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Resting To Minimize Fatigue

When the feeling of fatigue is accompanied by sad and depressing thoughts, it is intense and hard to control. The first remedy is to forget yourself and your illness. Specialists obtain this effect organically and violently by injections or electric shocks which produce forgetfulness or artificial sleep. However, in many less serious cases we need not take such extreme measures. Similar results can be obtained through less violent and more natural means; for example, a few days' travel or a change of dwelling or occupation. Enliven yourself with amusements which will arouse enthusiasm and prevent depressing memories. Avoid remaining inactive or unoccupied. Idleness is no solution. If depressing feelings find the field of consciousness unoccupied they will at once occupy it themselves and begin to torment you. In short, be objective. Act during the day as a receiver of impressions from the external world so that you give no place or time to the interior world of subjective thoughts and feelings. Later on let the work of re-education begin by means of conscious sensations and voluntary concentrations.

In Normal Fatigue

Since this comes from the working of your productive power make yourself receptive by means of conscious sensations.

Apply the sense of sight. Let the object penetrate within you exactly as it is, without subjective modifications. Make no comparisons. Do not reason about causes and effects. Otherwise you will still be producing ideas. Look at things just as children do, naturally, without anxiety, without wanting to embrace all the details. Contemplate, for example, a lamp, a landscape, a flower, a color, the details of some object. Get the overall effect. Absorb yourself in it. With practice this will day by day become more easy and successful.

Hear a near or distant noise. Retain consciousness of it for a few seconds. Or even notice the lack of noise. Open up the sense of hearing without forced attention. Repeat these acts five times each hour of the day. With these exercises you can calm irritation and hypersensitivity to sound.

Touch and feel the coldness or hardness of five objects. In each case notice the first impression on the sense.

Walk slowly, deliberately. An excellent relaxing exercise is that used by a friend who had a bad case of overwork. He could scarcely pay attention to what he was doing for more than three quarters of an hour. He had to attend three classes a day which were interrupted by five minute recess periods. These he dedicated to scientific breathing and exercise. He would take five steps while inhaling deeply through the nose, feeling the air in the upper part of the nose near the forehead (not at the nostril openings for this closes them). Then he would exhale smoothly and passively through the mouth while taking eight or ten steps more. Meanwhile he kept his attention on hearing the air as it passed through his nose, and feeling his steps. By thus keeping himself merely receptive for the space of five minutes he would rest from the preceding class. The pure air and increased circulation of his blood freed his system of many toxins.

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Rest by the right use of leisure time. Idleness is no solution. (Doubtless you have also heard it called “the devil's workshop”.) In both normal and excessive fatigue “just doing nothing” brings no real rest. A change of occupation is more restful than merely stopping work. The right use of leisure time will do much for your health, happiness, efficiency, concentration and longevity. You will become more interested and more interesting.

Manual workers should make a hobby of one of the fine arts, one of the sciences, social work, a parish activity, or investigate the world of books or new fields of knowledge. Those, on the other hand, whose work is mostly intellectual should for part of their leisure time take up some outdoor occupation or hobby which involves more or less vigorous physical exercise. If this is difficult they should at least make a hobby of some manual skill (one of the handicrafts or applied arts). Those who must work with their heads will thus gain greater benefit than by merely turning to some different field of intellectual endeavor. They should also do something with their hands.

You can rest from excessive work by engulfing yourself in studies or occupations or hobbies which amuse and interest you. In these you will easily obtain tranquil and perfect concentration. Another way is deliberately to experience some affection; for example, love of parents, brothers or sisters. This is why a mother who loves her child really rests while working for him. Acts of reverence, confidence, love of God in prayer also produce these good effects. Try to have a loving feeling of His Divine Presence everywhere, especially in yourself and your neighbors through sanctifying grace.

Bodily Relaxation

The foregoing exercises will help to avoid all mental tension. But joined with this tension or caused by it, there is another, a muscular and nervous tension in hands, feet and diaphragm, and especially in the eyes. If through proper exercises you relax these members suitably, you will experience greater mental rest.

Nervous and Muscular Rest - Tension, worry and overexertion easily have repercussions throughout the whole nervous system, and more especially in the eyes, by putting into a state of abnormal contraction the nerves and muscles which are scarcely ever wholly relaxed even in sleep. If you relax your mind you will more easily relax those muscles. Likewise, if you let muscles and nerves go loose and limp, your mind will be relaxed and relieved. Since the soul is intimately united to the body it is logical that any modification in one will modify and influence the other.

You should then relax every muscle. Let them go limp. Begin with the forehead. This will lose its wrinkles or nervous contractions if you loosen up the eyes, letting the eyelids softly fall over them. Continue with the mouth, letting the corners curve up, not down. Loosen up the tongue (make a sagging face like a stupid person's). Let the hands fall softly and leave the fingers loose and limp. Place your foot on the ground with no extra effort. Loosen the muscles of neck, jaws, chest and abdomen. This is also an ideal exercise for inducing sleep. Gymnastic exercises and massaging can also produce this relaxation.

Resting the Vision - The eye-ball's many nerves and accommodation muscles grow tense through worry, anxiety or mental tension. If you do not relax them before going to bed they will not loosen up at all during sleep, especially if the previous tension has been profound or prolonged. When this goes on for weeks and months they finally lose their elasticity. They will then be unable to accommodate the eye as they should. Farsightedness, nearsightedness and bad focusing will result. In order to relax them here are several exercises:

1. Palming. Sit down comfortably and relax your whole body. Let your eyelids fall softly and close the eyes without pressure. Think of the eye-ball as soft, limp and free of tension. Think that a smile is spreading evenly throughout the closed eyes. Imagine there is no light at all in them, that everything is soft and black. Cover them with the palms of your hands. Cup your hands a little so as not to press on the eye-ball. Put your knees rather close together and lean your elbows on them. Relax the breathing muscles.

The important thing is for the eyes to be closed, well covered and as relaxed as possible. The blacker the color seen, the better relaxation and rest. Your mind should also rest at the same time. Either let it wander on pleasant subjects or imagine that the darkness is growing blacker and blacker. Ten or twenty minutes of this, two or three times a day will produce great bodily and mental rest and will sometimes alleviate and even cure farsightedness.

If you are agitated or tired at bedtime you should sacrifice a part of your sleep in order to relax your eyes. As a result you will sleep much better.

2. Blinking. Do this for about ten seconds. This rest nature claims spontaneously. Fixed, staring eyes are positively unnatural. This is a harmful habit and causes fatigue and tension.

3. Cold water baths. This relaxing effect can also be obtained by splashing a few handful of water on your closed eyes.

After these exercises open your eyes and take a look around. Let the vision of an object or book come to you of itself and rest within your eye. Do not, as it were, reach out after it. Effort to see hinders our seeing well.

The normal eye does not attempt to see a large amount all at the same time. Practice looking, for example, not at a whole line but at a word or phrase. The eyes’ movements are so rapid that we get the impression that they cover a great space at once. But when you try to see everything at once your eyes are in a state of tension. Relax and let them go limp if you wish to see without fatigue. In reading you should use your eyes as you do in writing. You do not then put on the pressure but watch each word as you write it. So, in reading and seeing, you should take in every detail in its own time and not be in a hurry to see the whole thing at once.

After all illnesses the eyes, too, are convalescent. In a general weakness or fatigue these too are weak. At such times you should not make them work as if they were in perfect condition. Reading is one of the most difficult tasks for the eyes.

The sick should only read a little bit, or for short spaces of time. They should frequently close their eyes for a few minutes' rest. They should never make an effort to read. If you are suffering from mental or nervous fatigue you should never read without first resting for fifteen minutes of sleep or for twenty minutes with your eyes closed. Then read with your eyes relaxed. Read for only a short time at a stretch and stop for rest when you come to periods or paragraph endings.

Resting While Asleep

Although it is not the only way to rest, sleep is a synonym for perfect physical and mental relaxation. That is why insomnia is so annoying, especially for nervous people. Yet we can, for their direction, affirm that:

(1) one hour of perfect rest is worth more than two hours of rest that is imperfect or accompanied by dreams;

(2) five hours of sleep are sufficient for making up for daily fatigue;

(3) even if you do not sleep at all, if you stay in bed with your body relaxed and your brain in perfect repose or in a receptive state, you will obtain a rest which is almost complete.

A colleague began to suffer from insomnia because of illness. At first he was a bit worried. But then he said to himself, “If I can't sleep, at least I am going to rest in bed.” He went about this with perfect bodily relaxation and peace of mind. Weeks and months passed without this forcing him to give up his job. For six months he could not remember having slept for a minute with total lack of consciousness. When he finally lost his fears of insomnia and no longer worried about the absence of sleep, gradually sleep began to return to him.

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Sleep with dreams, and especially with nightmares, is no longer perfect repose. For the brain is then unconsciously working. This work can even cause fatigue.

Duration of sleep - This should vary according to the age and constitution of each individual. As a general norm we can say that when the organism is in a period of development more than seven hour seem needful. Babies and little children need more than ten. Adolescents should have from eight to ten, and young people from seven to eight. For adults seven hours are recommended, although, according to noted authors and the experience of many, only five hours would be sufficient. Total satiation with sleep makes some nervous people more apt to lose control because they find it more difficult to go to sleep next time.

Dreams

The cause of dreams can be bodily (a position of the body which oppresses the heart, bad digestion, general weakness) or mental. The latter may be lack of control over the day's acts and ideas, especially those which immediately precede sleep, or studying with concomitant anxiety or parasite ideas, or strong impressions, worries and emotional conflicts.

Remedy - Be calm and controlled for about twenty minutes before going to bed. If you awaken in the middle of a dream, you should not turn over and go back to sleep again. For you will then just go on dreaming. You should get up or thoroughly awaken yourself and by means of fully conscious acts for ten or twenty minutes cut the thread of the dream.

An afternoon nap is advisable only when it is a truly restorative sleep, when it does not impede digestion or stop you from promptly falling asleep at night.

Insomnia

We are not speaking here of insomnia from bodily causes, from a pain in stomach or tooth, from cold or heat, but of mental insomnia. This insomnia is partial when it takes a long time to get to sleep. It is total when there is no total lack of consciousness.

The immediate physiological cause of insomnia is excitation of the sympathetic nervous system. According to the most modern theories sleep is a result of harmony between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Hence when the activity of the first which predominates in the state of wakefulness is checked or diminished by tranquility or relaxation, it comes into equilibrium with the activity of the second until sleep is finally produced.

What produces this excitation or over-activity of the sympathetic nervous system is excessive work on the part of your productive power. Today it may be an uncontrolled fixed idea, or an associated train of ideas corresponding to what you see and hear during the day. Tomorrow it may be some emotional conflict or a simple fear of the insomnia experienced before. Another time it might be an annoyingly unpleasant noise, such as another person's snoring or a neighbor’s radio.

It is a big mistake to say, “Go to sleep quickly for there isn't much time.” Given to a person (or to oneself) on the way to bed, this order is more likely to produce the opposite effect. Because going to sleep is an unconscious process, we make it more difficult by trying to bring the will into it. The less you think about it the better. Sleep is like your shadow; if you go after it, it flees from you.

Remedies for Insomnia

1. Eliminate previous nervous excitement - Before going to bed calm down and control mental and nervous excitement for twenty minutes or so by means of conscious acts or clear sensations. Or voluntarily concentrate on other matters. This will prevent those memories or impressions from coming back to excite your nerves. Twenty minutes are enough of calm the greatest excitement.

Here is something which happened to me when I received an assignment in another country. It was something I had always desired out of supernatural motives. Yet the letter's arrival that evening made quite an impression on me. Here was a new course plotted for my whole life, a farewell to my country, its mentality, its language. I was tossing over and over in bed for an hour without being able to get to sleep. Then I remembered the remedy, got up, turned on the light and applied the method of conscious sensations. After a half hour of this exercise, I calmed down, went to bed again and fell asleep in five minutes.

2. Eliminate a fixed idea or train of ideas - Once in bed, or just beforehand, repel this fixed idea or interrupt the train of ideas by filling your consciousness with sensations (receptive mental activity). If there is an emotional conflict discover where it is and dissolve it in the same way. When going to bed you should put up the following imaginary sign to oppose your worries or business of the day: “Closed temporarily for repairs.”

3. Eliminate the subconscious fear of not sleeping - After a night or several nights of insomnia you go to bed with a fear and anxiety about not sleeping. This may also be present even when you seem to have an interior resignation. Your breathing not entirely free or deep. Your muscular relaxation is not complete. This anxiety or fear is what is enslaving you. Even though it seems strange, the best remedy is to ask you to will not to sleep for a fixed length of time (one or two hours). If your decision or promise is sincere you will notice at once that the hidden anxiety is gone. The breathing which was rather short before is now more natural and deeper. Once the fear of not sleeping is gone (now that you yourself want not to sleep), your productive power stops working on that idea. The activity of your sympathetic nervous system diminishes, and you consequently feel the sensation of sleep coming on. But, notice, you should be faithful to your pledge and resist sleep during the time determined. Otherwise the penalty will be to make this remedy useless when another occasion arises. If the fear reappears when you try to go to sleep again, repeat the same procedure even if you have to sacrifice several hours, or a whole night or several nights. It is certain that you will win out in the end.

Do not give too much importance to sleep by thinking that a certain number of hours is indispensable. Sometimes a simple mental sleep is sufficient (making yourself merely receptive with muscular relaxation and rhythmic breathing).

4. Eliminate the annoyance of noise - When you find you are annoyed by a noise (another's snoring, traffic noises, the ticking of the clock, a neighbor’s radio), notice that the racket is not the cause but only a condition of insomnia. For we sleep on a train with a great deal more noise going on. The immediate and true cause is the ideas which the noise awakens in us and which we do not control (indignation, impatience, anxiety to sleep). The remedy lies in willing to hear the noise. Make yourself a voluntary receiver of it, without subjectively modifying it with other ideas. The sense of hearing has sound as its proper object. It should then be able to find its satisfaction in it.

Years ago, I was sharing my room with another. Hardly had he gone to bed than he began to snore loudly enough to waken the dead. At first I started to be impatient. Then I applied the remedy. I willed to listen to the snoring and hear it clearly, tranquilly observed it and a little later fell asleep. Waking up once during the night (the noise was terrific) I used the same method again and returned to sleep.

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Recommended by many as a simple general method for going to sleep is the following. Beforehand, calm down and control yourself if there is any excitement. On going to bed, deliberately relax the muscles and nerves of eyes, then forehead, neck, mouth and limbs. Breathe rhythmically, deeply, and rather audibly just as a person who is already asleep. Peacefully take notice of your breathing (receptivity) without thinking about anything else. Afterwards, do not give too much importance to sleep. Know how to profit from relaxation and “mental” sleep.

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