their duty to others, they must not fail to do
justice to themselves.

I once saw two men playing golf, both of whom were men of fame. One was
a writer of repute, the other an orator whose name is known far and
wide. They played round with an abandon and zest that was refreshing to
witness. But what impressed me most was a remark made by one of them
when they came in.

“My friend and I were anxious to get a game to-day,” he said,
“because we are the principal speakers at two mass meetings to-night,
and the people are expecting something special, so we must be prepared
to let them have it.”

That was why, instead of immersing themselves in studious solitude,
rehearsing their speeches, they spent the time in playing a game like a
couple of schoolboys out for a holiday, with a good tea and a rest to
follow. It is a dozen years since that happened, but those two men, who
are among the hardest public workers of the day, are as fresh and fit
for their duties now as they were then. And this, not from any natural
strength or stamina, but simply because they have always taken pains to
carry out the fundamental laws of health.

The remainder of this book will be directed to the consideration
of these laws, on which the whole question of breakdowns and their
prevention depends.



CHAPTER VI.

THE HUMAN ENGINE AND HOW TO STOKE IT.


An express train was standing in a London terminus, on the point of
starting for her run to Edinburgh. Several persons were admiring the
great locomotive, which was throbbing like a hound in leash, ready
to be off the moment the guard’s signal was given. The guard waved
his flag, and the train glided out of the station so smoothly, that
the unwary passenger standing up in his compartment at the time was
not even jolted. The first stopping-place, a hundred miles away, was
reached on the stroke of time, without a hitch of any sort.

The man who was responsible for this perfect running was not the driver
so much as the stoker, that humble individual, as we are apt to regard
him, whose duty it was to put the coal on the fires. Unless he had done
his work efficiently, the best driver of the finest locomotive ever
built could not have made a good run.

He took care to use the right sort of coal, to put in enough of it to
keep the fires bright, but not so much as to choke them up, and to
shovel it in with discretion and at suitable times. Few people realise
that there is a distinct art in stoking a furnace.

Yet that stoker was not a happy man. He was sallow and of a livery
type. He often suffered from headaches and spots before his eyes,
heartburn and nausea. Although he was muscular and powerfully built, he
frequently felt so tired and listless that he was hardly able to face
his day’s work.

All this was due to the circumstance that, although he had mastered the
stoking of an engine, he had never learned to feed himself properly.
He had not realised that he himself was an engine, quite as much so as
the locomotive he worked on, and that the food he took was the fuel
which supplied the driving power to his system and kept his machinery
running. It had never dawned on him that there is an art in eating
just as important as that of stoking, and demanding as much care and
foresight.

He would take his meals at any time that happened to be convenient, and
would eat anything that came before him, regardless as to whether it
suited him or not. Furthermore, he often ate to repletion, and bolted
his food down without masticating it properly. And that was why his own
machinery ran badly and he felt tired and depressed. In which respects
he was exactly like thousands of other people.

This resemblance between a steam engine and the human body is a
pronounced one. As we have already pointed out, the food, after being
digested and absorbed through the walls of the digestive tract, is
burnt up in the tissues by a process closely corresponding to that of
ordinary combustion, and there is a residue of waste products left
behind resembling the cinders and ashes of a coal fire. Nature is able
in various ways to dispose of this waste, eliminating it from the body.
If, however, the amount of food taken be excessive, the residue is so
large that the resources of the system are not sufficient to cope with
it, and in consequence it accumulates in the tissues.

Then the individual suffers from discomfort or pains in the muscles,
and from headache with a sense of tiredness, even apart from exercise
or work; also from various other symptoms, owing to this waste matter
circulating in the blood.

The wrong sort of food may have been taken, or eaten either too quickly
or at unsuitable times, and dyspepsia results. Then there is a certain
amount of undigested food constantly left behind in the stomach, and
this begins to ferment, developing a poison of its own, which gets into
the circulation and aggravates the effect of that already present. At
the same time the nutritive quality of the food is diminished, so that
there is superadded a process of starvation. There is plenty of food,
but little nourishment.

The final stage is therefore one of poisoning and inanition combined.
The effect of this on the whole body, and especially on the nervous
system, is harmful to the last degree. The headaches are accentuated,
and the individual feels depressed and irritable. The irritating
influence of these baneful products is so marked, that the different
organs begin to show signs of the damage which is slowly but surely
taking place, and the delicate nervous system feels the influence of
it most of all. The pain, discomfort and nausea caused by the contact
of acid undigested food with the lining of the stomach add to the
feeling of misery.

This may go on for years, until with one thing and another life is
hardly worth living. It may disappear for a time, only to return,
perhaps, in an aggravated form. Meanwhile the strain on the whole
organisation becomes greater, as the organs grow less capable of
propping each other up. If it is allowed to continue indefinitely, the
time may come when Nature will rebel, refusing to be treated in this
scurvy manner any longer.

The art of feeding resolves itself into four considerations: the sort
of food to take, the amount necessary, how and when to eat it.



CHAPTER VII.

WHAT TO EAT.


Simple as this may appear at first sight, it is one of the most
difficult problems with which human beings are confronted. The diet of
a horse is limited, so is that of fowls. Among wild animals we find
some that are flesh eaters, such as the lion and the tiger, while
others live on vegetables or fruits. Man, on the other hand, like the
pig (save the mark!) eats everything, and the question is what to
choose out of this unlimited bill of fare.

[Sidenote: Differences of constitutions.]

We must remember that people are not all built alike, and that what is
one man’s food is another’s poison. There is no greater mistake than
that of imitating other people. The native of India thrives on rice,
but white men who attempt to live exclusively on it soon find their
systems going to pieces.

Even among persons of the same race we find marked differences. One of
our neighbours flourishes on vegetables and bread; we adopt the same
diet, with the result that we become too tired to do our work. Another
takes meat three times a day and looks well on it; we try the same,
and grow gouty. Another consumes a quart of milk a day in addition to
his ordinary food, and says he cannot get on without it; we follow his
example, and get a bilious attack.

There is a hale old gentleman of eighty who takes every night a
supper of bread and cheese, with beer and walnuts to follow, going to
bed immediately afterwards, and waking up fresh and vigorous in the
morning. Most of us, if we took a supper like that, would go to bed to
stay there.

The fact is that there is no general rule applicable to everyone. Some
people thrive on a vegetarian diet, but others cannot get along on it
at all; and the same remark applies to every other such restriction.
It rests with each individual to discover for himself or herself what
foods suit them best and keep to them, avoiding any which manifestly
disagree.

[Sidenote: Likes and dislikes.]

Within reasonable bounds the question of likes and dislikes is a useful
guide. Rich, highly-seasoned dishes are of course bad for everybody;
but as applied to plain, healthy articles of food, it is safe to say
that what people like agrees with them, and _vice versa_.

As to dislikes, there are no two opinions on the subject. If the taste
of any food is repugnant it should be avoided like poison. In fact, so
far as that particular person is concerned, it probably is a poison.
Some people dislike cheese to such an extent that they cannot even
swallow it, try as they may. If they did succeed in getting it down
the results would most likely be disastrous. I know of one family who
cannot take eggs in any form, not even in the smallest quantity as a
mere flavouring. If they get it by mistake they are ill with an attack
resembling acute gastritis for days afterwards.

It does not follow that a patient has been living luxuriously because
he is suffering from habitual dyspepsia. It is not uncommon to hear
people say that they cannot understand why they should be so afflicted,
as their diet had been of the plainest. Bacon and dry bread, with toast
and marmalade to follow, sounds rational enough in all conscience. But
if the bacon is badly fried and swimming in fat, the bread new, and the
toast hot and soaked in butter, it is not surprising that people feel
wretched and uncomfortable for the rest of the morning.

The way in which food is cooked has always to be taken into
consideration. Some cooks and housewives have a genius for spoiling
good food, either in the way they prepare it or by their neglect to
clean the pots and pans. Greasy saucepans have much to account for.

[Sidenote: Classes of food.]

Sometimes, however, the fault lies at the door of the person concerned.
A partiality for new bread, and an unwillingness to give it up when
so advised, have been at the root of a chronic dyspepsia with all
its attendant evils. Articles of diet are divided into four classes:
Proteids or meat foods, carbohydrates or starchy, oils and fats, water
and other liquids.

[Sidenote: Meats.]

Proteids or meat foods, include fish, fowl, butcher’s meat, and
vegetables, such as peas, beans and lentils. The problem of meat, and
particularly butcher’s meat, is a vital one for all who are getting
on in years. So long as people have no organic disease necessitating
special diet they cannot go far wrong in regard to fowl, fish, tongue,
ham or bacon. It is a different matter when we come to deal with
butcher’s meat, for this contains a large proportion of fibre, which
constitutes one of the most difficult forms of waste matter to get rid
of.

[Sidenote: Meat and gout.]

And the ill-effects of this waste matter are more pronounced as people
get older, for however healthy they may be, their systems become less
capable of eliminating it. It is an excellent rule, therefore, for all
persons approaching middle age, even for those who have got into the
forties, to reduce their allowance of butcher’s meat, especially beef,
taking it no oftener than once a day, and preferably at midday instead
of in the evening. Digestion goes on very slowly, if at all, during the
hours of sleep, and the habit of eating meat at late dinner or supper
is one of the chief causes tending to gout and rheumatism of the gouty
type.

It is this disease in some phase or other which is the starting-point
of so many breakdowns in health. The harmful residue in the system
affects almost every organ and tissue, and the arteries in particular.
Its most serious effect is on the vessels of the kidney: when once they
have become thickened, the elimination of waste matter is reduced to
dangerous limits. Then the health of the whole system is imperilled,
for one of the most important outlets has become blocked up.

Too often this complication means the beginning of the end, the onset
of premature old age. It is on this account, and not from any desire
to advocate vegetarianism, that I have emphasised the necessity of
diminishing the quantity of butcher’s meat, once the period of early
manhood has gone past. In fact, it would be to the benefit of all,
young and old alike, to take nothing heavier than fish or fowl at least
one or two days a week.

[Sidenote: Starchy foods.]

Carbohydrates or starchy foods. These include bread, sago, tapioca,
rice, and underground vegetables such as potatoes. Bread is the most
important of these. It is called the staff of life, and yet it accounts
for more dyspepsia than all other causes put together, and for more
miserableness than all the incidental troubles and misfortunes of
life in one. For there is nothing which depresses a man’s spirits so
effectually as dyspepsia, and an overwhelming proportion of cases of
this complaint are due to the imperfect digestion of starchy foods, of
which bread is the most common.

[Sidenote: The saliva.]

Starchy foods are dealt with by the saliva, and this, in order to do
its work properly, must penetrate to the heart of the granules. And
this it cannot do if something else has got there first. People are
often surprised when they get indigestion after partaking of bread and
milk; that is, bread soaked in hot milk. But the milk has permeated the
starch granules, and as two things cannot be in the same place at the
same time, the saliva cannot get there.

This explains why bread is the source of so much discomfort. For
bread, as it is usually made in this country, is more or less moist,
and consequently the saliva has the same difficulty to encounter as
in the case of bread and milk. The water has arrived first and keeps
the saliva out. If the process were carried on to a further and drier
stage, as in the hardbake of the Colonial, we should be able to
assimilate it with ease.

We are apt to envy the Oriental his capacity for digesting starch.
Yet his powers in this direction are due not so much to any inherited
faculty on his part as to the way in which the rice is cooked. The
glutinous material on the outside of the granules prevents the saliva
from penetrating. The Oriental gets rid of it by washing the rice in
cold water half-way through the cooking, rubbing it between his hands
at the same time. The writer once recommended this plan to a lady who
complained of indigestion after eating rice, and told her that if she
insisted on its being carried out she would have no further difficulty
in the matter. She replied that there would be a great difficulty--the
cook would immediately give notice.

[Sidenote: The slow poison of dyspepsia.]

Yet if these hints as to the preparation of starchy foods were taken
advantage of, we should hear much less of the fermentative dyspepsia
which is at the root of so much of the slow poisoning from which many
people suffer, to the detriment of their general health and their
nervous systems in particular.

It is this slow, long-continued poisoning which undermines the nervous
system and lays it open to attack from all the other causes that
predispose to a breakdown. No amount of inconvenience or self-denial is
too great that can lead to the avoidance of the dyspepsia which causes
it. And this ailment may accompany the plainest and simplest of diets,
if they are taken in the wrong way. Space would not permit of our
treating this fully, but mention will be made of two or three common
articles of diet which are liable to be followed by indigestion.

[Sidenote: Eggs.]

Apart from any special idiosyncrasy, many people suffer from nausea or
some other form of discomfort after taking eggs. It is not uncommon to
hear people say that they can take them in the latter part of the day,
but not in the mornings, without some ill-effect. If that is so, they
should be careful to avoid having them for breakfast, for when taken at
this meal they are often responsible for headaches which come on in the
course of the morning.

In many cases these bad effects can be avoided by having the eggs
boiled for eight minutes. This prolonged boiling reduces the contents
to a light powder, and seems to get rid of some element that is of a
poisonous nature.

[Sidenote: Soup.]

A small quantity of soup is beneficial as a preliminary to dinner. If a
man is tired after his day’s work it stimulates the digestion and puts
it into a better condition to do its work. On the other hand, it is a
great mistake to take too much of it, as then it is apt to swamp the
stomach with so much liquid as to hinder the secretion of gastric juice.

[Sidenote: Fats and oils.]

Some people can digest fat who cannot take oil without becoming
bilious, and some cannot take either. Yet it is as a rule the very
ones who cannot take one or the other who try to do so, in spite of
their aversion for it. It seems strange that it is stout people who are
best able to digest fat, and thin ones who cannot do so. It is not so
strange after all, however, for the simple reason that people are thin
because they cannot assimilate fat.

Yet oftentimes we find such persons persevering in taking fat or
even cod-liver oil, in order to put on flesh. The result is, in
many instances, that they become thinner than ever, owing to their
digestions being thrown completely out of order.

[Sidenote: Milk.]

Milk is the ideal food. Yet there is no food, however ideal, which can
be regarded as universal. There are some people, and not a few, who
cannot take milk without suffering from indigestion or biliousness.
Even among children one finds this peculiarity at times; if such
youngsters are forced to drink it, they are upset in consequence.

This is often due to the fact that it is taken raw and undiluted. There
is a widely prevalent theory to the effect that any interference with
the milk in its natural state deprives it of its nutritive qualities.
This is not the case. If the milk is boiled, for instance, a certain
substance which it contains, casein by name, undergoes a change. Yet
it is this casein which causes the curdling of milk that is prone to
take place in many stomachs, producing flatulence, pain, and it may be
actual vomiting. This casein is nutritious to those whose digestions
can cope with it, but for those who cannot digest it the boiling is
of great advantage, as the remaining elements of the milk become more
nutritious because more digestible.

It is of no use simply to heat the milk, it must be actually brought to
the boil. If the taste of it in this form is objected to, this can be
overcome by adding a little sugar or salt, or a flavouring of nutmeg.
And if the patients do not care for it hot, it may be cooled down and
taken cold with or without soda-water.

Sour milk, either in the form of ordinary butter-milk or prepared in
the scientific manner, is one of the healthiest of drinks. It has
been a well-established fact for many years that people living in
parts of the country where the drinking of butter-milk is in vogue are
exceptionally healthy. This led to the researches which culminated in
the sour milk treatment, which came so much to the front a few years
ago. It was a valuable discovery, for many of us are so situated that
we cannot get butter-milk. Also, the scientific way of preparing it is
much cleaner and more satisfactory than the old crude one, which was
liable to implant other and less desirable germs in our inside along
with the health-giving ones.

When this treatment came into vogue we were all to lose our aches and
pains, and enjoy robust health or something approaching it. Already,
in this short time, the method has fallen almost into disrepute. And
simply, so people said, because it did not do what it professed. In
this they did it a great injustice. If it did not do what it professed
to accomplish it was only because it did not have a chance. If people
continue to eat all sorts of unsuitable things and bolt them down, they
need not expect to whitewash their insides by taking sour milk on the
top of an injudicious diet. Like a good many other adjuncts to health,
it has to be taken with a grain, not of salt but of sound common sense.

[Sidenote: Sauces.]

People are often perplexed on the question of sauces, as to whether
they are harmful or otherwise. A rich, oily sauce is only too likely to
cause dyspepsia, but a flavouring of what we might term a “clean” sauce
is often an aid to digestion. For in spite of all that has been said
and written on the subject of plain foods, there is no doubt that if a
taste is pleasant it tends to stimulate the flow of saliva and gastric
juice. There is a scientific foundation for the saying, “It makes my
mouth water.”

The main disadvantages of sauces and spices is that if used to
excess they are apt to increase the appetite more than they stimulate
the gastric juice, and so lead to more food being taken than can be
digested.

After all, hunger is the best sauce, and the man who has earned his
meal by work or exercise has little need of artificial aids and
flavourings.

[Sidenote: Tea.]

A vast amount of evil has been attributed to the use of tea. To a
certain extent this condemnation is true. Yet it is not so much the tea
itself as the way in which it is made and the conditions under which it
is taken that are to be blamed for the mischief.

If allowed to stand stewing for long it is nothing short of a poison.
For then it is converted into a concentrated extract of tannin, which
has a most irritating effect on the wall of the stomach, producing a
secretion of acid liquid, causing heartburn and perhaps injuring the
delicate mucous membrane to the point of ulceration.

There is also another deleterious substance present called thein, and
this has a specially pernicious influence on the nervous system when
taken in excess. If tea is drunk within a few minutes of being made
there is just enough of this alkaloid to produce a pleasant, refreshing
effect without any harm being done. Yet even when prepared in this way,
but taken too frequently, the accumulated effect of repeated small
doses is as injurious as a large one, causing nervous irritability and
sleeplessness.

In many instances the harm of tea-drinking lies in the fact of its
being taken at wrong times. The custom of drinking it after a meal such
as dinner is a bad one, as it retards the flow of gastric juice.

Of all pernicious customs there is none more to be deprecated than that
of high tea, as it is called. It is a sociable meal, but a deadly one.
Many of us look back with a shudder to an array of sardines, tongue,
ham or fish, followed by bread and butter with two sorts of jam, buns
and cakes of all sorts, washed down with copious draughts of strong tea.

The use of tea, as opposed to its abuse or misuse, is highly beneficial
to the system. There is no remedy equal to it for a tired headache. It
washes out the stomach and gives it a fresh start for the next meal. A
cup of tea in the early morning will often enable a better breakfast to
be taken, and one in the afternoon between four and five o’clock helps
to complete the digestion of the midday meal.

Furthermore, it serves a good purpose in making the blood circulate
more freely and in dilating the vessels of the skin, thus assisting
in the elimination of waste matter. In this respect it is much better
adapted than cold drinks in hot weather, particularly for those engaged
in active outdoor games, such as tennis. For it makes a more efficient
thirst-quencher, and by flushing out the tissues helps to prevent the
onset of fatigue.

Have it freshly made, take it in moderation, and it will never do
any harm. Especially is this the case with China tea, if taken in
preference to Indian, for it does not injure the stomach or the nerves
in the way that the latter is apt to do.

[Sidenote: Coffee.]

Coffee does not as a rule tend to cause indigestion or affect the
nerves; its ill-effects are due to the fact of its causing biliousness.
People of what is known as a “livery” type had better avoid it
altogether, if they have found it to have this result. Yet they might
as well ascertain first as to whether it was the coffee or the milk
which they took with it which accounted for their discomfort. It is a
mystery as to why people, who cannot on their own assertion take hot
milk without upsetting their livers, should drink it when its taste is
disguised by that of coffee. The milk is there just the same, and the
after-effects are bound to be as bad as if taken by itself.

Let such persons take their coffee thin, making it with water, and
adding only as much milk as they would put into their tea, and it will
probably turn out that they can take it without any bad after-effects.

There is one form, however, in which this beverage is harmful. That
is in the form of black coffee. When taken in this form it certainly
causes indigestion as well as biliousness. Some of the most persistent
cases of dyspepsia, especially that which is most pronounced on waking
up in the morning, are due entirely to the habit of drinking black
coffee after dinner in the evenings. And the taste is evidently a
seductive one, for there is no habit, not even that of alcohol, more
difficult to eradicate. Yet until the use of coffee in this form is
given up, the dyspepsia will most surely persist.

[Sidenote: Water.]

The amount of liquid consumed in the twenty-four hours is one of the
most important questions in connection with diet, especially for anyone
suffering from headaches, rheumatic pains, malaise, undue fatigue, and
a variety of suchlike complaints, “minor ailments” as they are called.
These ailments are anything but minor, we may observe, in regard to the
amount of suffering they cause, and the train of symptoms and diseases
to which they lead.

Without a sufficient quantity of liquids the waste matter in the
tissues is apt to become too condensed, and on this account less able
to reach the eliminatory organs, whose function it is to throw it off.
It not uncommonly happens that a man will consult a doctor, complaining
that he is suffering from pains in his limbs, either in the muscles or
the joints or both, also from a constant dull headache and sense of
tiredness. He fears that he is on the verge of rheumatic fever, and it
is not improbable that that is exactly what he is. On inquiry it turns
out that he has been in the habit of taking very little liquid either
with meals or between them. He is told to take an extra quart, two if
possible, a day. Then it often happens that in a week or two all his
symptoms have disappeared, and he is capable of as much exertion as he
ever was.

The liquid may be taken in any form, hot or cold, or in tea, coffee,
lemon water or any other beverage the person may prefer. It does not
matter how it is taken, so long as it gets into the system.

[Sidenote: Alcohol.]

So much has been written and spoken on the subject of alcohol, that it
would seem almost unnecessary to discuss it fully here. Ten or fifteen
years ago the necessity would have been vastly more pressing than it
is to-day. For no change is more remarkable than that which has come
over public opinion on this topic of recent years. For nearly a century
temperance reformers have been combating the moral effect of strong
drink. Then the medical aspect of the question came to the fore, and
the moderate drinker began to wonder if the matter did not apply to
himself as well as to the drunkard.

Excess is a matter of personal equation, and many men who have always
considered themselves strictly temperate have begun to realise that
while the amount they were taking was not sufficient to affect their
moral fibre, it was too much so far as their bodily health was
concerned. Consequently a welcome improvement has been manifest in the
drinking habits of the community. The growth of athletics has no doubt
had much to do with this change.

It may be, too, that the attitude of the medical profession has had a
share. Twenty or thirty years ago it was a dangerous thing for a doctor
to tell a patient to reduce his ration of alcohol. Now the profession
gives its orders on the point with as little hesitation as it exhibits
in ordering a diet. And the public has shown its appreciation of this
fact in the view it has taken. Once a doctor who did not order wine
during convalescence was looked upon as a faddist. Now he is regarded
as old-fashioned if he does so, unless there is some special reason for
it.

While reserving for every man the right of his own opinions as to
alcohol as a beverage, medical men rarely order it save as a drug, as
in the administration of brandy in acute illness.

Perhaps the most significant proof of the change in public opinion is
the fact that many patients now ask a doctor, not which form of alcohol
is “the best for them,” but which “will do them the least harm.”



CHAPTER VIII.

HOW TO EAT FOOD.


[Sidenote: Mastication.]

This is even more important than the nature of the food itself. The
great majority of digestive troubles are due to the habit of taking
food too quickly, and imperfectly masticating it. It is surprising what
people can eat with impunity provided they take it slowly and chew it
until it is reduced to a fine pulp, almost a liquid in fact, in the
mouth. When staying at an hotel some time ago I met a gentleman of
seventy who told me that he had never known all his life what it was to
have a pain or a discomfort in his stomach. And his looks bore out his
statement. Yet he would take most things that were set before him, but
he ate them with a deliberation that is seldom met with nowadays.

One has only to go into any restaurant to see crowds of men eating
their food like ostriches, but without the digestion of an ostrich to
deal with it after it has been swallowed. The rush and hurry of these
days have caused meal-times to be looked upon as necessary nuisances,
an unavoidable interference with the day’s work, rather than as a
vitally-important function, and an opportunity for a congenial rest.
Men get into such a habit of hurrying when at their business, that
they attack their meals in the same manner, whether there be any need
for haste or not. And if the urgency of their work is such as to
curtail the time required for lunch or dinner, it would do them far
less harm and vastly more good to take half the meal quietly instead
of bolting the whole lot. Every bite that is swallowed without being
masticated is a nail in a man’s coffin. And as we have seen already,
this applies to soft foods as well as to those which are of a more
substantial nature.

When mastication is imperfect the starchy foods do not get their meed
of saliva, and when meaty ones are taken in the same way, they are
swallowed in too solid a form to be acted on by the gastric juices in
the stomach. Indigestion results, and this means that the eatables lose
their power of nourishment, and, what is even worse, become tainted
with poison. Then there is not only trouble in the present, but even
greater trouble in the remote future, which, if it gets beyond a
certain stage, may baffle all the resources of medicine to put it right.

Yet few people will acknowledge to this bad habit. It is only when they
are persuaded to take special notice of their manner of eating that
they can be convinced of the fact. They resent the imputation that
they are eating incorrectly. “We always live on plain, healthy food,”
they say. Quite so; but the healthiest food can become a menace if
taken in the wrong fashion. They scoff at the people who go in for a
number of courses calling them gourmands. Yet many a man who takes a
simple dinner, meat and vegetables followed by pudding, actually takes
more than those who indulge in a greater variety of courses, but much
smaller ones.

[Sidenote: Intervals between bites.]

Strange to say, many people who often suffer from indigestion after
their simple fare at home can go through an hotel menu without any bad
after-effects. It is because the latter provides a greater number of
intervals. When people are taking their two-course dinner in their own
homes they are eating all the time, except for the interval between the
meat and the sweet course. The action of the stomach is very much like
that of a concertina. It needs to contract and expand regularly, and if
little interval is allowed to elapse, it does not have the chance of
doing so.

This concertina motion also demands an interval between the separate
bites, and it gets it if the diner has company, and is obliged to
converse during the meal. If it is eaten in silence, as happens in the
case of those condemned to live alone, these intervals are lacking. In
such a case the only remedy is to be found in reading a book or paper
while taking the meal. It requires a tremendous force of will for a man
to eat carefully and slowly when alone. He gets tired of the sound of
his own jaws. If he is occupied in reading, he is much more likely to
take his food in a more leisurely manner.

There is no habit more difficult to eradicate than this of rapid
eating, and it needs constant care and attention, and we might add
“practice,” to get rid of it. The point is to avoid drinking too much
liquid with the meal, and never to drink until the food has been
swallowed. Otherwise it is washed down before it is in a fit state.

It is many years since a well-known physician advocated the custom
of taking thirty-two bites at each mouthful before swallowing it. He
probably selected this figure as representing the total number of teeth
in the adult jaws. Yet twenty-two would probably do as well. It does
not follow that if this plan is adopted we shall have to go on counting
at each meal for the remainder of our lives. The habit of mastication
would soon become so automatic that we should not need to think about
it at all.

Another point to keep in mind is to put down the knife and fork or
spoon between the separate bites. This is of great importance, as it
ensures the requisite interval being obtained.

An excellent plan is to eat hard crusts without taking any liquid. It
is impossible to swallow crusts until they are thoroughly masticated,
at any rate without suffering pain in the throat. A little practice at
this each day will soon inculcate the habit of eating other kinds of
food in a proper manner.

In the case of children, and perhaps of adults also, a good method is
to insist on all food being taken with a teaspoon. This will generally
be found efficacious.

Whatever method is adopted, nearly all cases of dyspepsia, except those
due to some disease of the stomach, can be cured by this means alone.

[Sidenote: Sound teeth.]

One essential, however, is the possession of good, sound teeth. And no
artificial teeth that were ever made are equal to the natural ones.
Every effort should be made, therefore, to keep the latter as long as
possible.

This can be done only by frequent brushing. People sometimes ask
whether they should brush their teeth in the mornings or the evenings.
There is only one answer, “Both.” We might also say, “And after each
meal in addition.” It is very little trouble, for it takes but half a
minute at the outside. And it is well worth doing this, if it means
that the teeth can be preserved.

There is nothing so good as a powder to clean the teeth, the mechanical
friction removes the particles of food more efficiently than any liquid
or paste can do.

Of course, if the teeth are really bad they are better taken out and
supplanted by artificial ones. Yet at the best these are like crutches
we must have them if we cannot walk without their aid, but that is the
most that can be said for them.

Sound, healthy teeth are important for more reasons than that of
mastication. For if they are allowed to get into a bad condition, a
virulent poison is developed in their sockets, which destroys the
virtues of the saliva, and also gets down into the stomach, still
further hindering digestion. And its evil deeds do not end in this,
for it is absorbed into the system, every part and organ of which feels
the effects of its baneful influence.

It is only by constant and scrupulous care that this disease,
pyorrhœa by name, can be prevented in the case of those whose teeth
are in an unsatisfactory condition. And if they have got to this stage
of decay, it is infinitely better to have them all out. For it is not a
disease which acts by fits and starts. On the other hand, it is there,
like a lurking demon, working its subtle process of pollution all the
time, night and day alike. And while it is better to have natural teeth
than artificial ones, the latter are vastly to be preferred to a poison
manufactory.

It is just because of the persistent way in which this mischief acts
that it forms one of the deadliest foes against which the human
body has to contend. Its malign influence is so continuous and so
all-pervading that it becomes one of the most potent factors in
predisposing to breakdowns. No sacrifice, either of time or money, is
too great that will help to prevent it or keep it in check.



CHAPTER IX.

HOW MUCH FOOD TO TAKE.


Speaking generally, the amount should be sufficient to keep the body
well and active, but not to load it up with more than it can get rid of.

[Sidenote: Personal requirements.]

As to the actual amount, there is no guide save that of personal
requirements. Some people need more than others, and without any
reference to the size of the individual. A little man may easily
require twice as much as a big one. It depends on the rate at which his
system burns it up. It is of no use, therefore, to judge of our own
needs by those of other people. A noted big game hunter is said to be
able to take three full-course dinners in immediate succession, without
the slightest inconvenience or any apparent detriment to his health.
Such persons can be regarded only as freaks, and any attempt on the
part of others to imitate their example would lead to disaster. For we
could no more follow his lead in this respect than we could do what he
is also capable of, namely to go for three days and nights without food
or drink, and feel no worse for so doing.

[Sidenote: Appetite.]

Appetite will usually be found a sound guide, provided that it is not
satisfied to the point of repletion. It is always well to eat steadily
and moderately, following the time-worn plan of rising from the table
feeling as if you could eat more. Sometimes a man will sit down as
hungry as a hunter, attacking his viands with avidity. Two hours later
he wishes that he had not. He has taken more than his digestion can
cope with, and the result is that for a day or two afterwards he can
scarcely eat anything. If there is an excess of appetite, so to speak,
left over, it will keep until the next meal. Regularity in amount, as
well as in times of feeding, is essential to health.

As a rule people eat too much, and need to be reminded of the fact,
tactfully of course. It is astonishing to watch the improvement in
health and energy which often follows a reduction in the amount of
food taken. Many listless, tired patients become bright and vigorous
after they have been persuaded to adopt this course. It is not uncommon
to see thin people who have been overfed by their anxious relatives,
and have become sallow and dyspeptic in consequence. In such cases it
is difficult to convince the individual himself, and still harder to
convince his friends, that he will not become thinner if he takes less
food. Yet practical experience has shown that he not only fails to lose
weight, but in many cases even puts it on.

A physician once experimented with two men of this type, pallid,
seedy young fellows, both of them. He kept them under his care for
six months, giving them one-third the amount of food they had been
accustomed to, and making them take three times as long in eating it.
By the end of that period they had grown into strong, lusty chaps, two
stone in weight heavier, and with a fine healthy colouring in their
cheeks.

[Sidenote: Excess of food.]

The average diet of the Anglo-Saxon is vastly in excess of his needs.
Especially does this refer to the amount of food taken on Sundays. Why
we should choose to celebrate the Sabbath by eating more and taking
less exercise is a mystery. We often meet with people who complain
of feeling “Mondayish,” as they call it. They think it is due to the
reaction consequent on resuming the week’s work, whereas it is nothing
more than the fact of their having eaten too much on the previous day.
For many people who are abstemious enough during the week-days take
more at every meal on Sundays. They have something extra for breakfast,
and take it at a later hour than usual; they have a hearty dinner
midday, and take cake and jam for tea, completing the day by a hearty
supper, in which cold meat and pickles generally take a large share.
And all “because it is Sunday.”

Now if such persons can be prevailed upon to make a light breakfast,
eat moderately at dinner, limit their food at tea to a biscuit or a
piece of bread and butter, and finish up with a rational supper, they
will find that on Monday mornings they are as fresh as on any other day
of the week; in fact, probably much fresher. It would be a good thing
for the community if people would make Sunday a day of rest in regard
to diet as well as other things.

[Sidenote: Diet at middle age.]

In speaking of butcher’s meat, we pointed out that less of this is
necessary in the case of people approaching middle age. The same
remark applies, though not with the same urgency perhaps, to food of
all sorts. As people grow older the system loses some of its power
of throwing off the residue of waste matter, and it is of vital
importance, therefore, that people should exercise even more care and
discrimination than at any previous period in their lives.

Yet as a rule they tend to eat more rather than less. And the
consequent strain upon the system is the starting-point of many a
breakdown. For not only is the system less capable of eliminating the
waste, but the various organs have less power to support each other
when any of them suffer in consequence of the extra effort demanded of
them.

[Sidenote: Diet for the obese.]

The question of a suitable diet for stout people is one that bulks
largely in the mind of the public to-day. At one time the neurotic
patient was always supposed to be thin. It was the fat ones who kept
people alive and in a good humour. It was all a myth, of course, and
there was no truth in it. It is all very well to talk about “Laugh and
grow fat,” but whether fat people are addicted to laughing is another
matter. For gradually it began to dawn upon the world that they were
rather a heavy, stolid set of folk after all.

Then, to its surprise, it found that stout people are more liable to
neurasthenia than thin ones. In any medical paper to-day you are almost
sure to see an article on neurasthenia and obesity.

The result of all this has been that there are more people wanting to
get thin than thin people desirous of getting stout. The question is
how they are to do it. It is generally supposed that it can only be
achieved by eating less. This is quite correct in one way. They must
eat less, but of certain articles of diet. It does not follow that
they must always rise from the table craving for food. It is a healthy
custom, as we have pointed out, for people to get up from the table
feeling that they could take more, but for some to be doomed constantly
to leave their meals as hungry as when they sat down would be a
hardship that few would submit to.

Fortunately this is not necessary. It is not so much the quantity of
food as its quality which accounts for putting on flesh. There are
certain articles which are fattening, not only because of what they
consist of in themselves, but also because they tend to make other
items give up the fat they contain. The important point is to avoid
these foods. It must be made clear, however, that a certain amount of
laxity may be allowed. There may be some of Falstaff’s dimensions who
may find it necessary to carry out the diet to the letter. It may be a
matter of urgency, perhaps of life itself, that they should be brought
down in weight, and without any loss of time.

But there are others who feel that a certain reduction is desirable,
but not to the same degree as these others. And such people, while
following the general principles, need not deny themselves so
completely as the stouter ones.

Speaking generally, the foods which tend to put on weight are the
starches, such as bread and potatoes, sugars and fats. The following
list contains firstly those articles which have this tendency, and then
those which can be taken with impunity.

_Articles to be avoided._--Cream and butter. Bread, teacakes, scones
and cake of all sorts. Porridge. The fat of bacon, ham or any other
meat. Eggs. Red fish, as salmon and mullet. Potatoes, turnips, carrots,
parsnips, artichokes and all other root vegetables. Puddings of all
kinds. Pastry, sweets, jellies, jam and sugar. Apples, pears and
bananas.

_The following may be taken._--Tea and coffee (but not cocoa). Milk in
strict moderation. Dry biscuits, such as cracknel. Lean ham, bacon,
tongue, white fish, thin soup, fowl and game, and the lean of butcher’s
meat. Green vegetables, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, tomatoes, peas,
beans, asparagus. Cheese may be permitted in small quantities.

Water should be taken apart from meals. If taken hot before meals it
has a reducing and beneficial effect.

It will be seen from this list that there is no reason why anyone
wishful to reduce their weight need complain of a lack of food
wherewith to satisfy their appetites. Yet, if adhered to, the diet
rarely fails to bring about the desired result.



CHAPTER X.

WHEN TO TAKE FOOD.


[Sidenote: Punctuality.]

Punctuality at meals is absolutely essential for the maintenance of
good health. The stomach gets into the habit of secreting its digestive
juices at certain times, as meals fall due. If it does not meet with
the food it has come to act upon, it will seize upon the stomach wall
and cause pain and a nauseous sense of sinking. And these sensations
will probably be followed by a headache, for the gastric juice, which
is one of our vital agents, is nothing less than an irritant poison if
it has no work to do. It is like a man loitering about an office or
workshop when trade is slack. He has gone there to work, and when he
finds nothing to do except to hang around and put in time as best he
can, he becomes dissatisfied.

More than that, it is only too likely that if this goes on for several
days the man will fail to turn up one morning. As there is nothing
for him to occupy his time with, he thinks he might as well stay
away. And that is exactly what the gastric juice does under similar
circumstances. If people have been accustomed to take dinner at one
o’clock each day, and for several days in succession turn up an hour
late, they will find that they begin to suffer from indigestion. The
gastric juice has got tired of making its appearance at the proper
time; as it has been treated with contempt, it takes its revenge
by staying away. There is a form of gastric derangement known as
Commercial Traveller’s Dyspepsia, which is due solely to the fact that
with these members of the community meal-times must be constantly
varied, owing to the exigencies of their work, and the vagaries of
railway trains.

Of course, it may be necessary at times to make an alteration in a meal
hour. When the light summer evenings come, many people prefer to change
the hour of the evening meal, in order to enjoy walks or outdoor games.
If, however, the new hour is adhered to, the stomach soon learns to
adapt itself to the change. It is the constant chopping and changing
about from day to day that has such a pernicious effect on the system.

There is another member of the community who is liable to suffer from
the consequences of irregularity in regard to the midday meal. It is
the woman whose husband cannot get home to lunch, so that she is left
to take it alone, unless she has children to cater for. We confess
to having less sympathy for her than for the aforesaid commercial
traveller, for it is not the fault of the latter that he does not get
his meal regularly at its proper time, while in the case of the woman
the blame lies entirely with herself. She takes that deadly “something
on a tray,” and takes it at any time that suits her convenience.
Probably she has had a breakfast of tea and bread and butter. Too often
the same fare appears for her lunch. There is little wonder that often
she is a martyr to dyspepsia and headache.

[Sidenote: Interval between meals.]

The question as to the length of the interval between meals is an
important one. And here, in particular, individual requirements enter
largely. Some people can go for a considerable time without food and
feel better for so doing. Others feel sick and unduly tired if they
fast too long. It rests with each one to find out what suits them best.

On general principles, however, if an interval is too short there is a
likelihood of a certain amount of food being left over still undigested
from the last meal. And this interferes with the work of the stomach.
Under such circumstances the tongue is liable to be coated with a thick
fur, and the individual to suffer from a constant feeling of nausea.

If, however, the interval is too long, the system has become exhausted
and the stomach goes on strike. By the time the meal is taken, the
supply of gastric fluid has failed. If a long interval between any
two meals is unavoidable, as for instance where a man has to have his
breakfast at eight and cannot get his lunch until half-past one, it is
better to take some light food in the meantime. This prevents the sense
of exhaustion, and does not hinder the stomach from doing its work when
it is called upon. Otherwise the man is apt to get a headache before he
gets his meal, and indigestion after he has taken it.

This is a very different matter from the habit of eating between meals,
whether it be in regard to sweets or to heavier articles of diet. There
is a form of hunger known as “false.” It comes on an hour or two after
meals, and is due to the irritation of undigested food in the stomach.
As it is often accompanied by a sensation of sinking, people sometimes
take some food, such as beef-tea or strong soup, to keep themselves up,
as they term it. The result is confusion worse confounded, and if the
process is repeated too frequently serious damage may be inflicted on
the digestive organs.

[Sidenote: Diet and breakdowns.]

I have dealt at considerable length with this question of diet, simply
because it has such an important bearing on the subject of breakdowns.
There is no single path that leads to breakdowns, the way thither is
rather a tangled maze of paths, along which people stumble blindly
until they suddenly find themselves at an _impasse_. Yet the point at
which they first left the high road of health consists in most cases of
a mistake or series of mistakes in regard to their food and the manner
in which they take it.

[Sidenote: The old style.]

The digestive troubles of the present day are very different from
those of a century ago. “The fine old English gentleman, one of the
olden style,” consumed an enormous breakfast and a still more enormous
dinner, washing down vast quantities of food with great draughts of
beer or wine. Every now and then he was laid up with a stomach-ache or
an attack of gout, and for a day or two made the welkin ring with his
upbraidings; then he turned up again, as fresh as any young buck, and
went on his way rejoicing until the next attack laid him by the heels.

We marvel that he survived to tell the tale. “I should be dead in a
week if I did such things,” one of my readers probably remarks. Yes,
but the hale old chap led a different sort of life from that which we
lead to-day. He spent most of his time in the saddle or in walking
about the country-side. Moreover, the food he ate was of such a solid
nature that he was bound to chew it well before he could swallow it.
And the bilious or gouty attacks from which he suffered afforded a
welcome respite to the whole system, giving it the chance to throw off
a large amount of deleterious matter.

[Sidenote: The present style.]

There is no comparison between such a process as this and the continued
remorseless poisoning from which many people suffer in these days as a
result of dietetic mistakes. And this poison finds an easy victim in
the constitutions of to-day. These hearty blades of olden times did
not impose much strain on their nervous systems. They lived nearer to
Nature instead of cooping themselves up in offices and businesses,
straining body and mind in the struggle to make a livelihood or a
fortune. All the more reason why we should take infinitely more care in
regard to our diet nowadays than our ancestors did.

At a dinner party some years ago one of the guests was a sallow,
dyspeptic-looking individual, of a melancholy cast of countenance,
and with nerves written in large characters all over him. In fact, the
state of his nerves constituted the chief part of his conversation, to
the utter boredom of the lady he had taken in to dinner.

It appeared that he was always tired and depressed, and could not make
out why it was. He had taken tonics and gone for holidays to various
health resorts, but had gained not the slightest benefit.

He might have obtained some glimmering of the truth if he had placed
a mirror in front of him as he dined, or even if he had only stopped
to think. For he ate rapidly, almost ravenously, of every course that
was set before him, bolting it down with scarcely any attempt at
mastication, which the present style of preparing food renders only too
easy. “He was bound to make a good dinner,” he said, as his business
was of such an arduous and worrying nature that he rarely had time to
get any lunch. At the conclusion of the meal he apologised for taking
out of his pocket a box of digestive tablets. He was forced to have
them, he explained, as he was a martyr to dyspepsia.

Yet ten years before this man had been a strong, healthy athlete. Now
he had become a wreck, and his life was a burden to him. Not only was
he incapable of doing his work properly or of enjoying his pleasures,
but he lived in a constant dread of a nervous breakdown. And the
probability is that unless he has reformed his ways of eating that
catastrophe has happened to him ere this.



CHAPTER XI.

FRESH AIR.


The very title, “Fresh Air,” conjures up visions of wide-spreading
moorlands and foam-flecked seas, of sunny dales and quiet
trout-streams, of breezy golf links and bracing mountain-tops; of all
the things, in fact, which we are going to revel in when we go for our
next holiday.

When we go for our next holiday! And what is to happen in the meantime?
For fresh air is a daily, we might say an hourly, necessity, not a
yearly luxury. The combustion on which the health so largely depends
is always going on. The bodily engine never ceases running from the
beginning to the end of life. Sometimes it is more active than at
others, but even during sleep itself, though the muscles may be relaxed
and motionless, the heart is acting, and the lungs must continue to do
their work. The machinery of the body is never still, the furnaces are
never out. Sometimes they are burning fiercely, at other times with a
gentle glow.

Yet no matter whether it is one or the other, it is necessary that the
processes of combustion should be complete, and the purer the air that
reaches the lungs, and the more there is of it, the more effectually
will this end be attained.

Send a tired, seedy-looking man into the open air for a whole day,
and even if he only lies down or lounges about the whole time, you may
notice the difference in his looks by the time evening has come. His
eyes will be brighter and his complexion clearer, and the dragging
sense of heaviness in his limbs will have disappeared. Instead of
discomfort and nausea, he will have a good, healthy appetite.

[Sidenote: Fresh air and the nervous system.]

As for his nervous system, there will be no comparison. There is no
tonic in the whole world for jaded nerves like an abundant supply of
pure, fresh air. And if sunshine can be obtained at the same time so
much the better, for the effect of direct sunlight on the body is
simply remarkable. Some years ago a new form of holiday was started in
the shape of trips to the Sahara, for the benefit of those suffering
from brain-fag. The success which attended them was due largely to the
free supply of sunshine, not merely to the fact of the patients being
away from their work and ordinary surroundings. Many of them had tried
rest cures elsewhere without any good result. It was only when they
spent weeks in some oasis, with the sunlight pouring down on them from
morning till night, that their nervous systems recovered themselves.

Yet these people should never have had brain-fag if they had only
carried out the rules we are about to lay down.

Most of us are not in a position to go to the Sahara, but we can get
at home, if not such a flood of sunshine, at any rate enough fresh
air, in conjunction with other precautions as to diet and so forth, to
prevent our systems ever getting into such a state as to make a trip of
this sort, with its outlay of time and money, a necessity.

Apart from sunshine, fresh air has a potent influence on health. We
all pine for fine holidays, and no doubt they do us more good, in
addition to being more enjoyable, than wet ones. Yet it is amazing
how much better people look after even a rainy holiday at the seaside
or country. The rest from the worries of business and so forth has
something to do with it, but I firmly believe that half the benefit
is due to the fact that when people are on a holiday they spend the
greater part of their time in the open air.

A friend once remarked to me that he always began to feel nervous and
worried as soon as he got back home. He wondered if the district agreed
with him. I asked him what sort of life he led when he was in the
country. And he replied that he pottered about outside all the time. If
it was wet, he put on a mackintosh and went out just the same. Yet he
owned up that he never thought of doing such a thing at home.

Two men were walking down a street in the West of London on a winter’s
afternoon. The one was plodding along wearily with his eyes fixed on
the pavement and lines of care on his face. The other held himself
erect, walking with easy strides, and looking around with genial eyes
that seemed to find an interest in everything they saw. His breezy
manner and the glow of health in his cheeks were a marked contrast to
the look of weariness and pallor on the face of his companion.

Yet these two were brothers, brought up in the same way and under
the same conditions. The one had applied himself to the law, finally
settling down in London, amazed that his brother should be content to
bury himself in the heart of the country.

A few hours later they sat down to dinner together, and the lawyer
looked with envy at the hearty way in which the country brother ate his
food, and the relish with which he seemed able to take anything that
was set before him. His own appetite was fickle to the last degree, and
even when he ate any of the courses it was with a doleful presentiment
as to the effect they would have upon him.

It was after midnight before the lawyer could make up his mind to go to
bed, and he went with the expectation of a restless night. By that time
the other brother was enjoying a deep, untroubled slumber.

Six months later you might have seen those two men again walking side
by side. This time it was on an August morning amongst the fields
and hedgerows. The difference between them was not so marked on this
occasion. The lawyer held his head higher, his eyes were brighter, and
his cheeks had lost much of their pallor. He did not look down at the
ground either, but gazed all around him, and some of the careworn lines
had disappeared from his face. He had had three weeks of pure, country
air, and had spent most of it in the open. He was dreading the time, a
few days hence, when he would have to return to town.

That was not anything out of the common. We have all seen people
returning from their holidays looking like that. The surprising
part--surprising even to the man himself--was to follow. For during the
following winter you might have watched that lawyer stepping out of
his office any afternoon, and would have been amazed to notice that he
had never lost the improvement which he had gained during his weeks in
the country. His dread that he would sink back into the same nervous,
dyspeptic state as before had been unfounded.

For it was only a few days after he had got back to town that he had
been talking to a friend and telling him how much better he had felt
after his open-air holiday. And the friend had said, “Then why not keep
it up now you are at home?”

That remark had set the lawyer thinking, and the force of it had
impressed him deeply. So instead of driving to his office each day he
had made a habit of covering the three miles on foot, and returning
home in the evening in the same way. He had taken every opportunity of
having a walk, either along the streets or in the park, and had felt
a new man after it. And it was not only his bodily health which had
benefited; his nervousness had gone, and he had ceased to worry over
his work and all his other affairs. He had found not only fresh air
during these walks, but a vast number of other things to interest
him at the same time. And the weather did not seem of nearly the same
importance as before. If it was wet, he took a coat and umbrella
and trudged through it as contentedly as if he were enjoying bright
sunshine. To his surprise, he did not catch cold nearly so often as he
had been accustomed to do.

Now this man only did what anyone else can do, that is to secure a
daily supply of fresh air. There are vast numbers of people who would
be different creatures if they would have a walk morning and evening,
either before breakfast or their evening meal, or on their way to and
from their work.

[Sidenote: Fresh air in the home.]

It is of little use, however, to take walks in the fresh air if we come
back to badly-ventilated houses. There are some dwellings in which the
air always feels dead; there is a staleness about it which offends our
nostrils the moment we cross the threshold. The doors and windows are
kept closed, and the whole house reeks of the accumulated poison from
the lungs of those who have lived beneath its roof.

In a north country dale there is a charming cottage, its latticed
windows framed in creepers, standing back from the village street. It
is the admiration of all beholders, yet its beauty is only the shell
that hides a grim tragedy. There were five children in the family, and
one by one they died of consumption. And if you examine the pretty
latticed windows more closely, you will find the secret of their fell
disorder, for not one of those windows, upstairs or down, will open.
Those youngsters played in the fresh air, they went to school and
returned home in it, but every minute that they spent in the house they
were living in a poisoned atmosphere. If there had been no such thing
as bedtime, they might have escaped; but it was no wonder that when
some tubercle bacilli made their way into that house they found easy
victims in the innocent, sleeping forms of those children. For even the
fireplace in the bedroom was blocked up with a sack of shavings.

An atmosphere of that sort is like a two-edged sword, it cuts both
ways. It not only lowers the resisting power of the human body, but
also favours the growth of germs. And consumption is not the only
complaint to which vitiated air may lead. There are many other forms
of ailments which, if not so deadly as this disease, exercise a most
pernicious influence on health.

Common colds play a far greater havoc with the health of a nation
than is usually supposed. For it is not merely the loss of time spent
in getting rid of them, but the infinitely more important fact that
these chills and catarrhs upset digestion, lower the general health,
and lay it open for deadlier enemies to enter. Sometimes colds are of
the influenza nature, the result of a germ, which may fix itself in
the throat in spite of all precautions. Yet the influenza bacillus
itself finds the greatest ally in any catarrh of the nose or throat.
We frequently hear people say that they had an ordinary cold which
developed into influenza. It is a perfectly true statement, and if the
ordinary cold had not been there first, it is more than probable that
the influenza germ would not have had a chance of establishing itself.

Nothing causes chills more than hot, stuffy rooms. We often hear people
complaining that they took cold when they came out into the night air.
Yet it was not the night air which did the mischief, but the poisonous
atmosphere in the room itself, due to the accumulated exhalations of
many lungs, etc. Had the apartment been well ventilated the so-called
chill would never have occurred.

Most cases of asthma are the result of a bad atmosphere. The catarrh
has extended down from the nose and throat into the bronchial tubes,
and set up a spasm which is the source of this distressing malady. No
asthmatic can afford to keep his windows closed. Whether by day or
night, he needs a liberal supply of fresh air.

It is not so much by day that people suffer from the effects of
poor ventilating. For then most of us are compelled by the force of
circumstances and the exigencies of our work to move about from one
place to another, even if it is only from room to room. It is in the
evenings, and winter evenings in particular, that the atmosphere of the
dwelling-rooms becomes contaminated. The family sits by the fireside,
with the windows and door closed, and they never notice how stuffy and
close the room is becoming, until someone comes in from the outside air
and beseeches them to open the window.

Yet they go on sitting in that poisoned air, and one or two of them
become drowsy and sit half asleep, with the result that when bedtime
comes they have to face a restless night. Others, perhaps, find their
heads aching, and attribute it to the fact they are working too hard
during the day.

But it is only when they go to bed in rooms with the windows closed
that the chief harm comes. Considering what a large proportion of our
lives we spend in our bedrooms, it is of vital importance that the air
should be, if anything, purer than that of the rooms we live in by
day. For at night we are not moving about, but lying still, and the
air does not get a chance of renewing itself unless the ventilation is
efficient. Many people complain that they can scarcely wake up in the
mornings, they feel so heavy. Or that when they do rouse themselves
they have a headache, which it takes hours to get rid of. All this
might be avoided by the use of the open window.

The objection to it generally consists in the fact that it makes a
draught. There is no necessity for this, however. There are some cranks
who have much to account for in regard to this matter. They boast that
they can sleep close to a window which is open top and bottom to its
fullest extent, and are proud to say that they have waked up in the
morning to find that the rain had been coming in and had soaked the
bedclothes through and through.

There may be a few constitutions which can stand this, but they are
certainly in a hopeless minority. The majority of people would find
themselves in “Queer Street” if they attempted such folly, for folly
it is without a doubt. In one case where a father adopted vigorous
methods of this sort with his children it ended in one of them getting
an inflammation of the ear, which resulted in incurable deafness.

There is reason in all things, ventilation included. And fresh air can
be secured without any draught at all. A few inches top and bottom,
or only at the top if the weather be very stormy, makes all the
difference, either in a sitting-room or a bedroom. Better still is the
plan of fixing a block of wood the width of the window frame below the
lower sash. That leaves a space between the upper and lower sashes,
which ensures a constant supply of fresh air. If this be adopted the
atmosphere will always be pure and healthy, even if the window is never
opened any farther.

It is vastly better to have this constant supply of pure air in small
doses than to throw the window open wide after the atmosphere has
become hot and unpleasant.

Sometimes, however, it happens that in spite of all our efforts we have
to breathe air containing some deleterious matter, germs or dust or
what ever else it may be. To meet this contingency, Nature has provided
a filter of her own. It consists of a network inside the nostrils. That
is why it is of such importance to breathe through the nose instead of
the mouth. If all children were taught to do this there would be fewer
colds and fevers. The nostrils would arrest the unwholesome particles
before they had a chance of reaching the tonsils, which are such a
suitable soil for their growth.

Needless to say, pure air is of greater value when it is inhaled as
freely as possible. In order to bring this about, it is necessary to
breathe deeply. There are not many people who get the best value out
of their lungs. As a rule, respiration is much too light. In order to
remedy this defect, breathing exercises are of great value. The way
to carry them out is to stand with the hands on the hips and breathe
slowly in and out, inwardly counting four each time in a deliberate
manner, and expanding the chest to its fullest possible extent.

The mistake usually made is to lift the chest with each inspiration.
This only raises it, it does not expand it. The proper way is to
breathe from the abdomen and lower part of the chest wall. When this is
done every part of the lung is filled with air, and this has the great
advantage of preventing the air inside the lung spaces from stagnating
in any one part, an occurrence which is always prone to lead to the
onset of congestion or disease.

It does another good turn too, for it inculcates the habit of deep,
full breathing. Those who practise for a few minutes each day will soon
find themselves expanding their lungs habitually, even when they are
not thinking about it.

[Sidenote: Cleanliness in the house.]

Yet even if windows and doors are kept open, something more is
requisite. For unless a house is scrupulously clean and the rooms
regularly turned out, it cannot be healthy. If a piece of machinery
is left untouched for some months it will never be as good as it
was before. The grease has become foul, whilst dust and dirt have
accumulated, and these insidious elements have combined to destroy
the quality of the metal. That means that some time or other some bar
or joint or nut will crack, and once that has happened the mischief
rarely stops there, but goes on to the weakening of other parts and the
deterioration of the whole machine.

And when human beings live in houses that are not fresh and wholesome
they are constantly inhaling dust and fusty smells, which act as a
slow, subtle poison and lower the vitality of the various tissues of
the body. It is so gradual that they may not notice it, until at last
something gives way, and after that the downward tendency becomes
comparatively rapid. When the cataclysm occurs, they date it from the
day when the first crack, if we may call it so, appeared. Rather should
they look back to the long years spent in an unhealthy atmosphere
within their own homes.

[Sidenote: Hygiene in the home.]

There is no fault, however apparently trivial it may seem, in matters
of hygiene which does not add its quota towards the final breakdown
of the human machinery. The faulty, leaking gaspipe which causes
oft-repeated morning headaches; the choked-up scullery sink, with
its abominable mixture of soap, grease and vegetable washings;
the defective drain and pipes; each and all do their evil part in
undermining the constitution and rendering it more prone to the onset
of disease.

There is another aspect of this question to which too little prominence
has been given. It is that of tidiness, and its effect on the
nervous system. We all know that a tidy desk indicates a methodical,
well-regulated mind, and that one which is in a litter is usually the
sign of a man whose ideas are confused and jumbled up. Everyone does
not realise that the sight of a disorderly room, with waste paper lying
on the floor and an unswept hearth, has an irritating effect on the
nerves of a man or woman who comes home jaded and tired.

We shall have occasion shortly to point out that it is this harassed
state which is one of the most potent factors in causing nervous
breakdowns. And it is just when the home-comer needs to have everything
as smooth as possible to put him or her into a calm and equable frame
of mind that their fretted nervous systems are still further irritated
by signs of disorder in their homes. Tidiness is more than a mere
virtue, it is an indispensable adjunct to health.

All who wish to be well, and feel well, and keep well, must seek a
free and constant supply of air, and strive to obtain it in all its
freshness and purity. They must secure it at all times too, at home and
away, indoors and out, summer and winter, day and night. If everyone
were to do this, the effect on the health and welfare of the nation
would be incalculable. They will find it no irksome duty, for before
long they will acquire a taste, a longing, we might say a craving for
it which will make them wonder how they ever managed to live without it.

An appetite for fresh air is one of those propensities we can indulge
in without any fear of going to excess. We can revel in it, gourmandise
on it, smack our lips over it, and the more we get of it the better we
shall be.



CHAPTER XII.

EXERCISE.


Several men were riding home together in a tramcar on their way from
business, and were discussing their health, as so many people do
nowadays. They were all looking tired and depressed, and on comparing
notes found that they were all suffering from the same complaint,
“nervous exhaustion due to overwork.” At least, that is what they
called it. They were tired when they went to bed, and just as tired
when they got up in the morning, and had no energy for their day’s
work. Why the latter should have proved too much for them was a
mystery, as their hours were not long by any means, and they were all
in the prime of life.

As a matter of fact, they were not suffering from nervous exhaustion at
all, but from poisoning, the result of a sedentary occupation and want
of exercise. These men had an excess of waste products in their system,
retarding their digestions and clogging their energies.

[Sidenote: Exercise at middle age.]

It is particularly at or just before middle age that the want of
exercise so frequently manifests itself. Most people keep up their
games or their walking until the age of thirty or forty. It is after
that stage that they tend to settle down and take things easily. If
they would only reduce their diet at the same time little harm might
accrue, but unfortunately in many instances, as we have already pointed
out, they begin to eat more instead of less. The result is that we are
confronted with the problem of increased intake and diminished output.
We often see men of strong physique who have given up games and reduced
their walking to a minimum, and have become moody and irritable,
sleepless and depressed.

This is because their systems have become loaded with a superfluity of
waste matter. And the latter not only makes them headachy and tired,
but if the accumulation is allowed to go on unchecked, it deranges the
vital organs, the kidneys particularly, and before long may actually
set up organic disease. After that the strain on the whole bodily
functions becomes greater and greater, until the breaking-point is
reached. For as people grow older their organs have less power of
throwing off waste material, and become less able to support one
another when any weakness appears.

These breakdowns are the most liable to occur in the case of athletes
who have been accustomed to severe and active exercise all their
lives. In them the system seems to have learned to depend, even more
than in the case of other people, upon hard exercise to keep it in
good condition. And when men of this type drop it too suddenly, the
results are disastrous. Yet that is what so many of them tend to
do. They are unable any longer to indulge in the violent games and
training to which they have been accustomed, and they will not “lower
themselves,” as I have heard it expressed, to take part in milder forms
of recreation. Sometimes they even become too lazy to walk.

Of course, no man can be expected to keep up his running, or take part
in boat races, or practise putting the weight after he has passed a
certain age. Nor would it be good for him to do so. Once he has passed
thirty he must begin to take things a bit more slowly, and avoid taking
part in athletic contests. For racing in any form involves a mental as
well as a physical strain, and few men beyond that age can stand the
stress of the two combined.

Yet if he cannot race he can still row or run or whatever else it may
be. Later on he may have to give these up also, and take to quieter
forms of exercise. The secret lies in the gradual dropping off. And
no man need complain, for there are plenty of outdoor games suited to
every age and every constitution.

[Sidenote: Value of exercise.]

The great point is that everyone, men and women alike, must have
exercise of some kind or other. For most of the vital of processes
of the body depend upon it. It is the chief agent in burning up the
waste matter in the system, reducing it to such a form as is most
easily excreted by the different organs. It also keeps this waste on
the move, and so brings it more freely into contact with those organs.
Furthermore, it stimulates the action of the heart and lungs, and so
invigorates the circulation, and supplies the respiratory tract with a
more liberal allowance of oxygen.

Then, freed from the incubus of the presence of this poisonous matter,
the digestion improves, and the nervous system regains its wonted
vigour once more.

[Sidenote: Regularity.]

To be efficient, exercise must be steady and regular. A long tramp or
a violent burst of tennis or some other game once a week can never
make up for days of comparative inaction. More than that, it is almost
dangerous. The waste products have meanwhile accumulated to such an
extent that, if they are suddenly stirred up, they are apt to produce
a severe headache or a bilious attack. People are often puzzled and
discouraged when after a long walk on a Saturday afternoon they feel so
done up as to be unfit for anything for the next twenty hours.

The exercise should be daily, so that the waste matter is eliminated
regularly. To realise the difference between this method and the one we
have just been discussing, notice the effect of dusting a room once a
week compared with doing it each day. It is the difference between an
almost imperceptible quantity of dust and a cloud that fills the room
and threatens to choke you.

[Sidenote: Violent exercise and cramp.]

There is one result of irregular exercise that needs to be referred to
here. It is cramp. This painful complaint is due to a deposit of waste
matter in some muscle, which it causes to contract violently owing
to the local irritation set up. It is liable to occur after hard or
prolonged exercise of any sort, especially in those who only take it
now and then. Sometimes, however, it is found in those who never take
part in games, as in elderly people, for instance. In this case it is
often due to the habit of walking beyond the ordinary pace. There are
some temperaments which never allow their possessors to walk quietly,
even though age or some infirmity demands it, and such persons are very
liable to wake up at night suffering from cramp.

The treatment is to avoid too violent exercise or to walk in a more
leisurely fashion, as the case may be. When it has come on, the remedy
is to rub the affected part vigorously, or put it into hot water if
such is available.

[Sidenote: Outdoor exercise.]

Exercise, like all other indispensable things in this world, needs to
be carried out with discretion. Because a lusty young fellow of twenty
finds that a hard game, such as football, once a week, in addition
to steady daily exercise, suits him, it does not follow that it is
going to be of benefit for a man of forty. It is an important point in
selecting a game to choose a suitable one. Golf is often advocated as
the ideal recreation for middle-aged men. Yet one has known of cases
where a round of golf left a man jaded and tired, but a game of bowls
or tennis did him a world of good. The one might require as much as
the other, but for some unknown reason it was better adapted to the
needs of the individual in question. At the risk of offending every
golfer in the country--and that is about every other man you meet--I
have no hesitation in saying that even if a man does not play it he may
be “a man for a’ that.” And if it only worries and tires, instead of
refreshing him, he is vastly better advised to leave it off, and take
to something that suits him better and is more in accordance with his
feelings.

Half an hour a day spent in walking, cycling or playing some outdoor
game is sufficient to keep the whole system in good working order.

Games have the advantage of adding the stimulus of competition and
complete change of thought, but there is no better exercise than that
of walking. And after all the change of thought can be obtained equally
well at the same time, if people have some outdoor hobby, as botany
or natural history. It also provides change of scene, which is a fine
mental tonic in itself.

The ideal form of recreation is to cycle to some spot, leave your
machine there, and set out for a walk. By such means you get far away
from your ordinary surroundings, and also receive the benefit of the
pure air of the meadow or the mountain-top.

[Sidenote: The pavement walk.]

There are many people, however, who live in towns, and, in winter
especially, cannot reach green fields or hills except when on a
holiday. There are wet days too on which a country walk is hardly
possible or even desirable, on account of the state of the roads. Yet
there is another form of walking which is of great value under such
circumstances. It is what we may term the “pavement tramp.” An hour’s
brisk walk of this sort is an invaluable boon to town-dwellers on a
dull day or a wintry night, when circumstances stand in the way of any
other form of exercise.

At times even the state of the pavements, as in snowy weather, may
render this impossible. In that case, if you are feeling stale and
unprofitable, and longing for some active exercise, you may obtain it
by walking briskly up and down the stairs. The servants will think you
have gone mad, but as they probably think that already, this fact need
not deter you from this form of invigoration.

[Sidenote: On starting exercise.]

When people who have previously neglected exercise start to take it,
they are often met with one difficulty. They complain that after they
have walked for a mile or so they are too tired to go any farther,
and when they return home they do not feel refreshed but rather the
opposite. Under these circumstances we need not hesitate to assure them
that if they will but persevere, this feeling of fatigue will pass off,
and a sense of enjoyment and lightness take its place. Once they have
experienced the truth of this they are ready to continue the daily walk
and exercises, and soon begin to wonder how they ever managed to live
without them.

This acute fatigue is due to the stirring up of the waste matter in the
system. If, however, they force themselves to keep on walking quietly,
the exercise itself will help to eliminate these undesirable elements,
and so fulfil its most important function.

This question of exercise calls for special mention in the case of
women of the middle and upper classes. Too often their exercise for
the day consists in shopping or paying calls, neither of which are
conducive to health. The constantly recurring headaches from which many
women of this type suffer might be cured, along with the observance of
the other rules of health, by the observance of a daily walk and gentle
exercises within their own homes.

[Sidenote: Indoor exercise.]

Indoor exercise is the department in which so many people go wrong. A
young man is convinced of the necessity of keeping himself fit, and the
way in which as a rule he sets about it is to practise with a pair of
heavy dumb-bells before breakfast, or else to buy a developer and use
it, for the purpose of getting his muscles up.

Now Mr. Sandow himself has always been the first to warn people against
the abuse or over-use of the developer, and against practising with
heavy dumb-bells. I was once amazed to hear that great authority say
that he could keep his muscles in perfect condition with two-pound
dumb-bells. Little wonder, therefore, that men of ordinary physique
find themselves, after a quarter of an hour with seven-pound ones,
stale and tired for the remainder of the day.

We have to bear in mind that the most important muscle in the body
is the heart. Cases are not uncommon in which young fellows have
developed their limb-muscles at the expense of this vital organ,
with the result that they have been more or less incapacitated ever
afterwards. It may be very delightful to possess a biceps twice as
large as your neighbour’s, but beyond the gratification of contracting
it for their approval there is nothing to be gained, unless you are
going to be a navvy, that is to say. And that is not likely to be
the case with any of my readers, for navvies are not in the habit of
perusing books on health. They do not need to do so.

If a man needs certain muscles specially strong for his work, his work
will develop them for him. Otherwise they are of little use to him, and
he had better conduct his exercises on a sounder principle.

[Sidenote: Object of exercise.]

The main object of physical exercise is to keep the whole body fit.
In choosing suitable ones, therefore, it is necessary to select those
which call upon all the muscles of the body without any undue strain
upon any particular set. If any one group is over-used there will come
a time when they will begin to waste away. It is well known that in
certain occupations which throw great strain upon any one part, such
as the arms in the case of porters, who have to be lifting heavy loads
constantly, the muscles of these regions enlarge enormously at first,
but often degenerate after a time, until at last the limbs in question
may be reduced almost to skin and bone.

[Sidenote: Swedish exercises.]

The best form of exercises for purposes of general health are those
known as Swedish. No dumb-bells are required, though many people find
it easier to practise them if they have a piece of wood in each hand.
The number of systems included in this category is legion, and people
are often perplexed to know which one to choose. Some friend recommends
one set, then another comes along and says that he has derived great
benefit from a different set, and a third strongly advocates some
other. The fact is there is no advantage in any one over the rest. All
are equally efficacious; the great point is to do exercises of some
sort. You can easily plan out a set of your own, which will do quite as
well as any other.

Whichever are chosen, it is well to do them gently at first, and
for a short time only, gradually increasing them as you become more
accustomed to the movements.

A good selection to start with is as follows. Stretch out the arms in
front, with the finger-tips touching those of the opposite hand. Swing
them slowly backwards as far as they will go. Stretch them out again in
the same way, and try to touch the toes, keeping the knees straight.
Place the hands on the waist and bend the body forwards as far as
possible and also from side to side. Lie on the floor and raise the
body without the aid of the hands and with the knees stiff. Stand erect
and raise one leg slowly, balancing on the other foot.

A few simple exercises such as these are quite sufficient to keep the
whole system in good order. Complicated or difficult ones are never
necessary. The one great point, more important than all else, is to
attend carefully to the breathing while making the movements. Take
deep, slow breaths, expanding the chest fully and exhale slowly, always
breathing through the nose. If you get out of breath you are either
doing the exercises wrongly or breathing in an incorrect manner.

In addition to the above, you can devise fresh ones as you go along. A
good plan is to take each joint in turn, and exercise it. Thus, start
with the fingers, clasping and unclasping the hand. Then clench the
fist and move the wrist up and down. Do the same with the elbow and
shoulder, and with the different joints of the lower extremities. Then
bend the body backwards and forwards, and the head in the same way.
After all that, there will be few muscles in the whole body that have
not received their due attention.

The value and the enjoyment of these exercises can be increased very
much by getting other people to join you in them. It is easier to
persevere with anything if we have the society of others to encourage
us. There is a spirit of emulation introduced which is always conducive
to success.

[Sidenote: Imitation of games.]

If you are so fortunate as to have an empty room or shed, there is
nothing better than to practise an imitation of some outdoor game, such
as playing tennis against a wall. There is a zest about such exercises
which makes them more profitable than those which are carried on
merely from a sense of duty. One of the finest forms of exercise is
that of skipping, both for men and women. The former need not look upon
it as a feminine pursuit, seeing that some of the best-known athletes
and boxers employ it as a means of training.

It is simply astonishing what a difference exercise, either outdoor
or indoor, makes to those who carry it out systematically. After a
few weeks pale, languid people begin to acquire a healthy colour and
a sense of vigour they have never known for years; dyspeptic ones may
forget that they ever had a stomach; whilst headaches that have been
a curse for years are sometimes seen to disappear like magic. Life
becomes brighter, for health and happiness go together, and the whole
outlook becomes more cheering.

[Sidenote: Massage.]

All these are active forms of exercise, but there is another sort
which needs mention, viz. the passive, or massage, as it is termed.
Some people either through general weakness or some infirmity are
unable to take exercise for themselves, and in such cases massage is
of great benefit, acting in the same way, but without any exertion on
the part of the patient. The full consideration of this subject would
need a volume of its own, and this is hardly the place to discuss it
in greater detail. One important fact, however, requires mention. It
is imperative that a prolonged rest of an hour or two at least should
be allowed after each rubbing. One hour of massage is equivalent to
several hours of active movement.



CHAPTER XIII.

BATHS AND BATHING.


The skin plays an important part in eliminating waste products from
the system. It does this by means of the sweat-glands, which are found
scattered all over the body. These glands have small ducts, ending in
minute apertures on the surface of the skin. If these apertures are
allowed to become blocked up, either by dirt or by the natural grease
of the body, the skin cannot carry out its duties. The result is that
a certain amount of this waste matter is kept back, and the health
suffers in consequence sooner or later.

[Sidenote: Hot baths.]

Neither cold baths nor outdoor bathing can get rid of this grease, so
that a hot bath occasionally is essential, even in the case of people
who bathe regularly every morning, either at home or out of doors.

The usual objection to hot baths is that people take cold unless they
go straight to bed as soon as they have dried themselves. Otherwise,
so they say, they go on perspiring and take a chill. Now this is due,
not to their having had a hot bath, but because the water was not hot
enough when they got out of it. Hot water has the same effect as cold
in bracing up the sweat pores, and preventing them from continuing to
pour out unnecessary perspiration. Lukewarm water, on the other hand,
leaves the skin lax and moist, and it is then that people are liable to
chills. Hence the popular idea of running in some cold water before the
bath is finished is a mistake, as it brings about the very conditions
we are anxious to avoid.

An indispensable adjunct to every bathroom is a thermometer, by which
the temperature of the water can be accurately gauged. The common plan
of testing it by the hand is fallacious, as the result depends largely
on the state of the hand at the time. If the fingers are cold when
dipped in, the water feels warmer than it usually is, and _vice versa_.

The best temperature at which to take a hot bath is 100°F. or just
below that. If more water is added afterwards it should be hot, not
cold, so as to maintain the temperature at the same level. With the
aid of these precautions it will be found that drying is a simple
process, and the skin is left in a delightful state without any undue
perspiration to follow. So far from causing a liability to chills, it
is perfectly safe to emerge from a bath of this sort and take a walk
immediately after dressing, even on a winter’s day, without suffering
from any ill-effects. People sometimes complain that a hot bath makes
them feel faint. This is due to the steam, not to the water itself. If
the windows are kept open this discomfort may be entirely avoided.

There is nothing more refreshing than a bath of this sort, not only in
winter, but in hot weather also, as many athletes are beginning to find
out. After a hard walk or game it effectually relieves the aching of
the limbs, and helps to prevent the stiffness which is apt to follow.
The good effect of the bath may be increased by massaging the limbs
while they are under water. The proper way to do this is to grip the
muscles between the two hands, and squeeze them with a sort of sliding
movement towards the extremities, afterwards kneading them a bit at a
time.

Hot baths are an excellent remedy for nausea or biliousness. A quarter
of an hour in a bath at a temperature of 100°F. will often be found to
remove all unpleasant symptoms and restore the appetite and digestion.
They are also a boon to rheumatic persons, helping to banish the
muscular pains and general feeling of malaise.

All this they do by causing the blood to circulate more freely, and
dilating the vessels on the surface, and in so doing relieving the
congestion in the muscles and internal organs. In this way they promote
the elimination of the waste products which cause tiredness, fatigue
and most of the other aches and pains from which tired humanity is
liable to suffer. It is not necessary to wait until bedtime before
having a hot bath. Its most beneficial effects can be obtained by
taking it in the evening on returning from work. It is then that it is
most refreshing, and if made use of at this time of day, will enable
many a man who has come home fagged out to spend an enjoyable evening,
when otherwise he would be sitting down too tired to read or take part
in any amusement.

[Sidenote: Cold Baths.]

Cold baths do not suit everyone. In fact, there are comparatively few
people who derive any benefit from them. Many persons find that if they
have one in the morning before breakfast it leaves them tired, and
with no appetite for the meal. They only take them because they are
popularly supposed to be invigorating. The proof of the pudding is in
the eating. If a man feels well, in a comfortable glow, and ready for
his breakfast after them, they are good for him. If he feels otherwise,
and does not enjoy the bath while he is in it, they are bad for him.
There are some people who dread cold baths, and yet go on having them
from a mistaken sense of duty. The only explanation is that they must
think they do them good just because they are so unpleasant, in the
same way that some people have more faith in medicine if it tastes
nasty.

Of one thing there is no doubt. Rheumatic persons and those liable to
bronchial affections should never take them under any circumstances.
Nor should delicate or elderly people make use of them.

[Sidenote: The cold shower.]

The disadvantage of a cold bath at home is that the feet are chilled
before the head. And wetting the hair with cold water does not get
over this inconvenience. A shower bath, however, does away with this
objection altogether, and on this account there is no form of cold bath
equal to it. The head can be held under the water first, and after
that the bather steps in and the body and limbs receive the shock at
the same time, so that the lower extremities are not chilled before the
rest. The unfortunate part of it is that so few houses are fitted up
with shower baths.

Whatever form of cold tub is used, it is advisable to stay in for a
very short time only. Even robust people can rarely stand more than a
few minutes of it.

It is generally supposed that a cold bath should be taken when the
stomach is empty. Such is not the case, however. While no one would be
so foolish as to take it immediately after a meal, yet a drink of hot
tea or water just before going in will enable many persons to enjoy and
get benefit from them, who could not do so otherwise.

[Sidenote: Outdoor bathing.]

Outdoor bathing, either in sea or river, does not agree with everyone,
although some people can enjoy a bathe who are unable to take a cold
bath at home. The common mistake is in bathing before breakfast, when
the system is at a low ebb, owing to the long abstention from food. It
may be all right for strong young people, but for many others it is
unsuitable and even dangerous. The best time, as a rule, is about two
hours after breakfast, when the body has been fortified by the morning
meal, and has had time to digest it.

The great point is to get thoroughly warm before entering the water. A
brisk walk is the best way of accomplishing this, or if that does not
produce the wished-for result, take a hot drink. The body heat falls
rapidly whilst in the water, and hence it is advisable to be in a glow
before going in.

For the same reason do not waste time over your undressing, and always
remove the upper part of the clothing first, leaving the stockings to
the last. It is the feet which are specially liable to be attacked by
the cold, and it is therefore necessary to keep them warm as long as
possible.

Before taking the plunge, pour cold water over the head; simply dabbing
the hair with it is not sufficient. After that, get the whole body
under water without any delay, and keep it under all the time you are
in. It is the evaporation from the surface of the skin which lowers the
temperature, rather than the contact of the body with the water.

Do not stay in too long. If you remain until you feel you have had
enough, it generally means that you have had too much. Then dry
yourself rapidly, using two towels, the first to take off the greater
part of the moisture, reserving the second to dry yourself with
thoroughly. Just as you began undressing from the upper part of the
body downwards, so dry and dress in the inverse order, rubbing the feet
and legs and putting on the stockings and nether garments first. After
that, if you are feeling chilly, have a hot drink and some biscuits or
other light food.

[Sidenote: Turkish Baths.]

Of all forms of baths there is none so refreshing as Turkish baths.
The hot air which produces the perspiration also causes it to
evaporate. The sweat-ducts are cleansed from within as well as from
without by means of the profuse perspiration, and the relief to the
system is very great.

The patients who benefit most are those suffering from kidney trouble
or rheumatism. In the latter case the complaint is due to the presence
of excessive waste matter in the tissues; in the former to the fact
that one of the outlets is more or less deranged. Free sweating is of
untold advantage in both, as it enables the skin to do double duty and
help to eliminate the poisonous material.

Of late there has been a tendency to treat common colds and influenza
by means of these baths, but in many cases they only increase the
catarrh, instead of relieving it. Considering the infectious nature
of colds of all sorts too, it is hardly fair to other people to
contaminate the air in the bathing-rooms.

People with weak hearts, and full-blooded persons with any tendency
to apoplexy, should avoid Turkish baths, as they are not suitable in
either of these conditions.

The proper way to take them is to devote plenty of time to the process.
On entering, stay in the first room, the moderately hot one, until all
feeling of oppression has passed off. Then move on into the second, the
hot room as it is called. The third one, called the oven, should never
be used, as the heat is too intense to be safe.

It is best to be content with a mild perspiration at first, and to stay
in too short a time rather than too long. People are apt to think that
the more they perspire the better they will be. But that is not the
case, and, what is more, there is an element of danger in prolonging
the process. So much liquid may be abstracted from the system that
the impure matter circulating in the blood becomes too concentrated,
and instead of being thrown off may be deposited in some muscle or
joint, giving rise to an attack of rheumatism. In this way the very
mischief is precipitated that we are anxious to avoid. Taken quietly
and with discrimination, Turkish baths are one of the greatest boons to
suffering humanity.

One of the most important details is the rest afterwards. This should
never be less than half an hour, and an hour or more is preferable when
it can be managed. The whole system needs this period of rest in order
to get back to its ordinary routine, and without it much of the benefit
of the bath is lost.

Once a week is quite enough, and in many cases once every two or three
weeks is sufficient to keep the system active and healthy.

One other point should be kept in mind. Seeing that so much liquid is
lost in the form of perspiration during the process, it is advisable to
sip water freely, both during the process and after it.

If these precautions are observed these baths will prove beneficial to
mind and body alike, eliminating the impurities, improving appetite
and digestion, and restoring the sense of vigour and well-being.

In these ways both Turkish and plain hot water baths are of the
greatest service in preventing the onset of neurasthenia and its
successor, breakdowns. The time spent in taking them will be repaid a
hundred times in an increased enjoyment of life and powers of work.



CHAPTER XIV.

REST.


There are more tired people in the world to-day than ever before.
Nervous exhaustion is taking the place of the old-fashioned
stomach-aches and coughs and colds as the prevailing complaint of the
times.

[Sidenote: Unrest.]

There is a spirit of unrest which is having a bad effect on many
nervous systems. The air is dark with threatened strikes, wars and
rumours of wars, and the clash of conflicting parties. The sense of
impending calamity fills the minds of many nervous people with anxious
forebodings. Probably things are not much worse, if any, than they have
often been in previous times, but news is transmitted to and from all
parts of the world with a swiftness that would have seemed incredible
even a few decades ago. We hear of things that are happening, not of
things that have happened, and there is a vast difference between the
two so far as comfort of mind is concerned.

[Sidenote: Conditions of modern life.]

Town life has become much more wearing since petrol has displaced the
horse and made the speed of traffic so vastly greater than before. And
the noise of motor drays and buses is exercising a bad effect on many
people’s nerves. They may become so used to the row that they do not
appear to notice it, but its irritating influence on the nervous system
is there all the same.

The ever-increasing stress of competition is making work a strenuous
affair. But what is worse is the fact that this stress is, with
many persons, invading their hours of leisure. We grudge no man his
pleasures, but when the rush for amusement is carried on to the
detriment of a body that is already fagged out, it is time to stop and
think where it is all going to lead to.

[Sidenote: Periodic rest.]

The phrase “day and night, Sunday and week-day” is a significant one.
It expresses the need for periodic rest as imposed by Nature. Loss of
sleep is equally harmful, whether it be due to work or pleasure. And
whatever views people may hold in regard to the old-fashioned Sunday,
when considered from a religious point of view, there is only one when
we look at it from the medical side. Change is rest, as we shall have
occasion shortly to emphasise, but the increasing tendency to rush off
motoring and golfing on Sundays is not change, for the simple reason
that most of the people who indulge in these pursuits are the very ones
who motor and golf most days of the week. The old-fashioned Sabbath was
no doubt carried to the opposite extreme, but it did at any rate infuse
an atmosphere of restfulness, which is lacking in these days.

[Sidenote: What rest is.]

It is not that we wish to encourage idleness. That is a very different
thing from rest, which implies cessation from work. There is a form of
languor due to want of exercise, and we meet with people who are always
tired because they lounge about too much. But there are others who are
constantly feeling languid because they have not learned how and when
to take suitable rest.

Some people are always on the go. They habitually walk beyond their
proper pace and rush at their work and their amusements with feverish
anxiety. Even when they are playing golf, they hurry after the ball as
though they were afraid it would run away from them if they did not
catch it up.

To people of this type illness, which is usually regarded as a
misfortune, often proves a blessing in disguise. For it has one great
advantage, in that it imposes upon the system the much-needed rest
which has been denied it.

We compared the human body to an engine. Yet in one respect this simile
falls short. For man is a living being, and it is on this account that
he needs something that the engine can do without. The marvellously
delicate machinery of his body must have rest. An engine is liable to
wear and tear, no matter how well it may be put together; even if it
is made of the best metal to be obtained, and constructed as nearly
perfectly as possible, there is always bound to be a certain amount
of friction and concussion, which will in time lower its quality
and impair its efficiency. But the machinery of the human system
is subject to more than simple wear and tear; for there is, as we
have seen already, a chemical process constantly taking place, which
produces waste matter that must be drained away every day of our lives.

Yet in spite of this, it is in a vastly better position than the
engine, for it possesses at the same time a faculty of self-repair. We
cannot take out parts and replace them by spare ones, but we do not
need to do so. The most marvellous thing about the human system is the
fact that waste and repair go on simultaneously. But in order that this
may take place the system must have periodic rest.

[Sidenote: Object of rest.]

The object of rest is not merely to add to man’s happiness and
enjoyment, to give him time for pleasure. It is to recuperate his body
and mind. If he were to go on using his muscles without any relaxation
they would gradually waste, and after a time would waste rapidly and to
a serious extent. If he were to exercise his mind without any respite,
the delicate brain-cells would become exhausted, for like the muscles
they would have no chance of renewing themselves.

Strong, hardy sailors who have had to undergo a prolonged physical
strain, as in the case of shipwreck, have been known to suffer
ever afterwards from debility; their hearts and muscles had been
over-exerted to such an extent that they were never able to recover
themselves. And people who have had to go through a long stretch of
brain work have lain in a stupor for weeks afterwards, unable to use
their minds or even know what was going on around them.

Rest is therefore of all considerations of health the most important,
and it demands our closest attention. Particularly so because it is
those who need it most who find the greatest difficulty in obtaining
it. Active-minded people abhor rest; to their minds it savours of
“doing nothing.” They do not understand that it is a positive mode of
treatment, and that a definite process of repair and building up is
going on all the time in the brain-cells and the various tissues of the
body.

The question of rest is simple enough in the case of animals and human
beings of a low order. The yokel if he feels inclined for a sleep
lies down and takes it just as the dumb creatures do. And many a man
of education and refinement has envied the tramp his siesta in the
roadside ditch. He would give anything to be able to get a rest like
that whenever he wanted it. His delicately-balanced nervous system
needs repose far more than that of the tramp or the peasant. Yet,
instead of submitting to lie dormant, it is his nervous system which
keeps him awake. It is like a fractious child, which will neither go to
sleep nor allow its parents to get their rest.

It is a matter of the utmost consequence, therefore, to consider in
what way rest can most easily be obtained both for body and mind.

[Sidenote: Bodily rest.]

Bodily rest can only be got by having the muscles completely relaxed.
The ordinary sitting position in a chair is not sufficient, as the
lower extremities are still more or less rigid. The chair should be an
easy one, with an extension or a footstool to support the lower limbs
just a trifle below the level of the body. A better rest can be had,
however, by lying full length on a couch or bed with the arms and legs
sprawling in the manner adopted by the tramp when he takes a sleep by
the wayside. This attitude assures ease if not elegance. And it does
more than relax the limbs, for it gives repose to the heart as well.
When the body is in this position the heart beats more slowly than when
we are standing, walking, or even sitting.

When we consider that from the moment of birth to that of death this
organ is working incessantly, it is evident that it needs rest more
than any other muscle in the body. Suppose a hard-working man takes a
quarter of an hour’s loll in the middle of each day; multiply this by
365 and again by the number of his adult years, and you will have some
idea as to the amount of rest his heart has had by the time he has
reached middle age.

This position of ease and relaxation has a beneficial effect on the
mind also. When we are thinking hard we instinctively contract our
muscles. The face of the thinker is always associated with a rigid cast
of countenance and a furrow between the brows. Conversely, when our
muscles are more or less stiffened the mind tends to be concentrated
at the same time. Relax the muscles, and the mind also tends to relax.

There is no more efficacious restorative to a tired body than a hot
bath, as hot as it can be borne, in fact. It should be fairly deep too,
so that the whole body is immersed. Ten minutes or so of this acts
marvellously as a refreshing tonic to body and mind alike, especially
if followed by a rest in the horizontal position.

[Sidenote: Rest of mind.]

Rest for the wearied mind is of even greater importance than for the
body, for a tired brain is apt to keep the latter on the rack. Every
evening thousands of men and women reach home too tired to think and
too tired to stop thinking, especially on the very subject which should
be strictly left alone, viz. their daily work.

It is not unnatural that they should feel tired. Yet they do not always
look at it in this light.

One Sunday evening a parson was sitting by his fireside with a book
in his hand which he was vainly trying to read. Time after time he
had taken it up, only to put it on one side again after scanning a
few lines. He had a look of utter weariness and dejection, and every
now and then would start out of his chair and pace restlessly up and
down. It was not the first time he had gone through this experience,
and he was not the only one of his kind who at that very hour and in a
precisely similar manner was having a bad time of it.

Now what was it that was troubling him? In the first place he was
tired. That was not to be wondered at, seeing that he had conducted
three services in the course of the day. Most persons from the navvy to
the king feel tired when their day’s work is finished, but this does
not worry them. There is no more delightful sensation than that of real
fatigue.

What chiefly troubled him was the fact that although the book he was
trying to read was one dealing with spiritual matters, he was not only
unable to give his mind to it, but could not even arouse any interest
in the subject. He did not see that it was the most natural thing in
the world that this should be so. If a surgeon were to perform three
operations in one day, I am quite sure that he would wish to talk
or think about anything except surgery. And if a pianist gave three
recitals in the day, I believe that the last subject which would
interest him would be music. His faculty for it, like the surgeon’s for
his own art, would be exhausted for the time being. Why then should the
parson who had thrown all his spiritual energies into his Sunday’s work
be surprised to find that his active interest in such matters was in
abeyance? His faculties had been confined to a certain groove all day,
and refused to work any longer on those lines.

That parson was only a type, if a pronounced one, of many other people,
business men, lawyers, doctors, stockbrokers and any other you can
mention, who cannot make out how it is that if they think of their work
in the evenings they only worry over it. Yet it forces itself upon
their notice, and they cannot shake it off. They seek rest and find
none because they seek it in the wrong way. They try to sit still and
think of nothing, and that is the most difficult thing on earth for any
intelligent human being to attempt.

We can arrest the movements of the body, but it is infinitely more
difficult to stop the workings of the mind. The engine is going at full
speed, and we are unable to pull it up. But we can do something equally
efficacious, we can switch it on to a different line.

[Sidenote: Change is rest.]

We can give it change. And change is rest. There is nothing more
wearying to a mind that is tired and yet strung up than for any man or
woman to sit gazing moodily at the fire, fretting their nervous systems
with the worries that should have been left behind. Recreation is as
indispensable to health as food itself.

A fascinating novel, a pleasant game or an absorbing hobby will afford
the wearied brain its much-needed relaxation.

And when, in one or other of these ways, the mind has been enabled
to settle down into a quieter groove, it will be in a vastly better
condition to secure the ideal form of rest, nature’s sweet restorer,
sleep.

So important are these considerations, sleep, recreation and a kindred
one, holidays, that they deserve more than a passing reference. In the
next few chapters, therefore, we shall describe them more fully.



CHAPTER XV.

SLEEP.


The ideal form of rest for body and mind is sleep, for during it the
muscles are completely relaxed, the heart beats quietly, the functions
of the various organs are suspended to a very large degree, and the
brain is in oblivion.

This question is one of paramount importance. The individual who
neglects to secure the requisite amount of sleep is committing a crime
against himself, for which he will have to pay the penalty sooner or
later. The experience of centuries has proved that the average man or
woman needs eight hours of it daily, and that means that they ought to
be in bed for eight and a half hours.

[Sidenote: Beauty sleep.]

It is not sufficient that these eight hours should be taken at any time
of the day or night that happens to be convenient. The old idea of
“beauty sleep” is perfectly correct, for there is no rest equal to that
obtained during the first part of the night, and no amount of lying in
bed in the morning can make up for the loss of it.

Ask anyone who has to work at night, nurses, doctors or workmen on
night shift, and they will tell you without any hesitation that such
work takes twice as much out of them as a corresponding amount by day.
They will also declare, if you inquire further, that the sleep they get
in the daytime is not half so refreshing as that obtained during the
night.

Human strength ebbs and flows with the regularity of the tides, with
the difference that the rise and fall occurs once instead of twice in
the twenty-four hours. The system is at its best from about six in the
morning until the evening. It is at its worst from about eleven at
night until four in the morning, and during those hours, if people are
awake, either at work or at play, and even if they have had abundance
of sleep during the course of the day, the heart tends to flag, and all
the powers and faculties are lowered. It is on that account that people
who have to sit up all night begin to feel chilly and tired in the dead
of night, even though the room itself may be quite warm. They feel cold
and uncomfortable, simply because their whole systems are depressed. It
is for the same reason that people who are ill are almost always worse
during these hours.

To sit up night after night, even with plenty of rest in the daytime,
is wearing to the system. To do it without that daily rest would
speedily cause a collapse. And people who habitually sit up later than
they should do, not going to bed until midnight or after, are in danger
of bringing about the same catastrophe, only in a slower manner. There
is a measure of excitement about these late hours which makes them
alluring. Many people say that they can work or write more easily or
play cards with greater zest then than at any other time, but it is a
false form of stimulant, for which the system has to pay a heavy price
later on.

[Sidenote: Remedies for sleeplessness.]

Regular and early hours are essential to health, and the neglect of
them is often the means of starting a breakdown, or bringing it to a
head. Many cases of insomnia are due to a want of punctuality in this
respect. And of all the tortures with which mankind can be afflicted
there is none worse than insomnia, and none that so surely undermines
the nervous system. One of the most vital points in the prevention of
breakdowns is to consider the different ways in which sleep can be
obtained--and to carry them out.

[Sidenote: Punctuality in going to bed.]

To emphasise what we have just said, punctuality in going to bed is
the most important point of all. The brain, like the digestion, has a
marked tendency to get into habits, either bad or good. And if anyone
goes to bed at different times, later on some evenings than others,
the brain is liable to select the latter hour as the one for falling
asleep. This means that even on the nights when people go to bed in
good time they cannot get to sleep for the next hour or two. If they
would stick to the one hour regularly, the brain would soon learn to do
the same.

Dozing in front of the fire in the evenings is responsible for many
bad nights. The mind gets into a half-awake, half-sleepy state, which
hinders it from obtaining sound slumber when bedtime comes. Even if
people are tired and sleepy at, say, nine o’clock, it is better for
them to read or play a game or move about in order to avoid falling
into a doze.

A brisk walk of ten minutes or so before retiring is often found to be
one of the best sleep-producers. Or if the weather be too inclement, a
few physical exercises will have the same effect.

[Sidenote: Avoid late suppers.]

Late or heavy suppers are a common cause of insomnia, especially that
form of it in which people fall into a heavy sleep, only to awake with
a start an hour or two later and find themselves unable to drop off
again until early morning perhaps.

Digestion comes almost to a dead stop during sleep, so that sufficient
time should be allowed for the last meal to be disposed of before the
hour for retiring. This interval should be two hours at least, which
means that half-past eight is, as a rule, late enough for the evening
meal. In any case, the food which is taken then ought to be of a light
nature, and not include pork, cold meat, or any other article of diet
which is slow of digestion. Coffee and strong tea, especially Indian
tea, are unsuitable at this hour, as they tend to cause sleeplessness
of themselves. Cocoa, made with water, is a much better beverage for
use with the evening meal or after it.

Sometimes, however, too long an interval between the last meal and
bedtime will prevent sleep, as in the case of those who take high tea
at half-past six, or dinner at seven or thereabouts. Under these
circumstances light refreshments, in the shape of a few biscuits with a
light drink of some sort, will assist sleep.

For those who still, in spite of attention to these points, suffer from
insomnia, the following hints will be of service.

[Sidenote: The bed and bedding.]

The bed should be neither too soft nor too hard. If the former, as
when feather beds are used, people are apt to fall into a deep sleep
and wake up later feeling half smothered. If too hard, the body cannot
rest properly. The bedclothes should not be too heavy. An eiderdown
quilt is worth several blankets for warmth. If means will not permit of
this luxury, two or three sheets of brown paper will answer the same
purpose, affording the maximum of warmth with the minimum of weight.
The personal clothing, too, should be warm but not heavy, and above all
the feet must not be allowed to get cold. The use of night socks will
often cure insomnia, which has proved stubborn to all other modes of
treatment.

[Sidenote: Ventilation.]

The room should be well ventilated. This is of the utmost importance,
and an additional benefit can be obtained by pulling the bed away from
the wall, if only for a few inches, to allow of a free circulation of
air all round.

[Sidenote: Sip hot water.]

An excellent plan is to sip hot water at bedtime, not too much of it,
but as hot as it can be taken. It is not advisable to put spirits into
it, as in that case the dose has to be increased before long in order
to maintain the good effect. A hot bath, or putting the feet into hot
water, is of great use in many cases.

[Sidenote: Simulate sleep.]

On lying down it is a good plan to take long, deep, slow breaths for
five or ten minutes. At the same time relax the eyes, in the same way
as in gazing at the distant horizon or into space, of course keeping
the eyelids closed. These two points simulate sleep to a certain
extent, and are a valuable means of obtaining it.

[Sidenote: Reading in bed.]

Reading in bed is not a good habit, as many persons have found that
once they have begun the custom they cannot get to sleep without it. At
the same time, if anyone has been lying awake for hours it is better
to turn up the light and read a book than to lie awake in the dark,
thinking and worrying of one thing after another. There is no time when
life looms so hopeless and forbidding as it does when you cannot sleep.
A better plan, however, is to walk about the room for a few minutes,
or to sit up in bed and keep the eyes open as long as possible without
blinking. It happens not uncommonly that after doing this people fall
asleep as soon as they lie down again.

The aimless wandering of the mind from one subject to another and back
again may be prevented by repeating a piece of poetry to oneself.
Needless to say, it must be something with which we are thoroughly
acquainted, otherwise the effort to remember what is coming next will
of itself prove a barrier to sleep.

[Sidenote: Fresh air as a soporific.]

The best remedy of all is to spend a whole day in the open air. This
will often break the sleepless habit, and once a good night’s rest has
been obtained others will be likely to follow.

There is one other hint which sounds like an old wife’s tale. We do
not pretend to be able to explain it, but experience has proved its
efficacy in many instances. People have found that they can sleep
better with the head pointing to the north than in any other position.
Every method, however simple or inexplicable, is worth a trial, for
there is no condition so distressing as insomnia, or so likely to lead
to the much-dreaded neurasthenia.

People often complain that they cannot sleep well in the summer-time.
This is owing to the fact of the mornings being light at such an early
hour. This can be remedied with the best results to the whole system by
the plan of having dark green blinds fitted inside the windows.

[Sidenote: Massage.]

Those who, through some illness or infirmity, cannot take exercise,
will find the greatest benefit from massage. If skilled massage cannot
be obtained, gentle rubbing of the limb will fulfil the same useful
purpose.



CHAPTER XVI.

HOLIDAYS.


The greatest mistake than can be made is to wait for an annual holiday
in the expectation that it is going to exonerate us from consequences
of eleven months or more of sinning against the rules of health.
Everyone, men and women alike, should secure a holiday if only for an
hour or so every day of their lives, in the shape of some congenial
change of thought or occupation.

[Sidenote: Value of the annual holiday.]

Yet the annual holiday has a place of its own in our well being. It
takes us away from our ordinary associations, and brings us into
contact with fresh scenery and new faces, which mean new personalities.
It invigorates our bodies and tones up our minds, broadening them and
furnishing them with new ideas, so that both from the physical and
mental standpoints it is a valuable aid to health.

It has a direct bearing on the subject of breakdowns, for change of
scene is a potent means of getting a man’s mind out of the monotonous
groove which is so wearing to his nervous system. It has an additional
advantage in that it often happens that after a holiday he is apt to
keep himself in contact with the fresh air and exercise, and recreation
also, which he found so beneficial when he was away from home. In the
incipient stages of breakdown, too, a complete change is one of the
necessary items in treatment.

Seeing, therefore, how important it is and what it means to so many
people, it is well worth while to consider how the time and money
involved may be expended to the best advantage.

The usual plan is to fix on a spot because we have heard it spoken
of as a “nice place to go to,” engage rooms by letter and set off,
hoping for the best. Little wonder that the holiday often turns out a
disappointment.

A family was returning from a visit to the seaside, to which the
various members, parents and children alike, had looked forward with
the greatest zest. The mother was tired out, the father seemed worried,
and the children were jaded and spiritless. They had been unfortunate
in their choice of a place, the lodgings had been uncomfortable, and
the holiday had proved a failure. Yet with a little foresight it might
have been entirely different.

It is always advisable that one of the older members of the family,
preferably the mother, should see the locality and the apartments
before hand. We cannot expect the proprietress of the apartments or
the hotel to point out for our benefit that the bedrooms are musty
and badly ventilated, the sheets damp, and the sanitary arrangements
defective. We must go and investigate these things for ourselves.

[Sidenote: Where to go.]

The question as to where to go is one that needs careful
consideration. The fact that it suited someone else is no reason why it
should be adapted to our requirements. I once heard two men discussing
this question, and one was advising the other to go to a certain place
in the Highlands. He described it in glowing colours, and made it
perfectly plain to the other man that if he went anywhere else he was
an incompetent idiot. It was a village at the bottom of a deep valley,
surrounded on all sides by lofty mountains.

“What do you do with yourself if the weather is wet?” the second man
asked.

“Well, of course you have to stay indoors.”

“And what do you do when it is fine?”

“Oh, you climb the mountains.”

“Well, seeing that my wife suffers from a weak heart, and cannot climb
an ordinary hill, I think we shall go somewhere else,” which he very
wisely did. It is not much use going to a place if you have either to
forego the pleasures of the holiday or run the risk of injuring your
health.

People who suffer from asthma are often worse at the seaside, and
should always take this into consideration. Those liable to bronchial
attacks should be wary as to visiting the East Coast. They will derive
more benefit from the softer atmosphere of the South or West.

It is a mistaken idea to suppose that people who are run down will get
the most good from going to a bracing climate. Often it has the effect
of making them irritable and restless, and their nerves do better in a
more relaxing place.

A fortnight on a farm always sounds attractive, but in reality it
often turns out the very opposite. The accommodation is apt to be of
a primitive order, and the cooking by no means up to the mark, while
it is not uncommon to find that none of the bedroom windows will open.
So much, too, depends upon the weather, and if it happens to be wet,
the holiday is likely to be devoid of pleasure, and detrimental to
health at the same time. Rheumatic people should avoid farmhouses, as
the atmosphere is often damp, especially in the evenings. Even if the
weather is fine, there is a danger in the dew which rises from the
fields at sunset. If it is wet, the consequences are apt to be serious.
A seaside place with a light, sandy soil is better adapted to such
persons.

[Sidenote: Continental trips.]

In these days of quick and cheap travel no paper on holidays is
complete without a reference to the problem of continental trips.
These are undoubtedly a source of interest, but not necessarily of
health. It may be a delight to see fresh places and experience new
national customs and a totally different diet, but in many cases these
advantages are obtained at the expense of bodily health. People who are
run down rarely get any benefit from them. Even if they have the sense
to make for one place and stay there or use it as a centre, the long
railway journey tires them to such an extent that they cannot enjoy
their holiday properly. Usually a visit to some home resort is of
infinitely greater value.

As a rule, however, a continental trip means one of the advertised
tours, in which a maximum of travelling and sight-seeing is carried out
in a minimum of time. People who are strong enough to undertake such a
task do not come under the category of health-seekers.

When the journey, either home or foreign, includes a sea-trip, it
is well to take only light food for a day or two previously, if you
are subject to _mal de mer_, and also to take a good aperient the
day before starting. These precautions will often serve to avoid the
biliousness which so frequently spoils the first few days of the
holiday.

[Sidenote: Preparations.]

In making preparations for a holiday it is necessary to be ready for
all sorts of weather. The day may be tropical when we start, and like
winter the next day, and it is both uncomfortable and dangerous to have
brought nothing but light summer clothing. There is an old superstition
that people do not catch cold by the sea. This is a huge mistake, as
they are just as liable to do so as at home, often more so in fact, as
home comforts are missing. It is a pitiable sight to see numbers of
people wandering about a seaside resort on a damp, chilly day, looking
cold and miserable, simply because they think it their duty to dress in
flannels while they are on a holiday.

That phrase “on a holiday” covers a multitude of sins. People seem
to think that they can dispense with all the precautions they would
find necessary at home, and that they will escape the consequences of
running needless risks because they happen to be at the seaside or in
the country.

The result is that many people complain that they feel tired and
headachy when they are on a holiday, and that much of their pleasure is
spoiled in consequence. They attribute it to the fact of the air being
too strong for them, or else that it is the reaction from previous
overwork. It is neither one nor the other, but is due to something
quite different.

[Sidenote: Diet on a holiday.]

For one thing, most people eat too much when they are away, a great
deal more than they would dare to take at home. Often, too, they
indulge in things which they know to disagree with them in an ordinary
way. The consequence is that they become dyspeptic, and their livers
get out of order. That is why they have headaches and get tired so
easily. If they could take less rather than more, and eschew all
those things which do not suit them, the value of the holiday would
be considerably enhanced. In the case of men, smoking to an excess
they would never dream of at home has a similar effect in producing a
feeling of lassitude.

[Sidenote: Exercise.]

The amount of exercise has a pronounced influence on the good of a
holiday. People who have been overworked or ill, or have neglected
to take regular exercise at home, should be extremely careful as to
exertion when on a vacation, particularly during the first few days.
A man who had saved up for a long time to have a fortnight among the
mountains did so much climbing on the first day that he was knocked up
for the remainder of his stay. Many others, without going to extremes
such as this, feel languid all the time from the same cause. They try
to make up for lost time at home by doing as much as possible in the
weeks at their disposal, and think it a crime to miss any opportunity
of getting about. They walk more in a day than they do in a week at
home, and are surprised to find that instead of feeling braced up they
are listless and tired out.

Unwonted forms of exercise, too, such as many persons indulge in when
away from home, are responsible for more than the spoiling of their
enjoyment. For example, it is not necessary for them to bathe simply
because they are at the seaside and everybody else is having a dip.
Numbers of people in good health do not feel well for the rest of the
day after a bathe, but in other cases the results may be more serious.
Those who are run down, or broken down, or are recovering from an
illness, had better avoid entering the water. Otherwise they run the
risk of bringing about a recurrence of their malady.

Exercise of all sorts is an admirable thing, but like many other good
things in this world it has to be used with discretion. For alongside
it there is the companion virtue rest, and this aspect of a holiday has
always to be kept well to the fore, especially in the case of those who
are feeling jaded or depressed, restless, nervous or irritable, or
present any sign of incipient neurasthenia or breakdown.

[Sidenote: The restful holiday.]

For people of this type a restful holiday is essential above all
things. But this does not mean that they are to go to some quiet
spot with no company except their own thoughts. It needs a peculiar
temperament, such as few of us possess, to spend a fortnight lying
under a hedge or on the sands in some secluded place, with hardly a
soul to speak to. It is all very well in theory, but in practice it
usually amounts to the very opposite. The body may be rested, but the
mind is apt to be kept on the go. Black care rides behind the horseman,
and a man’s worries too often accompany him and refuse to be driven
away, unless he has some amusement or interest to divert his thoughts.

If people happen to be ardent lovers of Nature, they may find
diversion in some place noted for its scenery. Unfortunately, however,
the neurasthenic is easily bored, and no matter how beautiful his
surroundings may be, he should take care to furnish himself beforehand
with plenty of literature suited to his needs. The local library is
often interesting when regarded from the point of view of the antique,
but it is often hopeless as a means of securing anything worth reading.

In many cases people who run down need something of a lighter, we
might say a more frivolous nature. Their taste for scenery, like many
of their other faculties, is tired out for the time being. Taken all
round, the best place for the neurasthenic is a lively seaside resort,
where he can sit about and amuse himself with watching the doings of
the people around him. Everything in this world has a place, and a
troop of nigger minstrels or a Punch and Judy show may afford rest and
relaxation to a wearied mind when mountain scenery has failed to do so.

In either case one thing is essential. The scenery or the amusements
must be obtained with a minimum amount of fatigue. On this account it
is necessary to select a place mild enough to permit of sitting out of
doors. That is why in the great majority of cases the neurasthenic gets
on much better in a warm, if relaxing, climate.

[Sidenote: Tired eyes.]

One other point we must emphasise particularly. Many visitors, whether
they are run down or in good health, suffer from headaches when on
a holiday simply because of tired eyes. They want to enjoy the full
benefit of the air, and are also ambitious to return home sunburnt,
so walk about without any proper shade to the eyes. They succeed in
getting tanned, but much of the pleasure of their vacation is spoiled
owing to a constant feeling of ache and oppression in the head. A wide
hat-brim or a pair of smoked glasses will avert this, and add to their
enjoyment in proportion as they do so.

For the same reason a good rest in a shady room in the middle of
the day is of the greatest value. It rests not only the eyes but
everything else as well. People regret the waste of a single minute
when they are taking a hard-earned holiday, and often ruin the good
of it by staying out of doors until they are too tired to enjoy
themselves. An hour’s rest in the house after the midday meal will
be found to make their holiday worth twice as much as it would be
otherwise.

[Sidenote: Returning home.]

It is always a pity to spoil the good effect of a holiday by returning
home at the last possible minute, late at night it may be. Better lose
half a day of the vacation than get up next morning to resume work
tired out and utterly unfit for it. For this will rob the holiday of
those pleasant recollections which are one of its greatest boons.



CHAPTER XVII.

RECREATION. HOBBIES.


[Sidenote: Games.]

Recreation may be divided into games, reading and hobbies. Games occupy
a useful part in daily life. Indoor ones form a pleasant way of passing
the time, and helping to take the mind off work and everything else
that tends to cause worry or fatigue.

Outdoor ones tempt people to fresh air and exercise, and thus
constitute a valuable aid to health. And games of all sorts do one
thing, they teach people to take a beating in good part. By games we
mean of course the playing, not the watching of them. One game even
badly played is worth fifty hours of looking on while others take part,
even if they are experts and play vastly better than we could ever do.

[Sidenote: Hobbies.]

Yet games necessitate having someone to play with, and there are many
times in our lives when we cannot have anyone else to take a part. That
is the great advantage of hobbies, they can be enjoyed in solitude.

Not that we have any wish to drive people to solitude, for there is
nothing worse than being alone too much. Solitary people are very apt
to become too introspective, and that is always a bad thing for their
nervous systems. If people avoid the society of their fellow-men they
acquire an undue sense of their own importance, and their own affairs
loom too largely in their thoughts. Furthermore, they are liable to
become depressed, and to develop that mixture of conceit and diffidence
which is of all things most objectionable.

It is because solitude is inevitable that we are anxious to lay
stress on those things which will effectually prevent that morbid
introspection and make life brighter and happier. And hobbies fulfil
both these requirements. There are thousands of people who are doomed
to live in lodgings. They have no one at hand to join them in a game,
and unless they have some congenial occupation wherewith to occupy
their minds, life becomes a poor, dull affair.

[Sidenote: Hobbies and home life.]

It often happens, too, that those who have the privileges of family
life have to depend on themselves for their own amusement at times.
The other people in the house may be busy or disinclined to take part
in any game. Besides that, games are apt to pall in time; you cannot
carry them on indefinitely. Then it is that a hobby becomes a priceless
boon. It does more than enliven solitude, it makes all the difference
to home-life also.

A man returned home after a hard day at business, and after he had had
his meal sat down and spent the evening gazing with a bored, tired
countenance into the fire, a cheerful spectacle for his poor wife, who
had also had a worrying day, and would have been glad of a little
brightness. The boys and girls had even to be sent out of the room, as
their talking made father’s head ache.

As he sat there his one thought was of his work. It was all he had to
think about, for he had never cultivated any pursuits or broadened
his interests in any way. And running the mind in one groove is, like
singing on one note, a tiring occupation. That man was always tired,
body and soul. Of late, too, he had had another worry, for he had found
himself becoming more nervous and irritable, and with less confidence
in his own powers. The dread had come upon him that he was going to
break down. And as he thought of his wife and family, who would be left
insufficiently provided for, it nearly broke his heart.

Twelve months later if you had gone to that same house you would
have seen the table littered with prints and negatives. Blessed be
untidiness, of that sort at any rate; it generally means, like the dirt
on a boy’s face, that someone is happy. There were no tired looks now,
and no sending the young people out of the room. Instead, everyone was
cheerful, everyone talking at once, and as for father, you would not
have known him. Even the children did not know what was coming over
him, he was getting so jolly. His friends, too, and he had more of
them of late than he used to have, were glad to meet him, instead of
fighting shy of him as an old bore like they used to do.

The secret of it all was that he had been to a lecture on birds, and
the lecturer had described the fascination of photographing them in
their haunts. He had taken it up, and the result was that he had seen
more than birds, for his eyes had been opened to all the beauties of
Nature, and he had found the world a very pleasant place to live in
after all. The fresh air and exercise which he had enjoyed whilst
following his new bent had banished his dyspepsia, his headaches had
disappeared, and he had forgotten all about the palpitation and vague
pains and discomforts that used to worry the life out of him.

His nervous system had taken a new lease of life. He had lost all his
dreads and forebodings, and had regained his old confidence in business
matters. The old wearing monotony of life had gone, and his brain was
alive and keen with varied interests, for no hobby comes alone, it
invariably brings its friends along with it. And the more the merrier.

This welcome change in his manner of spending his evenings, the change
from wearisome brooding to congenial pastime, had given to his mind the
repose it had stood so badly in need of, and for want of which it had
been slowly but surely drifting towards a breakdown. For the latter
is due, as we have already seen, to a gradual disorganisation of the
various functions of the body undermining the nervous system. And a
hobby such as this, combining indoor and outdoor pursuits, does more
than relieve the tedium of a tired brain, it invigorates every organ
and tissue in the body.

[Sidenote: Hobbies in the treatment of breakdowns.]

And they not only act as a direct preventive of breakdowns themselves,
but they are an invaluable aid to other forms of treatment. If a
lethargic person is ordered to take exercise, it is a constant
difficulty to keep him up to it, unless he has some other inducement.
Get him to take up some outdoor pursuit, such as gardening or natural
history in one or other of its multifarious phases, and he will have
exercise in abundance without knowing that he is taking it. Numbers of
men would be vastly better in health, too, if they had more exercise
after reaching home, especially on winter evenings, instead of sitting
by the fire until bedtime. If told to take up physical drill, they may
go on with it for a time, but will almost certainly get tired of these
duty exercises after a while. Persuade them to take up wood carving or
carpentry, and they will get all that they need and a large measure of
enjoyment at the same time.

Many a case of gout, dyspepsia, sluggish liver and such-like ailments
in stout, plethoric persons can be cured by this means more effectually
than by any other.

Or it may be that patients are ordered rest, because of some
overstrain, or a weakness in some particular organ, as the lungs or
heart. It is difficult enough to secure this rest in the case of a
woman, but in that of a man it is wellnigh impossible. There is no
more restless being than a man who is either confined to the house or
unable to walk far. He gets tired of reading and playing “Patience,”
and the result is that in most instances he moons about aimlessly, a
nuisance to himself and to those around him. Once let him take up some
hobby which will interest him, and the case becomes entirely different.
He can take his camera and photograph places or people, near at hand
or farther away according to his powers of walking, and can find ample
occupation in the evenings or on wet days, developing, printing and
arranging the pictures he has taken.

Or he can take his specimen case and spend whole days quietly hunting
for wild flowers, birds’ eggs, or anything else he is inclined for,
and obtain a vast amount of pleasure afterwards in setting out his
treasures. Or he can do a bit of gardening, heavy or light according to
his capabilities, and if he has a greenhouse he can fill up his time
profitably when the state of the weather does not permit of outside
work.

Hobbies have ceased to be regarded simply as a means of putting in
time, and have come to occupy an important part in medical treatment.
Consumptive sanatoria, for instance, present a very different
appearance now from what they did some years ago. At that time the
visitor was met with the pitiable spectacle of a melancholy array of
dispirited patients, lying about in all stages of dejection. Now he
sees men and women engaged in gardening and other outdoor pursuits,
looking as if they were thoroughly enjoying themselves, which is just
what they _are_ doing.

The same benefit from such pursuits is found in all cases where fresh
air is required, as in anæmia, neurasthenia, etc. An outdoor hobby
secures the fresh air, and supplies the best of tonics for nervous
systems. And when breathing exercises are ordered at the same time, the
easiest way to ensure their being carried out is to induce the patient
to learn singing, which is the best and most agreeable form in which
they can be applied.

As to the stage of convalescence from any illness, any medical man
will testify that people who have hobbies get well very much sooner
than those who have not. And in this case, as in all those of people
whose lives and movements are limited owing to some physical weakness,
if they have no such pursuits to brighten their lives, the incessant
worrying and brooding are very liable to result in neurasthenia, which
is the half-way house to breakdowns.

And for those of my readers who still retain the priceless gift of
health, and wish to retain it, a hobby is better than all the riches in
the world. It is independent of riches, too, for anyone can cultivate
it, the poor as easily as the wealthy. More easily, in fact, for the
more difficult a thing is to acquire the more we enjoy it when we have
secured it. The man or woman who can fill their house with treasures of
art and literature simply by signing a cheque rarely appreciate what
they have got.

[Sidenote: Choice of a hobby.]

When making a start take up anything, it does not matter what. One
hobby leads to another, and it leads to something else, which is one
of the most potent aids to health. For no sooner has anyone begun a
fresh pursuit than they meet with someone who is interested in the
same subject. A hobby has been the means of the beginning of many a
lifelong friendship. And a congenial friendship is the best remedy for
the headaches and heartaches and soulaches with which lonely people are
so often afflicted, to the detriment of their nervous systems.

For those who wish to cultivate some hobby to act as an evening
pastime, and give the mind its needed rest, it is important to choose
one that is a contrast to their daily occupation. If they work with
their brains all day, they should take up some pursuit that involves
manual exercise. If they are working all day with their hands, they
are better advised to fix on one that makes a call upon the mind,
without much physical exertion. They may start a course of reading, for
instance.

Now reading implies either amusement or instruction, or the two
combined, as in the case of history or travel. In these days both these
subjects are presented in a form that is not only an education, but
also a welcome relaxation to the tired brain. It is a relief sometimes
to have our minds carried back to the ages, and realise that the
troubles which beset us are just the same as those from which people
have suffered right down through the centuries.

We can have all the pleasures of travel without the
disadvantages--gazing at the ruins of some Indian temple without being
suffocated by the heat, or wandering in tropical forests without being
bitten to death by mosquitoes and running the risk of malaria.

Or if the eyes be too tired for reading, there are hosts of other
pursuits which will render agreeable diversion to the mind. A
husband and wife who spend their evenings, the one with music or
some interesting hobby, and the other with her fancy work or French
painting, are more likely to be “happy though married,” than if they
sit in their chairs to a growling accompaniment of the day’s worries
and a querulous account of the servants’ doings.

Life without a hobby is like a dinner without salt; it may be
inoffensive, but there is a sad lack of relish about it.



CHAPTER XVIII.

WORK.


Work is the natural heritage of mankind. “Man goeth forth unto his work
and to his labour until the evening.” He does so in order to get the
means of livelihood. Yet even those who inherit sufficient to make them
independent must work also. They may not have to work in order to live,
but they must of a certainty work in order to live healthily.

[Sidenote: Necessity for work.]

A certain statesman, well endowed with this world’s goods, has been
known to say that even when he is out of office and on a holiday, he
finds it necessary to his personal comfort to study hard for at least
two or three hours each day, otherwise his nerves and his heart begin
to trouble him. And while making due allowance for patriotism and sense
of duty, there is no doubt that many men who do not need to work for
a living take up work of some sort or other, politics, the army, or
whatever else takes their fancy, because they feel vastly better for
having something definite to do.

[Sidenote: Work as mental exercise.]

Work affords systematic exercise for the mind, and a mind to be healthy
needs exercise as much as the body does. Why is it, then, that if work
is indispensable to our bodily welfare from a health point of view we
all look forward so eagerly to the time when we can retire and leave
it behind us? Yet that seems to be the goal towards which we are most
of us striving. And it is an aimless one, unless a man has some pursuit
by means of which he can use and enjoy his years of leisure, some
absorbing hobby or public work of one sort or other. It is the man who
has applied himself so closely to his business or profession as to have
deadened his interest in other matters, who finds retirement such a
deadly dull affair.

[Sidenote: How to work and be healthy.]

It is often said that a man does his best work before he is forty. The
cry is for young men in every branch of employment, and those who have
reached middle age stand a poor chance if they are so unfortunate as
to lose their situations. Yet their experience ought to make them more
useful and indispensable than at any previous stage in their career. A
man of fifty-five complained to me some years ago that he was being put
on the shelf on account of his age. “Yet I am better fitted to do my
work than I have ever been,” he said.

It is quite true that he was better fitted for it from the point of
view of experience and judgment. Yet he was a confirmed dyspeptic,
and was always taking cold, necessitating frequent absences from his
work, which was a responsible one. And it is just on this very account
that there is a demand for younger and stronger men to-day. Employers
prefer a man who is warranted to turn up when he is wanted, rather than
a more experienced one who is liable to be at home indisposed at the
very time when his services are most urgently needed. They say quite
rightly, “We cannot afford to have a man who is in danger of breaking
down.”

Most of the breakdowns that we meet with are put down to work or
overwork. It is, therefore, looking at the matter from the personal
point of view, a burning question as to how work can be carried out
without bringing in its train this much-dreaded climax. In other words,
“How to work and be healthy.”

It is folly to go blindly on, as so many do, hoping for the best, and
taking no steps to make sure of it. It is not work, but the conditions
under which it is done, that accounts for the loss of health which so
often accompanies it. And much of this loss, and most of the breakdowns
which occur as a result of it, may be avoided by a careful, practical
study of the whole question.

We need to look at it from three points: before, during, and after work.

[Sidenote: Before work.]

If a man lies in bed until the last minute dresses in a hurry, perhaps
cutting his chin while shaving and losing his shirt stud, bolts down
his breakfast in the fewest possible minutes, and then runs to catch
his tram or train, it is not to be wondered at if he returns home in
the evening thoroughly fagged out. He has started the day by breaking
nearly every rule of health in the course of about three-quarters of
an hour, and is surprised and worried because he finds that his work
takes such a lot out of him. Yet next morning he begins by doing the
very same thing over again.

Then he sighs for the time when he will be able to rest on his oars and
take life easily, leaving “the beastly business” behind him. And so
long as he goes on in the way he is doing, he will sigh for it in vain.
He may feel thankful if he is able to go on with his work, and does not
find himself laid on one side, broken down in health and spirits.

Try an experiment, some of you who see yourselves in the picture I
have just drawn. Get up in good time, and that means going to bed in
good time also the night before. Dress and take your breakfast in
a leisurely manner, and then either go for a turn in the garden or
farther afield if you like, or else have a quiet rest by the fireside,
if the weather is inclement. Give yourself plenty of time to get to
your place of business, and at the end of the day you will be in a
position to decide as to whether it was your work or your way of
starting the day which was to blame.

Of one thing we have little doubt. Even if you do not feel as well as
you might do when you reach home again, you will feel better than you
have done for a long time past. But not so well as you may do before
long. For there are different ways of going about your work, as well as
of preparing for it and getting there.

[Sidenote: During work. Hygiene.]

It is astonishing how many people there are who are careful as to
ventilation and such-like matters in their own homes, but will put up
with all sorts of hygienic defects in their offices. They will sit with
their heads or their feet in cold draughts in the winter time and in
baking hot rooms in the summer. A strip of wood under the door, or a
curtain over it, the removal of a desk to a more convenient position,
or the fixing of a sunblind, as the case may be, would make all the
difference in the world to their comfort and health. Yet they put up
with these inconveniences, and go on taking colds and headaches, just
because it is an office or a place of business and not a private house.

[Sidenote: Noises.]

Noises in the street outside are a frequent cause of tiredness. Through
long custom people fail to hear them, and become unaware of their
existence, but the consequent nervous tension is there all the same.
No expenditure in the shape of mechanical contrivances, even if it
necessitates some re-building, is too great if it can mitigate this
constant source of irritation to the nervous system.

[Sidenote: Telephone.]

As to the telephone, we are almost afraid to mention it, simply because
we have no remedy to suggest. There is no doubt that it has increased
the stress and strain of work considerably, not merely by forcing the
pace, but also by its direct effect on the nerves of the head.

We are only able to offer one piece of advice, and that, we fear, a
poor one. It is this. Do not lose your temper if it is not working
properly. It may be a source of satisfaction to tell the operator at
the Exchange exactly what you think of him and the system in general,
but invective is like a boomerang, it often does more damage to the
thrower than to anyone else.

[Sidenote: Bad light.]

One of the common causes of strain is the habit of writing in a bad
light, or with the eyes facing the light. Nothing causes the brain
more discomfort than a constant glare of light on the face, or trying
to read or write in a poor light. And there is no need for it. It
must be a poor sort of office where the window, or artificial means
of lighting, cannot be so arranged as to illuminate the paper without
causing any strain on the eyesight.

Whether headaches be due to this or any other cause, they should never
be neglected, especially if they are liable to come on while at work.
For repeated headaches, even though they may be but slight, have a
wearing effect on the brain and other parts of the nervous system. They
may be due to most trivial causes in some cases, which is all the more
pity why they should be allowed to persist. A man who was at the head
of a large firm once consulted a doctor because he found that his work
took it out of him more than before. The medical man noticed that the
patient was slightly deaf, though the latter did not seem to be aware
of the fact. On examination, the ears were found to be blocked with
wax, the removal of which restored the man to his usual state of health
and vigour. It had been simply the strain of trying to hear what was
being said which had produced a constant sense of fatigue.

[Sidenote: Midday rest.]

There is one custom which in these busy times tends to be dying out. It
is that of the midday meal rest, the old-fashioned forty winks. “There
is no time for it now,” people say. But there is time for everything,
if we choose to make it. The head of one of the largest firms in this
country used to insist on this rest, no matter how urgent the matters
might be that needed his attention. He kept a couch in his private
office, and each day, as soon as he had had his lunch, he locked the
door, and for twenty minutes took a comfortable rest and snooze. And
woe betide anyone who disturbed him. It was to this custom that he
attributed the fact that he had retained his faculties and vigour to an
age at which most of his confrères were dead or broken down.

Some may prefer to have a walk in the fresh air, and if their
occupation is a sedentary one and they have been cooped up in an office
all the morning, it will probably suit them better than lying down.

[Sidenote: Intervals between meals.]

It is not uncommon to find cases in which there is over-fatigue
because the intervals between the meals is too long, apart from any
circumstances which interfere with them. A man gets his breakfast at
eight o’clock and his lunch at half-past one it may be. He objects to
eating between meals, so takes nothing for the whole of that time. Now
this for most people is too long; the system becomes exhausted, and
has to do its work without proper nourishment. This means that it has
to draw upon the reserve forces, and while this may be done now and
then, it cannot be repeated often without depleting them. Many people
would find the greatest benefit from a little light refreshment in the
course of the morning. They do not need much: a cup of coffee or soup,
or a glass of milk and a biscuit, are quite sufficient to keep them
going until the luncheon hour.

For the same reason a cup of tea with bread and butter or cake about
four o’clock or thereabouts is an excellent thing. And like the morning
snack, it provides more than nourishment, for it necessitates a break
and a breath of fresh air, which invigorate the nervous system, and
often enable a man to reach home fresh and well, when otherwise he
would get there jaded and tired.

[Sidenote: Nature of work.]

Sometimes it is the nature of the work which imposes a special strain.
Great responsibilities and grave issues may have to be met, as in the
case of contractors, stockbrokers, etc. An enormous degree of nervous
tension may have to be concentrated into a few minutes. There is no
escaping from it, we know. Yet the man who has consistently looked
after his health, not only in the mornings before setting out but at
all other times, is in a much more satisfactory state to deal with such
emergencies and to bear the strain of them.

[Sidenote: Working against time.]

Often it is working against time which does the harm. Sometimes this
rush cannot be helped. The journalist, for instance, must have his news
or his leader ready by a certain hour. The newspaper, like time and
tide, cannot wait. Yet at other times it _can_ be helped. A man finds
that if he goes on for another hour, instead of going to his lunch or
dinner at the proper time, he can finish what there is to do. He may
finish his work, to be sure. Often he finishes himself at the same
time. It would be to his advantage in the long run, if he left the work
and had his meal, and returned to complete his duties afterwards.

This interference with meal-times is a fruitful source of nervous
exhaustion and breakdown. The system is deprived of nourishment
just when it is most in need of it. Every meal postponed under such
circumstances brings the hour of retribution nearer.

[Sidenote: Mental effect of hurry.]

Apart from interference with meals, working against time has a bad
effect of its own. It is like running for a train. A man who could
cover the same distance in the same time without any effort if there
was no train to catch will arrive at the station breathless. The
anxiety of getting there in time has caused a mental disturbance, which
has affected the heart on its own account. In the same way there are
cases of nervous exhaustion and loss of health due entirely to the
habit of rushing at correspondence in order to get it off by a certain
post. It may have to be done, but the man would be better off in the
end if he lost the business rather than acquire it at the expense of
his health.

[Sidenote: Public work.]

There is a peculiar strain connected with work which demands appearing
before the public. It is pitiable to reflect how many artistes, actors,
musicians, and others break down in their efforts to give pleasure and
diversion to the tired minds of others.

The reason lies in the fact of their having to do a certain thing at
a certain time, and to do it with an audience. They must give their
performance and maintain their highest standard of excellence, when
perchance their heads are aching, or they have got a bad cold and are
only fit to be in bed. They must be up to time, or they may find their
place occupied by another.

For similar reasons the parson is always vastly more liable to
breakdowns than the lawyer or doctor. He may get up feeling tired
or ill on Sunday morning, but, except at the risk of causing great
inconvenience to others, he must put in an appearance in the pulpit.

Yet there is another consideration which enters even more largely into
the question. It is that these public appearances often interfere
with meal-times and sleep. A performance or a meeting in the evening
necessitates a delayed supper and late hours of retiring to rest. The
nervous system is at the same time worked up into an excited condition,
so that it has its rest and nourishment cut off just when it stands
most in need of both.

Much of this may, however, be avoided by judicious care. There have
been speakers, artistes and other public characters who have been able
to continue in harness up to an advanced age. They have achieved this
simply by strict attention to the needs of the body. They would fortify
themselves with a good meal beforehand; whatever else happened, they
would not allow that function to be interfered with. If they could not
get food before leaving home, they would arrange for it to be ready for
them at the rendezvous. On arriving home again, they would give their
nervous systems the best chance by taking a meal and then having a
quiet read, with a smoke if they were so inclined, afterwards going to
bed as soon as was compatible with their digestions.

Many of these may seem trivial details, yet it is the little things of
life which amount to so much; and if these precautions are observed,
there are many weary workers in all ranks of life who will find that
labour loses much of its drudgery. If everyone were to carry them out,
we should see fewer haggard faces and tired eyes than we do at present.
One has only to travel in any suburban train to find out how many
people there are who go home each evening weary and done up. This is
not what life was meant to be. Honest fatigue there will always be, but
no one objects to that. It is the jaded despondency on the faces of so
many people at the close of their day’s work that is contrary to all
principles of humanity. It is one thing to be tired; it is a different
thing to reach home more dead than alive, and ready to drop.

If people would take more care in preparing themselves for their daily
duties, and in improving their conditions of work, both for themselves
and their employees, we should hear very much less of breakdowns than
we do at present.

[Sidenote: After work.]

The way in which people spend their spare time in the evenings is of
the greatest importance. It is their opportunity for repairing the
wear and tear of the day’s work, and of fitting themselves to stand
the brunt of that which is to come. The manner in which they spend it
depends largely on the nature of the day’s proceedings.

[Sidenote: Exercise or rest.]

If a man has been sitting at a desk all day, he will be all the better
for a walk on returning home. It will give him a chance of fresh air,
and the exercise will do his cramped legs good. If, however, he is
tired in body as well as mind, a rest is what he needs. A man was once
suffering in health, and always feeling done up. He rarely had an
appetite for his dinner in the evening. It was all due to one thing.
He was in the habit of going for an hour’s hard walk each evening
after returning from business. He did it with the best of motives,
being impressed with the value of exercise. He overlooked the fact
that he had had as much exercise as he could stand already, as his
work not only threw a strain on his thinking powers, but also involved
a constant amount of standing or walking throughout the day. When
he stopped taking this duty walk--for such it was, it gave him no
pleasure, as he was too tired to enjoy it--his health improved by leaps
and bounds.

There are many such persons who would feel vastly better, and have
better appetites and digestions, if they took a rest on reaching home,
instead of rushing off to golf or for a walk. It would refresh them as
much as exercise braces up those who have had too little of it during
the day.

[Sidenote: Amusements.]

As to the recreations with which people seek to restore their lost
energies, that too must vary according to the nature of their daily
avocation. Chess is a splendid game, there is no doubt. Yet anyone
who has had a mental strain all day had better choose something that
demands less call on their thinking powers. Under such circumstances we
confess to a preference for something of a lighter or more frivolous
nature. Anyhow, in whatever way people choose to spend their evenings
let it be a _change_, for in that way alone can rest be obtained.
The brain worker had better select fiction or some such light form
of literature if he is disposed for reading. But there are thousands
of people whose work is cut and dried, and does not involve any
mental strain, who would improve both their minds and their sense of
well-being by taking up some reading or hobby which demands a certain
amount of application and study.

The great point after all is to do something, anything rather than
nothing. Not that they can do nothing if they try, for it is an
impossible feat, as we all know. Yet the trying to do it is the
greatest effort a man can make, and tires him out more rapidly than
anything else.



CHAPTER XIX.

WORRY.


It is a true saying that worry, not work, kills. People can get through
an amazing amount of work if they do it in a quiet and methodical
manner.

One morning two men were walking along a road in the direction of a
railway station. One of them was going at a steady pace, with a look of
contentment about him, as if he were enjoying the walk. The other was
hurrying along with quick, nervous steps, occasionally looking at his
watch and breaking into a short run, while his strained expression and
panting breath formed a marked contrast to the easy deportment of his
friend.

They both caught the train, but while one was cool and collected and
felt invigorated for his work when he reached the terminus, the other
was hot and flurried, and this gave him a bad start for the day.
Moreover, each of them transacted his business in much the same way as
he had walked to the station, one doing it quietly and methodically,
while the other spent his time in rushing from one thing to another,
taking his lunch in the fewest possible minutes, and constantly
worrying himself and everyone else into the bargain.

The singular part of it was that the quiet, steady-going man got
through more work in the day than his friend did, and years later,
when they had reached middle age, was as fit as ever for his business,
whereas the other man was broken down by overwork, as he called it.

In the last chapter we considered the question of physical and mental
fatigue resulting from work. We purposely omitted the element of
worry, which does more harm than all the other conditions of work put
together. For worry does more than tire the mind--it demoralises it.

In a certain war two companies of men had to march an equal distance
in order to meet at a particular spot. The one arrived in perfect
order, and with few signs of exhaustion, although the march had been an
arduous one. The other company reached the place utterly done up and
disorganised. It was all a question of leadership: the captain of the
first company had known his way and kept his men in good order, while
the captain of the second company had never been sure of himself, and
had harassed his subordinates with a constant succession of orders and
counter-orders, until they had hardly known whether they were on their
heads or their heels. That was why they arrived looking completely
demoralised.

[Sidenote: Worry and the mind.]

Now worry has precisely the same effect on the mind as a bad leader has
upon his men. For the mind is not a vague mystery “somewhere inside
the head,” as it is generally supposed to be. The brain is a matter of
tissue and blood, the same as any other part of the body. We may not
know quite so much about it, but that does not affect the question. The
workings of the mind are as definite and practical as the movements
of the fingers. The brain cells have, stretching out from them, a
number of minute filaments. We know that the tips of these filaments
move about and touch their neighbours. And according to the manner in
which they move, different trains of thought are set up. The intricate
network is constantly changing its form, as the filaments link up
together various parts of the brain tissue.

It is, in fact, the counterpart of a telephone system, which has wires
and exchanges and call offices extending all over the country. From
these offices telephone callers are put into communication with each
other, and there is a never-ending linking-up and switching-off taking
place, and the harmony of the systems depends on the efficiency of the
operators. Fill one of the exchanges with a lot of fussy, ill-trained
people, who would lose their heads, and the whole system would be
disorganised in a very short time.

Each man possesses his own telephone system inside his head, and the
working of it depends entirely on himself. If he fidgets and fumes and
gets excited over what he is doing, he worries the brain filaments
until they begin to act all ways except the right one. And not only do
they fail to carry out their purpose, but the bother and flurry through
which they pass tire them out as no amount of steady work could ever
do. Like the men of the second company, they get to the end of their
day’s work fagged and exhausted.

If this goes on long, for days and months and years in succession, the
strain becomes too great, and they either refuse to work at all or they
get completely out of hand. And, whichever they do, it means that the
man who owns them suffers from a breakdown. And it was the worry, not
the work, which caused it.

Some people have a born knack of worrying. The mental agony through
which they pass when taking a railway journey is almost incredible.
They worry as to whether they will get to the station in time, and if
their luggage will arrive safely at its destination, and a hundred
other things as well.

We once heard a lady say--almost boastfully, she seemed proud of the
fact--that she never slept a wink all night if she was a penny out in
her household accounts. She did not say what happened if she was a
halfpenny out. We can only presume, therefore, that in that case she
slept for half the night.

With worries of this sort we have no sympathy. They can be overcome
by an effort of will, and those who give way to them had better
realise that they are not only bothering the people around them, but
endangering their own nervous systems as well. For worry leads to
worry. A mind that is addicted to them will always tend to distort
things, making mountains out of molehills. Objects invariably loom
larger in a fog.

And of all troubles in this life there are none so hard to bear as
imaginary ones. Many of us prefer to meet a burglar rather than a
ghost. The troubles we dread rarely come. Yet the strain of thinking
about them tends to precipitate other disasters. The man who is always
on the look-out for orange peel is very liable to run his head against
a lamp-post. If after that he is always thinking of lamp-posts, he is
almost certain to slip on a piece of orange peel. And people who are
constantly worrying about the future, and all the ills that it may
bring with it, are inviting troubles, for they are frittering their
energies instead of applying them to their work.

[Sidenote: Worry and neurasthenia.]

Worry is a potent factor in causing neurasthenia, and once that has
come about the system is deprived of its resisting power and laid open
to disease. And neurasthenics are singularly prone to forebodings.
The state of the nervous system alters the circulation in the body to
such an extent that it is apt to cause the feeling of illness, if not
illness itself. Such people are liable to feel chilly or burning hot,
even though their temperatures may be normal. Yet because of their
sensations they feel certain that they are going to be ill, and the
dread of this still further aggravates their nervous condition.

While worry brings on neurasthenia, the latter adds to worry. The whole
process is like a snowball rolling down a hill, increasing in size as
it does so. All the more reason, therefore, why we should take every
precaution to arrest it at the outset, by considering in what way
worry can be prevented.

[Sidenote: How to prevent worry.]

This can never be done by running away from responsibilities or
difficulties of any sort. Such as they may be, we must face them.
There are many people to-day, as in the ancient time, who sigh for the
wings of a dove that they may fly away and be at rest. Even if they
got the wings, it is doubtful if they would be much better off. In all
probability they would find that they had gone farther only to fare
worse.

Neither can worry be got rid of by sitting down and trying to make up
our minds that we will not give way to it. The seasick man might as
well command the waves to be still. We have little direct control over
the nervous system, but we have a vast amount of influence over the
movements of the body, which reacts in such a pronounced manner on the
mind.

[Sidenote: Body and mind.]

The man who walks and talks hurriedly or jerkily tends to think in
like fashion. Those whose minds are in a fume and a fidget usually
show it by fussing about and behave generally in a restless manner.
Let them force themselves to walk quietly and deliberately, and they
will be surprised to find how quickly their minds follow suit and
settle down into a steadier groove. And if they take care to speak in
the same deliberate fashion at the same time, the good effect will be
heightened. The movement of the limbs and of the lips react on the
mind to a surprising extent.

If any should doubt what we have said as to the close connection
between the body and the mind, let them try an experiment which was
advocated many years ago by a celebrated psychologist. It consists in
reading a comic book with the features contracted into a stern frown,
and following this up by reading a pathetic one with the face relaxed
into a broad grin. The result will convince them as to the truth of our
previous statements.

[Sidenote: Anticipation.]

Sometimes a man is worried to death on account of some event he is
anticipating, a reply to some letter he has sent, or the news of some
appointment he is in for. Often under such circumstances he will pace
up and down like a caged beast, until the nervous tension almost makes
him ill. Try as he may, he cannot sit still. But he can do something
equally efficacious, he can engage in some other occupation, keeping
his hands and mind employed, instead of glancing continually at the
clock or looking for the postman.

[Sidenote: Beset by work.]

And sometimes people are beset by business until they scarcely know
where to turn. Then it may be that they become so agitated that they
can do nothing to further the matter in hand. A man once consulted
a doctor as to an experience that had befallen him on the previous
evening. “At teatime,” he said, “I found myself becoming anxious and
worried as to the amount of work in front of me. And the harder I tried
to get on with it the more obstinately my brain refused to act, and by
bedtime I had got everything into a hopeless muddle.”

The doctor told him that curiously enough he himself had had a similar
experience the same evening, and just about the same time.

“And what did you do?” the patient inquired, and was much astonished
when the medical man replied, “Went out, had a couple of games of
billiards, then came back and finished it all comfortably in a couple
of hours.”

When a man finds that his work is worrying him unduly, or when he is so
overwhelmed by it that he cannot keep his mental equilibrium, the best
thing he can do is to stop it for a time and have a rest or a change of
some sort, even if it is only for a few minutes. It will facilitate the
work in the long run, and will save the nervous system from an amount
of wear and tear which may take days or weeks to put right again.

Unpunctuality and untidiness are responsible for a great amount of
unnecessary worry. The man who is habitually late in the mornings is
apt to find his work accumulate to such an extent that by the time he
ought to be finishing his day’s work he feels it has become a heavy
burden upon his shoulders. And people who keep their desks in an untidy
condition lose a vast amount of time, and harass themselves by having
to search for things they should have been able to put their fingers on
at once.

[Sidenote: Stimulants.]

Above all, let a man avoid stimulating his flagging brain by means
of alcohol, or soothing it by the aid of drugs. Tobacco, however,
is--in the writer’s opinion at least--a boon to people of a worrying
disposition. If used to excess, especially in the form of cigarettes,
it may sap the nervous system, and lead to more worry than it is likely
to prevent. Taken in moderation, and in its healthiest form, that of a
pipe, it often proves of great benefit to tired nerves.

[Sidenote: Leisure time.]

It is of the utmost importance for people who are subject to worry to
pay every attention to the way in which they spend their leisure time.
It is even more important in their case than in that of people who work
too hard.

[Sidenote: Overwork compared with worry.]

The effect of overwork is to cause fatigue. The mind has been kept
too long in a certain groove, until it has become wearied from sheer
exhaustion. Certain parts of the brain or the body are tired out
for the time being. Such persons need recreation pure and simple. A
pleasant game or a light novel is the best remedy for their fatigue,
taking the mind out of the groove in which it has been confined.

The effect of worry, on the other hand, is to produce a state of
restlessness, both of mind and body. The nervous system is in an
irritable condition, and requires something that will steady it down. A
game may only add excitement to the restlessness. The brain is acting
in an irregular, discursive manner, and needs some method of treatment
which will reduce it to order. And this can best be obtained by means
of a quiet hobby. The overworked man is like a horse that has been
plodding along all day in the shafts with a heavy weight behind it; a
little freedom, perhaps a gallop round a field, will do it more good
than anything else. The over-worried man is like a horse that has been
plunging aimlessly around, excited and irritable: an hour’s hard work
between the shafts is what it needs.

[Sidenote: Worries and hobbies.]

Therefore, while the fatigued man requires recreation, the worried
one will do better with some hobby that needs a certain amount of
concentration. The form of hobby best suited to him depends on his
tastes and capabilities. A celebrated physician once told me that when
he found himself becoming worried he could quiet his mind most speedily
by mathematical problems. They would do him far more good than any game
or other form of recreation.

Many people, however, might find this too great a strain, for it is
possible to be worried and tired at the same time, as we all know. Yet
there are many hobbies which demand a certain amount of concentration
without making too great a call on the mental faculties.

They may take up books on travel, for instance, and there is no more
fascinating form of reading. Let them select some particular country,
and read all they can find about it, its inhabitants and customs,
until they are authorities on that subject. Or they may go in for
history, studying some particular period, and read all the manuals and
historical novels dealing with it. Continuity is a great point in any
hobby; it makes it not only more interesting, but there is the pleasure
of knowing it is always there, waiting for them, without their having
to consider what to take up next.

Or they may dip into such subjects as astronomy, botany or a host of
others. And these will do more than refresh the mind at the time.
People of a worrying disposition are always restless and fidgety on
a railway journey, but those who take an interest in such things as
geology, flora and fauna will find plenty to occupy their minds with
as they go along. Even railway embankments may be made a cinematograph
of delight to the man who has studied land formations. And anyone who
is interested in architecture need never fear the tedium of having to
spend an hour or two in a strange town waiting for the next train.

Those who have a taste for poetry may consider themselves fortunate,
for there is something in the harmony of words that has a specially
beneficial effect on the worried mind. The rhythm, either of blank
verse or rhyme, is excellently adapted for reducing the aimless
wandering of an overwrought mind to a regular, steady running.
Especially is this the case if people take the trouble to learn it by
heart. For this acts as a kind of mental mastication, and the poetry
is consequently absorbed and becomes a part of their very being. Then
they are laying up for themselves a store of treasures which they may
enjoy at any moment. People who worry are always liable to be irritable
when alone, and need something to counteract their moody tendencies.

A man of this type was so subject to irritability of this sort when
he was dressing in the mornings that he invariably started the day
badly. And a day that begins in this way is like a choir that starts
on a wrong note, it is a difficult matter to get back to the right
one again. This man, owing to his unfortunate habit, found it almost
impossible to recover a harmonious frame of mind, until at last he hit
upon the secret. He had become enamoured of the writings of a certain
poet, and had begun to learn whole passages by heart. After that he
found himself repeating these to himself when he got up in the morning,
and it is no exaggeration to say that it altered his life. It gave him
a good send-off for the day, and saved him from many a mistake and many
a worry.

A hobby which combines hand and eye and brain is of great service to
a flurried mind. Engineers, carpenters and all who are engaged in
like occupations unconsciously acquire an orderly, methodical way of
thinking.

As to what form of manual work people take up their individual tastes
will decide, just as much as in the kind of reading they indulge in. If
they have a faculty for art, they can take up painting or music. And
when I say music, I mean practising it properly, not simply sitting
down to the piano to improvise or wander from piece to piece. It is the
steady practice which does the brain good.

Or they may prefer carpentry or wood carving, or preparing microscopic
slides, than which there is no more absorbing hobby. There are scores
of others, too, equally interesting.

Nothing, however trivial, is beneath our notice, if it will in any way
mitigate this deadly habit of worrying, which has such a detrimental
influence on the nervous system, and so often is responsible both for
the starting-point and the climax of a breakdown.



CHAPTER XX.

THE STRONG MAN.


[Sidenote: What strength is.]

The strength of a chain lies in its weakest link, and the measure of
man’s strength is that of the weak point in his constitution. He may
have the frame and muscle of a Sandow, but if he has a faulty valve in
his heart, it is by that, and not by his muscular development, that his
strength must be gauged. Even supposing that every organ in his body is
sound, and he is possessed of great powers of endurance, he cannot be
called strong if he is impairing his digestion by careless habits of
eating and drinking, or endangering his nervous system by habitually
keeping late hours and burning the candle at both ends, or laying up
gout in store for himself by gourmandising or want of exercise.

No matter whether the weak spot be in the man’s own system or in his
mode of life, Nature will find it out as surely as the arrow found the
heel of Achilles. It is on his weak points that he must stand or fall;
it is in these that the strain will manifest itself, in other words,
that the breakdown will appear.

The aim of this book has been to prevent matters ever reaching this
stage, to arrest them at the outset. No sign, of all those I have
indicated as pointing towards a breakdown, should be neglected. The
time to take heed is when any man or woman finds that their powers
of work are failing them, their nerves easily upset, or their minds
assailed by an unreasonable dread of the future, or that in one or
other of various ways they are not the people they were. It is better
to slow down at the first danger signal than to run past one after
another until we are pulled up with a crash.

[Sidenote: Find out the weak points.]

The first thing, therefore, is to find out the weak points; take care
of these, and the strong ones will look after themselves. The man who
taps the wheels of railway carriages does so in order to detect flaws;
he passes by the sound wheels with indifference. And there is a simple
way in which people may find out in which particulars they are going
wrong. If they have taken the trouble to wade through this book, they
may have noticed that certain paragraphs or chapters attracted their
attention. It does not follow that they agreed with them, or thought
them important at the time. It may be that they said (provided they
were of the male gender) that they were “all nonsense,” or that it was
“a precious lot of fuss about nothing.”

It does not matter what they said or thought. The point is that they
said or thought something. For the fact that they did so was proof that
the piece of writing in question forced itself upon their notice, and
must therefore have had some special application to their own case; and
if this has been so, let them pay particular heed to those paragraphs,
or pages or chapters, whichever they may have been.

If the advice given is not in accordance with their own feelings, that
fact does not detract from its value. Many of us, in looking back, have
to acknowledge that most of the warnings and counsels which have proved
of the greatest benefit in the long run, were unpalatable at the time.
They were distasteful simply because we knew in our inmost hearts that
we stood in need of them. Otherwise we should not have paid sufficient
attention to them even to feel any resentment on the subject. There is
a lot of meaning in the saying, “Greater truth, greater libel.”

[Sidenote: Temperament.]

Especially does this apply to the question of exercise and rest. It is
not hard, as a rule, to convince people that they are committing errors
of diet, or getting too little fresh air; but it is very different when
we come to deal with these other matters. Few people like to be told
that they should take more exercise, or rouse themselves to show more
interest in things outside their ordinary routine of work. It sounds
like an accusation of indolence.

Yet such resentment is slight compared with that of the men or
women who have to be warned that they are wasting their energies by
restlessness and worry or lack of recreation. These strenuous natures
are apt to take umbrage at the fact of their work being interfered
with. They do not realise that what we wish is that they may be
enabled to do better work and more of it in the end.

[Sidenote: Man, know thyself.]

When a medical man sees a patient he has to do more than diagnose the
disease. Often it happens that before he can find out what is the
matter, and certainly before he can treat it efficiently, he must
discover what type of man or woman he is dealing with. Any coachman
will tell you that before he can drive a horse well he must get to
know the animal itself. For some are restless and excitable and need
the curb, whilst others are lazy and require the use of the whip. And
for all who wish to guide themselves in matters of health it is of the
first importance that they should know their own temperaments.

It is said that people are always the last to hear any gossip or
scandal about themselves. It is equally true that they are usually
the last to observe any change in their health or dispositions. A
person may be growing thinner, paler, and more tired looking, and yet
be unaware of the fact. Much more does this apply to all the nervous
symptoms and other peculiarities which denote that he is on the
down-grade and gliding towards a breakdown. Yet if any such signs are
pointed out to him by others, either by a medical man or some candid
friend, the best thing he can do is to give full consideration to their
opinion. Let health be preserved while it can. The day may come when it
will be lost never to be regained.

[Sidenote: Adjusting the mind.]

Throughout this book we have laid stress on the influence of the body
on the mind, and the importance of attending to its various functions
in order to keep the nervous system healthy. Yet we must not overlook
the other fact, viz. that we are gifted with a certain, even if
limited, amount of control over the mind itself.

Some writers have told us, and quite rightly too, that we can cultivate
a brighter outlook on the future. We are recommended to persuade
ourselves that there is no season in the whole year so acceptable as
the one that is just commencing--no beauty like that of spring, no
glory like that of summer, no time so welcome as autumn with its dying
splendours. And when winter comes we can look forward to the delights
of the cosy fireside, so much more sociable than the long, garish days
of summer. Instead of which, too many of us dread the heat and the cold
and a good many other things, that are never so bad when they come as
we think they are going to be.

A little calm philosophy undoubtedly goes a long way towards
negotiating many of the difficulties and anxieties with which we are
all confronted at times. Yet it is impossible to acquire a cheerful,
philosophical frame of mind unless the body, with its nervous system
and various organs, is in a healthy condition. After all, the chief
thing is to attend to its requirements.

[Sidenote: The secret of preventing breakdowns.]

When all is said and done, we come back to the elementary rules of
health. It is around these that the whole question of breakdowns
hinges. On the observance of them depend both the prevention and cure
of this condition. If they were always carried out, this dire calamity
would rarely, if ever, happen. When once it has loomed ahead there is
only one thing to be done. The man or woman who sees it threatening
them must retrace their steps and get back to the place where they
took the wrong turning. They must work their way back until they have
regained the health and vigour, which they once enjoyed but forfeited
through their neglect of those laws.

And this needs a vast amount of patience and perseverance. It is
easier to slide down than to climb up again, and people may find
their progress marred by many a set-back. Yet a backward step in an
upward climb does not mean that we have rolled to the bottom of the
hill again. Many a man is discouraged when, after months of patient
striving, he finds one day that his symptoms have returned--his
nervousness, his inability to tackle his work, his feeling of langour
and debility, or whatever else it may be. He thinks that all his
efforts have been of no avail, and that he might as well give up.

He need not lose heart, it is but a temporary lapse. In a few days he
will find himself climbing up once more. And if he holds on bravely he
will one day reach the summit, and enjoy to the full the health and
strength and energy of his earlier years. He will then have obtained
his reward in the possession of that treasure which is greater than
wealth or fame.

We cannot do better than conclude with words penned by a discerning
writer more than two centuries ago:--

 “Health is that which makes your meat and drink both savoury and
 pleasant. It is that which makes your bed easy and your sleep
 refreshing; that revives your strength with the rising sun, and makes
 you rejoice to behold the light of another day. Health is that which
 fills up the uneven parts of your body, making it plump and comely;
 which makes your mind fertile, and preserves the vigour, verdure, and
 beauty of your youth. ’Tis that which makes the soul take delight in
 her mansion, and adorns your face with glowing colours. Good health
 takes no notice of heart, lungs, stomach or nerves. Indeed, it does
 not know that there are such things.”

The most wonderful feature of perfect health is its blissful
unconsciousness.


THE END.



_Bristol_: J. W. ARROWSMITH LTD., 11 Quay Street.



Transcriber’s Note


Minor changes to punctuation have been made without comment. Other
changes are:

  Page  26   From: the internate organs
             To:   the internal organs

  Page  55   From: It fact, it would be to the benefit
             To:   In fact, it would be to the benefit

  Page  63   From: Some of the most persistent causes of dyspepsia,
             To:   Some of the most persistent cases of dyspepsia,

  Page 176   From: his mental equlibrium,
             To:   his mental equilibrium,





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